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Serious young man in glasses working with black screen computer in the evening

A hybrid future for small businesses

By: Phil Perry, Head of UK & Ireland at Zoom

With the pressures of the pandemic, small businesses sought new ways to stay connected. This shift to digital has been an important step as small businesses make up around 70 percent of all jobs worldwide and two thirds of private sector employment.

However, the dramatic and rapid adoption of video communications has led to some organisations not seeing its long-term value. There are some outdated views that suggest there will not be a place for video conferencing or hybrid work once we fully move past the pandemic and its resulting restrictions.

This view fails to take into account that organisations implemented hybrid work long before the pandemic. For example, a 2017 report by Timewise found that 63 percent of workers already enjoyed flexible working in some way, 87 percent of all employees either worked flexibly or wanted to and amongst the younger workforce, 97 percent wished to adopt a flexible, hybrid working pattern. The past 18 months have accelerated a trend that was already well underway.

The success of hybrid working

Although government advice has shifted to allow anyone to work in offices again, the ramifications of the pandemic will likely persist for many years, with most businesses continuing to adopt a hybrid model. Many smaller businesses have used technology well over the past 18 months. And a report by the Boston Consulting Group, commissioned by Zoom, showcased which industries within the UK were able to pivot towards video technology during the pandemic. The report highlighted a huge increase in the share of employees working remotely during the pandemic, rising from 17 percent in 2019 to 74 percent in 2020.

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Furthermore, video conferencing usage for small businesses went from 20 percent in 2019 to 82 percent in 2020. Additionally, 82 percent of small businesses surveyed claimed that video conferencing tools were now essential for their daily business operations beyond the pandemic, demonstrating that small businesses will continue to use these digital technologies in the future.

Small business success stories

Then there are the benefits to productivity. McKinsey & Company investigated productivity with video tools, arguing that within the UK, business and financial services could perform around a third of their work remotely, without any loss of productivity. Hybrid work also reduces the commute which gives people the opportunity to have more free time. The appetite is there as well; in a recent survey with Qualtrics Research almost two-thirds of UK participants want a blend of virtual and remote activities in their workplace.

Video technology has had a clear impact on small businesses in developing regions, too. As one example, Zoom helped with celebrating the UN’s micro-small and medium-sized enterprise day which outlines several success stories. One beneficiary is Olavo Medeiros, a tour guide in Sao Paulo, Brazil, who was able to expand his business, opening his tours to larger groups including older or disabled individuals who otherwise would not be able to participate. For Olavo, the virtual tours were a “digital door”, allowing him to connect with clients on a real and personal level. Olavo has plans to continue using cloud-based video technologies after the pandemic as it gives his businesses both resilience and new growth opportunities for the future.

Hybrid working is here to stay because we live in an age where technology provides the personalisation, security and flexibility we demand. And although virtual meeting fatigue is a new phenomenon that we must all learn to manage carefully, there are a number of benefits. Hybrid work can increase productivity, allow businesses to cut costs around IT maintenance and even office space, while helping to maintain culture, company identity and personal connection.

Beyond that, the individual features of video technologies will continue to improve, making remote and hybrid meetings far more effective through editable transcription, sharing capabilities, AI driven summary and translation tools, and more. Small businesses who have already integrated cloud-based video technologies into their operations can build upon their experience and momentum throughout the pandemic and are at an advantage going forward.

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