According to technology experts, the pandemic COVID-19 did not bring anything new under the sun, but rather accelerated the processes already in place. One element of forced change was the widespread acceptance of remote work. Why was this forced? How have small businesses dealt with this challenge? These are the questions we seek to answer in this article.
Before the pandemic
Let’s face it, before the pandemic there was only a small proportion of small businesses that accepted remote working as part of their corporate culture — usually, this was seen as a privilege of multinationals as they have the infrastructure in place and can create flexible working environments.
According to Statista, there are more than 5,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in El Salvador, and for many of them, working remotely is not an option at all due to the nature of their business. Shops, manufactures, and personal services do not lend themselves to remote working, but there is also another significant group of SMEs that could have adopted this approach, but management made a conscious decision not to. While in, a slowly but steadily growing number of companies, especially in the IT sector, teleworking was seen as a benefit for workers.
How COVID-19 changed the landscape
The global pandemic, especially the multiple periods of quarantines, forced a change in those sectors that were previously resistant. Hundreds of thousands of SMBs had to figure out how to work from home.
The key challenges were the following:
● Lack of tools to communicate
● Lack of ways to monitor and oversee work/capacity
● Many processes were based around in-person meetings
● There were strict working hours that did not take private life into consideration
COVID accelerated change in all sectors, forcing companies to develop techniques and methods for remote working. Meetings became shorter and more precise, companies outside the IT sector began to use project management tools to monitor key performance indicators and internal project status, and instead of strict working hours, companies began to focus on effectiveness and completed tasks.
The age of videoconferencing
Zoom became synonymous with the pandemic positively, as this software has been the most popular free-to-join solution for small businesses across the globe for videoconferencing.
There are many benefits of videoconferencing that SMB users enjoy, including:
● Almost half of all video conference users claim their travel costs have been reduced.
● Using video conferencing for workplace collaboration has been found to improve communication and collaboration almost universally.
● Meetings via video are 50% more productive.
● In the 18–29 demographic, 25% of workers use video calls every day for work.
Videoconferencing is not just a way to boost effectiveness at work, it becomes part of our lives in our free time too. Especially during the pandemic, people played, chatted, cooked, and partied together on various video chat applications.
While the SMB sector is yet to decide whether remote working is here to stay for the long run, it’s safe to assume that in some form, this decade will alter our way of working forever.