Connectivity and flexibility deemed vital for the future of small businesses

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With the pandemic bringing about significant changes to ways of working and consumer behaviours, new opportunities are emerging for both business owners and employees, according to research conducted by operator Three UK.

The findings showed that that the pandemic has accelerated the need for better connectivity and for flexible working to become the norm rather than a privilege. While many businesses have been significantly affected, the study highlighted that the past year has, however, allowed businesses to break free from traditional working models, with many declaring better technology and connectivity (49%), innovative ways of working (26%), and an increased focus in online presence (21%) as the recipe for success.

Connectivity has been key, said Three UK, with more than a third of UK employees (36%) continuing to work from home throughout 2021 so far. The study noted that keeping in touch with workmates has never been more important, with most workers claiming to feel ‘very connected’ to their colleagues (68%), as well as their managers (62%).

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Since the pandemic, colleagues have made more of an effort to stay connected and check in with each other (48%) and employers have adapted well to ensure staff are regularly communicating throughout the pandemic (40%).

Yet among all of the survey’s findings, the operator revealed particular benefit for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In what it said was a clear trend towards small businesses adapting to new customer behaviours, 25% believed that e-commerce was their biggest opportunity, with more consumers now online than ever. It added that adaptability has been vitally important, with a third of businesses (34%) updating and introducing new technology to cope with the change.

With many workplaces expected to reopen from July, the research showed that most employees would like to see more permanent changes – with over half (54%) asking for more flexibility, and 45% expressing that they would like more opportunity to work from anywhere they wish.

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“Over the past year we’ve been forced to live in a bubble, but business and commerce is about operating in a system. This is a significant moment for the business market, and small businesses in particular, to review their ways of working. Many will be considering what they have learnt, how customer behaviours have changed and how they can improve their business model,” said Mike Tomlinson, managing director of business at Three UK.

“There is a long period of transition ahead for many of our business customers. Our job at Three is to be there with flexible solutions under all circumstances, keeping them connected whether it’s in the office, remote working, at home or in the cloud. We can deliver the services to enable the new world.”

The research was commissioned by the mobile network operator to mark the launch of the Boundless Business offer. The company began 2021 with a programme designed to better address the business community by offering better connectivity. This is part of a £2bn investment programme to transform its network and IT infrastructure, and a five-year programme to deliver what the firm says will be the UK’s fastest 5G network. 

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