Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The five main challenges facing businesses in 2021 and beyond (and how you can prepare for them)

Since March 2020, businesses have faced a series of incredibly tough challenges. The pandemic pushed business owners into corners they could never have imagined, let alone planned for. So much of the time since then has been a test of their ingenuity, resilience and resolve.

We saw huge numbers of companies closing, of employees placed on furlough or made redundant, and for a long time it seemed like every lockdown easing was followed by tighter restrictions. We also must not forget all the challenges being faced by business owners and their employees outside of work. Figuring out how to look after family members in need when we could not leave our own houses. Home-schooling our kids at the same time as trying to work through a crisis. Rescheduling major life events to some uncertain point in the future.

Any business that made it through to this point has achieved something truly remarkable. However, we would be lying if we said that it was all going to smooth sailing from this point on. Even as the UK sets its sights on a second attempt at easing lockdown restrictions permanently, it is clear that things are going to stay difficult for some time to come. And it’s not all COVID-19 related, either. As the pandemic burned its way around the globe, the major global issues continued to develop and confirm that they must be addressed sooner rather than later.

But the situation is not hopeless. That resilience and ingenuity that got you this far will continue to stand you in good stead as you face the challenges that are coming our way in the next sixth months and beyond. Here are some of the major issues that every business will have to deal with and how you can get ahead of them.

Cybersecurity Will Need To Be A Priority

It was inevitable given that every business and every customer made a hard pivot to online at the start of the pandemic, but the statistics around the rise of cybercrime in the last year or so are truly startling. It highlighted how many businesses have been doing the bare minimum when it comes to securing their information, and how little information consumers seem to have about their security needs. It wasn’t just about phishing emails and pensioners being conned into paying for a fake vaccine. Everyone from law firms to cryptocurrency traders found themselves at risk.

The attacks are far from over, but the good news is that the security industry is hard at work getting one step ahead of the criminals. AI technology is making cybersecurity faster and more efficient, identifying threats more quickly as well as potential areas of weakness. If you want to make sure that your business is protected, it will be worth consulting a professional.

In-Person Working May Be A Thing Of The Past

Adjusting to working from home was one of the first challenges that every business faced in the first weeks of the pandemic. We agreed on which communication tools we were going to use, how often we would need video calls to check on progress, and whether we needed to pay for additional project management software. However, most businesses kept one eye on returning to the office once it was possible. Habits are hard to break, and many business owners and directors still have a lot of pride in having an office space of their own.

However, as the months passed, it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t going to be as simple as arriving one Monday morning and unlocking the front door. Even now as the UK heads towards its planned final restriction lifting date, we are seeing a lot of discussion about whether returning to the office is the right thing to do. Can employers guarantee their workers’ safety? Can they guarantee that there won’t be further restrictions in the future that will mean that they have to abandon the office once again? Is there really that much benefit to be gained from any of this?

If the decision has not been made (or made for you) at this point, then it may be worth committing to having your team do their work from home. Give up the unnecessary expense of a brick-and-mortar office and make sure that your employees and colleagues have everything that they need to do their jobs efficiently. Flexible hours were already commonplace in many offices before the pandemic and they can help your team get through their workload more quickly. Embrace the change and start making the most of it.

Climate Change Is At The Top Of Everyone’s List

Even during the height of the pandemic, concerns about global warming rarely left the front page. The timeframe in which we can make a difference is getting shorter and shorter and barely a week passes without another dire warning from scientists. It has never been more important for businesses to take positive action towards reducing their carbon footprint and finding ways to operate in a cleaner, greener fashion. It is not just about being seen to be a responsible company. It is about making sure that there is still going to be a planet for businesses and their customers in a generation’s time.

When the situation is so overwhelming, it can be difficult to know where to start. Your first act should be to audit your company’s activities, from the companies that you use for deliveries to the amount of energy your office (or, indeed, your home office uses). The second would be to educate yourself further. Getting your business to the point of net zero emissions is not something that you can do overnight, or by yourself. Think about enrolling in an online course or lecture series that will show you where to begin. The outline for the course should give you an idea of the kind of challenges your business will be facing, and how you can ready it for the long-term challenges to come.

Addressing Diversity And Inclusion

We live in a time where employers and businesses are being held accountable for their actions and their policies. This is not something that you can ignore. Everyone is paying attention now, and the days when a big corporation could get away with a benign social media post on a public holiday are long gone.

If you want to make a difference and be part of the solution, then you need to look at how your business behaves on a fundamental level. You need to actively look for ways that you can be part of the solution and better yourself. Above all, you need to make sure that the voices of your employees and colleagues who might have felt ignored, overlooked or hindered in the past are heard.

Flexibility Is The Key To Survival

Finally, it is important to remember that there is not going to be a return to normal any time soon. Things are not going to go back to exactly the way they were. You need to be constantly looking for creative solutions, for ways to learn more and to improve yourself. We have been shown that there are always going to be situations that we can’t predict. What we can do is make sure that we are as best prepared to face the unexpected as we can be.

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