The New Year is a time to look ahead to things to come, but it can also be a good chance to reflect on the past twelve months. It’s a good time for both employees and small business owners alike to look at what worked for them in 2015, and what didn’t in order to improve their strategy for the coming of the year.
With the introduction of legislation allowing all employees to request flexible working back in 2014, the stigma surrounding this practice has been on the decline this year. We are now seeing an increasing number of small businesses embracing this way of working and the technology needed to facilitate it. According to our research, British workers are now spending 131 million hours a week working from places such as their local coffee shop, and 46% of UK workers find these kinds of ‘non-office’ environments more productive than their office. Mobility is essential in enabling flexible working and our customers are requesting cloud based applications as well as 4G like never before.
Social media remains important as ever
Having a presence on social media is absolutely crucial for small businesses as an alternative to expensive advertising strategies or marketing initiatives. Online engagement can not only drive sales but also build relationships with customers, giving small business owners a space in which they can control their brand. 2015 saw small businesses embrace social media even further, reaching new audiences, whilst continuously testing and learning to find out which channels are performing better than others. Our Digital Communities pilot in St Helens is a great example. During the past three months we have been hosting free social media workshops and the interest from business owners has been extremely positive.
Scalable, affordable and flexible technology
In 2015, businesses have been opting for scalable, affordable mobile and cloud based technology solutions rather than expensive enterprise-type services. In line with flexible working, we have seen many businesses embrace tablets and applications, rather than using desktops and traditional software. This has been driven by both the proliferation of pay-as-you-go type contracts as well as the cost of technology traditionally seen as enterprise grade come down even further.
Apps changing the way we work
At the end of 2014 I predicted that integrated apps would help us to get more done. Mobile and tablet applications are becoming increasingly common the workplace. Apps like ‘Good’ and ‘Evernote’ not only help employees streamline their work and maximise their time, but offers a sharing platform where people can update and share tasks. Small businesses experiencing quick growth are using them as cheaper alternatives to costly IT packages, and are able to hand pick systems to suit their needs.
The return of the conference call
They're not known for being peoples’ preferred form of communication, largely due to things like forgettable pins and lengthy dial ins, but this year conference calling has been making somewhat of a comeback in business. Our research shows that more businesses are suffering from 'email overload' than ever before, so picking up the phone and speaking to someone directly can be far more productive.
By Paul Lawton, O2 Business General Manager