Business Tech Trends in 2021: Remote Work is Here to Stay
The business landscape is always shifting and changing. This process takes place gradually, and organizations that are better positioned to take advantage of the forming trends usually reap greater benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, gripped the world and impacted nearly every aspect of our society. Suddenly all businesses, regardless of their size, were faced with a brand new reality that brought a multitude of new challenges, as well as opportunities.
Companies had to establish remote access for their employees who were now trying to get used to working from home. At the same time, organizations had to find and integrate the appropriate collaboration and interaction tools that can maintain smooth communication between their dispersed team members.
To manage operations in this untested environment, even small businesses started looking into implementing management software systems. By adopting project management products such as SaaS BPM, businesses can easily optimize their operational processes and introduce needed improvements to the way teams are being managed. Keeping employees motivated and giving them a clear and visible purpose to strive for even when they are isolated at home is essential for maintaining morale and productivity.
The Advent of Remote Work
The most immediate consequence of the pandemic is the switch from in-person office work to working from home. Organizations from numerous industry sectors had to adjust their work models to accommodate a workforce that is operating in an increasingly digital environment without suffering a reduction in the delivered results. No matter how small a business was, unless it was deemed as an essential service, it had to offer its workers remote opportunities or risk shutting down.
Now that we have become accustomed to this new normal, it is becoming increasingly obvious that remote work will remain even after the pandemic has long been dealt with. Many companies have already stated their support for indefinite remote work, while others are trying to adopt a hybrid scheme consisting of in-office and home workdays. The vast majority of workers support this change as they find working from home far more beneficial.
1. Remote work advantages
It cannot be denied that after being forced to work remotely, many employees who may have initially been skeptical about working from a home environment found themselves changing their opinion rather swiftly. Remote work offers numerous benefits to people from various social backgrounds and standings.
Just the fact that the commute to the office has now been cut from the daily schedule can make all the difference. After all, time is an invaluable and finite resource, and the vast majority of employees simply despise wasting what in some cases can be multiple hours being stuck in traffic while going back and forth to the office.
That time can be better spent on other far more important parts of our daily routines such as acquiring new skills and knowledge, having more time for our family and loved ones, relaxing with your preferred hobby, or looking for side projects and additional sources of income. The increase in free time has also allowed people to pay more attention to their mental and physical wellness.
Remote work has also eliminated the rigid hourly structure of the office environment. Being at home allows workers to adjust their daily schedule according to their own personal body rhythm. As such, employees can apply themselves to the task at hand when they are most productive instead of slogging through it while they are not at peak condition.
Furthermore, working in a comfortable environment can lead to greater results achieved in a shorter amount of time by removing the distractions of the office, such as socializing with your colleagues. Many workers also report that they have begun saving more, now that certain monetary expenses related to the office have disappeared.
2. The Negative Side of Working from Home
While the plethora of benefits that it brings is definitely tempting, remote work also comes with serious disadvantages that shouldn't be neglected. By working from home, you are entirely dependent on your own technological infrastructure. Any unexpected loss of Internet connection can cut you off from your task completely and leave you scrambling to contact your colleagues. From the viewpoint of the employer, having a workforce that is vastly dispersed leads to a drastic increase in the chances of some of them suffering a technological malfunction and being unable to have a productive workday.
Although staying at home gives you more chances to be involved in the lives of your family members, it cuts down on your networking opportunities. The natural communication between colleagues in the office and the way you create professional connections is severely diminished when all of your interactions are conducted via a screen.
Working from home can also lead to your professional and private live blending together. This problem has two sides. First, workers will need to remain professional and do their duties while detached from the office environment. Doing so while you are sitting in your living room may take a lot of self-control, discipline, and personal motivation. On the flip side, people who enjoy their profession can start to overwork themselves, leading to burnout or mental fatigue. Many employees have had to create their own personal daily schedules.
While remote work was becoming more common in the years before the pandemic, now it is almost certain that it will remain a staple and the preferred choice for a significant portion of the workforce.
Increased Tool Integration
The switch to a digital work environment has highlighted the necessity of having convenient channels for communication and interaction between team members and employees. The current need to juggle between several different mail clients, messenger apps, corporate platforms, software tools, and more is almost unmanageably cumbersome and leads to artificially introduced delays and inefficiencies. It is also a major contributing factor for miscommunication, which could have disastrous results depending on the severity of the project.
Many IT enterprises noticed this trend and began integrating messenger and calendar functionalities even into specialized software products such as resource planning systems, accounting platforms, as well as project and client relationship management systems. The deepening integration of tools is expected to continue in order to further streamline the current workflow.
E-commerce Will Continue to Evolve
Online shopping was on an upwards trend already, but in the wake of the pandemic, this market sector enjoyed an unprecedented boom. Buying stuff online has established itself firmly into our social behavior, and it is now even viewed as a way more convenient, effective, and comfortable method of buying items when compared to in-person shopping. Experts firmly believe that the upwards trajectory of this sector will continue to be one of the enduring trends even after the end of the pandemic.
Having formed a baseline, however, consumers' demands for quality features are only going to grow. People will expect to receive an online experience that closely mimics the way they buy things from physical shops. Online retailers have already begun creating a more immersive as well as personalized experience for their shoppers via telepresence, 3D models, and incorporating aspects of augmented and virtual realities. The end goal is to provide the buyer with all of the necessary information about the product as if they are physically holding it in their hands.
AI Integration Will Become More Prevalent
After AI being long feared for its potential to supplant and replace human workers in a variety of industry sectors, the viewpoint on it has nowadays become far more favorable. After all, despite the significant technological advancements that took place in the last several years, the scope and capabilities of the technology clearly show its limitations for the foreseeable future.
Not to mention that in most cases, AI is used as an umbrella term for a combination of different technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, object character recognition, and more. What AI can offer is a way to remove repetitive and mundane tasks from the workflow allowing the human worker to focus on the important and impactful aspects of their job.
And while AI technologies have largely been associated with large enterprises in the past, small businesses are following the trends and are beginning to integrate AI-supported solutions into their operations. More and more tech products possessing artificial intelligence components are released on the market, making them affordable for even smaller business organizations. Afterward, they can take advantage of the optimizations offered by such tools to streamline their work processes and achieve greater productivity.
Cybersecurity Will Become a Priority
In the current business environment, nearly everything is based on data. Companies have already amassed an unprecedented amount of information about their users, and it is projected that they will continue to accumulate it at an even greater speed. The sensitive nature of the personal data collected in such a manner will predicate the increased importance that companies will have to place on their cybersecurity measures.
Hacker attacks have continued to proliferate, with cybercriminals adopting new techniques and evolving their malware tools to be ever more efficient, undetectable, and dangerous. In 2021 alone, we have witnessed hundreds of ransomware attacks. Several high-profile security breaches have cost companies millions in ransom payments to the hackers and maybe even more in losses related to the disruption of their operations.
For example, the oil pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline Co. shut down its operations as a precautionary measure after their IT systems were hit by the DarkSide ransomware gang. The company paid a ransom of $4.4 million, although some of the money was later recovered by the FBI. In a different attack, the world's largest meat processing company JBS paid close to $11 million to the cybercriminals of the REvil group who compromised the computer systems of one of its subsidiaries. Even government institutions are valid targets for data breaches, evidenced by the attack against Ireland's Health Service Executive, the organization that handles the country's public health services.
Despite the numerous cases of successful breaches, many small business owners do not think that they will be targeted by hackers. This attitude may begin to change, however, as the cases of smaller organizations becoming victims continue to grow.
The importance of establishing sufficient cybersecurity measures has never been more necessary. Due to the significant number of employees working remotely, the attack surface that companies have to protect has expanded dramatically. Hackers can target a specific worker, compromise their computer system, and use it as an initial vector to gain access to the corporate network.
Online Influencers Will Become Even More Influential
The time people spend online is only going up. We connect with others via social media platforms and consume content delivered by streaming services. Naturally, the marketing departments of the big companies follow these behavioral patterns of the public in order to maximize the visibility and reach of their products. This has led to the emergence of so-called influencer marketing. Individuals with sizable online followings receive sponsorships to advertise a specific brand or a product.
Using influences in your company's marketing strategy brings much-needed authenticity as consumers are more likely to follow a recommendation from a person they trust. This way, you can also build a more personalized connection with your customers or carve out a specific niche in the market where you can position your products.
Knowing the audience of your business as well as researching the sector and the background of the influencers operating in it are vital steps in reaching your marketing goals.
Social Media Presence
Big consumer brands have by now embraced the social media aspect of today's society and have dedicated brand accounts on most social platforms that regularly interact with their consumers. Small businesses are also adopting this trend as social media advertising has proven to be a cost-effective way to reach specific audiences while delivering impressive results. Indeed, maintaining an online presence has become an essential part of any business operations.
Small business owners can engage with consumers in their area or distribute offers that reach a significant number of people for a fraction of the price that a traditional advertising method would require. Furthermore, your business can attract attention via a unique and personalized approach towards its clients that will set it apart from the competitors.
Knowing the trends and what to expect in the near future can be invaluable when it comes to growing your business and keeping ahead of competitors. It can also prepare you for potential pitfalls and shifts in consumer's habits or needs that could have a heavy impact on your business operations.