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How COVID-19 has changed the way Kiwi SMEs operate - study

As the country moves in and out of lockdown in the fight against Covid-19, New Zealand small business owners and decision-makers are taking a new approach to work as Kiwis navigate their way through an unpredictable year, according to new research fro 2degrees. 

The 2degrees Shaping Business Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 small and medium-sized business owners and decision-makers, found that more than half (58%) have changed their approach to work since the Covid-19 pandemic reached our shores.

 The lockdown earlier in the year thrust many small businesses into an unknown territory, however the new research shows that, second time round, businesses were much better prepared for the switch to Levels 3 and 2.

Of those that have changed their approach to work, businesses with employees were more likely to do so (66%), than sole traders (56%). What’s more younger businesses were more receptive to change than those who have been trading for longer. 

The research showed 71% of businesses that are less than five years old changed their ways of working compared to 46% of those that have been around for six years or more.

"This year has seen one of the biggest changes to the way we work since the Industrial Revolution. With this, has come a significant shift to a more mobile workforce, which wouldn’t have been possible without advances in technology, including innovations in mobile and broadband," 2degrees says.

Andrew Fairgray, chief business officer at 2degrees, says business owners and decision-makers have done a great job in establishing what works best for them and their people, while grappling with the challenges of the current circumstances.

“For some, working from home permanently is a better option, others are offering their employees more mobility around working hours or rotational days to work from home – either way it gives Kiwis reassurance and greater confidence in knowing they can work from home when necessary," he says.

“Part of that comes down to having the right tools to do so, like reliable mobile and broadband connections. I think if lockdown showed us anything, it was that businesses are better equipped for mobile working than they may have thought,” says Fairgray.

“Before Level 3 hit us again, the 2degrees team had been working from home much more frequently than before the pandemic arrived. We know it works, we know our employees are getting the job done and most enjoy the flexibility. 
"It not only makes sense to encourage and support them, but it’s the fair thing to do. We know that many of our business customers are doing the same.”

It’s not just the way we work that’s changed. The study found a shift in attitude, with a rise in the number of small business owners who were more comfortable with their employees working from home post-lockdown, jumping nine percent to 67%.

Having the right tools and equipment in place are essential to ensuring businesses can function as they would in the office. The study found that home broadband (34%) and mobile phones (27%) were the two forms of technology that SME decision-makers couldn’t live without during lockdown – this compared to the need for a laptop/desktop, television, and headphones.

During the week that Level 4 lockdown was announced in March, 2degrees recorded a dramatic shift in the use of mobile data and broadband from business districts to the suburbs.

“Many people wondered how the network would cope with this change in usage. Given the investment we’ve made to our network, we were confident about the service from 2degrees, but it’s gratifying to see from the survey that many of our customers felt the same (68%), as well as 70% who said it performed well all or most of the time,” Fairgray adds.

“Now we know that the majority of businesses – large or small – have the capability to work from home. Understanding what tools are needed to do so successfully is often the first piece of the puzzle. Once that’s been determined it makes the change a much smoother process," he says.

“Globally, we’re seeing a monumental shift in the way we work, and so preparedness is key to ensure businesses don’t fall short or get left behind.”