COVID’s Lasting Small Business Changes (and Why They Can Be Good News)

Ever since the early days of the first lockdown back in March 2020, there has been talk of “going back to normal” – what that will look like, how it can happen, and whether it’s even a desirable outcome for many people.

As we’ve discussed before, many small businesses have sadly been damaged beyond repair by the pandemic and had to close as a result.

But what about those that are still going? Here at Your Besk Kept Business Secret, our mission is to help your business to survive and thrive through the pandemic and beyond. 

I believe some changes brought about by the pandemic are likely to be permanent or at least much longer-lasting than any of us anticipated a year or so ago. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! 

Let’s delve into a few of the ways that the small business world is likely to be forever changed – and their silver linings. 

Increased acceptance of working remotely 

The pandemic has proven that many more jobs than previously thought are completely viable as remote positions. In addition, managers who were once skeptical about remote work have seen that their employees are at least as productive from home as they were in the office. 

The increased legitimacy of remote work is great news for many people. For small business owners operating on a small budget, it might even mean doing away with physical premises altogether. Why go to the expense of an office you don’t need if all your business functions can be done remotely?

The increased legitimacy of remote work is great news for many people. For small business owners operating on a small budget, it might even mean doing away with physical premises altogether. Why go to the expense of an office you don’t need if all your business functions can be done remotely?

Remote work also makes the business world more accessible for huge numbers of people. For many disabled people and those with health issues, working from home can be a life-changing accommodation. In addition, the ability to work remotely some or all of the time opens up greater opportunities for parents, those with caring responsibilities, and anyone else for whom an 8-hour workday outside the home is difficult or impossible. 

Work from home workspace
Many 'employed' people have expressed a desire to work from home MORE - but do the self employed feel different?

Finally, as a business owner, remote working opens up a much bigger talent pool for you to fish in. Found that dream candidate for an open role, but they live in a different city or even in a different country? In the post-COVID remote-first world, that might not be a bad thing.

Less (or more conscious) work travel

The pandemic has also shown us that many events and meetings that once took place in person can operate just as well online. While many of us will be keen to get back to face to face events (anyone else miss conferences as much as I do!?) others will be more than happy to eliminate work travel, at least some of the time. 

Have Passport - No point in travelling

Why drive for an hour to meet someone if you can conduct the meeting just as well over Zoom? Will getting on a plane to attend a seminar or conference seem as appealing when you could just dial in from your desk instead?

An ongoing reduction in business travel is likely to be great news for cost-conscious business owners. Fuel, train tickets, and airfare are expensive – and that’s before we get into the cost of hotels, meals while travelling, and so on. If you’re conscious of your business’s impact on the environment, reducing travel is also a great step towards making your eco footprint smaller. 

Work travel will never be completely eliminated in many industries. And that’s fine – meeting people face to face can be valuable and some business travel can even be enjoyable. But making travel choices more consciously and having greater choice can only be a good thing.

More health-consciousness at work 

Prior to the pandemic, it was frustratingly normal to see employees in many industries feel pressured to come into work sick. Perhaps you’ve even – whether inadvertently or not – made it feel unsafe for your employees to take a sick day in the past. Even if you’d never dream of asking one of your team members to work while sick, have you ever pushed yourself to go into the office or not cancel that meeting even when you really should have been in bed resting? 

That’s all changed in the wake of COVID-19. With the real threat of a debilitating or deadly virus, even employers who cannot allow 100% remote work have implemented firm rules around not coming to work while sick. 

While we’re not suggesting anyone self-isolate for two weeks with a common cold when the pandemic is over, (This also ties in to my point about remote work. If someone can work from home when they’re kind-of-sick-but-not-sick-enough-to-take-a-day-off, they’ll still be able to be productive and won’t risk infecting their colleagues, too.)

If people stop trying to work while they’re sick, this is likely to lead to better health outcomes overall.

If you’ve ever pushed yourself and ended up more sick than you were before as a result, you’ll understand what I mean.

Does my face look big in this? Masks are going to be an essential part of business for a while yet

A working environment and business world that is more oriented towards taking care of employee health creates happier teams and more productive businesses. And that can only be good news for all of us! 

What COVID-induced changes would you like to see in place permanently?

We cannot deny that the pandemic has been disastrous. Of course the tragic loss of life is the worst part, but it has also hit businesses – particularly small businesses – hard.

But amidst all the destruction COVID has brought about, I believe it is also important to look at the silver linings where we can find them. Hopefully these and other COVID-induced shifts will be beneficial to the small business world in the long run. 

What other changes would you like to see remain in place for the long haul? 

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Jess Amy Dixon is a freelance journalist, writer, editor, and social media manager based in the East Midlands. She helps clients grow their businesses via the written word, whether that’s through marketing copy, blog content, or social media posts. She’s also working on her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, and has won prizes for short fiction.