The Small Business Challenge Series: Week 4 The Future of Time

Over a 5-week period I am going to talk about a range of challenges facing many small to medium businesses and we will also touch on what they can do about it. How they can plan a strategy to overcome it.

I will say at the start of this that I am also available to help anyone with these challenges and we can set up some time to focus on you and your business and see how I can help you.

This is the fourth week of the series, and I am going to look at what constitutes the Future of Time.

As a build on last week’s Fatigue Blog in this Series I wanted to discuss more broadly the use of time linking into several surveys published this year. I will list them at the end of the blog. They are from the likes of Accenture, Adobe Document Cloud, IDC and FB Global. These surveys are all worldwide and consider feedback from all sizes of Business and many Leaders.

Some brief outtakes from them are:

  • 63% of high growth companies have already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model
  • $656b is the estimated spending on Future of Work Technologies
  • 60% of Global small and medium businesses (SME) have made at least one key change to the way they do business since the start of the pandemic
  • 18% of SME’s worldwide reported in Sept 21 that they were not operational which is down from 24% in Feb 21 and 28% of global SME’s reported a rise in sales in July 2021 compared to same period a year ago
  • Whilst employment has reduced for SME’s globally by around 36%, they also reported that 69% of those businesses were using digital tools now that they were not pre-pandemic

So, from reading the surveys and the above points I took a few key points:

  • Many Business Leaders are feeling overworked, they also do not feel as connected to their business as they did when they started it – perhaps losing some passion for it given the tough times.
  • The workforce has adapted well to a hybrid work option and may be unwilling or at least disaffected by going back to the old normal.
  • More than a third of employees are actively looking to switch employers.
  • Employees are also concerned that they are working more hours, albeit more flexibly than they would like to.

So as a Business Leader you have choices on how you move forward. One thing is for sure you absolutely need a Strategy in place around your working environment, working hours and working patterns to support your workers and of course yourself as the leader.

Each plan will be different depending on the individual business circumstances but nevertheless some component parts of the plan will be similar.

So, thinking this through you probably must consider the post pandemic vision for your business, who will you do business with, where will you conduct that business and the architecture of the business to ensure you are set up to deliver.

Then I would start to consider the best operational structure and start to consider how best to allocate finances and resources to delivering on those goals considering the needs of all stakeholders.

The refocus on your goals is critical, every business now should be reassessing those and looking at how it delivers. Too often businesses start doing practices that are not in line with profit generation and if stopped may help decrease pressure or stretching of staff. The Adobe survey reflects that “a third of the workweek is currently being spent on unimportant tasks.” Many staff focus on tasks they like doing rather than want to do or focus on putting off the parts of their role that they find most difficult to do – these are very natural behaviours but also ones that need worked on. In my experience a lot of underperforming teams could simply not be as focussed on doing the tasks that will have the biggest boost to the business outputs. When performance dips, Leaders often become managers and monitoring and micromanagement starts to kick in, all which contribute to poor outputs.

Work patterns are also a hugely changing aspect of time, and it is not just the hybrid home/office debate. It is also that so many employees want to work differently. So, before it was 9 to 5 and no overtime or limited overtime for certain tasks. Now many staff want to work the same 35-40 hours but when they feel most productive, obviously still meeting appropriate deadlines. So, if you do not need someone to be in the office or available at home could they work from 2 until 10 instead if that suited everyone or could then work Wednesday to Sunday or even any 40 hours they want within the working week.

Develop future working is a really positive move forward. All business should be looking to continuously improve the way they do things and the focus they give tasks. Technology can really help drive that forward. Technology is not always a precursor to staff reductions and the debate in offices is one that Leaders can be wary of having but in most cases, employees and Leaders have an interest in utilising tools to support productivity no matter what that is for even simple tasks like file management, invoicing, payments, contracts and purchasing as examples.

So, to every Leader, the Future of Time starts with a plan and now is the time to review where you are on this journey and challenge yourself and your people to meet the goals set and deliver for all your stakeholders.

As ever I am also available to support Leaders in all sizes of business or if you are a leader within a large organisation let us talk and see how we can plan the future and how I can support you.


June 2021 IDC Worldwide Future of Work Spending Guide

April 2021 FB Global State of Small Business Study

April 2021 Accenture Future of Work Study

2021 Adobe Document Cloud The Future of Time Study

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