Who could have predicted the profound impact the pandemic would have on Australian businesses? While some uncertainty still remains, there’s also a lot more clarity, with clear business trends – some new, some making a resurgence – emerging from the COVID-19 rubble.
Understanding how your business can harness these potential developments may just give you a competitive edge. Read on for eight learnings to help you guide your business through the new financial year.
Hybrid working, blended working, remote working, work from anywhere… Whatever you call it, the pandemic has ensured millions of Australians are now accustomed to flexible work arrangements.
According to findings from Flexiworks’ Future of Flexible Work report, there is an expectation for hybrid working arrangements to continue. In fact, of the 1000 Australians surveyed, 81% agreed that a company policy allowing for flexible working will be important to them for future jobs, and 62% said they wouldn’t consider a new employer unless flexibility was an option.
Not only does a hybrid model save on commuting time and expense, offer a better work-life balance and increase efficiency, it also boosts happiness. This, in turn, increases productivity and employee engagement – 61% of employers surveyed noted an improvement in employee morale when they supported hybrid working.
Automation is when technology can be utilised to perform processes or services without human interaction – and it’s a business trend we have increasingly relied on since the pandemic forced us to rapidly adopt remote working. But it’s not just the usual suspects of payroll or HR services that are becoming automated. In a business insights report, McKinsey predicts up to 800 million jobs globally could be lost due to automation by 2030.
While the scope of potential automation may spark fears there will not be enough jobs for workers in the future, history would suggest these concerns are unfounded: over time, labour markets adjust to changes in demand for workers from technological disruptions. McKinsey asserts that technology raises productivity and is a net creator of jobs in the long run.
Furthermore, while automation will handle the data-heavy tasks, employees in the near future will be relied on for activities machines are less capable of, such as managing staff, communicating and logical reasoning.
The pandemic had a profound impact on our shopping habits, sending most of us straight to the computer – rather than the shops – to buy clothes, dinner and groceries. Today, the online shopping market is a $47.9 billion industry. And, despite the fact we can now return to stores, it’s still expected to grow by 8.9% in 2022, an average of 19.6% per year since 2017.
But businesses don’t just need a strong website to compete – the social commerce industry in Australia is expected to increase by 9.2% this year. That means we’re making more than $1.9 billion worth of purchases through the likes of Facebook and Instagram, with that figure predicted to grow to around $3.4 billion by 2028.
Humans have an innate desire to connect, a notion strengthened by the events of the past two years. Tied in with that desire for connection, many shoppers are now seeking out brands that reflect their own personal values. According to recent research, 83% of millennials believe it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values.
Brand connection also breeds loyalty: 76% of consumers say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor, and 57% say they are more likely to increase how much they spend with a brand when they feel connected. Increasingly, that brand connection channel is social media: 65% of consumers feel more connected to brands that have a strong social-media presence and feature material that humanises the brand.
The stress of adapting to a new way of working during the pandemic has been well documented. Look no further than the Great Resignation: Microsoft research reveals 40% of the global workforce considered a job change in 2021, with burnout a key consideration.
Closer to home, research by the Black Dog Institute suggests unhealthy workplaces are costing Australia $39 billion each year due to lost participation and productivity. Statistics also show one in five Aussie employees takes time off work each year because they feel mentally unwell.
To help encourage the increase of mentally healthy workplaces in the future of work, the Black Dog Institute recommends facilitating flexible working arrangements, equipping managers with mental health training to help encourage effective leadership, and implementing employee programs to help improve worker wellbeing and resilience.
In recent years, there has been a marked surge of consumer interest in sustainability. According to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, there was a 71% rise in popularity of internet searches for sustainable goods in the past five years. In addition, Google’s own research shows that 82% of consumers say sustainability is more top of mind now than it was before the pandemic, while a recent report by Gumtree revealed 86% of Australians say sustainable practices inform their purchasing decisions.
Conscious consumerism is here to stay, as people become even more aware of their environmental footprint and the impact goods or services have on the planet.
In a post-pandemic world, supporting those around us – our families, our communities – is more important than ever, with one in two domestic consumers now purchasing more from Australian-based online retailers. Research also suggests nearly half of Aussies are happy to buy items locally, even if they cost more.
While that might mean engaging or collaborating with the local community, consumers also expect reciprocation. In fact, a growing number of consumers believe it’s important for brands to give back to local communities as well. According to The Conscious Consumer Report, over a third of Australians had actively boycotted a company or brand in the previous year due to its poor social responsibility.
Sponsorship of local sports teams, grants, volunteering projects, charitable donations, events and mentoring are just some of the ways businesses can show their support to the local community.
The pandemic didn’t discriminate when it hit Australian businesses. As a result, the government has implemented wide-ranging initiatives across industries to support spending and recovery – some of which will continue into the new financial year. The temporary full expensing (TFE) scheme will now operate until 30 June 2023, offering a key tax break by allowing eligible businesses to claim an immediate asset deduction.