Here’s What S’pore Firms Should Expect In 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic was a life-changing event for many business owners and startup founders.

This left businesses scrambling to pivot, while others were forced to shut down completely.

If business owners have learned anything throughout 2020, it’s that major changes could happen at any time and being well prepared is a crucial aspect of business survival.

The question that comes fairly easily to business leaders is: How do I keep my business afloat in 2021?

As 2020 draws to a close, here are five ways businesses can prepare for what lies ahead in 2021:

Adopt flexible work

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Due to the pandemic, working from home is no longer rare. Instead, it has become the norm for most Singaporeans.

We have long gotten used to working from home, and most Singaporeans actually prefer this arrangement over returning to the office.

Eight in ten workers in Singapore say they prefer to work from home or have flexible working arrangements, according to a survey commissioned by The Straits Times.

In contrast, only one in 10 wanted to return to the office full time.

However, about half of the respondents felt that they would be penalized by employers if they expressed a preference for working from home.

In addition to having to maintain a safe working environment, employers also need to manage the expectations of their workers to ensure optimal productivity and boost morale.

Thus, it is plausible that flexibility in the workplace will become extremely important in the coming year, and employers might consider a “hybrid” model.

Education Minister and co-chair of the multi-ministerial working group for COVID-19 Lawrence Wong previously said working arrangements need not be “binary” and can be a combination of the two.

For example, changing working hours to allow workers to travel during off-peak periods. A mix of remote work and work from the office can also be considered.

This view was also echoed by Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, at a virtual conference organized by the Singapore Institute of Directors, and he mentioned that “the future of work is a hybrid model”.

In addition, business leaders are now looking for more flexible working solutions, according to JustCo co-founder and chief commercial officer Kong Wan Long in an interview with Vulcan Post.

He told Vulcan Post that due to the Covid-19 situation, many companies have started to realize that large headquarters that house all staff may not be the best solution anymore.

Indeed, the coworking trend is picking up among large companies that traditionally worked from fixed office spaces.

According to Wan Long, more than half of JustCo’s tenants today are large corporate clients such as L’Oréal, Novartis, Dropbox and Riot Games.

So while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for employers to adopt flexible work habits, the possibilities are plentiful and it is important to find one that is right for the company.

Higher level communication

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Everyone can agree that communication is the key to success. Whether you’re having a meeting or coming up with an idea, communication is at the forefront of the workplace.

However, the pandemic has effectively made large in-person meetings impossible.

This is especially true in Singapore, where employers must ensure that employees work from home for at least half of their working time.

Even though most employees prefer to work remotely, interaction and communication with coworkers remains vital.

Working from home – at least some days – is here to stay, and businesses need to be able to find a way to effectively interact with their employees remotely.

This could mean improving internal communication strategies to prioritize employee relations or encourage continued engagement.

In an interview with the Straits Times, Singapore National Employers’ Federation (Snef) executive director Koh Juan Kiat said managers should hold regular electronic meetings to update employees on the status of the company. .

They should also frequently verify them virtually through means such as video conferencing and messaging.

Employers might also consider investing in online support structures to boost productivity and efficiency.

Restore customer confidence

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All businesses have customers to serve, and the pandemic has forced a rethink of what customer service means.

Covid-19 has overwhelmed lives and livelihoods around the world, leading to pervasive uncertainty and sustained attention to health

It has also led to a different way in which customers interact with businesses and vice versa. Thus, companies need to understand consumption trends and patterns that will persist over the long term.

First, health and wellness is an immediate concern, and it’s important for businesses, especially physical ones, to integrate it into their customer experience.

For example, many companies have already implemented contactless commerce to promote security in their physical locations – a key measure to put customers at ease.

In Singapore, even traditional hawker stalls have started implementing digital initiatives to help keep operations secure, albeit with strong incentives from the government.

According to McKinsey & Company, “Companies that adapt to changing customer needs will recover faster and be better positioned than their competitors.”

Another example is Singapore’s first multi-currency mobile wallet, YouTrip, which established itself as a travel payment card.

However, with the stopping of the trip, YouTrip ran the risk of users completely forgetting about its existence.

To continue engaging its customers, the two-year-old company had to quickly refresh its business model and focus all of its efforts on an e-commerce use case.

The team then curated online deals and buying guides to help users save money.

Even though travel has stalled, YouTrip founder Caecilia Chu says “now is not the time to slow down”.

Instead, the company focused its efforts on engaging customers and maintaining a rapport with customers, so that they would be ready to serve them again when the trip reopens.

The digital transformation is already here

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Image Credit: InCorp Global

Although ‘digital transformation’ has been a buzzword for the past few years, Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the process.

To survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world, businesses must constantly stay on top of technology trends, or at least go online.

This is evident in the wave of online home businesses that have exploded during the pandemic.

From home bakers to collagen soup, enterprising individuals have capitalized on the digital shift to market their products, and have been very successful there.

Even companies that had a traditionally physical business model have found hubs in the online world.

For example, mixed martial arts start-up One Championship couldn’t organize large-scale fights, but managed to get them online. Besides the live broadcasts, it also offers data-driven information to users.

The pandemic has also accelerated the growth of online services, such as telemedicine, which have seen a spike in demand since Covid-19 hit.

On the other hand, businesses that have failed to get online fast enough have suffered negative consequences.

The recent high-profile closure of one of Singapore’s oldest department stores, Robinsons, has raised questions as to whether its demise was in part due to its lack of an online presence.

In search of the future

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If there’s one thing businesses and individuals have learned from the events of 2020, it’s a detailed plan to mitigate crises.

In a crisis, immediate action is needed to protect the results in the medium and long term.

To achieve this, organizations need a plan that addresses “employee well-being, brand reputation, financial management, supply chain and legal issues,” consulting firm Ernst said. & Young.

For starters, companies can start reviewing what they learned in 2020 – what worked and what didn’t, and what business leaders can do differently.

Examining how competitors react and pivot can also be a good way to gather insight into how the industry might change and how the business can be better prepared to deal with it.

Another strategy may also be to reconsider job training and ensure that employees can be better prepared to take on new responsibilities, such as digital marketing.

The road to recovery

It has been a difficult year for companies, but the only way forward is to transform practices and prepare for any future crises that may arise.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Microsoft Singapore Managing Director Kevin Wo said: “Innovation is no longer an option, but essential to survival and success.”

This is a sentiment shared by many business leaders, and obviously those who saw the opportunities to pivot quickly are those who made it through the crisis.

Featured Image Credit: Centaline Property

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Jothi Venkat

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