Still lagging | Three years since first lockdown, how does the world of digital work look?

Three years since first lockdown, how does the world of digital work look?

We all remember where we were on March 23 2020. Many of us had already begun working from home and had no idea what Zoom was, when Boris Johnson issued five historic words: You must stay at home.

The world of work changed virtually overnight, and the immediate shift to remote working exposed the technological shortcomings of many companies.

And now, three years on from the UK Government’s first ‘stay at home’ mandate, new research commissioned by Virgin Media O2 Business shows that nearly a fifth of businesses are still held back by limited digital skills or employee resistance to new tech.

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The study, which surveyed over 1,200 public and private sector decision makers across the UK, also found that rising costs due to inflation (23%) and energy costs (24%) are causing the most concern in 2023, followed by the ongoing digital skills shortage (15%) and recruitment (10%).

Despite pressure on cashflow across many organisations, respondents were more likely to cite ‘increasing value of existing investments’ (37%) as the most important operational priority for their organisation currently, over cost optimisation (26%).

Old tech is hindering UK bounce-back from the pandemic

While businesses surveyed were keen to make the most of their existing tools, 72% of respondents believe their outdated tech is impacting their ability to operate efficiently. With growth being the number one priority for 36%, decision makers are forced to balance the challenges of 2023 with their ambitions.

Almost a third (32%) of decision makers say the biggest hindrance to their efficiency is old software or hardware (18%) or incompatibility between systems or applications (14%) - indicating digital transformation will remain high on their agendas this year.

Digital skills and remote work remain a challenge

A key hindrance to embracing hybrid working is digital skills, 18% of respondents saying employee resistance to tech or limited digital skills is holding back operational efficiency. Which is a possible catalyst for 50% of leaders believing less than half of their employees are using unified communications and collaboration tools, like Teams and Zoom, to their full extent.

Team Development: 3 steps to building a strong team

Team Development: 3 steps to building a strong team

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Although many businesses seem to have embraced hybrid working, nearly a quarter (24%) of professional services leaders still have limited remote work capabilities. Given 19% cited employee attraction and retention as their biggest internal challenge this year, empowering employees with the skills and flexibility needed for their roles will be key.

Showing the value of investing in tech

With increased pressure on budgets, two thirds (65%) of decision makers noticed a need to demonstrate results faster when making a case for new investment in tech and connectivity in the last six months.

The stress to realise return on investment quickly was the highest amongst respondents who said old tech is significantly hindering their ability to operate efficiently (79%). Despite being the most in need of new tech, these leaders appear to have more pressure to prove its value quickly.

The increasing role of IT and partners

As decision makers navigate the cost crisis, they’re turning to the expertise of their IT teams and external partners. The vast majority (78%) of respondents rely on their IT and telecoms providers for consultancy on how to maximise the value of their old tech, leading organisations to put increased trust in partners. Three-quarters (75%) agree their IT and telecoms partners are rising to the economic challenges of 2023 to provide the consultancy their organisation needs to make smart tech investment choices.

Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business and Wholesale at Virgin Media O2, said: “The last three years have seen the biggest change in the way we work since the Industrial Revolution, but many companies are being left behind. It would be easy to assume that most organisations have embraced new technology and digital transformation to support their workforce, however that’s clearly not the case.

"Virgin Media O2 Business’ latest research reveals almost three quarters of business leaders say old technology is impacting their businesses’ ability to operate efficiently and holding back growth. With companies facing complex operational challenges and a tough macro-economic environment, the lessons learned from the pandemic should not be forgotten – it’s key businesses make smart tech investments, challenge partners to get the most out of their existing technology and give employees the tools they need to succeed.”

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