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The business supplies sector has had to move swiftly and decisively during the Coronavirus pandemic to meet the changing demands of customers.

At the start of the pandemic there was an unprecedented move from office working to home working. Many businesses were forced to fast track digital transformation in order to stay connected and ensure that employees could work from home.

In addition, ensuring supply chain, staffing challenges, and e-commerce capability have all been issues to overcome. Yet the industry has adapted quickly. The ability to shift deliveries from office to home was crucial.

The return to work

Remote working is undoubtedly the biggest shift in the workplace supplies industry for a long time. The unknown factor is when, or indeed if, employees will return. Initial research suggests that a hybrid approach of both home and office working is most likely.

  • According to research from Gartner, nearly three quarters (74%) of CFOs expect to transition employees to remote work setups permanently in the aftermath of Covid-19
  • Before the pandemic, 70% of employees believed going into the office wasn’t necessary
  • Research by Mind Share Partners has found that more than 60% of workers say their mental health affects their productivity.
  • In a telling move Fujitsu, one of Japan’s largest employers, is adopting a new ‘Work Life Shift’ policy. In a country with a traditionally office-centric culture, the move will enable 80,000 employees to work remotely and result in 50% less office space for the company.

Meanwhile a recent survey by HRD found that 91% of HR leaders want remote work options to continue post-lockdown, but two thirds (66%) say it may only last during the crisis.

In the post-Covid workplace, some companies will make the decision to transition 100% of employees to remote work. However it’s likely that most companies will opt for a hybrid approach, enabling staggered working patterns and remote working for some of the week.

The new workplace environment

So how can businesses prepare for new working patterns and a new working environment?  There are key areas to consider, including creating socially-distanced office space, ensuring digital transformation projects continue and evolve, wellness and mental health for home workers, and of course cost control and business intelligence.

Socially distanced office space

COVID-19 has seen a huge shift in the product ranges that customers require. This includes safety first signage, social distancing screens, PPE and staff safety products.

Extended product ranges

Home workers and businesses are demanding a wider range of products to help them work, play and keep busy. This means the range of non-core items businesses need in the short term is likely to increase.

Categories such as home office, sports and leisure, health and beauty, home and garden, and even toys and games are in demand.

Technology and digital transformation

With many companies staggering workplace returns into next year, strong communication links and secure access to business information is going to be key moving forward.  However, this all revolves around digital transformation – something many businesses would like to do, but are yet to embrace.

Projects to ensure access to systems, video calling and secure remote technology will drive digital transformation. For businesses who have those systems in place, now is the time to assess whether they have the most secure and effective solution.

Cost control and business intelligence

Within the current business climate, customers are under an overwhelming degree of pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiencies wherever possible.

Implementing an easy to use, intuitive procurement system will be the start for many businesses to take back control of their costs and reduce rogue spending during times of remote working.

Article by: Steve Harvell

As seen in Issue 5 of The Bottom Line