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SMEs lag behind automation in the workplace while a third of businesses find working from home transition difficult, research shows

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Monday, 08 June 2020. Posted in Insight, Analysis

Only 27% of SMEs have implemented automation in the workplace since working from home, a survey by YouGov revealed

SMEs lag behind automation in the workplace while a third of businesses find working from home transition difficult, research shows

Only 27% of SMEs have implemented automation in the workplace since working from home, a survey by YouGov revealed

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rip through the country, businesses across the UK have shut down as employees are forced to work from home. How have businesses adapted their practices to facilitate remote working during the outbreak? Only a third of SMEs have implemented automation in the workplace, while 32% of UK businesses said they found the transition to remote working difficult, according to new statistics by YouGov.

The transition from the office to working from home can raise several concerns over stability, productivity and regulating tasks to run smoothly. Research, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by SAP Concur, reveals how UK SMEs and enterprises are dealing with the swift changes to the workplace when it comes to adopting automation and expenses policies. While 68% of businesses found the transition easy, a third (32%) of businesses found the switch from office to remote working very difficult, research has shown. Nearly half of SMEs (47%) had very little plans to implement automation. On the contrary, 47% of UK enterprises have already automated these systems compared to only 29% of SMEs, according to YouGov statistics. This goes to show that SMEs may not understand the importance of automation or know how to undertake these changes. Meanwhile, 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. With new changes in remote working, more companies consider covering costs they wouldn’t have done before, such as providing mobile phones, laptops and working equipment to cater to their employees working from home. 

Meanwhile, the majority of businesses expect finance to return to normal quicker than general workplace practises, saying this process could take up to 12 months. 38% said finance functions would return to normal straight away, while 73% said work practises will take up to 12 months to return to how they were, showing that many believe wider practices will be far more affected than those specifically finance related. 

IT, infrastructure and communications were some of the biggest problems they faced during the shift, the research revealed. Businesses cited issued such as making sure staff had right equipment at home that enabled secure home working, IT issues ensuring that relevant programmes were compatible and secure, authorising invoices without contact and trying to get all staff to use and be trained on new software. 

To facilitate the transition to remote working, 14% of businesses implemented new financial technologies after UK lockdown began. Interestingly, again a third (32%) of those organisations found implementation difficult or very difficult. The pandemic has caused an acceleration for digital transformation as companies adopt new ways of offering visibility into cash flow and valuable data.

What’s more, 11% implemented some automation of financial processes. Specifically examining automation, SMBs had very little plans to implement automation with nearly half (47%) saying they wouldn’t, in comparison, only 23% of enterprises had ruled it out. This is despite enterprises leading the way in already having automation in place (47%) in comparison to SMBs (29%).  

This could indicate smaller businesses lack flexibility in their current set up, are unsure of its importance, or have not been properly advised on how to undertake this change. Enterprises (47%) were also far more likely than SMBs (29%) to already have automation in place, suggesting SMBs perhaps feel these tools are suited to larger companies.  

“What this shows is there's work to be done with so many smaller businesses assuming technology like SAP Concur isn’t for them, when in reality cloud computing has made enterprise-grade software available to every customer,” Ryan Demaray, Managing Director SMB EMEA at SAP Concur commented said.” 

Many businesses have adopted new policies to tackle the challenges when working from home. As the initial shock of the coronavirus lockdown has passed, SMEs should divert their attention to coming up with strategies to bounce back after this period of uncertainty.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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