With the threat of new variants meaning yet another delay in the complete lifting of restrictions, a return to ‘normality’ still seems somewhat out of reach. As the ongoing uncertainty continues to add pressure and complexity to industry, many businesses are still trying to find their feet with new ways of working and, perhaps most notably, the changing attitudes of the workforce.
People have had their eyes opened when it comes to different ways of working. The cumulative effect of working from home, meetings on Zoom, and the worldwide impact of Covid, has served to connect us all together more than ever before – both culturally and in business, the current climate has created a more global and open-minded way of thinking.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of more flexible working hours; it’s demonstrated to business leaders, who may have previously been a tad sceptical, the benefits of working from home; it’s shown the importance of having a collaborative mindset, and that that can be achieved in different ways and different places, outside of an office environment.
And, perhaps most powerfully, it’s helped to activate an unprecedented level of inspiration and innovation. Akin to a sort of resilient war-time response, the pandemic has given rise to a so-called Covid economy; a start-up boom, that includes everything from new businesses selling timely products such as face masks or homemade soaps, to workers who, after being made redundant, took a chance, got creative or followed a dream.
Data from Enterprise Nation revealed that new business formations in the first nine months of 2020 were 9.5 per cent higher than the same period in 2019; when looking at March until September, London saw the biggest year-on-year increase in new start-ups at 20 per cent, but was closely followed by Yorkshire and Humber with 14 per cent.
Of course, this doesn’t surprise me at all – us Yorkshire folk are well used to hard work and being resourceful. And I’ve seen this trend clearly reflected in my own business over the last 18 months.
When I founded Business Owl back in 2016, virtual assistants (VAs) weren’t as common. I was still working in an employed role whilst I launched the business and worked to establish a more forward-thinking client base committed to working virtually and collaboratively long-term.
Fast forward to 2021 and the industry growth has been huge – the combination of innovation, entrepreneurship, connected communities and open-mindedness, that has risen from the depths of a global disaster, has led to a boom in virtual businesses, especially VAs, that is heartening to see.
The potential for this new and innovative way of working is huge. Instead of hundreds, or thousands, of workers at a time being entirely reliant on the success of one business, it empowers individuals, supporting them through a virtual web of connectivity.
This way of working has the power to encourage innovation and healthy competition, and to stimulate economic growth by providing more employment opportunities, which often generate higher incomes.
Ultimately, I predict that this Covid economy, with its rapid growth in entrepreneurship, collaboration and virtual working – as demonstrated so well by the rise of the VA – will play no small part in the country’s financial recovery.
Jen Workman is the founder of Business Owl