The coronavirus pandemic is driving a permanent shift in the way businesses operate, according to a survey of business attitudes by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub.

Video meetings, flexible working and increased online sales are all trends that are here to stay as businesses look to retain many of the measures they have had to take because of Covid-19.

The survey, conducted through May, asked businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which adaptations or changes that they had made during the pandemic they intended to keep in the future.

More than half, 53%, said they intended to keep using video meetings with customers and clients, while almost 37% said they would allow staff to work flexibly. And just over a third, 34%, said the move to more online or remote sales was something that would stay.

Just over 13% of businesses that responded to the survey said they planned to invest in new IT equipment and software to enable more flexible working, while one in five said they planned to either reduce or even close their current workspace.

Stu Anderson, operations director at the Growth Hub, which offers free and impartial help to new and established businesses in Cornwall and Scilly by signposting them to support and advice, said: “Covid has changed how businesses operate and our survey suggests many of those changes are here to stay.

“The shift to more flexible working may become the norm for businesses able to do so. And although we can’t declare the end of face-to-face meetings, businesses are waking up to the enormous potential time and cost savings of using video platforms like Zoom and Teams to talk to suppliers, customers and their own staff.

“Technology is also driving an increase in online sales as businesses turn to the web to replace lost footfall, and that’s another trend set to continue. But these changes also bring challenges, particularly when managing teams remotely, and with upskilling staff to perform new duties. Our colleagues at the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Skills Hub are already seeing increased demand from businesses for training to deliver more services online.

“Our role at the Growth Hub is to anticipate how these changes will impact local businesses, and ensure that we can point them in the right direction when it comes to support and advice. These survey results help us do that and can inform future business support.”

The survey also examined some of the immediate impacts of the pandemic. Around half of all respondents said they had experienced reduced demand for products and services, coupled with extra costs to introduce Covid-secure measures, and that disruption had been ‘severe’. Four in 10 businesses reported disruption to their supply chains.

Some 62% reported reduced business performance, while 22% had maintained activity at previous levels and 15% had actually seen an improvement. Three in 10 of the survey respondents had furloughed staff, and of those, 80% expected all their staff to return to work.

To find out how the Growth Hub can help your business visit ciosgrowthhub.com or telephone 01209 708660.

The Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and match funded by Cornwall Council, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

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