Lockdown leading to lasting business change, new figures suggest

The coronavirus lockdown is causing lasting changes to the way UK companies operate, new figures from the Institute of Directors suggest.

In a survey of hundreds of business leaders, four out of ten said their organisation had made adjustments that they intend to keep in place after lockdown. Increased working from home and a greater focus on digital services were common actions directors expected to continue in the long term.

Businesses have been innovating in response to the lockdown, with almost one in six of those polled reporting that they had launched a new product or service due to the circumstances. The majority of these were related to the country’s medical response, from producing hand gel to procuring PPE.

Meanwhile, with digital skills being put under pressure like never before, more than a third of those surveyed were likely to use the next three months to pursue online training for their staff.

Edwin Morgan, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“The coronavirus crisis is throwing up colossal challenges for business, but directors are nothing if not adaptable. Lockdown means few businesses can operate as they used to and, as a result, many companies are finding a way to innovate through the obstacles. The solutions they create might just end up becoming the new normal.

“Some changes, such as distancing on production lines or providing PPE to staff are virus-related necessities, but others, in particular making services digital and more flexible working, bring benefits of their own. With it looking likely that restrictions will continue in some form for months, more and more directors will fundamentally change their business models.

“The country’s digital and management skills are under the spotlight, and despite everything, there is still appetite among businesses to help their people continue developing. The government has a role to play here. The Department for Education has moved quickly with its new Skills Toolkit, but there are other steps that should be considered like helping firms use untapped Apprenticeship Levy funds on shorter-form digital courses.”

Full survey results

Survey conducted between 17-24 April 2020

Which, if any, of the following apply to your organisation due to the lockdown? (464 respondents)

We have adapted to provide a different product/service, specifically related to the medical response to coronavirus
We have adapted to provide a different product/service, specifically unrelated to the medical response to coronavirus
We have made changes to enable us to continue our existing products/services that we intend to continue after lockdown ends
None of the above

Over the next three months, how likely are you to pursue online professional development courses for your employees? (1003 respondents)

Very likely
Quite likely
Neither likely nor unlikely
Quite unlikely
Very unlikely
Don't know

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