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SMEs have the digital edge on the way we work

When you’re starting your career, there are, broadly speaking, two paths you can follow: the SME or the enterprise? The small or the large? The nimble or the powerful?  

It is one of the biggest decisions you can make when starting out in the business world. Big companies often offer big salaries, prestige and a multitude of corporate benefits. On the other hand, smaller organisations allow you more scope over your responsibilities and the chance to be part of a close-knit team.   There is one area that separates the two though. For many years, swathes of people have believed that it is large companies on the cusp of innovation, pushing business to the next level. Well, this has proven to be misguided.    When it comes to flexible working and technology adoption, SMEs are leading the charge.

The rise of the anywhere worker

Over the last decade there’s been a steady rise in mobile workers, or at least those who desire to work outside of the traditional office space. This trend of “anywhere working”, specifically the idea of doing your job whenever and wherever, has now been widely recognised as a productivity driver and creativity enabler.    

According to Unify’s Way We Work Study (opens in new tab) — which independently surveyed 9,000 British, American and German knowledge workers, 5,000 of whom are employed by SMEs — SMB employees genuinely value working outside of traditional office environments. In fact, 37 per cent of those working in companies with fewer than 500 employees said that creative thinking is one of its largest benefits.    

This is not to say the enterprise does not value mobile workers, but there are fewer of them. Currently, knowledge workers employed by SMEs spend 21 per cent of their time on average out of the office, compared to 15 per cent of those in larger businesses. SME knowledge workers also believe this is set to change, as over a quarter (26 per cent) would like to spend between 26-50 per cent of their working day away from their desks.   

SMEs tech adoption outpaces that of the enterprise     

Almost half (48 per cent) of knowledge workers employed by SMEs believe their organisations operate through technology rather than offices. By their very nature, being agile and much more open to change, SMEs are more likely to adopt cloud-based technologies right from the outset, compared to the enterprise where cloud adoption has been slower and often based on replacing legacy systems.    

In fact, close to two-thirds (60 per cent) of knowledge workers in small and medium businesses now use on-demand tools (technology that is internet or cloud-based) in their professional roles. This figure is higher than in companies with 500 or more employees (53 per cent).

Choosing the right technology remains critical

The use and adoption rate of the right communication and collaboration technology is at the heart of being able to provide employees with a flexible workplace. This makes it all the more important that any decisions about which software to choose are carefully considered. If the staff is using software that is not very intuitive and responsive, it can hamper their work, both from a productivity and morale standpoint.    

This begs the question, what does the right solution look like?   

Well consider this: close to two thirds (61 per cent) of knowledge workers in SMEs use their own devices at work, compared to just under half (47 per cent) at large organisations. This means the right collaboration technology platform should be available on any device, preferably from the cloud. It will allow employees to work where and how they want, cooperate together to solve problems and achieve the desired end result for the business.    

For SMEs, who more often than not have to focus on doing more with less, the right solution will drive innovation, but will also enable teams to work better together. It will allow individuals to choose their communication channels, while allowing them to access HD video, high-quality voice, screen share, messaging, and file sharing from a single, unified location.

As it stands today, SMEs are taking full advantage of new, faster moving technology. They can adopt and adapt to new trends brought in by employees at a much more rapid rate than enterprises. The Way We Work Study not only shows the huge impact technology has had on organisation’s ability to offer employees a better work-life balance, but the fact SMBs are adopting and integrating it into every aspect of their work indicates a greater desire to make the most of this opportunity.

Trevor Connell, Executive VP, Worldwide Sales and Service Providers, Unify (opens in new tab)