March 17, 2022
Businesses are investing in technology to expand online operations and facilitate remote work during the pandemic. But many of those same businesses are also eager to see their employees return to the workplace in greater numbers over the long term. Those are among the findings of a new survey of small and midsized business leaders conducted by The Harris Poll and sponsored by CIT, a division of First Citizens Bank.
Nearly one in three small businesses (31 percent) indicate they are planning to invest in technology over the next year to facilitate work onsite or in a physical workplace. When planning to have employees working in-person, business executives are most commonly thinking about employee productivity (42 percent) and vaccine mandates (36 percent). Another key factor business executives consider is new business or customer needs (33 percent).
Middle-market companies, generally defined as businesses with 100 to 9,999 employees, are pursuing many of the same business objectives, but are showing more flexibility about hybrid work schedules (34 percent of middle-market executives plan to have their employees split their time between in-person and remote in the long-term vs. 22 percent of small business executives).
But “lessons learned” from the pandemic continue to evolve as half of business executives surveyed (50 percent) said they’ve reassessed improvement opportunities at their company since the pandemic hit.
Most businesses (78 percent) expect their company’s revenue to grow and plan to make investments in their company over the next 12 months (87 percent of small businesses, 92 percent of middle-market businesses).
Among those planning to invest, they plan to allocate the greatest proportion of their investment in:
- Small businesses – Equipment upgrades (22 percent, on average) and marketing and advertising (20 percent)
- Middle-market companies – Tech/software upgrades (18 percent), research and development (14 percent) and marketing and advertising (13 percent)
To adapt to an increasingly digital-first marketplace, businesses are planning to upgrade business technology to increase efficiency and/or productivity (56 percent) and increase e-commerce opportunities for customers (48 percent). Middle-market companies also plan to expand remote assistance options (54 percent).
In addition to technology and talent investments, business executives are concerned about cybersecurity and plan to boost protection against risks, including data breaches (56 percent), hacking/intrusion (57 percent), viruses (54 percent) and identity theft (50 percent).
Businesses are also aware of the importance of sustainability initiatives/eco-friendly practices, and nearly half of small businesses (49 percent) and most of middle-market companies (85 percent) say they already have or are planning to implement such practices. The most common ones include recycling (60 percent), using eco-friendly cleaning products (55 percent), going paperless or using recycled paper (52 percent), and increasing energy efficiency on cooling/heating or lighting (51 percent).