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New year business resolutions: stay agile and learn to say no

·5 min read

The lessons learned during lockdown can teach business owners more efficient ways of working in 2022

The past year was fraught with uncertainty. The pandemic made planning for the future difficult, with many business leaders focusing instead on reactive, short-term solutions. But now, with life in the UK returning to some semblance of normality, people are finally able to plan ahead, and take what they’ve learned to create new strategies, grow their business, and build more efficient ways of working for the future.

With the new year on the horizon and resolutions to be made, keep in mind these six lessons learned over lockdown that can help you and your team work more effectively.

Maintain a work-life balance
The ability to streamline and work more efficiently – particularly in times of transition and stress – is critical to business survival. But nationwide lockdowns proved that a healthy work-life balance is essential to keeping our minds and bodies in good working order.

“I’m being more discerning with what I take on,” says Nikita Akilapa, who runs Nikita Akilapa Birth Services, a holistic support enterprise for pregnant women. “When you first start a business, you say yes to everything because you don’t know when you’re going to go through peaks and troughs.

“Now that I’m at a point where I consistently have new business, I feel more comfortable saying no to things that are going to mess with my equilibrium. I’m trying to schedule things so that I have a steady flow of money coming in. This means I can forecast income without having to work every hour of every day, and without having to compromise time with my kids.”

The same priorities apply for larger companies, such as ServiceNow, a leading digital workflow company. “The reality is that accelerated digital transformation means work is now completely altered, and we need to establish a new work-life balance to overcome these new challenges,” says Sally Sourbron, vice-president of global talent, EMEA, at ServiceNow.

“That’s why going into the new year, we’re encouraging all our teams and employees to create social contracts. Our managers should balance fair expectations with necessary support, and agree with employees what they need to do, how they need to do it, and the outcomes they should drive. At the same time, employees need to be given the tools, and the space they need to achieve those goals.”

Get organised
Francis Stagakis, co-owner of Cycle Docs Workshop in north London, emphasises the importance of simplicity and organisation. “The focus at the moment is to make the business as efficient as possible. Setting everything in the correct place, organising where we keep what, so we don’t spend too much time looking for things. We’re trying to keep it simple because … our current system works well as it is for now.”

Undertake market analysis
For Biff Bloom-Burrows, founder and COO of Biff’s, an innovative vegan food operator, one business priority for next year is to use market data to compare vegan products with their non-vegan counterparts.

“There’s so much talk about how expensive vegan food is,” he says. “It’s about removing that barrier of price. We want to investigate what chicken wings cost and how much chicken you get on them. And can we normalise our jackfruit wings [the vegan alternative] in terms of price, versus chicken wings?”

Market analysis is an essential step in understanding your customers, analysing your competitors, and driving business growth – especially in a dramatically altered business landscape. What worked pre-pandemic might not ring true today, so take the opportunity to collect and use data to better inform your business strategies for the coming year.

Woman in home office during Covid-19 lockdown
Market analysis is an essential step in driving business growth. Photograph: Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

Be more agile
“The past year has shown us the importance of business agility,” says Jordi Ferrer, vice-president and general manager of ServiceNow UK & Ireland. “Much of what we’ve achieved as a society during the pandemic was down to those organisations that had the capability to think and act rapidly in very testing times, and we should all be grateful for that.

“In the future, we all need this kind of preparedness,” he adds. “By bringing more agility to our technology stack, we can make sure we can shift and change at minimal notice, depending on global and market needs, and secure the insights we really need to drive action.”

Create experiences
Bloom-Burrows believes customer expectations are changing and that businesses have to change too, as he highlights the concept of visiting a restaurant as being experiential. “Food is not just fuel, it’s an experience,” he says. During the pandemic, he set up “host kitchens” around the country to deliver the Biff’s experience to people’s homes. Now that restaurants have reopened, Biff’s has established itself as a destination, not simply a place to drop into and fill your stomach. The lessons learned from coping with lockdown will remain a core part of Biff’s outlook, and that of many other businesses, as they build secure foundations.

Related: ‘Happy people are more productive’: putting an end to repetitive tasks with workplace automation

Use technology to bridge the gap
“Technology is a vital element that boosts productivity and bridges the gap between in-office and remote working,” says Lewis Barker, ServiceNow’s director of real estate and workplace services, EMEA.

“Flexibility and choice help employees do their best work,” he adds, highlighting the sharp increase in flexible working hours as employers adapt to staff having other responsibilities, like children being sent home from school to halt Covid-19 outbreaks.

With an AI-enabled solution such as ServiceNow’s Now Platform, people can spend their time focusing on work that’s meaningful, not menial. That’s because the Now Platform makes it possible to identify and automate outdated, manual business processes. By replacing these processes with digital workflows, companies can run more efficiently and employees can spend more time on high-value, innovative work.

By adopting digital workflows that make work more efficient, agile, and meaningful, organisations can set themselves up for a successful 2022 — and lay the foundation for business innovation in years to come.

For more information on how businesses can bring efficiency to their business processes, visit

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