The year has only just started and it’s already different. Doors are reopening, opportunities are emerging and customers are returning to the market. We’re starting to look to the future again. For businesses, the optimism is infectious, and with good reason.

Here’s why the experts are saying this year will look – refreshingly – nothing like 2020.

1. Widespread vaccines are coming

Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout is underway, with thousands of doses already administered. By October, all adults should have had the option of a jab. That level of community safety will bring consumers back to work, see crowds of patrons return and open doors to new opportunities.

Brother International Australia’s head of marketing, Scott Jackson, says there’s no question vaccinations are a 2021 game-changer. “For businesses, having the end of the pandemic in sight is top of the list,” he says. “It takes us back to some normality.”

2. Work will settle into a new normal

Home offices (or kitchen tables, sheds and repurposed bedrooms and playrooms) became a symbol of 2020. While many of us already have the option to head back to the office, we might stay put for a while yet. In Australia, 74% of employees consider flexible working to be the new normal.

Some experts suggest a hybrid workplace – with a mix of virtual and in-person attendance – was inevitable, and Covid-19 has simply sped up its arrival. Brother was already ahead of the game, supporting employees to work from anywhere, and Jackson says that, for many, flexibility has delivered significant positive changes.

Crucially, he says, there’s been a widespread shift to outcomes-focused work: measuring value by whether targets are met, not by how much time employees are spending at their desks. And he thinks this will stick around in 2021 as we settle into a rhythm of flexible working.

“Most businesses have now seen that work from anywhere does work,” Jackson says. “We’ve seen that people can be at least as – if not more – productive.”

3. Consumer confidence is on the rise

After confidence took a hit during all the Covid uncertainty, consumers are back with their wallets out (card payments preferred). In January, retail spending was up almost 11% on the same time last year – its highest rise since 2015 – and economists are predicting a surge in house prices.

Low interest rates, increased savings and a general sense of life returning to normal are all boosting our confidence. As vaccines become widespread, borders reopen and travel is more accessible, businesses should see customers more comfortable with spending and keen to move forward with purchases they may have been putting off.

4. We’ll be on the move

“For businesses, closed borders are not a good thing.” Jackson says. Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on supply chains, with widespread stock shortages and limited product availability. But in 2021, we’ll turn a corner.

“With state borders opening up, and thinking about international travel later in the year, we’re moving in the right direction,” Jackson says. Businesses should be able to move more freely, make better supply predictions and go ahead with projects that have been sitting on the back burner.

Industries that have taken the biggest hits – such as tourism, air travel and leisure facilities – will once again welcome consumers for adventures, and it’s easy to imagine they’ll be raring to go.

5. Flexible technology is only getting better

Even two years ago, requests to meet remotely or use video conferencing were met with suspicion. The tools available were not always reliable and were unfamiliar to many users.

Covid-19 forced us to move online. In April 2020, Zoom was hosting more than 300 million participants globally every day. This rapid growth has also allowed agile tech companies to make huge changes in the digital comms tools space, bringing to market more feature-rich products, growing e-commerce capabilities and making communication tools more stable.

Widespread adoption has normalised this way of working. In 2021, businesses and consumers will move on from reactive adoption and purposefully adopt exciting new ways of running their operations. Brands such as Brother can support this shift to working from anywhere through products and tools for use at home, on the road or in a quiet corner of a newly reopened cafe.

“The pandemic has encouraged us to work harder on developing new ways of doing business and increasing the functionality of the digital tools available to us,” Jackson says. “As businesses, we’re all going to benefit from that change for many years to come.”

Find out how Brother can support you in today’s business here.

Originally produced content by Guardian Labs Australia to a brief agreed with and paid for by Brother.

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