Thanks to remote work, small business owners have more empathy for employees

NEW YORK — Three in five small business owners admit they now feel more empathetic toward their employees and colleagues after working from home during the pandemic.

A survey of 1,000 small business owners looked at how working remotely has impacted their company — for better or worse.

Is remote work here to stay?

The results showed that more than half of respondents agree that working from home has made their experience of leading a team easier and more productive (56%). Another seven in 10 believe the change has provided them with certain business opportunities they wouldn’t have had before.

Conducted by OnePoll in partnership with Field Effect, the survey also found that most small business owners have improved their relationship with their employees by trusting them more (63%) and having better communication (55%).

Working from home has also allowed more businesses to see an increase in customers (46% vs. 25% who have lost customers) and sales (42%). Sometimes, however, working remotely isn’t as great as some claim it is — especially since nearly half of respondents agree that running their businesses primarily from home has proven to be more challenging than they anticipated (48%).

More than half say the occasional office trip energizes them (55%). Others enjoy periodic returns because they don’t have the same capacity to oversee all aspects of their business from home (41%).

Business owners are also busier than ever, with 47 percent saying they wear more hats than before the pandemic by taking on roles like marketing or bookkeeping. Another 41 percent have had to cut down a significant amount of costs in supplies (41%), business space (offices, storefront, etc.) (39%), or their own salary (37%).

“In the face of uncertainty and rapidly changing business conditions, small business owners continue to prove their resiliency and adaptability,” says Andrew Milne, chief revenue officer at Field Effect, in a statement. “The fact that they have been able to overcome the inherent challenges in building a business from home, while still seeking out new business opportunities and customers is remarkable.”

business owners remote

Network security concerns

More than a third of small business owners worry about their businesses’ cyber security now more than ever before (39%). This comes as no surprise, as most business owners depend on strong cyber security to keep their businesses intact (57%).

Thirty-eight percent worry that there’s an increased cyber threat to their business now that they work from home, and especially when they’re working on personal devices (58%), or receive phishing emails (56%), or have insecure home Wi-Fi (56%). Other concerns include ensuring passwords aren’t weak and protecting their computer against malware (55%).

One in five small business owners have encountered a cyber breach, phishing, or scam since working from home (22%), and most have been reluctant to admit that it could have been avoided if they were back in their workspace (64%).

“While cyberattacks against small and medium-sized businesses continue to grow, working remotely doesn’t have to mean sacrificing security,” Milne says. “Accessing complete cyber protection that is simple to use and cost-effective is now a reality.”

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