Bridgewater-Based Brother Looks at How the Future of Work Affects Business in New Jersey

Recently, Brother International Corporation (Bridgewater), a multinational provider of office IT services and business products, commissioned a survey to uncover how work has changed since the pandemic.

“For us, the survey was a snapshot in time of what’s been happening overall in what I would call the ‘evolution of work’ and the ‘future of the office,’” Dan Waldinger, senior director of B2B marketing, told us. “Obviously, the office is not necessarily just a physical space anymore.”

Brother wanted to know the effects that this change in the workplace would have on business, and on the use of business technologies. The new normal, “both during the pandemic, and what this new normal looks like now, is going to affect how people consume technology and how people acquire technology,” he said.

The survey, titled “Back to Work in a Post Pandemic World,” was conducted by Focus NJ (Trenton), an independent nonprofit research organization that was founded by the Trenton-based New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA).

In conducting the survey, Focus NJ contacted over 700 businesses that were NJBIA members, Nicole Sandelier, executive director of Focus NJ, told us. The survey was conducted from April 1 to April 26. 

Among the key findings: the majority (65 percent) of  responding New Jersey businesses will either allow remote-work options after the pandemic or are considering it, and a plurality of respondents (42 percent) believe that it will take longer than a year to break even on revenues lost due to the coronavirus.

“I think that survey really revealed a lot of interesting points,” said Waldinger. “First and foremost, looking at productivity in general, some businesses were thrust into a work-from-home or work-from-anywhere environment, but mostly home; and the employees were told to go home. That resulted in a big change in how equipment and technology was going to be utilized. Many companies had to go out and purchase monitors and PCs and laptops and printers and online services, so that their businesses could continue. And that had a big effect on our home-office, small-office business. But then our core business, which is at the office level, really shut down. We saw a big change in how technology was going to be utilized.”

Businesses were forced to upgrade and update all of their employees’ equipment, he noted, and while working from home wasn’t an entirely new phenomenon, it was accelerated by the pandemic.

He added that Brother had interviewed its largest customers, and found that, now that we’re moving into a vaccinated world, people will come back to work. “But they’re not going to come back 100 percent. Our customers are saying they’re looking at their work-from-home policies and they’re adjusting them. And we’re seeing that this new hybrid workforce is going to take the place of everyone being in the office. So, certainly, that has an effect on how people will basically outfit offices today.”

We asked Sandelier to tell us which findings from the survey stood out for her. She noted that many respondents had said that they were spending an average of $30,000 investing in new technologies and artificial intelligence at a time when their business revenues were down an average of 30 percent. They were trying to increase the efficiency and productivity of their businesses, essentially trying to keep their businesses afloat until there were fewer restrictions.

“Also, it was very interesting to me that, before the pandemic, there was this talk about potential remote work in the future, but we found that over 65% of our businesses already have adopted or are considering adopting permanent hybrid remote work as we enter this new normal,” she said.

“The last thing that I’ll mention that was extremely shocking to me was that over 66 percent of the businesses that we surveyed are actively encouraging individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Waldinger said that companies were investing in technology for business-continuity purposes, and that these investments were forced on them. He also believes, as do the market research and advisory firms Gartner and IDC, that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation efforts.

Waldinger noted that the survey also covered the issue of loss of productivity. During the pandemic, businesses took “an entire workforce, and just removed them from an environment where they were productive. … As a leader, I would be able to come out of my office and talk to my people and interact. That’s the relationship that we were used to. And, of course, I would coach and mentor, as well; and we would solve problems together. That became more difficult, I think, for some, and maybe, frankly, easier for others to do it virtually. I think that, in some ways, it’s a generational discussion,” he said.

“We have to be flexible and adaptable, and I think that the biggest [lesson] about businesses was that they developed the ability to adapt, and are much stronger for it today than they were before this happened,” he concluded.

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