New ways of working, more data, and employee power: UK women founders look forward to what 2022 will bring

As vaccination, natural immunity, and a few behaviour changes edge the nation — hopefully — towards a post-pandemic normality, women founders have been telling UKTN what they think 2022 will bring. Unsurprisingly, they all expect that Covid-19 will still have an impact as people and organisations change not only the way they work, but also the way they think. 

A change in how we work 

The pandemic forced many people to work from home, often for the first time. Although remote working had been growing in popularity, in many places, the ’shirking from home’ mentality meant the power of flexible working went undiscovered. It was not until the pandemic that many people found how effective it could be. 

“The last year-and-a-half has proven that remote work is successful,” says Vivi Cahyadi Himmel, the CEO and co-founder of AltoVita, the corporate housing booking platform. “With the ability to work remotely demystified, employers and their employees have established a greater level of trust and adapted well to new ways of working outside the traditional office.” 

This is likely to spread to new ways of employing and managing staff. “In 2022, we’ll see organisations look to alternative staffing models to tackle the Great Resignation. It’s all about agility,” suggests Limitless COO and co-founder, Megan Neale. They are now providing gig customer experience for major brands, letting brand fans provide customer services. “Who would you rather get customer service from? A person who has been a customer for many years, a call centre worker, or a chatbot?” Neale asks. 

More training, development, and understanding 

The Great Resignation, along with issues like Brexit, has also highlighted a need for more training, whether to fill the vacancies that have been created, or to meet the demands of existing staff who are looking for more. 

Jackie Denyer, the MD and founder of Professional Training Solutions, said, “As we move towards 2022, a key challenge for the UK workforce is the supply of people with the right skills to fill job vacancies. On top of this, we’re facing greater challenges in the workplace when it comes to diversity, poorly paid roles, mental health, and people struggling to get promoted as they lack the required training.” 

And that sense of discontent may run a lot deeper than is frequently realised. Almost all organisations will carry out some sort of staff survey, but the data can be flawed. Staff will often self-censor, believing that — even when anonymous — their managers will be able to work out their answers. 

Kendal Parmar, the CEO and co-founder of Untapped AI, suggests some reasons: “they may be scared of telling their boss the truth, having a bad day, anxious about their job, or new and looking to please.” She believes that most companies are getting the wrong information from their surveys on issues like hybrid working, productivity and mental health. “Our AI uncensored data shows scores are 35% lower on average than pulse surveys.” 

Growth in tech and health 

On an industry level, though, it’s likely that the tech and health sectors will continue to see growth, as new solutions are embraced and accelerated to meet the challenges posed by a pandemic and, possibly, the lingering effects of long-Covid. 

Ilona Hitel, MD and founder of The CommsCo, noted that even with the challenges faced by lockdowns and social distancing, 2021 has some positives. “The tech sector had a record £13.5 billion in investment in the UK for businesses addressing the many problems the pandemic has thrown up,” she says. 

She fully expects this investment in tech to continue, especially AI and healthtech. However, she does predict that not everything will be easy, with record numbers getting funding, it will be much harder to stand out in a crowded sector: “With so many tech scale-ups and start-ups securing investment and achieving impressive growth, being able to make an impact in the media will continue to be important and having a story is key.” 

…and finally meeting people 

After nearly two years of pandemic living, everyone has changed, but also everyone wants to start getting together again! 

Rap Tech Studios CEO and co-founder, Alena Golden notes, “Covid and the associated restrictions made us all realise the value of our relationships, friendships, and the communities we choose to belong to.” Their online platform for hip-hop fans is embracing this by boosting peer-to-peer engagement, allowing every member to take a lead and contribute. 

Concluding the discussion, we also spoke to Cordelia Meacher, FieldHouse Associates’ MD and founder. She also identified that, despite the difficult times, we have all learned during the pandemic. “I hope in 2022 that we will be able to put these learnings to good use,” she says. And, perhaps summarising everyone’s wishes for the next year, she lists what she expects: “prioritise what’s really important; benefit from human contact again, and use technology to its best effect to make life more efficient and safer.”