Small business challenges


The biggest challenges for businesses in 2022

Few, if any, UK businesses have been untouched by the pandemic. As you can see from the graph, 63% of businesses say that their most significant challenge for 2022 is the possibility of future lockdowns, while 27% are concerned about coronavirus regulations. However, both stats are lower than in the previous year, suggesting that hope is rising across the UK.


Coronavirus regulations

How the pandemic has strained business owners

Just as in 2020, the majority of business owners and leaders have worked longer hours over the past year. Even more of them, in fact, increasing to a massive 87%.

Business plans have had to change for the upcoming year in almost a third of businesses. The biggest impacts have been felt in the healthcare, information technology and leisure, sports and tourism industries.

I’ve had to change my business plan for 2022 because of the pandemic

I worked longer hours in 2021 due to the pandemic

Staff decisions faced by businesses last year and concern for more restrictions

Government support schemes were key to small business survival, so it’s no wonder that owners and leaders are worried about the weeks and months ahead.

In 2021, 19% had to let staff go due to the pandemic, and 39% used furlough schemes. With new restrictions and rules possible in 2022, it’s no wonder that almost a fifth (19%) of businesses are worried about what support will be available if they have to stop trading.

I had to let staff members go due to the pandemic in 2021

I used the furlough scheme during the pandemic in 2021

I am worried about what support is available if my business has to stop trading due to coronavirus restrictions

Business adaptations due to the pandemic in 2021

The pandemic has forced businesses to adapt, implementing new practices including online booking services, QR codes and selling via social media. In fact, over a fifth of businesses brought in QR codes, a 10% increase over 2020. Almost twice as many closed their bricks and mortar businesses, moving entirely online.

Over half of businesses adapted by changing their opening hours, and it is no surprise that the sectors most likely to take this step were hospitality, events (77%) and performing arts (65%). With the current staffing issues facing the UK due to coronavirus, restrictions and the lasting impact of Brexit, this adaptation could be here to stay in 2022.

Sectors which introduced online booking services

Hospitality and events management

Charity and voluntary work

Adaptations from the pandemic into 2022

The most popular adaptations businesses will continue to operate in 2022

QR codes

Changed opening hours

Introduced online booking services

Logan Weaver Knzivjrvzta Unsplash

What impact would COVID restrictions have on businesses if reintroduced in 2022?

When asked what the effect of specific restrictions would be on businesses, respondents felt that social distancing, travel bans, and household/bubble rules would have the most negative impact.

  • 76% said reintroducing social distancing would negatively impact their business
  • 67% said travel bans (except for business travel) would negatively impact their business
  • 63% said the reintroduction of household and bubble restrictions would negatively impact their business
  • 63% said mask-wearing indoors would negatively impact their business
  • 56% said introducing vaccine passports to access indoor venues and shops would negatively impact their business
  • 55% said closing hospitality venues (allowing virtual events and takeaway only) would negatively impact their business
  • 39% said the rule of six would negatively impact their business
  • 34% said complete travel bans would negatively impact their business.
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