UK business worried about the financial impact of working from home again
New COVID guidance and regulations came into effect after a press conference by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday 11th December. It was the latest in what has been a very frequent line of press conferences over the last few weeks as fears of the Omicron variant are spreading throughout the country. As is the case with most of Boris’s press conferences, this one contained hardly any information of value at all. However, there was one thing that’s got many UK businesses feeling anxious as the year draws to a close.
Anyone that is able to work from home has now been advised to stay at home to work. This news mirrored what was announced towards the start of the pandemic back in March 2020. Back then, millions of employees and employers ditched their offices for living rooms and kitchen tables. Some companies liked this and stayed with it, while others couldn’t wait to be back in the office.
Now, while the current guidelines don’t force any businesses to close their offices or stores, it is a worrying sign for many. A lot of office-based businesses are concerned about the financial impact this will bring them. Contrary to what a lot of people think, working from home isn’t always the cheapest option for some businesses.
Fears over productivity dips
One of the main reasons some companies are worried about the new work from home orders is that they’re scared it will impact productivity levels. After all, most of the businesses that were positively affected by working from home continued to do so. As such, they aren’t impacted by this news at all. The ones that went back to offices did so for a reason; working from home was slowing them down. Whether this is because they have access to more technology and resources in the office – or the team operates better when together in person – they seemed to struggle with performance when everyone was at home.
Consequently, many UK businesses are fearing that the same thing will happen again, only at a vital part of the year. The final part of Q4 is where many companies start trying one last push for sales. This could mean they have taken on a lot of extra work and clients over the last couple of months, giving themselves plenty to do. Indeed, with Black Friday only a few weeks ago, lots of businesses ran deals to draw in orders from new and existing customers. Being made to work from home could impact their ability to be productive and work through all of these orders on time, leading to unhappy customers.
Furthermore, the end of the year is a big time for accounting and finance. This is where people take stock of business resources and get the books in order at the end of the year. If people are told to work from home, there could also be productivity issues in this regard, leading to a mad rush for companies to get their finances in order.
Worries over additional costs
To go alongside the fears over productivity, there are worries over how much it can cost some businesses to go back to working from home. A lot of companies feel that working from home is more expensive for them because they are still paying office rent, on top of paying for additional services to help the company work remotely.
For instance, many businesses have to invest heavily in IT support for remote working, more so than when in an office. This is because more problems can go wrong when working from home due to the different cloud software in use. After all, everything is done via the cloud, so there can be more tech issues all the time. Plus, take into account each individual’s workstation at home; some people run into tech problems relating to their hardware, so more support is required.
Employee morale woes
However, it’s not just the businesses that worry about these additional costs. Indeed, working from home is arguably worse for some employees. Being at home means they have increased energy bills – which will already be high throughout the winter season. It can also mean they spend more money on food and other utilities, draining their financial resources.
Moreover, people have spent the last few months finally feeling positive about life after getting some freedom back. The news that workers should work from home, if they can, will surely cause a lot of negative emotions in employees up and down the country – especially so close to Christmas. There’s a sense of ‘here we go again’ about it, with every mention of a press conference filling the nation with nerves. It leads to low morale amongst workers, which will end up affecting businesses.
The worries over morale falling will lead to the first point on productivity. It’s a nasty cycle that companies are getting very fearful of with every passing second. The only good news is that you technically do not have to work from home at this moment. Nobody can take action against a company that still goes to the office every day. At least, not yet.
Much of the reason behind all the worries and fears is that we’ve experienced this before. There’s a sense of deja vu in the air, and we all think we know what’s coming next. It starts with the suggestion of working from home, but how long before rules and laws are enforced and another lockdown ensues? Hopefully, by encouraging people to work from home now, these measures can prevent us from getting to that point.
It just leaves many UK businesses in a very tricky situation. They know what must be done to prevent the spread of this new variant, but at what cost to their enterprise? There are growing worries that 2022 could start with many businesses folding because of the financial impact of working from home – or the possibility of another winter lockdown. Hopefully, more grants from the government will be introduced to help struggling businesses, ensuring that people stay safe, but small companies don’t suffer financially.