Bad weather – bad for business?
The nights are drawing in and the winter weather is well and truly with us. But while most of us do our bit to make it into the office regardless, struggling through rain and wind, even snow, to get to our desks, bad weather still has a significant effect on British business.
Lower temperatures hit small to medium-sized businesses hardest. Research by Economists from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that since 2005, periods of very cold weather have seen quarterly GDP growth on average 0.6 percentage points lower than typical levels. In fact, when minimum temperatures drop one degree Celsius lower than average, quarterly GDP is £2.5 billion lower on average. That’s worse than any other form of adverse weather, including snowfall, heatwaves, even flooding.
A separate report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that two thirds of small businesses have been affected by severe weather in the last three years, with an average financial cost of just under £7,000.
Much of the problems are based on reduced staff turnout, with people struggling to get to the office, or perhaps even ‘throwing a sickie’. But bad weather can also seriously disrupt business, with up to 3 million UK workers and up to 31% of UK businesses being affected by transport problems, power cuts or broadband and phone line failures caused by inclement weather over a two-year period. And of those, 40% didn’t have a plan to cope.
Getting your business ready for bad weather
- Have a bad weather policy in place that makes it clear to staff when it’s okay to work from home, and what’s expected of them if they do. This may form part of a broader working from home policy. ACAS and others offer guidance on how to set these up.
- Make sure staff have what they need to work from home. This might include hardware like phones and tablets (which they may regularly take home anyway), but also apps and connectivity to make sure they’re in touch with all the people and data that they need to be through good wifi and strong network connections.
- Decide how you want to keep in touch. Phone and email are likely to be essential, but you may need more. Business apps can help deliver the same functionality you have at work for workers at home. Microsoft Office 365 for instance gives you the apps you know like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, plus Skype for Business teleconferencing and easy access to online storage. Box also gives you some of the latest collaborative tools for remote working both in the office and at home and O2 Just Call Me offers hassle-free conference calls.
- Make sure security and compliance is okay for working from home if you don’t already have something in place. McAfee Multi Access from O2 Business can help protect your devices and your data.