Almost overnight Covid-19 (Coronavirus) has rocked the world’s stock markets with profound consequences for various regions and countries across the globe.
No one could predict its emergence, or the potential repercussions of a burgeoning global pandemic, and as such, finding ways to counteract the spread and ramifications of Covid-19 has proven challenging.
Several countries have implemented complete lock downs, and as the UK embarks upon the Delay Phase, several measures were announced in the latest budget to help cushion the blow temporary disruption from the spread of Coronavirus is expected to cause to SME’s.
In the recent budget announcement Chancellor, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, stated that up to 20% of the UK workforce could be off work due to Coronavirus. In direct response to this, the government has pledged to refund small and medium businesses with less than 250 employees, the cost of statutory sick pay for up to 14 days, for people advised to self-isolate. The total cost for this, is expected to reach £2 billion.
In a tax cut expected to be worth up to £2 billion, business rates will be abolished for small businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries, operating within premises that have a rateable value of up to £51,000. This is expected to counteract the prospect of declines in demand until the end of 2020.
For those businesses that currently do not pay business rates, a new cash grant of £3,000 will be introduced. This is expected to reach a total cost of £3 billion.
While going some way to providing a small amount of comfort for UK SME’s, the aforementioned measures present just one set of steps being taken against the spread of the Coronavirus. The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has indicated in contrast to the Chancellors estimations, in the very worst-case scenario up to 80% of the UK population could be infected. Consequently, the incumbent restrictions on movement that could later be imposed by the Peak Phase of preventative measures, has the potential to direct an unprecedented number of businesses in the UK to encourage employees to work from home where possible.
Up and down the country, businesses are stress testing their resilience to such measures, and assessing what impact the prospect of agile or remote working will have on day to day operations.
Until now the principle of agile working was very much regarded as an optional extra, however, while it has taken a worldwide pandemic to prompt greater adaptation, the broader benefits of agile working are certainly nothing to sneeze at!
What is Agile Working?
Firstly, it is important to recognise agile working can have a different meaning for different types of businesses.
Not to be confused with flexible working, agile working – broadly refers to the effective use of space, time and resources externally or within the work environment, and the ability to work from anywhere, at any time.
As businesses continually seek to increase productivity whilst lowering costs, agile working offers the opportunity for businesses and their workforce to capitalise from advancements in technology and more flexible working arrangements.
The Benefits of Agile Working
A happy workforce is a productive workforce. By allowing employees the ability to work from anywhere at any-time, under normal circumstances, agile working can increase productivity and encourage inter-departmental collaboration that might otherwise not take place, or take longer to establish.
Agile working also promotes greater self-management, and in such, more individual ownership of tasks and responsibilities, and increased accountability.
Mobility and Flexibility
Gone are the days when offices need to be divided into departmental sections that encouraged a territorial approach to working. Agile working means that as long as each employee has the essential equipment e.g. a desk, telephone access, wireless, broadband connection and USB port, cross – departmental collaboration and greater cohesion become a part of everyday working.
Ordinarily staff are able to work in a variety of different settings, such as; at home, coffee shop, during long commutes and so on. This is particularly beneficial for those members of staff that prefer to work from home, part time or more flexible hours. The onslaught of Covid-19 means whilst some of the latter may not be applicable, however under usual social conditions the benefits speak for themselves.
Not only does agile working reduce the amount of space required for the workforce it can also help to reduce costs.
In the case of employees, it can also reduce travel costs of getting to and from the office every day.
Help and Support for UK Businesses
There is no doubt that the spread of Covid–19 (Coronavirus) will cause temporary disruption to the UK economy. However, in addition to the interim financial measures the government has announced to help counteract this, there is a range of advisory and support services available free of charge that businesses in the capital and further afield can take advantage of.