The implications and commercial impact of lockdown and working from home (WFH) are becoming all too clear for individuals, the businesses they work for and our economy as a whole.
For those of us with roles that enable us to WFH effectively, the reason why we choose to do so is a simple one:
it is far cheaper and convenient for us to work from home.
Working from home is the new normal because it’s cheaper and convenient
According to 2019 research by Lloyds Baking Group, British workers spend 492 days of their lives travelling into work, costing £37,399 over a lifetime — and this is the average! The annual cost of travelling to and from work is almost £800 (£795.72) and the average journey time is around 65 minutes each day. This 65 minute travel time equates to 35 working days per annum, time that we are currently spending with our families
Now imagine just how expensive it is for those commuting into London from surrounding regions, whether they work part or full-time,,the costs become considerably more substantial and everyone is now doing the maths on their own commuting experience.
The surveys taking place unsurprisingly highlight that a very significant proportion of us simply do not want to go back to commuting. The boss of PwC — one of the Big Four of accounting - recently revealed that he "expects thousands of staff to never return to the office on a full-time basis even after the coronavirus has passed.”
Indeed, in the article on Accountancy Today, the firm is preparing for the majority of its 22,000 staff to continue to work from home on at least a part-time basis.
Also, according to a survey commissioned by Eskenzi PR — a London-based cybersecurity PR agency specialising in Tech PR — 9 out of 10 workers would prefer to work from home at least once a week. The survey also found that one-third would like to continue working from home every day or four days a week (35% said the ideal scenario would be to work from home for half the week).
But what is perhaps most important for many of us that commute to London is if we were being forced back into the office by our employers, we could take a c. £10k p.a. pay cut to work for a business that allows WFH and be financially no worse off.
So businesses better beware. Whilst we cannot expect a buoyant job market for some time to come, there are always opportunities out there and people will make the move if they can. If you want to keep your staff, then enabling them to effectively WFH is fundamental, or face the consequences.
Working from home may be the new normal, but what about established infrastructure?
From a business perspective, if your technology and application infrastructure is up to scratch, there is very little downside to enabling people to WFH. Yes, you will still require some office space for those that prefer to work in that environment (and also to allow the WFH folk to meet up at the office from time to time), but that is probably as little as 50% of the current space your business occupies. In a world where almost every business must conserve cash, reduce costs and increase productivity to survive the growing storm of recession, cutting 50% of your office costs is extremely attractive.
However, if your current technology and application infrastructure does not enable effective WFH, you probably are going to have a problem keeping staff and, increasingly, being able to hire top talent to replace them.
As for our economy, however, our individual preferences, time and the financial benefits of WFH do not bode well for it and the issues are being exacerbated by all of us, both individually and commercially.
The fact of the matter is that we are all buying more online. The growth of online purchasing during the pandemic has been huge and for many of us — thanks to the convenience of widest choice, competitive pricing and next day delivery — it has become our preferred option. As a result, it is highly likely that every business will increase their online buying activities for the same reasons, and it is also a very effective way to address the requirements of a dispersed workforce WFH.
But the issue is that the economies of our towns and cities have been built on the expectation of high volumes of workers attending the office every day.
The businesses that have serviced our demands until now — office spaces, hospitality venues (food and drink, entertainment, gyms, hairdressers), shopping centres - are usually only commercially viable when we collectively forego the benefits of WFH to support them.
So what does the future look like?
Speaking personally, whilst I regret the implications of me WFH on their businesses, it will not change my mind. If my personal and business preferences of buying more online are also reflected by the majority, we are about to witness the biggest change in business and social economies ever.
But for our businesses to retain and hire the best talent, as well as facilitate the new norm of online buying, we all need to ensure that we have deployed the relevant technologies and applications that enable this.
A growing number of forward-thinking businesses have already implemented SaaS applications for purchasing and accounts payable (AP) automation, though few incorporate integrated online buying. The fact is that whilst enabling “ disconnect” online buying will save a great deal of time for many people outside of finance, it invariably results in a lot more work for finance to account for these purchases.
It is only by incorporating online buying automation within your accounts payable automation processes can organisations maximise the their potential to save both time and money, whilst also addressing the new challenges of staff working from home.
How can Compleat help you adapt to the new normal of working from home?
At Compleat, we’ve been helping businesses — through our purchasing and AP automation technologies — to buy online at the best possible prices, enabling them to not only save money and achieve “best value”, but also facilitate remote working as it’s all automated. Their staff get the best possible buying experience whilst the finance teams don’t have to manually account for it. These technologies integrate seamlessly with existing accounting/ERP solutions and the money saved quickly outstrips the cost of implementation (which can be completed in just 1-3 days).
As for the economy as a whole, it seems inevitable that there will be a very painful transition to the new normal for many organisations over the coming 12 – 24 months. If that is the case, the sooner every business starts the evolution, the higher their chances of both surviving and then growing in the new world order.
The pandemic has opened Pandora’s Box, there is no going back.
Check out one of our on-demand coffee sessions - New way of working: how are businesses adapting to the change - to learn how we at Compleat have dealt with managing remote finance, marketing and sales teams in different parts of the world. Simply click the button below.