The implications & commercial impact of lockdown & working from home (WFH) are becoming all too clear for individuals, the businesses they work for & 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 & convenient for us to work from home.
Working From Home Is The New Normal Because It’s Cheaper & Convenient
According to 2019 research by Lloyds Banking Group, British workers spend 492 days of their lives traveling to work, costing $52k+ over a lifetime — & this is the average! The annual cost of traveling to & from work is almost $1,100+ & the average journey time is around 65 minutes each day. This 65 minute travel time equates to 35 working days per annum, which 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 & everyone is now doing the maths on their own commuting experience.
The surveys taking place unsurprisingly highlight that a very significant proportion of us 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 specializing 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 who 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 us to work for a business WFH & 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, & people will make a 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 & application infrastructure is up to scratch, there is a minimal downside to enabling people to WFH. Yes, you will still require some office space for those who prefer to work in that environment (& 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 & increase productivity to survive the growing storm of recession, cutting 50% of your office costs is extremely attractive.
However, if your current technology & application infrastructure does not enable effective WFH, you probably will have a problem keeping staff &, increasingly, being able to hire top talent to replace them.
As for our economy, however, our individual preferences, time & the financial benefits of WFH do not bode well for it. The issues are being exacerbated by all of us, both individually & 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. Thanks to the convenience of widest choice, competitive pricing & next-day delivery, it has become our preferred option for many of us. As a result, every business will likely increase their online buying activities for the same reasons. 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 & 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 & drink, entertainment, gyms, hairdressers), shopping centers - are usually only commercially viable when we collectively forego the benefits WFH to support them.
So what does the future look like?
Speaking personally, while I regret the implications of my WFH on their businesses, it will not change my mind. If the majority also reflects my personal & business preferences of buying more online, we are about to witness the biggest change in business & social economies ever.
But for our businesses to retain & hire the best talent & facilitate the new norm of online buying, we all need to ensure that we have deployed the relevant technologies & applications that enable this.
A growing number of forward-thinking businesses have already implemented SaaS applications for purchasing & 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.
By incorporating online buying automation within your accounts payable automation processes, organizations can maximize their potential to save both time & money while 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 & AP automation technologies — to buy online at the best possible prices, enabling them to save money & achieve “best value” & facilitate remote working as it’s all automated. Their staff gets the best possible buying experience while the finance teams don’t manually account for it. These technologies integrate seamlessly with existing accounting/ERP solutions, & 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 harrowing transition to the new normal for many organizations over the coming 12 – 24 months. If that is the case, the sooner every business starts the evolution, the higher their chances of surviving & growing in the new world order.
The pandemic has opened Pandora’s Box; there is no going back.