As storms like Doris and Ewan impact productivity, could flexible working help?

Analysis from economists at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) reveals that when minimum temperatures are just one degree Celsius lower than average, quarterly GDP is on average £2.5 billion lower.  One main cause is lost productivity, as transport links and staff availability suffer when the weather is poor.  The Daily Mail reported that the knock-on costs from storm Doris alone, with commuters waiting hours for trains in crowded stations, flights cancelled and roads clogged, may have cost in excess of £400million in total.

Whilst some disruption, such as power outages, can impact homes as well as businesses, it seems that much of the disruption comes from the transport network which simply doesn’t handle inclement weather well.

Could working from home hold the answer?

Flexible working commentator Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence believes that provided minimum cover levels are maintained, and the policies are applied fairly, allowing staff to work from home occasionally could hold the key to reducing the costs of inclement weather:

“Whilst you may ideally want your team in work, especially if they work in a key area of the business, it is better to have them working from home than sat waiting for three hours on a train platform.  After such a journey, staff are unlikely to arrive in the right frame of mind to work anyway.  I’d recommend companies invest in technology that can give better visibility of where people are working, and allow occasional home working where staff have an infectious illness but feel well enough to work, or where inclement weather will make travel impractical.  Flexible working has consistently shown to have a positive impact on productivity.”

It may sound great but new research from communications experts 8×8 reveals, however, that many UK businesses are not prepared to do this.

Nearly four in ten office workers (37%) told researchers that their employer never allows them to work remotely2.

Worryingly, it seems that even when staff are allowed to work from home, more than six in ten (63%) are sometimes uncomfortable requesting it, and one in five (20%) are never comfortable asking to work from home.  

The data found this reluctance is bad for morale – when workers are told they must travel into work and face travel delays or freezing temperatures, more than one in ten (13%) feel resentment towards management.  Here’s what they told researchers:


The top five reactions workers have when they travel into work despite adverse conditions
1.       Annoyed being late to work 55%
2.       Irritable 45%
3.       Exhausted 24%
4.       Less productive at work 24%
5.       Resent management 13%


Conversely, those companies that trust their employees to work remotely see a range of benefits, with 81% of office workers saying they also feel more loyal to their employer as a result. More than half of office workers (52%) also claim that they work more productively as a result and are less stressed (51%).


The top five benefits of working remotely
1.       Can balance work/home life more effectively 60%
2.       Work more productively 52%
3.       Less stressed 51%
4.       Less tired with no commute 46%
5.       More focused 27%


Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8 commented,

“It’s clear that when trusted to make their own decisions about remote working, staff are more loyal, happier and ultimately more productive. This is even more important when the weather turns cold or strikes make it difficult to travel in. Until now, the technical infrastructure to enable remote working and guard against disruption has been out of reach for many companies, but cloud solutions are changing this. With the right technology in place, remote working can be a seamless experience that makes sure it’s business as usual for customers, whatever the weather.”

Author: Editorial Team

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