Covid-19 has presented a truly unforgiving blow to the current generation of UK SMEs, superseding any reasonable measure of risk/disaster management imaginable. Despite non-essential retailers reopening and the hospitality industry restarting, the eventual fallout of this period on businesses and the country’s finances are still unknown. In the interim, however, a seismic shift in operational and cultural norms whilst we navigate and surpass COVID-19 is emerging, transforming the workplace well beyond the immediate implications of the virus.
Despite many companies looking to return to offices, an average of 21 per cent of the workforce has been furloughed and one-quarter of companies in the UK have temporarily closed because of the Coronavirus lockdown, the majority of those still operating have reported a drastic reduction in turnover. According to the Office for National Statistics in a poll of 5,300 businesses, 0.4 per cent of said they had ceased trading, with more than 40 per cent of the businesses that continued trading stating they were reducing staff levels and working hours.
Theta Financial Reporting, a chartered accountancy and consultancy firm specialising in freelance working options for the UK private sector, has released the first nationally representative survey across over 2,000 UK adults looking into how the UK workforce and business leaders feel about returning to work post-lockdown, and what it is that they are returning to.
- Nearly half of all UK business leaders – 45% – say they see the working environment changing for the better due to the impact of COVID-19
- Three in 10 business leaders – 29% – say they have streamlined their team permanently because of the COVID-19 crisis as they discovered some roles were surplus to requirements
- 24% of Brits say their employer hasn’t explored any flexible working options to help them or their colleagues return to work
- A third of UK workers – 35% – say their company will return to the office with a smaller team with people handling more varied responsibilities
The survey unveils sentiments from both the UK workforce and business leaders about returning to the ‘normal’ way of working with 45% of business leaders seeing the benefits of the new environment brought on by the COVID lockdown period, this post-lockdown working environment may have changed indefinitely. With the Prime Minister and other stakeholders in the economy hopefully to get people back into offices as soon as possible to begin to repair the damage done by the lockdown period, it may not ever return to how it was before.
Chris Biggs, Managing Director and Founder of Theta Financial Reporting, commented on the findings: ” Many businesses have adapted to working away from the office and business leaders are seeing this improve with smaller teams. This often makes them easier to manage, less bulky and more flexible to a broader range of tasks. This will have a significant impact on how our workplaces will look beyond lockdown.
There are a number of benefits to flexible working and many business leaders have seen this first hand. It is seriously concerning that with one week to go until offices return across the country, a quarter of Brits haven’t been given any flexibility in their working environments. Business leaders need to rectify this as a matter of urgency to maintain their team’s morale and safety.”