It was a cold start to March when the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ blanketed the country in snow, causing excitement amongst children and housebound adults. But beneath all the fun, what price did the UK pay for its week-long snow day?
I’m sure I speak for everyone when I speak of the relief of the recent weather being behind us; what may have started as a winter wonderland (somewhat out of place in March) quickly descended into a nightmare for many organisations and members of the public.
Britain has a notorious track record for being under-equipped to deal with snow, with December 2010’s freak weather serving as a stand out moment when businesses lost a small fortune to loss of productivity. Last week’s debacle, however, has gone on record as being more costly even than 2010 – and at a time when productivity hangs precariously, that’s a high price to pay.
The Productivity Problem
It’s no secret that the UK has spent the last decade fighting a productivity problem. Data released from the Office for National Statistics in 2017 had the UK’s productivity problem at almost twice as bad as the rest of the G7. That meant the country’s productivity was still struggling to rectify itself following the 2007 financial crisis.
In more recent months, however, there’s been a ray of hope. Suddenly, research conducted at the start of 2018 indicated that the UK was enjoying the largest increase in productivity over two quarters since the financial crisis. It seemed; for a time, that 2018 was off to a strong start.
A Cold Front
Of course, then the poor weather arrived. At first glance, it can be hard to connect some snow with a slowing down of the economy but factor in how the snow affects organisations both directly and indirectly and it falls into place.
Once the snow started to stick, public transport took an immediate hit in keeping employees from reaching the workplace. Meanwhile, red weather warnings saw motorists playing it safe by staying at home.
The ‘snow days’ also extended to schools, with teachers and children kept away, which in turn affected parents, with sudden childcare arrangements necessary.
Elsewhere, supply chains were hit by closed roads and weather warnings, with shops going un-stocked as the public panicked. The weather effectively brought all manner of businesses across the UK to a grinding halt, with everybody scrambling to make alternative travel arrangements, look after their children, and remain safe.
How Much Did the Weather Cost?
At the time of writing, the impact on the economy is estimated at £1billion a day, as reported by The Guardian – with other media outlets focusing on regional costs, such as Scotland’s potential £500million bill. According to the Guardian, economists have predicted a GDP fall of 0.2% in the first quarter as a result, undoing the hopeful productivity growth we saw early in the year almost entirely.
For organisations, the snow had a much more direct impact. Suddenly, meetings were out of reach, customer footfall dropped, work couldn’t be completed and projects were missed out on – all of which damaged the bottom line of many businesses. Those affected by the Beast will now have to spend spring rebuilding.
Elsewhere in the construction industry – where a separate productivity problem is already being addressed – bad weather can make or break a project, with sites having to be closed down temporarily due to unsafe conditions and unavailable workers. Further compounded by the aforementioned supply chain damage, construction firms could see projects slow down and the industry struggle for some months.
Thawing the Problem with Technology
Despite all the chaos and difficulties faced by the UK’s businesses during the week, the Beast from the East did provide a moment for technology to shine. Mobile phone apps came to the fore, helping people to find safe routes home through a train system complicated by cancellations and broken down carriages.
Meanwhile, some businesses could restore some order by embracing remote working technology. Employees who couldn’t reach the office were still able to work at full capacity from home, thanks to the likes of cloud computing and bespoke software solutions. For the organisations who took remote working to heart, the bad weather is sure to have had a lesser effect
Now that the snow has melted and it’s back to business as usual, we’re presented with an ideal opportunity to consider how technology can help businesses to carry on no matter the weather. Embracing new ways of working and introducing software which allows secure access from anywhere in the country could protect both an organisation’s productivity and the UK economy in the event of any more freak weather.
As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy: and as those bitten by the Beast from the East will attest, it’s time to embrace technology for the better.
Are you exploring new ways to improve productivity in your organisation? Have you considered introducing a bespoke software solution, tailored to your organisation’s individual challenges? Find out more about Kaleida’s work with other like-minded businesses by visiting our case studies page, or get in touch directly.