How is the Coronavirus impacting UK Businesses?
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

With the shocking media headlines, it’s not easy to understand what is happening to the world of business right now. Further, the way that it will impact individual companies and people will depend on multiple factors.

We may all be in this storm together, but we are certainly not in the same boat. How we navigate ourselves to the other side of this crisis will involve understanding our own specific set of circumstances.

Surveys can often shed more light on what is actually happening. During the crisis, I have become quite an expert at interpreting the painstaking research of others. My goal is to try and provide insight from which others can benefit.

With that said,  I would like to acknowledge Richmond Events and hopefully, if they see this, they will interpret it as a genuine endorsement of their work.

 

The main points to consider

 

Let’s start off with a short summary of where the sentiment is focused right now:

    1. The number one concern right now by far is the economy, with apprehension levels increasing all the time. There is a very real chance that this crisis can lead to a recession or depression. This would have far more devastating effects than the coronavirus itself.
    2. There is a far more serious concern for personal financial security, that has overtaken fears for our company’s future. In short, it’s dawning on the vast majority of us that this is going to impact all of us significantly. This moves well beyond the commercial impact on our employers.
    3. For those still working, communication with existing and prospective customers is very difficult.
    4. Over 80% of people expect remote working to change how they operate in the future. However, less than 20% feel that a permanent move to home working is actually viable long term.
    5. Improvements to home working technologies are seen as the most significant change as a result of the virus. But home working conditions still need to catch up and improve to enable more home working to remain long term.
    6. 70% of organisations have delivered operational improvements as a result of Covid-19.
    7. 51% of businesses have evolved or diversified their product offerings in the past few weeks.
    8. 39% of organisations have seen increased demand for one or more of their products and services.
    9. 42% of companies are considering alternative or actively seeking new suppliers.
    10. There are very mixed views on what actions the Government should take.

 

What are people most concerned about?

 

Unsurprisingly, the concerns surrounding the economic uncertainties facing our country far outweigh all others. This overall sentiment has grown substantially in the last month.

The most significant changes reported between April to May are:

People generally are now far more worried about the long-term prospects of our economy.

Serious concern around personal financial security has overtaken fears for organisations in the short-term. As more people realise the potential impact the crisis may have on an individual level.

Whereas the results for wellbeing haven’t changed significantly, there is a gentle shift in a positive direction. More people feeling ‘slightly’ rather than ‘very/quite’ concerned for the wellbeing of both themselves and their families.

 

Latest statistics

 

How do people rate their company’s response?

 

Overall, people feel that their organisations have responded well in providing adequate technology for home working. They also indicated that they and their colleagues are generally being looked after quite well. The overall perception is that the crisis has encouraged more good human behaviour than bad.

Conversely, external communication to both customers and non-customers has certainly been more difficult during the crisis.

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

Organisational Changes

 

Initial reports in April demonstrated a relatively bullish opinion around the loss of customers. However, this confidence appears to be waning with some companies now experiencing a significant loss of customers. The news of mass redundancies and job losses is increasing fears of how that will affect their own commercial relationships.

Around 40% of UK businesses either have already or plan to make salary reductions in the next 3 months. This reflects a significant shift in sentiment. The impact of Covid-19 is not going to be absorbed solely by a companies financial reports and government aid.

 

Latest statistics

 

Productivity

Over 50% of people working full-time said that they were working even harder than they were pre-COVID. The other half estimate that they are working less.
Overall, meaningful economic productivity and output across the UK is significantly down. That’s hardly shocking since the government have effectively turned the economy down to a “simmer”.

 

What % of your typical working week do you believe you are now working?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

Latest statistics

 

Government assistance 

CBILS may have been a great government PR exercise initially, but it has been an unmitigated disaster, failing to finance more than 5% of the companies that have applied to it.

The Job Retention (furlough) Scheme remains the key Government assistance measure that most organisations have plugged into. Deferred VAT and Income Tax payments have been welcomed, but along with lost revenues and additional differed rents and supplier payments, there is another financial time bomb being kicked down the road for many companies that will at some point come home to roost. (yes I know I managed to get 3 metaphors into that last sentence 😊)

 

Which of the government’s help measures will your company make use of?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

Getting back to ‘normal’

Subjective opinions on this topic vary dramatically. Some credible economists are predicting significantly worse to come and decades of hardship and austerity. Others are more optimistic. What they all have in common is that they just do not know. Sure this is not the first ever pandemic, nor the deadliest but that’s missing the point here.

The point is that COVID-19 is a global crisis unprecedented in the modern economy. As such, all opinion is based on assumptions and models that are based in hypothesis, not precedent.

Most scientists seem to agree that until there is an effective vaccine, the world cannot return to ‘normal’ and by then the world may have already changed for good.

The biggest challenge when it comes to getting back to normal is that what is perceived as good for the economy, may not be good for public health. This conflict has been the crux of governments policy. As the public order constraints are lifted, this problem gets transferred to the company and individual level. Naturally, this will be a hotbed for confusion and conflict.

What is very clear is that until we are all allowed back to work, the repair and recovery process for the wider economy will be constrained. Most believe that will not happen for another 3-6 months at least, according to this survey.

 

How long do you think it will be before the following areas return to pre-COVID-19 levels?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

How are organisations responding to Covid-19?

 

Every sensible organisation is taking action to protect itself and to prepare for the eventual upturn.

Unsurprisingly, preserving cashflow is of greatest importance. However, many businesses are using this opportunity to diversify their offerings and are increasing their marketing activities.

The results about remote working adaptations aren’t hugely surprising because there has been little choice in this matter. However, it will be interesting to see the longer-term impact that homeworking will have on, amongst other things, employee wellbeing & mental health, commercial property and cybersecurity and of course genuine business productivity.

 

What steps is your business taking to mitigate the risks post-Coronavirus?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

One important item missing from this part of the survey is the suspension or cancelling of existing commercial commitments. It is one thing to place a project on hold or even cancel it, but when that project had commenced already and stopping it constituted a legal breach, then the impact on the supply chain can be devastating. Companies in this predicament will have potentially made commitments to deliver on that project, in terms of materials and resources, but they themselves are also anticipating the revenues being generated by it, in order to meet their own obligations.

Speaking to business owners myself over the last few weeks it appears that most have experienced being involved in such scenarios, with added complexities of how to respond, because although they need the revenues, they also need to be sensitive to the long term client relationship.

 

What positive impact have you seen on your UK business operations?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

Will remote working change the way organisations works in the future?

This might be another part of the survey, where employees and employers might have conflicting views. Some employees might feel the personal benefits, while employers will evaluate more against productivity levels.

What it does undoubtedly prove though, is that, for many companies, we can move to a remote working environment if and when we need to and when circumstances demand it, even if we don’t adopt this as a permanent way of working.

One fact we cannot ignore is that people’s homes are not suitably set up to accommodate long term home working. There is neither adequate space or the appropriate infrastructure for the vast majority, not to mention the current set of distractions.

 

Will remote working change the way that employees work in the future?

 

Employees perceptions and desires do not always marry with employers needs and requirements.

If average productivity levels are down when working from home (as they undoubtedly are in most cases), would that be suitably compensated by the reduction in office and rent costs?

Will employees WFH staff demand that the business contributes towards improving work from home conditions? Perhaps the way that people are remunerated would need to change so that it was more reflective of production levels? There are certainly more questions than answers on this one and each person and company will have their own opinions and views.

The lockdown has also highlighted many advantages and benefits of office life too, as much as it has opened up our eyes to the flexibility of home working.

 

Will remote working affect the way we operate in the future?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

Opinions of the Government

 

The following results are self-explanatory, although I think that most sensible people agree that the government are always going to be on a hiding to nothing in these situations. How they handle the return to work process over the coming weeks is for me going to be their biggest challenge to date.

 

How well do you think the UK Government are handling the issue of the Coronavirus?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

If you were in charge of the Government, what action would you take?

 

I think that we can anticipate sentiment towards opening up businesses to grow significantly over the coming weeks. Especially as employees realise the very genuine risk of long term unemployment for very large numbers of the population and that many years of austerity are the alternative.

 

Latest statistics

 

Your opinions of Boris

 

Boris might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But, according to the opinion polls, most people think that he is doing an OK job in very challenging circumstances. However, getting the UK economy switched back on again surely now has to become the number one priority. In order to avoid an economic catastrophe.

This all needs to be done while maintaining and respecting the amazing work done by the NHS. So that we don’t undo their positive achievements. This must also be done in parallel with a sensible and cautious approach that considers and respects the Covid-19 related guidelines and protocols.

 

How has your support/opinion of Boris Johnson changed throughout the crisis?

 

coronavirus impacting uk business

 

Which countries’ leadership do you admire the most in the handling of this situation?

 

Latest statistics

 

What sectors of industry did the survey data come from?

 

Latest statistics

 

Summary

There is always a limit to what can be deduced from general surveys, but measuring the changes in these opinions over the weeks and months is an interesting barometer of sentiments in the broader business community.

Any sense that this was an unexpected holiday has been superseded with boredom and frustration. Any novelty has worn off and people want to get back to the business of growing their bottom line vs their waistline.

There is still a long way to go for this story to play itself out. We are probably in the eye of the storm right now with the true damage still to be revealed.

On a positive note, there is a lot of good and kindness coming out of people during this crisis. We are learning new ways of operating during this massive work-from-home social experiment.

Cheering those that have risen to the challenge has extended way beyond the NHS.  It is truly inspiring to see the power of companies who have turned their production capabilities towards philanthropic endeavours. When the government turns the heat back up on the economy, these will be the ones to watch.

All storms eventually pass and in the wake of their destruction, painful lessons are learned and many things – not least our hands – are washed clean.

The majority of the data and graphs used in this article were sourced from a report initially produced by Richmond Events

 

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Mark Stephens


Mark has established a reputation for his passion and enthusiasm over twenty years working in the recruitment industry, both client and agency side. For the last ten years, he has been researching the recruitment landscape from both a technology and people perspective. His insights into market trends are often used and quoted across the industry’s leading publications. His company, Smart Recruit Online, has been the winner of 5 international awards for technology innovation and Recruitment Technology in the last 18 months. And currently holds the accolade of filling more jobs from direct applications for their clients than any other online recruitment service in the UK.


How Payroll Cards Are Changing The Company Culture
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Hiring experts constantly look for ways to build and preserve company culture and ensure that each and every employee feels cherished and respected in their work environment. Sometimes, the potential to enhance employee retention comes from your company benefits and team-building efforts. The perks you offer to each employee, and access to vacation days will contribute to making them feel more valued. At other times, however, that same potential hides in the least likely of places. This includes your payroll department and procedures – which includes so much more than simply their salary or their bonuses.

It encompasses everything from the way in which you handle taxes, ensure timely payments, utilise compensation for incentivising better performance and rewarding successful employees, all the way to how transparent you are with your payroll in general. Here are a few ways in which you can expect payroll to grow and empower company culture when used properly.

workplace culture

Inspiring confidence and trust

Nobody likes to wait. You don’t want your employees to feel the disquiet of anticipating their salary and then receive it a week later. If anything, you should aim to exceed your employees’ expectations. This is another segment of your business where you can show them how reputable and trustworthy your company is. 

Your employees’ salary is one of the main symbols of success, but also of financial security, and if your business fails to live up to those security standards, chances are you’ll drive your employees away, into the arms of an employer who pays them in time, and in full – every time, no excuses. 

Preserving your company’s reputation

A vital segment of building your company culture includes how your business is perceived based on your financial track record. Are you famous for always working with reputable vendors? Paying your taxes in full? Even using some of your profits to contribute to certain causes?

Managing your finances like a business is a multifaceted process. It allows your employees, but also the public, get a sense of what your brand stands for – and it should stand for integrity above all else. When you protect your reputation in such a way, you’re bound to inspire your employees to be your brand ambassadors. They are much more likely to stay loyal and recommend your business when you stick to your promises.

Ensuring simplicity and convenience

Your employees already experience plenty of stress in their daily lives, and you don’t want to add to it. If anything, you want to make sure that their compensation is a source of joy in every possible sense. This includes the way in which they are able to collect, use, and rely on their salary. In recent years, more companies are transitioning to modernised payroll systems that utilise automation as well as personalization.

For example, one of the benefits of the payroll card is that your employees can now avoid long waiting times and additional fees when they need access to their salary. It is a simple, yet effective way to make this process all the more convenient. This single decision shows that your business puts your employee first when choosing the most efficient, cost-effective solutions for their payroll processes. Taking out all the hassle from this process allows your employees to build stronger bonds with your brand.

Making employees feel appreciated

If working for your brand means being valued and appreciated, you can rest assured that more employees will be eager to stay with your business for longer, and oftentimes recommend your brand as an employer to people they know and trust. Your payroll is the key ingredient in providing this sense of value and appreciation to your employees. When they always receive their salaries on time, and they always get the bonuses they worked so hard for, they will indeed know that their work is noticed and rewarded.

Ensuring optimal, if not competitive compensation, delivering it efficiently, and respecting your employees’ needs in the process all contribute to your team’s desire to stay true to your business. Keep in mind that such high levels of fairness enable companies to build a culture where people thrive and gladly put their best foot forward for each task. 

Payroll may seem like yet another monotonous process that boils down to numbers and stamps. However, when found in the hands of the right HR expert, payroll becomes another empowering tool for your entire company structure, a way to build your reputation, and a key to employee satisfaction. Use it to help your company culture evolve and let it mimic all the values that your business stands for – it will inspire people to stay true to your business and bring other valuable assets to your doorstep. 

Written by Lauren N. Wiseman.

 

Smart Recruit Online offers a low cost multi-award winning online recruitment service with a 98% independent customer satisfaction rating and the highest direct-hire fill rate in the UK.

To book a demo with us and learn more about how our technology can transform your recruiting process, click here.

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Lauren N Wiseman


Lauren is a regular SRO Blog and Bizzmark Blog author that has many articles published with the main focus on clients who want their brands to grow in the fast-changing and demanding market. Her personal favorites are successes of small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. She goes through life with one strong moto - Kindness, always.


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