Could Covid-19 bring about positive changes for business?

At the moment, people’s health and wellbeing are paramount and, rightly, at the forefront of our minds.  Looking ahead one wonders what positive changes this may bring about for businesses within the UK.

If we cast our minds back to the tube strikes of 2014, research from prominent Oxford and Cambridge Universities founds that around 5% of commuters and passengers stuck to their new itineraries after the strikes and normal service resumed.  As it turned out the overall economic and productivity gains from those 1 in 20 commuters adopting their new approach to getting to work was far greater than the short-term cost of disruption.

The current reality is that Covid-19 presents a far, far bigger challenge both socially and economically.  Research and reports indicate that the world’s output could decline by as much as 25% and whilst many countries are implementing unprecedented levels of quantitative easing (US are injecting a $2tr dollar stimulus package, the UK £300b ‘war’ package and Germany are investing around 30% of GDP in various packages to tackle the situation) some $7tr has been wiped off the market value of listed companies.

Whilst there was already a burgeoning shift to remote and home working – over the coming weeks we’ll see whether the technology infrastructure of countries truly allows this to flourish or fail with ever increasing demands. The benefits of home working and more over the move to conducting meetings and events remotely are twofold.  Firstly, there is a significant drop in the costs of travel.  It is estimated that UK and US businesses invest around £3,500 per employee on annual travel!  In addition, further research showed that desk utilisation sits around 50% and additional research indicated employees viewed office space and environment as counter-productive and acted as a block to good productivity.  What now happens if managers and businesses see, over the coming weeks and months an increase from those employees who are working from home?  The argument for remote working only increases.

The second element is the supply chain: a recent article from The Guardian highlights the potential food crisis looming for the UK (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/millions-to-need-food-aid-in-days-as-virus-exposes-uk-supply).  As supply chains have become more complex and global and moreover embraced approaches such as ‘Just in time’ and ‘lean principles’ the amount of stock and inventory companies now hold (or even have the ability to hold) has continued to reduce.  We now see why, when a global disaster strikes, this is problematic.  Supply chains are simply not geared to handle situations like this and are neither nimble nor flexible enough to be ramped up to cope.

Finally, and by no means least, what about the environment?  With people being asked to limit travel, self-isolate and only travel to work if absolutely necessary, reports suggest that pollution and greenhouse gases have dropped across continents (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment).  Is this just short term or could we see a longer term trend here? It is worth noting that these drops are significant – a 50% drop in pollution in New York, 25% drop in emissions across China and nitrogen dioxide emissions fading in Italy and Spain.

So, whilst the current situation is dire, the very least we can do is think about how best we can learn from this and apply better ways of working, more innovative and resilient ways of manufacturing and all the while reduce our impact on our environment.  There are opportunities here and we need to be brave enough not to revisit to our old ways of thinking and working.

Find out more about how we can help, email is best at the moment gary.cattermole@surveyinitiative.co.uk and I’ll call you back at a convenient time (I’m juggling, like everyone, with working from home and looking after the family!).