A lot has changed over the last year and a half. When it comes to businesses, supply chains, and the UK economy, no one could have anticipated the changes we’ve seen throughout the pandemic. Although lockdown restrictions are now all lifted, not everything will go back to “normal” straight away. Working from home, for instance, is something that is set to continue for many workers.
Despite government officials urging employees to return to offices, there is clear reluctance. In one YouGov survey, one in five people said they wanted to continue working from home full time after the pandemic. On top of this, 57 per cent of workers in the UK say they want to have the option to work from home after the pandemic at least some of the time. This represents a huge shift of opinion in comparison to how people felt about remote working before the pandemic. Before 2020, two-thirds of workers said they’d never worked from home before and only 11 per cent of employees worked remotely full time.
With the shift to home-working set to continue, we are left wondering what impact this trend will mean both for the UK economy and for global supply chains. Let’s find out more about the impact home-working has had so far and what it might mean for the future.
One major concern that many CEOs had at the beginning of the pandemic was the potential fall in productivity that working from home could bring. Despite concerns, there have been mixed results so far. While many companies have noticed a decrease in productivity, some reports claim that working from home can boost employee engagement and productivity. With one report stating that a quarter of companies in the UK have seen a downturn in productivity, however, it’s reasonable to be hesitant about the future of remote working. This downturn is likely to mean that the economy could continue to struggle, even with the restrictions completely lifted.
Another reason that many are concerned about the ongoing impact of home-working is the impact that WFH has had on the transport sector. The transport sector has been damaged by the lack of commuting and could struggle to bounce back. As a result of home working, commuter numbers dropped by a quarter. However, the government is still being urged to spend money on public transport in a bid to encourage people to return to offices.
The move from city centres
Another concern about remote working is the impact it can have on city-centre businesses. With many cafes and restaurants designed to cater to office workers, the economic impact of WFH on the service industry has been stark. An example of the impact that deserted city centres have had on food and drink businesses can be seen with Pret a Manger. This chain recently unveiled plans to expand beyond city centres to keep up with the shift in working practices.
Impact on global supply chains
The COVID-19 pandemic had also had an impact on global supply chains, extending to many different industries. From food and drink distributions to engineering equipment supply chains that transport hydraulic cylinder parts, the shift to working from home has changed the way global distribution works. Although many people who work in supply chains have carried on work in person throughout the pandemic, those who have shifted to remote working have experienced difficulties. According to one survey, 57 per cent of supply chain and logistics professionals said that collaborating with colleagues while working from home was one of their biggest challenges. However, there was an even split between people who said they felt equally as productive in their roles and those who said they felt less productive. Although individuals within the supply chain industry have faced difficulties, the biggest hits that supply chains have taken throughout the pandemic are related to worldwide trade restrictions that are forecasted to lift after the threat of COVID-19 has subsided.
Although WFH might be the perfect solution for many businesses, other industries are likely to take a hit. Ultimately, each CEO’s policy on remote working must be drawn up in line with what is right for them, their employees and the local economy.