Office closed? Snow problem...

The power of broadband may have saved the small business sector £333m on Monday...

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This certainly puts a more positive spin on the extreme conditions than the estimates put forward by the Federation of Small Business, which reckons the economy lost around £1bn that day because everyone was out lobbing snowballs around. The FSB estimated that 20% of the UK's working population, or 6.4m people, failed to make it to work, lopping a similar proportion off the country's typical daily output.

BT does have some figures to back up its claim. It points out, for instance, that broadband traffic from its consumer customer base was 20% up on Monday compared with the same day the previous week. Since SMEs account for just over half of UK output, and about 72% of SMEs ‘operate some kind of flexible working' (according to the British Chambers of Commerce), BT has calculated that Monday home-working may have offset the potential losses to the UK economy by about £333m.

Admittedly the maths is a little complicated for our meagre little brains. And yes, it's possible that all these broadband users were just downloading the latest episode of Eastenders on iPlayer. But as BT highlights, many people were able to use domestic broadband connections and BlackBerries to access company intranets and conferencing facilities - although it neglects to mention how many of those were then paralysed by their companies' servers collapsing under the weight of so many snow-captive workers suddenly logging on remotely...

Still, BT's point is a fair one. These days people are far better equipped for such a shut-down than they were last time we had weather like this. In the winter of 1991, extreme snow and strong winds followed by a big freeze crippled road and rail networks. Millions stayed home with no way of working, unless they could function by phone and fax. Nowadays, it is much easier to work from home - even if that means blocking out a wider range of temptations, from the Nintendo Wii to box-sets of The Wire.

The BT announcement then went on to invoke other things happening in 1991, including Bryan Adams' domination of the charts with Everything I Do (I Do It For You), the launch of Noel's House Party, and the birth of the Puffa jacket. If that doesn't paint a bleak enough picture of the last big snow fall, we also happened to be in the midst of our last major recession. More snow may be on the way, but with the economy suffering a deep freeze again right now, small businesses have bigger concerns that probably can't be fixed by people simply working at home in their PJs.

On the other hand, it's better than not working at all...


In today's bulletin:

Collapse doesn't Baugur well for House of Fraser et al
Refinery workers reject compromise deal
Office closed? Snow problem...
Country Life boosted by Rotten luck
Pontin's is hi-de-hiring

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