With most of the country under a thick layer of snow, it’s clear that the first week of 2010 will be heavy going for UK plc. If it wasn’t difficult enough to motivate staff who are still thinking about their Christmas break, managers now face the prospect of half their workforce not even being able to make it into the office. And as usual at such times, we’ve just had our first estimate of the cost to UK business of this snowy weather: at least £230m a day, according to the Forum of Private Business. That’s hardly going to improve anyone’s mood…
After looking at the Met Office’s dismal forecast, the FPB has grabbed the nearest envelope, flipped it over, and started doing some sums: based on daily UK GDP (and presumably some other assumptions that it hasn’t bothered to mention), it reckons a single day of employee absenteeism will cost UK plc at least £230m. So if it snows right the way through to the weekend, as the Met seems to be suggesting, that would add up to… wait, where’s our envelope… lots and lots of money. Not a great way for companies to start the year, let’s put it that way.
And let’s be honest: most of us probably weren’t in a happy place to start with. According to a survey released this week by insurer RSA and YouGov, 8.4m Brits have lost sleep fretting about work in the past year as the pressures of recession have taken their toll (given the pleasingly onomatopoeic title of ‘WAWAW’ – wide awake worrying about work – by RSA). As the authors point out, this can’t have done wonders for general productivity. And since for many people this will be their first week back at work after the Christmas break, they probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to be schlepping into the office anyway, even before the UK started doing a passable impression of Siberia.
Home working is of course one solution, as the FPB points out – and it’s worth pointing out that most of these doom-laden stats about how much economic activity will disappear doesn’t account for the fact that lots of people are perfectly able to carry on regardless from the (relative) comfort of their own houses. On the other hand, the All-Party Parliamentary Small Business Group has just published a report flexible working, and it reckons we still have a long way to go: many businesses (particularly small firms) apparently still see it as a burden rather than a benefit.
In which case, perhaps a big snowfall is a good way to force the issue?
In today's bulletin:
Rose back in the pink as M&S enjoys solid Christmas
Buffett batters Kraft's Cadbury offer
You can't a-fjord not to pay, Britain tells Iceland
Snowy weather piles on the winter blues
A Traveller's Tale: Looking back on the world in 2009