The international health crisis has had a significant impact upon UK businesses, causing a dramatic dip within the economy and leaving a number of operations unable to recover. Even as vaccines begin to roll out and businesses reopen, it can be hard to seek out a silver lining, especially as overzealousness could lead to another lockdown and set the country back further.
However, business leaders should not be deterred from analysing the way in which affected operations were potentially improved. In fact, early statistics and reflections are already revealing a number of lockdown measures and workplace changes that were actually beneficial for businesses. Even aside from specific industries, such as manufacturing and software, which saw a significant increase in demand, UK businesses have reported a two-third increase in productivity in remote workers when compared with office-based operations.
Historically, there has been a certain professional pride in never claiming sick leave. The stigma that surrounds an illness-related absence has not only been misguided in its pervasive obligation but it also suggests that, since it is highly unlikely for a person to avoid any sort of affliction, even minor flu, those who avoid claiming time off are, instead, attending the workplace when sick.
COVID has heightened precautions against contagions that, in turn, has alleviated the fear of unprofessionalism that has previously been associated with taking sick leave. Moving forward, businesses are likely to be more sensitive toward staff working when ill, wanting to prevent a spreading sickness, with employees feeling more able to take essential leave.
The short term gains of certain business operations have always been appealing for businesses. One example of this, as discussed by Dr Ahmed Shahrabani in an interview with payroll services experts, PGS, is that of businesses making greater strides to accommodate annual leave. Typically businesses have been resistant to allow certain holidays, such as joint leave with coworkers. Shahrabani notes that “reaching leaves of attainment is important but you need to do it in a way that is empathetic and compassionate or the long run is a disaster.”
This consideration for mental health and job satisfaction is likely to only become more important as circumstances like remote working prompt employers to rethink HR to ensure that all staff, including those working at a distance, remain content during difficult periods.
During the pandemic, a number of businesses began collaborating, whether it was to support the NHS or to work with each other to better ensure income during lockdown restrictions. These collaborations were remarkable for breaking down previously invisible barriers between businesses, often those who may have been considered competitors. Brands are even using this to their advantage, such as Colgate’s recent eco-friendly packaging patent, which it is offering for free to competitors, earning itself a great reputation as a result.
Now, moving forward, and as the economy seeks to efficiently recover, businesses are much more likely to be open to connecting with others, whether at a casual level on social media, celebrating each others brand, or on a much larger scale, merging their products and services.