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Half of UK businesses unprepared for remote working during lockdown

The Covid-19 lockdown caught many businesses unprepared, resulting in heavy investment to allow remote working.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that both individuals and businesses have had to adapt to a new way of living and working. While many organizations have had to close their doors until lockdown restrictions are lifted, a large number have made the shift to remote working. 

However, it seems that almost half (49%) of UK businesses weren’t prepared to transition to working from home when the pandemic hit, leaving many scrambling to make operating remotely possible. 

According to a new survey of UK businesses performed by Studio Graphene, just 39% of companies already had the technology in place that made working from home possible. This means the majority of the 900 companies surveyed have had to look at how to make their business work remotely. 

When it comes to large companies of 250 employees or more, 72% have had to pay out for new hardware in order to enable workers to do their jobs from home. Around 19% of small businesses with up to 10 employees have had to do the same, adding extra financial strain during a difficult period. 

Woman working from home on laptop

In addition to new equipment like laptops, 48% of organisations have had to invest in new computer programs since the coronavirus lockdown began. When it comes to large companies, this figure rises to 62%, showing that very few businesses have considered largescale remote working prior to it becoming a necessity. 

On top of these expenses, around 40% of businesses have also offered their staff digital training in order to enable them to work from home in the most productive way, which is likely to help as lockdown continues. 

Founder and director of Studio Graphene, Ritam Gandhi said: “The lockdown has been a wake-up call for all businesses.

“While some already embraced practices to enable employees to work remotely, a great many were caught out when offices closed — they did not have the tech in place for staff to work effectively from their homes. 

“It is positive, however, to see two-fifths of businesses take it upon themselves to offer digital skills training for staff, and generally invest more heavily in new tech. Once we return to something resembling normality, this will equip more workers to choose where, and when, they work. 

“The seeds for the flexible working revolution have truly been sown, and the pandemic will certainly accelerate the move towards employees doing their jobs outside of the office’s four walls.”

Luckily, the government has announced that staff reimbursements for equipment purchased during lockdown to enable remote working will be exempt from tax, which could help with some of the costs. 

On top of this, if staff have accrued extra costs while working from home - such as needing to purchase office desks or other items to allow them to do their jobs effectively - they can also claim a tax break. It’s worth noting though that this tax relief can only be claimed retrospectively, so employees are best waiting until they are able to return to their offices before making their claims.

With lockdown continuing, it looks as though more people will need to look at ways they can make working from home as easy as possible. While the right technology is vital, many of those working from home still don’t have a suitable workspace set up. 

Companies should also be ensuring that remote workers have a desk and appropriate office chair available in order to avoid health issues, such as back pain, especially as working from home seems set to be the new normal for at least the next few months.

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