Opinion

Storm Doris reveals British SMEs must improve forward planning

6 min read

23 February 2017

Former deputy editor

The arrival of Storm Doris in the UK has caused various levels of chaos across the country, but SMEs are still taking chances with forward planning for such scenarios.

According to weather reports, Storm Doris has sent winds of up to 90mph across UK shores, while heavy rain and blizzards have also joined the gales.

However, while these occurrences are known to be damaging, the approach that SMEs take to manage the threats are seemingly lax.

According to communications firm 8×8, 37 per cent of office workers said their employers never allow them to work remotely.

And when staff can work from home, 63 per cent are not always relaxed putting in a request for it, while a fifth are never comfortable asking for remote working, which suggests a breakdown in communication and company culture.

Storm Doris and other poor weather conditions can impact productivity, with lack of morale in staff due to temperatures dropping and transport delays impacting journey times. Indeed, drivers in Scotland have been found abandoning their cars due to Storm Doris snowstorms.

8×8 highlighted that workers can develop resentment and exhaustion when told they need to travel into work during bad weather.

The top five reactions staff have when they travel into work during adverse conditions such as Storm Doris are:

(1) Annoyed being late to work – 55 per cent

(2) Irritable – 45 per cent

(3) Exhausted – 24 per cent

(4) Less productive at work – 24 per cent

(5) Resent management – 13 per cent

On the flip side, the company also noted how employees feel towards workplaces that support remote working, with 81 per cent claiming they’re more loyal to employers.

The top five benefits of remote working are:

(1) Can balance work and home life more effectively – 60 per cent

(2) Work more productively – 52 per cent

(3) Less stressed – 51 per cent

(4) Less tired with no commute – 46 per cent

(5) More focused – 27 per cent

“It’s clear that when trusted to make their own decisions about remote working, staff are more loyal, happier and ultimately more productive. This is even more important when the weather turns cold or strikes make it difficult to travel in,” said Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8.

“With the right technology in place, remote working can be a seamless experience that makes sure it’s business as usual for customers, whatever the weather.”

It’s not just remote working that SMEs are overlooking though, as insurance firm Towergate discovered that 69 per cent of companies don’t have any bad weather insurance in place.

The impact of conditions such as Storm Doris cause two-thirds of SMEs to lose revenue, while 31 per cent have experienced weather-related property damage in the past five years. Despite that, 44 per cent have no continuity plan in place.

Other problems caused by poor weather include employee access to work, due to delays or complete prevention from travel, at 24 per cent. This is followed by a decline in service demand at 16 per cent and supply chain disruption at 15 per cent.

Towergate’s Joe Thelwell said: “The UK’s economy depends on small and medium sized businesses. But far too many firms have left themselves exposed to the unpredictable and at times damaging British weather.

“The majority of SMEs do not have appropriate contingency plans or insurance to protect them against lost business and unexpected bills resulting from the havoc our weather can wreak.”

Based on the fact the Department for Business found there are 5.5m SMEs in the UK, given that 69 per cent don’t have bad weather insurance, Towergate estimates 3.8m businesses are leaving themselves exposed.

Thelwell added: “With millions of people’s livelihoods depending on SMEs, it is crucial that these businesses take steps to better prepare for bad weather so they can get up and running as soon as possible.

“Practically, that could include backing-up computer systems and records, identifying contingency premises or taking out specific policies.”

The rundown of regions most at risk from weather events like Storm Doris include:

Region

% of SMEs with lost revenue

due to bad weather

% SMEs without insurance

for bad weather

Yorkshire

79

66

Scotland

74

55

Midlands

71

64

North West

68

66

London

67

69

UK Average

65

69

South East

65

76

North East

64

82

East

62

70

South West

58

70

Northern Ireland

58

67

Wales

53

72

Towergate’s top tips to prepare for Storm Doris and friends include:

  • Keep emergency contacts for tradespeople handy, as well as the details for landlords and insurance providers
  • Protect important paperwork with fire and waterproof cabinets, and keep copies off-site at another location
  • Ensure all staff can stop water in emergencies, while all pipes should be insulated
  • Have the workplace inspected on a regular basis to check for damages and risks

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