The impact of the current extreme weather on the UK is not as bad as many are stating, according to the AA and Work Wise UK. Commenting on the travel situation across the UK, Edmund King, AA president said: “It is wrong to suggest that 20 per cent of the population are not working and that this is costing the economy billions of pounds.
“Although a large number have not been able get to work due to closed roads, many employees now adopt ‘Work Wise’ practices which allow key workers to be more flexible in terms of when and where they work. The provision of laptops, broadband and dial-in meeting facilities meant that a good proportion of those unable to physically get to the office along the highway were able to link to the office via the superhighway. For their employers the loss in terms of productivity due to the failings of the transport system was minimised.”
“Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, said: “To state that the lack of planning for extreme weather events is costing the country billions is simply not true: although the weather we have seen this week has been appalling, I believe it has not had a significant impact upon productivity.
“More enlightened employers already allow their staff to work smarter, enabling them to work flexibly, work from home, and work on the move. Those employers will have reaped the benefit of their policies this week – smarter working significantly reduces the impact of events such as extreme weather because there is no necessity to travel to central locations, or to travel at specific times.”
Edmund King continued: “Whilst improvements can and should be made in terms of planning for extreme weather conditions, many of the highway authorities were doing their best to keep key roads open but some were defeated by the depth and range of the snow. The grit and salt on many roads was ineffective due to the amount of snow and indeed snow being blown onto highways already cleared.”
“The world has moved on from 18 years ago, the last time heavy snows hit the UK,” added Phil Flaxton. “Technology advancement now allows an increasing number of the working population to work virtually from anywhere.”
The advantages of smarter working in the current weather could not be better demonstrated by the experience of Plantronics, a leading supplier of headsets. Paul Clark, director and general manager UK & Ireland, explained: “Due to the recent freak weather conditions our European management meeting, which was scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Amsterdam, was clearly going to become a logistical nightmare.
“Our flexible working culture, broadband and enabling technology have meant that the Plantronics management team from around Europe will meet this week for our quarterly planning meeting from the comfort of our own home offices, sharing files in real time over a secure broadband network.
“Neither this technology, nor the culture, was available the last time we had such freak weather and it clearly demonstrates the resilience of modern businesses through smarter working.”