By Claire West

Temperatures expected to drop below -20 with severe weather warnings for the next two weeks issued by the Met Office. More and more companies are struggling to keep their offices open and it couldn’t come at a worse time as the UK economy gears up for Christmas.

Small companies hit hardest by loss of productivity
With over 4 million SMEs in the UK (97% of UK businesses) productivity will drop at a time when business is ramping up for Christmas, and the figure could exceed the £12bn loss figure reached during last January’s bad weather. SMEs are highly vulnerable in the current economy.

There is a major trend developing this winter as more companies have geared up to enable remote working for their workers as the cost of the technology has started to fall. However many small companies are still not geared up for staff to work from home, which means their productivity suffered.

Piers Linney, joint CEO of Outsourcery which services 10,000 SMEs in the UK said, “In our business work is something you do not where you go! The disruption caused by the recent snow has created immense problems for thousands of businesses across the UK with many employees not being able to make it into work. With more snow predicted, the current cold snap will only further underline how businesses need to find alternative ways to keep their company running regardless of the weather conditions. With large numbers of workers having to work away from the office in the harsh weather conditions, businesses are finding that they need more effective ways to stay in touch with important stakeholders in their businesses.”

As companies take advantage of the falling costs of remote working and growing concern of the cost of disruption to their central operations, allowing staff access to mission-critical documents and emails means they are seeing the value that providing remote access brings to their businesses.

A significant driver of remote working is Cloud computing and as it gains momentum and acceptance, SMEs now have access to professional business applications, through a subscription payment model which allows IT to be ‘rented’ from an IT specialist, on a per user per month basis - turning it from a capital expenditure to an operating cost, making affordable for all sizes of organisations, and not just the large corporations as was in the past.

Linney continued, “Many firms are recognising the value of real time communications tools such as instant messaging, presence information, voice and video conferencing, Live Meeting for group discussions and document sharing can bring to their businesses. Employers can see the availability of all their employees — whether they are talking on the phone, in a meeting or online — and contact them in most time-efficient way and the benefits are really brought into focus during the current weather conditions.”