The UK is facing a cost of living crisis. Energy costs are up. Petrol prices are up. Food costs are dramatically increasing. Inflation is at a level not seen for decades and the business commentators are now talking about a recession.
There is a war in Europe and everything is costing more. Watching the news feels like running a marathon these days.
But there are some practical steps that company executives can take to help their employees weather this crisis. One of the most basic is that office-based employees should be encouraged to work from home as much as possible.
We know that it worked throughout the pandemic. Even before the pandemic there was detailed academic research proving that remote workers can be more productive than their office-based colleagues doing the same job. They don’t get the same interruptions at home.
In the early days of the pandemic, when workers had to rapidly move to working from home, many companies did not pay much attention to the potential for isolation.
This was probably because most companies felt that the lockdowns were going to be temporary, all over in a few weeks.
As they all found out, it is possible to create a more social online and remote working environment. It was required when companies realised that the pandemic might last a couple of years and it can now ensure that remote workers do feel like they are an integral part of the team.
Think what you are offering your employees if you suggest to them that they can just work from home most of the time.
- No Commuting: especially important for commuters using a car. The average sized car now costs over £105 to refill. Petrol is now so expensive in the UK that forecourt theft is now common – people are filling up and driving off and just hoping that they are not caught. Rail ticket prices are going up and right now the network is subject to a wave of strikes, so it’s not even reliable to use trains for commuting at present. Telling your employees they no longer need to regularly commute is a major bonus for most – in terms of time saved and cash not spent just travelling to work.
- No Coffee: teams in the office often visit Starbucks to refuel during the day. If you look at the Starbucks menu (other coffee brands are similarly priced) then it’s easy to see that just a few coffees can be around £10 a day – that’s a lot of cash over a month. It’s no surprise that rival Pret A Manger actually offers a coffee subscription where customers can pay a fixed fee of £25 a month to get up to 5 coffees a day.
- No Lunch: But talking of lunch at Pret – it can easily cost £10 for a chicken sandwich with some juice and a hot drink or snack. Eating lunch at home is far cheaper than buying meals from a sandwich store near your office.
There are some companies in the UK that are exploring other ideas – often because they are looking at cultural standards globally.
For example, in countries such as Brazil and Japan it is normal for an employer to pay the commuting costs of an employee AND ALSO to cover the cost of their lunch in a restaurant every day.
Just imagine how it might change the commuting dynamic in the UK if your employer paid for all your train tickets and also all those sandwiches from Pret?
It’s unlikely that any major changes like this will ever be widespread in the UK though. Some individual companies may explore benefits like this as part of a plan to be more attractive to employees, but the reality is that most employers can offer more immediate help to their employees by not forcing them to pay for all these costs in the first place.
The news is looking fairly grim, but recessions always end eventually. What can you do right now to help your employees reduce their costs?