The Financing of WFH

As some may have seen this week, yet another household name, Aviva, announced a permanent shift towards a policy of home working for many of its 16,000 UK employees post pandemic. It is proposed that employees will on average work just 1 day a week in a designated office and the remainder at home. They are planning to close many of their sites and consolidate the required square footage within offices in key locations, which interestingly are expected to primarily be city centre offices. It is also planned that these remaining offices will be set up in a ‘vibrant, inspiring and flexible manner’. This shift towards a hybrid version of WFH is designed to provide employees with the best of both worlds and a recognition of the need to also consider their health and wellbeing.

The acknowledgment by Aviva and many other large well known names over the past few months that a permanent shift towards a full time or hybrid WFH policy is the way forward, will not have been made lightly. However, they will not be making these changes just for the good of their employees, there is undoubtably significant financial benefits to be gained from such a change which will have been weighed up against the evidence of employee’s productivity levels and the cost required to implement such policies.

In Aviva’s case, whilst it is not an accurate measure of the savings potential possible, if they shift the majority of their 16,000 staff to a flexible ‘one day in the office’ basis, this in principle means they only require real estate for around 3,200 staff, 80% less than at present. Whilst this is a very rough-cut estimate, even if a large margin of error is allowed, it still represents a huge savings opportunity on property, operational and overhead costs.

There are only a relatively small number of UK organisations of Aviva’s size in the UK, with the majority (99%) falling within the SME bracket but there are naturally similar benefits available from adopting a WFH approach. Clearly all these SME’s differ in structure, size and market sector and so there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to how to restructure, where to release funds from, how to reinvest in WFH set ups and potentially still save money. However, with some careful research and planning, most organisations could benefit from improved productivity, a happier healthier and committed workforce and a better bottom line.

The Cost of Investing in WFH

In what are undoubtably uncertain times for many organisations, it is understandable that they are cautious about being seen to be spending money on what may appear on the surface to be perks for setting employees up to WFH. This is perhaps bought into even more focus with latest unemployment figures announced today of 1.7m (5%), a figure that is likely to rise when the current furlough scheme ends in April. However, it must be acknowledged that failure to invest in employee’s WFH set up, will have an even greater negative effect on an organisation in the long term.

Without investment in the right IT Systems and Services, Communications, Office Equipment, IT Equipment, Furniture and a range of Health & Wellbeing measures, employees will feel undervalued and disenfranchised and become disillusioned, unproductive and very likely to suffer from mental and physical poor health.

Whilst this investment can obviously come at a cost, as demonstrated by the Aviva example and many others, this can invariably be funded from cost efficiencies derived from reductions in operational and overhead costs.

Where to Find the Finances for WFH?

Clearly all organisation’s circumstances and structures differ and so there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to finding the funds to invest in a WFH set up but for most small to medium sized organisations, there are multiple areas where finances can be released. Key areas that may be affected by the reduction in full time office staff are as follows:

1. Office Space Reduction may affect: - Rent - Service Charges - Business Rates - Insurance Cover - Refurbishment Programs Frequency (for flooring replacement, redecoration etc) 2. Overheads Costs Reduction may affect:

- Cleaning Services (daily cleaning, deep cleans, windows,

- Cleaning Consumables, Hygiene and Washroom contracts

- Waste and Recycling Management

- Vending Machines Contracts (water, Tea/Coffee, snacks)

- Office Stationery and IT Consumables

- IT Equipment

- Photocopier and Printer Leases

- Furniture and Fittings 3. Operational Costs Reduction may affect:

- Energy (Gas & Electricity for lighting and heating etc)

- Water Supply and Consumption (drinking, washrooms, kitchens/kitchenettes)

- Air-conditioning contracts

- Maintenance and Repair Contracts

- Security Equipment and Contracts

For medium, small and even micro sized organisations, there are some big-ticket items to review with the potential to release some significant savings. Whilst the one-man bands may perhaps not have the same level of opportunity, there are most definitely ways to identify savings that will either help to improve the profitability of the business or the individuals health and wellbeing.

Within The WFH Zone, we have almost 25 years’ experience of helping SME and large business’s reduce business expenditure, so if you wish to discuss any aspect of this further, please contact us to explore what may be achievable.

In summary, WFH does not work for all employees or indeed all employers but for most, a fulltime or hybrid form of WFH is likely to be a permanent feature in 2021 and beyond. For it to be successful, employees need to feel valued, be part of the team, energised and have a good work life balance. If this can achieved, they are likely to be more engaged, happier, healthier and thus more productive.

As demonstrated above, with a strategic review of various business costs that may be reduced by moving employees to a fulltime or hybrid WFH environment, realised savings can be reinvested into ensuring the move is successful

The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations in the process of setting employees up to work from home in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service provides a filter and search facility that helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.

45% is the average saving on Cleaning Services within SMEs across all industries.

Source – Hitachicapital (July 2020)