British businesses caught out by recent adverse weather

Over half (58%) of senior decision makers in small businesses in Britain admit their business suffered as a result of the winter weather last week, despite 78% saying they thought their company was prepared to cope with the snow chaos, according to a survey of over 500 senior decision makers in small businesses, commissioned by Citrix GoToMyPC and carried out by YouGov.

Some small businesses did take steps to combat the weather conditions and ensure business as usual though, by enabling more staff to work from home (25%) and holding more online meetings (10%). The research does suggest however some small businesses could have done more to prepare for the unexpected, as only 42% said they have a business continuity plan in place.

The impact on small businesses has been widespread, with businesses across Britain reporting problems. A quarter of small businesses decision makers say some staff were late into work, while 26% reported that some staff couldn’t make it into the workplace at all. In addition, 21% found that key suppliers and contacts were not available and 26% had to cancel or postpone business meetings.

However, small businesses also suffered as a result of unexpected disruption caused by widespread school closures and a lack of road salt, with the Federation of Small Business (FSB) this week claiming the government could have helped by being better prepared for the conditions. As many as 74% of British workers were affected by last week’s winter conditions, with 8% forced to stay home due to school closures and 12% not able to work at all, according to a related GoToMyPC study of more than 2,000 adults. When asked about the most annoying aspects of the winter weather, a massive 71% voiced the lack of grit on roads as by far the biggest issue.

For the week beginning 4th January 2009, almost a quarter (24%) of British workers claimed they lost more than five working hours, with the survey showing that as much as 124 million working hours could have been lost last week alone as a result of the weather. This equals £1.35bn in lost productivity.

Andrew Millard, Director of eCommerce, EMEA for Citrix Online’s GoToMyPC, said: “The weather in the first week of 2010 has had a catastrophic effect on UK business, with the FSB estimating the cost to the UK economy to be at least £600m a day. Many businesses thought they were sufficiently prepared to handle the snow, but the sheer scale of the disruption and a lack of planning from the government has taken its toll. With more snow on the way, now is the time to revisit or put in place business continuity plans, but it remains to be seen whether the government will be able to act to protect smaller businesses should the bad weather continue.”

Top Tips

Andrew Millard of Citrix GoToMyPC sets out his top five tips for businesses to stand them in good stead for handling the unexpected:

1. Communicate clearly in advance – with your workers so that they know what they need to do if they can’t get into the office.

2. Equip employees with remote access and Web conferencing technology – which will help them to remain productive even if they can’t get into the office.

3. Communicate with your customers – Phone redirects and remote access software will allow you to work productively away from the office. But if clients or customers are likely to be affected, let them know as early as possible and keep communication channels open.

4. Consider alternatives – Travel to the office or to client meetings may be impossible, but instead of cancelling, conduct the meetings online instead.

5. Put in place a business continuity leader – if the unexpected happens, it’s wise to have one person in your organisation responsible for coordinating efforts and informing all staff of the potential impacts and company policies.

Citrix Online is offering businesses and individuals a 30-day free trial for GoToMyPC, which enables fast, easy and secure access to a desktop from any remote location: ; and a 30-day trial for GoToMeeting, to host online meetings anywhere, anytime: . Just visit the websites and enter SNOW in the promo code option.