The impact of COVID-19 on UK business

On 23 March 2020, our world changed. The UK government announced that the nation was entering lockdown – measures so wide ranging that perhaps nothing like it had been seen since the Second World War. Britain’s workforce was essentially sent home overnight, with companies nationwide scrambling to get their people back online, and quickly. Laptops were rapidly purchased or re-deployed, offices and call centres emptied. We acclimatised to working from home the hard way – now juggling not only our career, but also childcare and home-schooling – less than 24 hours after Boris Johnson made his TV address. The impact has been huge across all sectors. Hospitality businesses have been forced to think on their feet and repurpose. Retailers have watched turnover plummet as they struggle to ramp up their online offer. Smaller businesses have fared worse – those lacking financial or digital resource struggle to make ends meet, while high street traders board up their windows. As some homeworking staff grappled with unfamiliar systems, well-intentioned others repurposed their own equipment for work, while many shared their workspace with family. It’s no surprise then that security and confidentiality are at greatest risk right now. Effective home-working is a much more serious business than mastering Zoom and making sure your backdrop looks bookish.

An agile response in remarkable times

Though our customers include a broad swathe of organisations across public sector, security and retail, their immediate needs as we entered lockdown were the same: to get all of their people working from home, with no compromise on security. For one major utilities company, for example, we delivered just that: transforming their call-centre operation into a home-working model, more or less overnight. The customer experience was uninterrupted, and, though the open plan, city centre HQ had been replaced by the staff’s spare rooms and kitchen tables, the end-user interface was the same as at work. Business as usual. This provider’s customer base is particularly demanding, so it was a major achievement for everyone that customer confidence remained high throughout, which in turn kept staff upbeat and fully engaged.

Solutions for any new normal

Now that we’ve delivered a first response to lockdown for all of our customers, we’re planning for the next phase. But what will the future bring? The easing of lockdown looks markedly different north and south of the border, bringing considerable challenges. It’s also possible that we will endure several periods of further lockdown – a gruelling ‘in-out’ working model in which only the most adaptable businesses will thrive. Further, the UK’s employees themselves have changed. Experiencing the personal and environmental benefits of home-working, it’s likely that many will demand more flexible arrangements. In turn, senior management now question the sense in renting expensive inner-city office space. But whatever our future brings, two features are key to success: agility and security. It’s our job to ensure readiness for any new normal, even one that changes daily. Throughout the weeks to come, we’re working closely with our customers to guarantee that they have all the appropriate devices and systems they need to work – whether at home, in the office, or a hybrid of both, without compromise on security. As an ISO27001 accredited company, security is embedded into every one of our processes, services and hardware – so that your business may operate with confidence, whether from the boardroom, or the garden shed.