The Credit Crunch and Remote Working

It hasn’t been a good couple of months for the UK economy. The credit crunch – rises in petrol costs, fuel costs and the basic cost of living have affected us all.

The government’s £37bn bailout policy was recently revealed and apparently us taxpayers now own about 60% of RBS and 40% of the merged Lloyds TSB and HBOS.

I’m just wondering how all this will affect us remote workers. Here are a few thoughts on possible scenarios:

1. The Upside
Remote working might be encouraged as it reduces an organisation’s resource costs. Everyone will be after better value for money.

A recent article in ZDNet on What the credit crunch means for IT states:

As companies shut office buildings and sell off business real estate to raise cash, more businesses can be expected to adopt a remote-working model.

With changes to the flexible-working laws expected soon, companies could find themselves with an additional reason to allow their staff to do their work without tying them to an office.

The growing penetration of broadband and the various secure virtual private network offerings will only make the model more attractive compared to the expense of running an office.

Also have a look at Home-working to fight credit crunch and climate change.

2. The Downside

Remote workers could potentially be the first with their head on the line when it comes to making redundancies because ‘out of sight, out of mind’ – a remote worker’s presence is felt less. There will also be less money to spend on remote workers kit.

An article entitled Remote working is back in Computer Weekly says:

The research attributes a recent fall in the number of staff working flexibly to the credit crunch. People feel they need to be seen to be working, perhaps as recession talk stokes the fear of redundancies. Based on interviews with more than 1,000 UK office workers, the survey claims that fears about job security and the overall deteriorating economic outlook are prompting workers – especially middle managers and their minions – to turn away from mobile working, with just 10% of workers in 2008 feeling they have the freedom to work remotely as part of their day-to-day job. This despite the fact that more than half of all UK firms offer mobile working programmes.

Some other side effects for those working in IT could be:

  • Move towards open source software – it’s cheaper and you don’t have to pay the support costs.
  • Companies may move from employment of staff in the UK and US to low-cost alternatives in the East.
  • Contract workers are likely to be the first to go.

It’s difficult to know what to make of it. As I don’t have any options really I guess I’ll just have sit tight and hope the tornado doesn’t sweep me away!