How has COVID-19 spending affected workplace costs?

There’s a light-hearted but important message in this latest blog from us. Here, we slip into the mind of a consumer, to consider how their evolving spending habits during the so-called ‘isolation economy’ may have an impact on workplace procurement too…

“You’re lying on the sofa taking a break during another day of homeworking. The kids’ paddling pool has a puncture. YouTube says you can fix that with duct tape.

You order a roll for next-day delivery from a random seller and mentally log this task for tomorrow’s domestic to-do list, when your parcel has arrived.

The water pistols you swiped for this time last week have arrived, but your lack of proper research means they’re not really the quality you envisaged.

So, you try again, and pick some slightly different models, tapping your screen once to buy. It’s too much hassle to request a return for the originals.

Does this absent-minded, normal-for-lockdown purchasing sound like you? You’re not alone. Count how many white delivery vans you spot during a 30-minute dog walk around your neighbourhood. At least a few at any one time, right?

They are all delivering low-value bits and pieces, bought on impulse after idle browsing, to people like you – and your colleagues. It’s no surprise the leading online consumer retailer has reported a 40% rise in net sales this year.

Though UK households have been spending less money overall in 2020, an article in Retail Gazette reveals that there has been a £12bn shift in where purchases are made, with notable upturns in the key ‘at home’ sectors of entertainment, hobbies and crafts, as well as food and alcohol.

Idle browsing and workplace costs

You may ask, why are you talking about paddling pool maintenance and water pistols?

Well, the homeworker we describe has been sliding into lazy and poorly thought-out buying habits in their job, too.

Delve into the ‘isolation economy’ and the truth is that usual office procurement procedures are being cast aside. If this did not seem to matter in the initial chaos of lockdown, it does now.

Under normal conditions, if you needed duct tape – as one example – for work purposes, you certainly wouldn’t order a single roll for delivery, and put it on expenses.

You would go to the designated storage area and help yourself from a bulk pack, stocked in advance, among many other supplies, from a trusted, ethical partner.

This way the quality and suitability of items are ensured – unlike the case of the useless water pistols. There are far fewer invoices to handle and no need for endless vans, delivering individual items, and dramatically upping your company’s carbon impact in the process.

The cost of ‘going rogue’

We know that Coronavirus aside, whenever lone wolves dismiss a firm’s pre-agreed supplier list – or even simply the budget guidelines within that – costs, including the environmental ones, rack up.

That includes the small stuff – the rolls of tape, the packs of envelopes and reams of paper – even when unit prices for wholesale and consumer purchase are similar.

And it’s not just executives who cannot access the stationery cupboard getting free and easy with unauthorised purchasing.

We also know that in these highly unusual times, this off-piste creep is extending to middle managers – and even experienced procurement professionals – who would ordinarily adhere to the rules.

This is an especially serious – and very urgent – situation when coupled with the bare fact that more than a quarter of UK SMEs have seen a decline in revenue during lockdown.

Could the needless matter of ill-judged and inefficient purchasing tip good businesses into further financial difficulty?

New normal, new purchasing solutions

As we emerge into our ‘new normal’ – different for every workplace, with changing guidelines and the possibility of further lockdowns and restrictions – now is a good time to reset those rules of procurement.

This may mean a return to ‘business as usual’, some small revisions, or a complete supply chain rethink. Are agreements with trusted partners translating to efficient workplace procurement? If not, why not? Things may well have changed, giving procurement and finance directors impetus to find new solutions.

A typical firm might now require constant supplies of items they have never ordered before, for example – latex gloves and antibacterial wipes, anyone? And while some employees can access central reserves of consumables on site, others cannot.

That list of partners may need an overhaul. It may be that the ground has shifted, and better options have presented themselves – perhaps among the companies receiving orders from your rogue homeworkers. Make no assumptions!

Offerings are changing – at Office Team, for example, we’ve just launched our own procurement platform, SmartPad, to make ordering very quick and easy. Our Technology as a Service proposition is also one of the most popular pages on our new-look website.

So, are you up to date with what’s available and the wrap around support we can offer? Office Team can help you to streamline your procurement programme, or simply offer a bit of advice where required.

We’re here if you need us.”


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