Will Introducing a Shorter Working Week Have a Negative Impact on Business?

While the events of the pandemic created a number of new arguments, reckonings, and theories, one concept that was revisited for the umpteenth time was that of shorter working weeks. A reduction to four-day weeks or even five-hour days – sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

While it might be the perfect solution for employees who have found their free time almost vanish, what impact would it have on businesses?

The pre-lockdown situation

Before the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns you’d have thought yourself delusional to even consider that working from home would be the norm and face-to-face meetings would be virtually made extinct, ironically by these new, virtual technologies.

Flexitime, a lack meetings in the boardroom, and none of that crucial office environment that inevitably fuels creativity and innovation – it’s surely a given that it will fail?

Well, not necessarily. Think of the standard 9-5 in an office space. How much of those eight hours is filled with casual chit-chat? CEO of American transport business, Diamondback, Ben Eltz, noted: “Very rarely does a person say, ‘I got my work done—now I’m going to go see how else I can help.’”

Take this into consideration how much time is spent milling around the coffee machine? And, perhaps most importantly, how productive is the average employee in the post-lunch lull?

Despite the fact your staff are there for eight hours, it doesn’t mean they are working. The question is, however: can business owners really give the go-ahead for shorter working weeks, what impact will it have on their operations, and will their buyers and customers choose to jump ship if they do?

In this blog, we take a look at whether or not your business can give employees a reduction in hours and still win essential private and public sector contracts.

It works

Microsoft Japan, in 2019, tested a shorter working week programme titled “Work-Life Choice Challenge” in which it gave 2,300 of their employees the opportunity to adopt flexible working patterns that, as you’ve probably guessed, improved their work-life balance.

What Microsoft wanted to see was how a reduction in hours would impact the business in terms of output and staff morale. The results of the experiment were just as they hoped – employee satisfaction went up as did productivity, by 40%.

This isn’t just a view that’s held by individual businesses – 85% of workers in Iceland have the option of cutting their number of days down to four. The decision taken by the Icelandic government has been hailed as an “overwhelming success.” Much like Microsoft in Japan, Iceland has witnessed an improvement in both productivity and wellbeing.

(Source: metro.co.uk)

But is now really the right time?

Here in the UK, tradition suggests, “if it ain’t broke, then why fix it?” However, there are plenty of reasons to suggest that the current working week model is littered with problems and these issues were exaggerated by the pandemic.

Home schooling meant that parents were forced either to surrender their jobs or struggle to multi-task, with women significantly more severely disadvantaged than men, while remote working created a breakdown in the much-needed barriers that exist between home and professional life.

It should come as no surprise that burnout become a major issue among British workers during the past two years.

Fig. 1 shows the rise in stress-related search terms over the course of the past four years here in the UK.

In 2021, more than 822,000 Brits were reported to be suffering from work related stress according to statistics from HSE – which translates to 25% of all work-related illnesses over the course of the calendar year.

But how do businesses tackle burnout?

Of course, employers in the UK are working tirelessly to find an appropriate solution to staff burnout. Reviews of HR policies are taking place across the country, there has been a considerable rise in the number of ‘people’-orientated roles being offered, support is being more actively signposted, and honest conversations are being encouraged but developing a better work-life balance is undoubtedly crucial to the fight against burnout.

Since the pandemic struck and many of us were granted the remote working option, it has become considerably more difficult for employees to separate their life from their work, something largely caused by the double-edged sword that is new technologies. ‘Always on’ is a term continually thrown around without little exploration but it’s particularly important when it comes to this balance – how can you switch off when you have the ability to reply to an email at any time from anywhere? And with this ability comes expectation, and what was once only for times of crisis quickly becomes the norm.

Slashing the working week or the hours spent in the office does appear to be a solution then, but the question is still there ‒ how do business owners justify to their buyers and customers that they shut up shop at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon?

Reliable partners and satisfied employees

At present, only one-third of business are accepting day one requests for flexible working despite the fact that more than three in five believe they should be facilitating it.

Think of it this way – perhaps the best way to reassure your customers of your uninterrupted ability to service their needs is by highlighting your investment in your staff by allowing measures to be introduced such as the shorter working week.

Rather than having to explain to buyers that you can’t fulfil contracts because you’ve got staff working four days rather than five, if you don’t offer these options, you may find yourself struggling to explain why you’ve not fulfilled orders as employee (dis)satisfaction has caused a number of walkouts…

Here, we’ve discussed the ways in which you can maintain a contract satisfy client demands – but, what about actually winning these essential contracts in the first place? Well, here at Tracker, that’s exactly what we do. We help businesses like yours on their way to becoming the next public sector supplier, assisting with early engagement, expert advice, tender alerts, and support along the way.

If you want to find out more, book a free trial today!

New Regulations to Drive Green Builds

Changes to building regulations will help the UK deliver its net zero ambitions.

The regulations, to be brought in during June 2022, will see new rules for homes and buildings in England, ensuring they emit less carbon.

The new regulations will place limits on carbon emissions for new buildings, with CO2 emissions from new-build homes reduced by 30% and other buildings by 27%.

The move will raise standards and is an important step towards a cleaner and greener built environment, paving the way for the Future Homes and Buildings Standard in 2025, which will mean all future homes are net zero ready and will not need retrofitting.

What does this mean for suppliers?

Developers will be looking to install low carbon technology, such as solar panels and heat pumps, and use materials in a more energy efficient way to keep in heat and help cut emissions – lowering the cost of energy bills for families and helping deliver the UK’s climate change ambitions.

Another part of the regulations states that all new residential buildings, including homes, care homes, student accommodation and children’s homes, must be designed to reduce overheating, making sure they are fit for the future, with improvements to ventilation also to be introduced.

Suppliers can expect to find many new opportunities in these areas, with investments in green technology helping bring new innovations to market. With the new regulations, plus funding available for retrospective improvement, we are sure to see numerous contracts arising in these areas.

Be prepared and plan your business activities with the help of Tracker, who can provide tailored advice to your organisation. Click for more information or a free trial.

Delivering net zero

Housing Minister Eddie Hughes said: “Climate change is the greatest threat we face and we must act to protect our precious planet for future generations.

“The Government is doing everything it can to deliver net zero, and slashing CO2 emissions from homes and buildings is vital to achieving this commitment.

“The changes will significantly improve the energy efficiency of the buildings where we live, work and spend our free time and are an important step on our country’s journey towards a cleaner, greener built environment.”

The new regulations come alongside £6.6Bn of direct investment into improving the energy efficiency of buildings during this Parliament. The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Local Authority Delivery scheme and Home Upgrade Grant scheme make grants available to low-income households for insulation, solar panels, heat pumps and other efficiency and decarbonisation measures.

Gold Standard for Public Sector Construction Projects

The Cabinet Office has published an independent review looking at putting in place a new ‘Gold Standard’ for public sector construction frameworks.

The review, which is a result of a consultation on ‘The Construction Playbook’, will ensure the best possible outcomes for public sector developments, including roads, rail projects, schools, hospitals and prisons.

Working together

The standard sets out several priorities, ensuring government and the construction industry works together to tackle some of the major issues in project development, such as waste, value for money and driving innovation to achieve better, faster, safer and greener outcomes.

Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Agnew, said: “The new Gold Standard will make sure that vital public sector developments have rigorous measures in place to make sure public money is spent well and that projects are delivered successfully.

“This will be welcomed across the public sector, the construction industry and by the public, who have a right to expect the best possible public sector projects.”

Early Engagement

The review is a result of a consultation of the Construction Playbook, which was launched by the Cabinet Office in 2020 with the aim of making sure the public sector and construction industry work together better to deliver key infrastructure projects.

The Playbook calls for various changes which would see the supply chain engaged at earlier stages of a project, as well as a continued push to include SMEs within the supply chain.

Early engagement is becoming a more important part of developing frameworks and projects throughout the public sector, with government drives to include more SMEs, local business and therefore new innovations, and social value, into the marketplace.

In order to drive consistency across major government projects, the review advises early supply chain involvement (ESI), using Supply Chain Collaboration systems in all framework contracts.

The move will help to support the whole supply chain, meaning major schemes do not fall behind and small businesses have a greater chance of securing government business.

What it means for SMEs & suppliers

Implementation of the Gold Standard will add value to contracts by identifying SME strengths and use Supply Chain Collaboration systems to maximise social value.

To capture improved value from the contributions of SMEs, the review encourages ‘Supply Chain Collaboration’ to create supplier led alliances with supply chains that include local and regional businesses.

How Tracker can help

It’s clear that those seeking to tender to the public sector will need to begin implementing environmental and social value plans for their business.

However, the public sector provides a huge opportunity for construction organisations, and with a £117Bn public works spend in 2018, can you afford not to be part of it?

Tracker can provide you with the business intelligence you need to be part of the public sector marketplace, with access to tenders and learning sessions combining to help you take the next step.

Book a free demo with one of our experienced advisers today to discuss where the new opportunities exist and how to find them and stand out from the crowd using the tracker platform.

The full review has been published here.

Contracts for Difference Scheme Opens Opportunities for Green Tech

 

Opportunities open up for green tech

The biggest ever renewable energy support scheme has launched in the UK, with some £285M a year in funding being made available for low-carbon technology.

The fourth round of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme opened in mid-December and aims to secure 12GW of electricity capacity – more than the past three rounds combined – moving the UK further away from fossil fuels.

Additional offshore wind capacity has already seen some of the funding ringfenced, with £200M a year going towards wind farms designed to generate enough electricity to power some eight million UK homes. A further £4M has been initially allocated for floating offshore wind and £20M for tidal projects – with solar and onshore wind included for the first time since 2015.

Investment for the future

Building the next generation of green energy projects will ensure we have a more secure and resilient energy system, supporting the UK’s transition to net zero through offering a greater range of energy sources. The scheme has already been successful in driving the uptake of renewable energy across the country, while also rapidly reducing costs. For example, the price per unit of offshore wind has fallen 65% since the first CfD scheme.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Our biggest ever renewables auction opening today will solidify the UK’s role as a world leader in renewable electricity, while backing new, future-proof industries across the country to create new jobs.

“By generating more renewable energy in the UK, we can ensure greater energy independence by moving away from volatile global fossil fuel prices, all while driving down the cost of new energy.”

Opportunities for emerging technology

A total budget of £285M a year has been allocated to the fourth CfD round, with funding available for offshore wind; emerging technologies, such as remote island wind, tidal stream and floating offshore wind; and established technologies, such as solar and onshore wind.

By ringfencing funding for emerging technologies, the Government will support the development of new, innovative technologies that can make an important contribution to the UK’s decarbonisation commitments. The investment in tidal power will kickstart a brand-new chapter for the industry that will also have the benefit of creating new jobs across the UK.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands commented: “The Contracts for Difference scheme is proof that green and growth go hand-in-hand as it continues to be a key driver behind the world-leading renewable energy sector that is providing us with secure clean energy, creating jobs across the UK and opening investment and export opportunities.”

Supply chain

There has also been a strengthening of the supply chain planning process, so the CfD’s fourth round can support the effective development of open and competitive supply chains and promote innovation and skills in the low-carbon electricity generation sector.

The Contracts for Difference fourth allocation round will close to applications on 14 January 2022, with the final results of the auction expected to be announced in spring-summer 2022.

Bid for new opportunities

With the Government committed to ensuring fully a third of public procurement spending goes to SMEs, there has never been a better time for innovative companies to gain support in bringing their solutions to market.

Tracker can help you find opportunities in new marketplaces with our tailored contract searches. With the allocation of the above funding, there are sure to be many contracts coming on-stream for innovative companies able to drive new technologies.

Tracker can also help you plan your growth strategy. As we’ve discussed, opportunities for innovations in green technology and improving the credentials of the supply chain are now readily available.

Find your opportunities to tender with Tracker. Contact us for a free trial and/or demo now!

UK Government Publishes Recommendations For Improving Transport Connectivity

Connecting opportunities

Late 2021 saw the UK Government publish its recommendations for improving transport connectivity across the Union.

The report, conducted by Sir Peter Hendry, undertook a detailed review into how the quality and availability of good transport infrastructure can support economic growth and improve quality of life.

Drawing on the evidence supplied by numerous industries, Sir Peter has published his recommendations, which will see packages of investment in transport connectivity across the UK, providing opportunities for suppliers to tender on a wide range of projects.

Recommendations include:

  • design and implement a strategic transport network for the whole of the UK
  • upgrade the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe
  • work with the Scottish Government to assess the East Coast rail and road corridor and appropriate investments
  • fund an upgrade to the key A75 link
  • work with the Welsh Government to improve connectivity between North Wales and North West England on the A55, M53 and M56 roads and on the North Wales Coast Main Line
  • relieve congestion on the M4 South Wales and England corridor by upgrading and building new rail stations
  • develop a package of measures to improve rail journey times and capacity between Cardiff and Birmingham and beyond
  • improve connectivity to and from Northern Ireland through the development of a long-term pipeline of infrastructure investment, better rail connections to airports and by supporting the Northern Ireland Executive in their participation in the All-Island Strategic Rail Review
  • take measures to improve domestic aviation connectivity through revising subsidy rules, reducing tax and by intervening in the assignment of slots at London airports
  • secure better rail connectivity for freight across the UK with ports and freeports as they are established

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The Government’s levelling up vision can only be achieved if the transport system across the UK on which we all rely supports and drives economic growth, job creation and social cohesion.

“As we build back better, the Government is determined to do so in a way that levels up across the UK, bringing communities across the country even closer together. Wherever you live in the UK, a connected local and national transport network will bring you closer to all the social and economic opportunities available.”

Finding opportunities

With such recommendations accepted by the Government, and the drive to ‘level up’ the country, there will be many new tender opportunities arising across the transport sector in the coming year. Supported by the National Infrastructure Strategy, investment in transport will provide a wide range of opportunities for suppliers of all kinds. If you’ve not supplied to the transport sector before, remember new technologies – in particular around carbon emissions, green technologies and data processing – are becoming more important than ever before.

Find your opportunities to tender with Tracker. Contact us for a free trial and/or demo now!