Coping with ‘omichaos’ is the greatest challenge for companies yet


They like the flexibility of home working, but suspect, probably rightly, that no one works as hard in their pyjamas as they did in a skirt or a suit. Omicron just made the decision for them. 

The only way forward will be hybrid working, with hot desking, and drastically less office space (which is bad luck for landlords and the coffee chains). That way, you can switch to home working every time a wave of infections sweeps across the country with little damage done to overall output. 

Third, don’t rely on government services. Sure, ministers will pop up on breakfast TV to say they have contingency plans. But the one thing we know about the civil service is that it closes down at the slightest excuse. 

Semi-private organisations such as the rail network are even worse. Any operation that can’t run when confronted by the “wrong type of snow” is not exactly resilient. 

Over the next couple of months, don’t expect to hear from your regulator, forget about that employment tribunal ever being heard, and if any of your staff need licences then don’t count on them being issued soon. The less you need government help the better. 

Finally, accelerate the shift to online sales and delivery. We might think the tech companies are powerful enough already. But we haven’t seen anything yet. 

It doesn’t matter what the virus does, people can still order online, stream music and films, and read on their Kindles. The higher the digital percentage of your total sales the less the wave of infections matters. 

The private sector has already demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of Covid. It adapted to home working, social distancing, and operating online far more quickly than anyone expected. 

We are, despite the pandemic, almost back at the levels of output we before anyone had ever heard of Wuhan. But “omichaos” may well be its biggest challenge yet – and it will take a huge effort to cope with it successfully.


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