Economy
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Worst financial forecast in a decade concerns businesses nationwide

In a worrying, but not unexpected turn of events this week, the Bank of England confirmed that they expect economic growth this year to be the slowest since 2009. The Quarterly Inflation Report details an anticipated growth of 1.2% - down from the forecast of 1.7% made just last November.

The figures reflect the growing pre-Brexit caution from businesses all over the country, and included evidence from the Bank’s own survey of firms. A decline in business investment and housebuilding, combined with the growth rate in exports being halved, were significant factors in this 0.5% downturn in predicted growth.

Where this leaves the UK economy is unclear, but the Bank also sees the chance of recession, occurring in the second half of the year, as a disconcerting one-in-four. And with these already worrying figures calculated based on the premise that a Brexit deal is reached by March 29, Governor Mark Carney’s comments encapsulate the increasingly prevalent concern across business sectors in the UK:

“The fog of Brexit is causing short term volatility in the economic data, and more fundamentally, it is creating a series of tension in the economy, tensions for business.”

Of the 200 businesses the Bank of England questioned, prior to the report, half of those surveyed had already started implementing contingency plans for a ‘no deal, no transition’ Brexit, and three-quarters has at least some plan in place. One quarter, on the other hand, were not making any contingency plans whatsoever, either because they didn’t feel they would be affected – or because they are waiting for more clarity.

And this is where so much of the growing concern lies. Without a definitive vision of what is to come, business owners are becoming frustrated, and unable to plan effectively – hence the lack of investment – and the worry is filtering down to staff at all levels. The report also showed that business owners who felt they were ready for ‘any’ scenario, still expected UK employment to fall over the next 12 month.

So, even with all the internal reassurance business owners can give their personnel, worry will persist amongst all employees for the foreseeable. And with businesses having to spend so much time preparing for something so currently elusive they cannot adequately plan for it, communicating information is proving to be difficult.

An increasingly popular method for business owners to ensure their staff are being looked after, even during uncertain times, is by focusing on wellbeing – from both an individual and community perspective. Innovative, all-in-one health and wellbeing programmes, like the The LifeWorks Total Well-being platform, are used to support staff not just mentally and physically, but socially and financially too.

Ideal for such uncertain economic times, these app-based solutions allow business owners to prove that their employees are still the beating heart of the business. Also practical ways for sharing information, while gathering essential insights into staff health and wellbeing, business owners in the UK have the opportunity to see how their staff are dealing with uncertainty, as the Brexit debate rolls on.

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