The benefits of being remote

What one purchase ledger might teach us about a post-Covid world

April 2020

Companies House release a monthly dataset containing the contents of their purchase ledger - the things they've spent their money on. A full 12 month history of 2019 is now freely available for public scrutiny and I think it's a great dataset for budding BI enthusiasts and policy wonks alike.

It also has some insights pertinent to a post-Covid world.

I used it as an opportunity not only to be nosy but also to experiment with a super minimal dashboard design. Here's how it went...

The insight

It feels like the whole world is working from home right now (future reader: we're in Covid-19 lockdown). As we all inevitably ask questions about our reliance on office space, it made me wonder what the longer term impact of a switch to home working might mean.

This open dataset gives us a glimpse into organisational costs for all these things.

Companies House spent just over £11m on buildings, utilities and travel in 2019. That's around a third of their £36m cost base spent mostly on moving people between a home and work environment.

If these numbers are broadly representative, is this a clue to the kind of savings achievable if we make a more permanent switch to remote working?

I wouldn't expect to see a wholesale move away from offices but cutting by degree could making meaningful changes to bottom lines.

Cue: Panicked faces among commercial property landlords.

Making this visualisation

I'd never gone as far as a truly monochromatic visualisation and the above was an attempt to push myself. Unencumbered with palette decisions, the design process felt simpler and it was strangely freeing.

I'm pretty sure I'll use this approach again. Hooray for monochrome.

Data: Companies House purchase ledger (2019 = 12x CSVs)

Tool: Tableau Public