Did you attend our presentation earlier this month – designed to help SMEs in the construction industry? Below, we share the slides in case you missed it or you;d like to recap the key points!
More than a band-aid
Six months ago, businesses were forced to migrate to a new way of working almost overnight as we were urged to stay home to contain the virus. Although many businesses adapted well and remote working became commonplace, the process was rushed – driven by panic and spurred by the need to survive.
These fixes were never built to last.
As we look forward, it seems that remote working is here to stay – with many businesses challenging more traditional setups and looking to ditch or reduce their office overheads. But to be successful long-term, more structure and investment is required – particularly in the effort required to maintain a positive employee connection that transcends distance.
So, how can you keep your team engagement and morale high when working conditions are somewhat different to what you’ve been used to? We discuss this and more, with example to the drawbacks and how to address these going forward.
Leading from the front
Winckworth Sherwood found that 78% of employers are planning on “long-term operational changes” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 9% considering closing their offices completely
- 26% considering reducing their office space
- 47% increasing flexibility around working from home
- 38% increasing flexibility around set working hours
With huge businesses such as BT and Twitter making the offer to employees to permanently choose how they work it feels like we’re on the precipice of a huge cultural shift.
But, with change comes new challenges. What are the issues associated with managing people from afar and how can you look after your staff when you can’t see them? Let’s take a look.
Overcoming barriers to remote working
On the surface, remote working sounds great. It can help employers lure in exceptional talent, reduce office costs, chat and distractions and your employees will relish in their newfound sense of freedom – working how and when they work best.
So, what’s with all the reluctancy and why are some so keen to get back to the office?
Whilst working from home is popular right now, there must be some consideration into the long-term consequences that will begin to appear in the not so distant future.
At this time of great upheaval, we’re going to steer you through some of the HR issues that arise when working from home – with some thought-provoking insight and direction on how to mitigate any hurdles. So, let’s dive in.
Negative impacts on employee wellbeing
It is reported that 62% of employees would be “happy” if their offices closed and working from home became a permanent setup. But that leaves a good proportion of the workforce unhappy with this situation.
There are many reasons this may be, as the office can provide benefits for employees including:
- Social interaction
- Support – personally and professionally
- Routine and a change of scenery
- A place to focus without distractions, such as childcare
- Relief from home pressures, such as strained relationships
So, without the face-to-face interaction you’re used to, how can you look after employees? Be sure to look a little closer for the signs of someone struggling, including reduced engagement or participation, missed deadlines or overdoing their hours. These may be an indication that an employee’s mental health is declining.
To combat this, consider:
- Regular team meetings at a coffee shop or co-working space (when safe to do so)
- Making support digital, such as posting self-help and advice on the intranet
- Setting up support groups, buddy systems and social nights
- Encouraging employees to log their hours
- Reminding employees of their line manager
There is some stipulation that the increase in remote working will lead to a more unjust workplace. So how can you play fair in an increasingly competitive environment?
Say there’s a big promotion coming up. Who will be seen more favourably for the leg up: an employee who is frequently present and visible within the office or a team member that may be less well-known working from home?
There’s a great possibility that a two-tier workforce will soon be established – dividing those that come into work and those that don’t. And, with childcare being a key draw for remote working, women are likely to be most affected by this, causing the gender pay gap to be even further widened.
Other concerns include wages being driven down – due to reduced travel expenses, outsourcing and increased competition. Although it’s understandable for businesses to try and reduce costs, this will further suppress our economy and lead your customers to also look for the cheapest option.
Therefore, is leaning towards this remote workforce just a way of shooting ourselves in the foot? Honestly, we can’t tell you how to run your business. However, to stay mindful, take five to contemplate the following…
- Creating a fair criterion for the recruitment process
- Annually publishing your gender pay report
- Actively planning to reduce any variance found [see above]
- Mapping your pay against GDP and inflation
A huge 46% of HR decision makers are concerned that employees won’t be able to carry out their jobs effectively at home. However, almost half this number of employees have the same concern. So why is this?
A great way to measure whether employees can work effectively at home is to determine what ‘effective’ means to you; take some time to document what a ‘good’ job done looks like.
- Outcome-based measurement
- Clear communication
- Realistic deadlines
- Regular reviews
By measuring outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office, you can then begin to measure whether an employee is effectively working at home or not. Be sure to provide clarity on objectives, detail what is expected from employees and what they need to achieve and by when.
If you have not done the role yourself, you may find it useful to have a discussion with employees to discuss what is reasonable within their time constraints. After all, overly ambitious targets often turn employees off and lead to a decline in motivation, job satisfaction and mental health.
Lack of control (trust)
By having employees under their roof, many employers feel as if they can control their employees better. At the end of the day, the issue is: do you trust your employees?
Failure to trust your employees can lead to wasted time on micromanagement, a reluctancy to take ownership of responsibilities and a reduction in engagement and job satisfaction – with employees viewing ‘spying’ negatively. Trust them too much and you risk them feeling lost or taking advantage.
Therefore, it may reassure you to learn that only 12% of employees struggle to motivate themselves. In fact, employees that work from home tend to work harder due to concerns that it will be perceived negatively or that their privileges will be revoked.
To combat this, consider:
- Learning what makes employees tick and ensuring they feel supported
- Checking in regularly to monitor and ensure progress
- Clearly communicating expectations
- Set meetings and PDRs to review progress and rectify any issues.
We anticipate that AI and monitoring will be stepped up in the months to come. In fact, it’s already happening before our very eyes!
Employees can no longer log in early, collect the kids from school and pretend they were working all along. Technology can now determine when you touch your keypad and will alert your manager if you haven’t been active.
Your emails may be monitored too – determining your intentions and engagement by unpicking what and how you word your emails.
So, with monitoring expected to greatly increase, how can we avoid upsetting employees?
To avoid upset, consider:
- Being transparent about how technologies works
- Explaining why it has been put in place
- Outlining how technology will be used (eg, in PDRs)
- Addressing any concerns that employees may have.
Remember: any worker that has been with you for at least 26 weeks automatically gains the right to apply for flexible working. If you deem it appropriate to grant requests and feel this will not impact the individual’s ability to perform, this may provide a more open solution that will stop employees feeling the need to deceive their employer.
Need more help?
If you are considering whether a return to the office is essential, safe and mutually agreed, check out the CIPD’s useful resource here. It helps point you towards some useful resources and raises some poignant questions.
If you need some support adjusting to remote working and require some assistance motivating and engaging your employees, get in touch with Crosse HR.
Our experts offer shrewd HR solutions that won’t break the bank. Discover more today.
In March, the general workforce was urged to work from home where possible – to help control the spread of coronavirus. However, despite the guidelines easing in recent weeks, many businesses are yet to make their big return to the office.
Office to Let
It appears that months of enforced working from home has led a number of businesses to consider whether to return to the office at all.
From a financial point of view, it seems like a pretty easy case to weigh up – property costs vs no property costs. However, it’s important to consider the financial impacts of other factors which arise from relinquishing office space.
So, let’s dive in.
Let’s start with the savings: –
Saving the obvious pennies
There is no denying the obvious and giving up your office will save you direct property costs such as rent, rates and insurance as well as direct travel costs (Petrol, train fare etc).
Saving the not so obvious pennies
Aside from those, it will also save you a few pennies elsewhere such as in personal spend with no posh sandwiches and those little trips into town. Saving on travel time should also mean you are less tired from commuting and as a result will likely be more productive during working hours.
What does this mean?
All the above can amount to some serious cash and a large percentage of monthly overheads, they are easy to measure and you will see the cash impact from day one of being office free.
So, can the costs really balance out those savings?
This is not an exhaustive list but factors to consider should include:
As a simple example I use excel a lot (and I mean a lot) and whilst I’ve attended courses, I have learnt the most from my colleagues, their tricks and tips have saved me hours. Sitting next to someone and seeing how they work, how they approach projects and achieve good results can’t all be taught in training courses. Trying to monetise the benefit of being around others is tricky but consider how your team has improved over time due to informal guidance from their colleagues.
Faced with a tricky task or issue, how long will someone spend trying to solve it before it moves from being a useful exercise for them to try to problem solve and become a waste of time. People are more likely to turn to the person in the same room quicker than they are to pick up the phone. The cost of this may be loss of productive time or it may be that the solution reached is not right for your client.
There is no denying some people love to work alone but many of us crave the company of others (and perhaps more so after the last six months). Consider the impact on staff retention if you were to tell everyone to work from home full time from now on. Not everyone has a home conducive to home working – they have made do whilst it has been enforced but it will not be the long-term choice of everyone. The costs of replacing staff are significant including recruitment time, recruitment fees, loss of productivity of the leaver and time to integrate the new starter.
We can zoom and MS Teams all day long but it’s much harder to gauge staff wellbeing through a computer screen. Being with your people and supporting them where necessary will ensure your staff are productive, less likely to need time off and again promote that staff retention figure.
What does this mean?
Unlike the savings element, each of these options are far harder to put a monetary value on – but each one of them will cost you money and time if the balance isn’t right.
Half and Half
The consensus is that a hybrid is needed to suit the needs of the employees but also to balance cashflow pressures in a time when we are recovering from lockdown.
The good news is that good landlords are moving with the times and see the need to move away from strict six- or twelve-month contracts. Some city centre landlords offering three or five days per week options and the flexibility is clearly there.
It really is too easy to look at property costs as the saving and not consider the other significant impacts which in time will too impact your cashflow.
Want to Learn More?
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director. She guides companies to deliver their financial and business objectives, which can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
If you’d like to discover more about remote working and the HR considerations you should be making, be sure to check out our latest blog: Remote Working – Connection That Transcends Distance.
Good things come in small packages – or so that’s how the old saying goes. But if ‘bigger is better’ which should we choose?
When it comes to running your business, no one way is correct.
Yet, the business community is under the impression that growth and speed equals success – despite two-thirds of the fastest-growing businesses ending in failure. So, why does society risk this boom and bust cycle, rather than striving for a small and lean business?
Here we discuss some of the key pros and cons of keeping your business small to help you assess whether a slender approach is right for you.
Less Overheads (More Time)
It’s no big secret that staying small means businesses can unlock significantly lower overheads than their larger-counterparts, with savings on costs such as:
- Office space
In fact, research from Llyods Bank suggests that, due to a reliance on informal sources, small businesses can continue to save significantly – replacing the financial costs associated with accountants and support services with business advice and favours from friends, relatives and former colleagues.
With significantly reduced overheads and the negated requirement for expensive loans or investors, it is perhaps no surprise that most small businesses start turning a profit by year two with efficiency and their lean structure to thank.
However, for what you save in overheads, you may be paying back in time.
So, if time is money, where do we draw the line?
High Control (High Stress)
Large companies often have thousands of employees in a number of offices – separated by time difference, distance and culture. However, with a small business, this is much less likely, increasing your ability for control.
By controlling all elements of your business, such as overseeing departments, a holistic approach can be applied to business. This may aid you in making informed decisions such as how and where your business operates and give you the ability to take a strategic focus.
However, the dark side to this ability to take control is an inability to switch off.
As a small business owner, you are the business. If you don’t deal with a problem, no one will. So how can you take a break?
Being a small business owner can be a big burden to bear alone. Failure to delegate can lead to overworking and feelings of overwhelm and stress.
On average, small business owners only take two weeks holiday per year – with 81% reporting that they make or return business calls during this time. So, is this an indication that small business owners struggle to relax or is it because they love their job?
You may be surprised to learn that smaller organisations are the happiest at work – with many owners stating that they ‘love’ their job and would do it if money were no object. That said, being a small business owner will still have a significant effect on your lifestyle.
Ability to Adapt
With size comes cumbersome red tape that slows down a business’ ability to adapt.
- Slow sign-off
These are just some of the reasons why staying small can help businesses be more nimble, adaptable and agile –positioning them perfectly to respond to change.
We have seen this recently, with the global pandemic taking the world by shock. Many small businesses quickly snapped back into action – moving operations online, changing their offering or even pivoting to take their business in a new direction. This is an unrivalled benefit that large businesses struggle to replicate well.
However, evidence shows that small businesses are less likely to take out loans, with female business owners being particularly frugal with their money. Due to this risk-adversity, although the business is set up with the strategic flexibility to adapt, a lack of resource may hinder this in action.
Happy Environment (Harder Cuts)
Instead of feeling like silos scattered with seas and sands between them, small businesses can enjoy the benefits of being one, happy team.
A study by LinkedIn found that employees working for small businesses created the most positive working environments, with 77% of employees reporting that they would recommend their employer to a friend. This is for a number of reasons:
- Higher control over the work process
- Sense of belonging
- Social relationships
- Higher job satisfaction
- Opportunities for development
- Ownership of their work
And, with increased productivity being a result of so many of these factors, the argument for staying small is strong. But what’s the drawback?
According to Duréndez et al, small businesses have less formal management, control measures and processes in place – often relying on a single figure-head to make decisions. In small businesses, it was found that close social relationships, for example, friends or family influences, may cause leaders to make bad business decisions, such as keeping deadwood.
In light of the last few months, it leads us to consider whether small businesses will fail due to their increased loyalty and inability to make the tough cuts that may be required to survive. We urge business owners not to make this mistake and to, instead, reframe smaller businesses as a lean and favourable option that sits on the table.
Is staying small right for you?
The answer – it depends on you.
Just remember, a smaller, more lean business doesn’t have to be a back step. It can provide a number of great benefits that make your business a more profitable, productive and enjoyable place to work.
Restructuring your business can feel like an overwhelming task. However, right now, many businesses are being forced down this route in a bid for survival.
During these testing times, the team at Crosse HR are trying to do their bit – supporting small businesses by providing free templates to help time and resources go further.
Download our free restructuring toolkit here and take your first step towards a smaller, leaner business.
Businesses are facing many challenges right now as they seek to recover from the shock of the pandemic, recover as best possible and plan for rocky tides that lie ahead. However, perhaps one of the most pressing challenges for businesses post-lockdown is about being lean but not mean.
What am I trying to say?
I am talking about balancing cashflow and the affordability to resource with customer and employee satisfaction.
Many business owners have had staff on furlough and are trying to get the timing right in bringing those staff back to work, whilst others are debating how much temporary resource they might need and when.
How does this impact Customer Satisfaction and Employee well-being?
Two examples I have seen this week…
I am currently going through a house purchase. Our buyer changed solicitor mid-way through the process as the firm had furloughed so many people, he couldn’t get the service he needed.
A client of ours was telling us about her husband who is being asked to carry the work of his department of three; to achieve this, he’s having to work twelve-hour days to keep up. The firm can then maximise their use of the furlough scheme.
In both of these examples, the firms are clearly trying their best to manage cash to preserve their future.
However, the outcome is not good for the business with the first example meaning the solicitor lost the work. In the second, the employee, who is already drained after everything we have all gone through in the last few months, due to worries about job security, is sadly expected to accept this increased workload.
What can you do to get it right?
Plan, plan, plan
Of course, no-one knows what the future holds right now and what the recovery will look like, but you still need to try. Doing so will help to estimate the optimum time at which you will need more resource. My advice; –
- Make your best estimate on what income will look like
- Assess the staffing capacity you need to service this well
- Understand the trigger points in advance on when you need to bring the additional resource into service customers and ensure employee well-being.
Consider Capacity requirements
If you have used the furlough scheme, take advantage of its flexible nature. Remember, you can bring people back on any working pattern now so assess what is right for you.
Consider: is it more efficient to bring people back for one day and get everything done for the week ahead or is a few hours per day more appropriate?
If you use any temporary or outsourced resources, talk to them. Make the situation collaborative and discuss what you need, try to be flexible to ensure they can perhaps top up with work from other sources.
Once you’ve looked at what income you might get, and the resource required then look at your cashflow.
- What does that mean for you as a business?
- Do you need additional funding to get you through the next few months?
The balancing act
It is very hard being a business owner right now.
We are all trying to manage cashflow as best we can in uncertain times. A little bit of planning will ensure you can look after your employees, your client and your bank balance.
Be lean but don’t be mean.
About Helen Fleet
Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director and guides companies in delivering their financial and business objectives. These can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.
Follow Helen on LinkedIn here.