Pew Research Centre claims that the EU is the new ‘Sick Man of Europe’, with public support for the European Union down sharply as the debt crisis grinds on
The work-life balance of small business owners is out of kilter, research shows. Time to tweak how your SME operates
Against the backdrop of a tough economic climate, many small business owners are feeling the strain and working harder than ever. We conducted some research to find out the real pressures that Britain’s small businesses are currently facing. Turns out, it’s pretty tough out there.
The results revealed that nearly half of small business workers now forgo a work-life balance. Business admin in particular is eating up too much time, with many forced to get jobs done outside of working hours. Worse still, almost a third feel stressed and under pressure and one in five admit that, as a result, customer service, as well as their personal relationships, are suffering.
Small businesses may be the engine of the economy but there’s no doubt it’s an extremely challenging time to own, run or work in a small and growing organisation. I believe that big businesses have a responsibility to lend better support by listening to the challenges, understanding the issues and offering practical services to give small businesses back some of that valuable time. No one has all of the answers – but there are some simple things your small business can do to regain a sense of balance.
Adopt a remote working culture
The adoption of mobile and the rise of connected devices mean we can stay connected, anytime and anywhere. Consumer devices are infiltrating the four walls of the workplace and, as a result, traditional “business” devices are no longer necessarily seen as an attractive option – employees want one device, one point of contact, and the latest technology.
At O2, we launched a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme in December 2011, which is now used by almost 2,000 employees – 60% of our Slough HQ workforce. This number continues to grow.
Employees are empowered by the ability to access the network via their personal devices. This is helping to improve their productivity, but most importantly work-life balance, by allowing them to shape their own ways of working on the devices they like best. Plus, it saves us money as a business.
The advantages of BYOD initiatives can be hugely favourable for businesses as employees feel supported to work in the way that fits their work style best, which can result in improved business agility, cost savings and enhanced productivity. If we can do it as a big business, think what a difference it’ll make to a small growing company – removing the pressure of managing multiple devices and giving staff some flexibility.
If you are considering implementing a BYOD policy, security is a key area to be clear on, so make sure that employees have passwords on their devices. You could also put in place software so that you can remotely wipe anything that is business-related should you need to protect it.
Enlist specialist help
Outsourcing to specialist businesses for help with web design, accounting or recruiting new staff means you can spend more time focusing on the critical needs of your business and what it requires to grow.
To make sure you get the right fit first time, it’s important to consider working with other companies of a like-minded culture. When deciding which operations you should outsource, think about the areas that are core to your business and those that aren’t.
Another option is to outsource complicated paperwork and contracts, such as health and safety management and employment law, to a specialist HR company. The benefit of this is not only more time, but also peace of mind that you have somewhere to seek advice if you need it.
Ultimately, outsourcing is a great way to reclaim some time, providing you select partners in the right way.
Flexible working practices will only become more prevalent as 2013 progresses as more employees use their own devices for work, so it’s worthwhile putting in place systems to help staff get better connected now. Alongside bringing in specialist help, you will be well on your way towards recovering time to concentrate on what you do best: running your business.
Paul Lawton is head of the small business division at O2
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Leading index dips after seven days of gains, after disappointing Chinese data and banking sector weakness
Standard Chartered is leading the way lower as the market slips back after seven days of gains.
The bank is down 70p at £15.13, a decline of more than 4%, following a report that investment group Muddy Waters was shorting its shares. According to Bloomberg, the group’s Carson Block said he was concerned about the bank’s deteriorating loan quality, and said its loan book could come under stress when the Chinese economy slows down. He reportedly said at a conference in Las Vegas on Friday:
We think the market misunderstands the amount of risk that’s presently in the book.
He pointed to a $1bn loan to Samin Tan, the chairman of Bumi, the coal company at the centre of a dispute between co-founders Nathaniel Rothschild and Indonesia’s Bakrie family.
Meanwhile HSBC is 11.4p lower at 733.4p after Investec moved from buy to reduce. Analyst Ian Gordon said:
We are perfectly comfortable with HSBC’s first quarter 2013 financials – sharply lower impairments and an improving cost performance broadly offsetting weak revenues – but after the stock’s recent outperformance we see limited further upside.
Overall the FTSE 100 is down 21.65 points at 6603.33, not helped by disappointing Chinese industrial production figures. Investors have turned a little more cautious following recent market performances, including a five and a half year high on the FTSE 100.
Miners are mixed after the Chinese data, with Anglo American down 29.5p at 1561.5p and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation 4.7p lower at 289.2p.
But Lonmin has been lifted 15.4p to 294.2p after the platinum miner reported a better than expected first half profit of $54m, up from $18m and lifted its production guidance. The group has been hit by a wave of unrest and violence in South Africa, and warned that wage talks ahead presented a significant challenge.
Elsewhere GlaxoSmithKline has climbed 19p to £16.89 following news late on Friday that US regulators had approved Breo, a treatment for chronic pulmonary disease made in partnership with American group Theravance.
G4S has added 5.1p to 252.8p as bargain hunters emerged after the company’s recent declines. The company has won a couple of UK government contracts as it tries to shed the legacy of its chaotic London Olympic performance.
Eurogroup will decide today whether to approve aid tranches for Greece and Cyprus