Here, Paul Rowlett from the corporate gift specialists EverythingBranded offers his top tips for maintaining your positive company culture, even when your staff are working from home.
Although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic might have forced your hand when it comes to letting your staff work remotely, you might be thinking about making this more of a long-term arrangement. Perhaps your company has been hit quite hard financially and you’re looking for ways to reduce your overheads, or you might have personally enjoyed working remotely over the last few months.
It’s likely your employees will appreciate more remote working going forward, too. In fact, research by Michael Page has found that 66% of professionals working in banking and financial services would like flexible working hours, and 53% also listed work from home options in their top three desired benefits. Regardless of whether your staff are in the office or working remotely, though, you’ll still want to hold onto your positive company culture. And, here, I’m going to offer my top three tips that should help with that.
Check in with everyone regularly
When you’re trying to achieve or nurture a positive company culture, making your workers feel appreciated and valuable should be your number one priority. A lot of business owners make the mistake of assuming that paying their staff’s wages is all the thanks they need, but you need to remember that your workers could probably find a similar job elsewhere quite easily. It’s the company culture and people that they’ll stay for, so you need to try your best to give them the attention they need, even if they aren’t physically in the office with you.
One of the easiest but most effective ways to make sure your employees feel valued is by checking in with them individually on a regular basis. Give everyone some space in your diary, so you can catch up with them, give them some feedback, and ask if they have any concerns regarding their jobs. This will also give you a chance to ensure you’re catering to everyone’s needs. For example, you might find that a number of your staff members would benefit from their working hours being tweaked, or they might need a particular program or piece of equipment to help them with their job. There are lots of little things your employees might just struggle along with if they aren’t given some one-one-one time with you, so checking in with them will ensure you get the whole picture of how they’re finding their job, and you might find there are some ways in which you can help them out.
Reward their hard work
It’s also important that you reward your staff for their hard work, as this will help to make them feel valued, as well as motived. Obviously, working in the financial sector is particularly difficult at the moment, as so many businesses and markets have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. So, it’s worth reaching out to let your employees know that you appreciate things are quite tough right now, and that you’re proud of how they’re handling things. And, if they hit particular targets, or you have a very impressive month, make sure they know that you’ve noticed!
Practical corporate gifts are ideal for showing your gratitude and, if you choose to have them printed with your logo or company name, they’ll also remind your staff of how much your business values them. Choose your presents wisely, though, because you don’t want to send your staff items that will just be left on their desk or forgotten. Think about what they could actually use. Most people working in financial services will often require stationery, a tablet that might need a cover, and possibly even some headphones, so there would make great work presents. A reusable water bottle or coffee cup could also work very well.
Host remote socials
Due to the UK being on lockdown for the last few months, we’ve all had to get a lot more creative when it comes to how we socialise. This means video chats and online pub quizzes have become increasingly popular. So, even if your whole team are working remotely, don’t think that this means you can’t still hold staff socials. These might just have to take place online from now on — especially while social distancing measures are still in place, and if your employees are spread quite far and wide.
If you’re planning to let your staff work remotely for the foreseeable future, consider scheduling a work social every quarter. This will give everyone something to look forward to, and will also help to keep relationships strong among your team. You’ll know that everyone works a lot harder when they’re working with a team they love to achieve a common goal, so it’s still important that your staff have fun together, even though they might not see each other too often. And making it a priority to invite everyone along to remote social events is sure to make all the difference.
If your company and staff have benefitted from working remotely throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be thinking about allowing everyone to continuing working from home. You’ll still want to maintain the positive company culture you’ve fostered, though, and these tips should help you do just that.
TOUCH-FREE AUTHENTICATION FOR ALL: WHY WE NEED A SAFER PAYMENT METHOD IN THE ‘NEW NORMAL’
David Orme, SVP, Sales & Marketing, IDEX Biometrics ASA
Ever since March, when the World Health Organization encouraged people to not use cash, coronavirus has made touch-free shopping a necessity for all consumers. However, as economies across the world begin to reopen, we are seeing in-person shopping and payment via touch-pads return. So, with payments beginning to return to ‘normal’, the global payments industry must now consider an important question: how can we protect consumers from the pandemic and potential future health crisis’ during the transaction process?
During the pandemic, touch-free payments began to gain international traction across the world, changing behaviour during the payment process. While previously, consumers were happy to key in a PIN, or even provide a signature for a purchase, they are now familiar with more convenient and safer touch-free methods, and they’re not likely to let them go.
In Europe, high street chains have rapidly shifted to contactless payments, often refusing to accept cash. Meanwhile in the USA, levels of contactless payments have rocketed since the pandemic, after a slow initial adoption of the service – US banks only adopted contactless cards in 2019 compared to 2007 in the UK. According to Visa, overall contactless usage in the USA has grown 150% year-on-year as of May 2020.
Even mega-retailer, Walmart, has recently introduced contactless options for in-store shopping and delivery to protect its customers during the pandemic – showing there is growing demand for a touch-free and convenient way to pay across the world. This has raised awareness of touch-free payments among consumers looking to reduce contact-based interactions and time spent at the checkout during the pandemic.
Mobile payments are growing
Mobile payments are growing, again showing the desire for touch-free authentication among consumers. According to Forbes, the US mobile payment market – currently only sixth in the world – has increased 41% and is worth more than $98 billion.
To respond to the growth of touch-free payments among small vendors, PayPal has launched a new QR code-based payment app that allows market stall holders or businesses without a PoS machine to accept payment through a code. This means even the smallest of merchants, from small stores and farmer’s markets to craft sales, can now go cash-free and use touch-free payments for everything.
Meanwhile, China has long been using QR code-based apps, such as WeChat Pay from tech giant TenCent and AliPay from Alibaba. The apps are so widely used that street vendors display QR codes for payments and together the two fintech giants control about 90% of China’s digital payments market.
But card is still king
At the same time, payment cards are still consumers preferred way to pay. Of course, we only need to look to Apple and Google, who recently have launched physical payment cards despite running mobile payment apps for further proof that payment cards are far from dead.
So why aren’t cards on their way out, given the growth of mobile payments?
We know that consumers still look to payment cards for security and a sense of familiarity while shopping. According to IDEX Biometrics’ research carried out in the UK, only 3% of consumers choose to use mobile payments, while nearly two-thirds (65%) state that carrying their debit card provides a sense of security. And when it comes to touch-free payments, only biometric payment cards can provide the most secure level of validation with an easy digital experience for shoppers.
Despite the popularity of WeChat as a payment app, China’s biggest card provider China UnionPay has recognised that its customers aren’t ready to give up on physical payment cards either. China UnionPay has recently certified the first biometric fingerprint card technology in the country as they look to the use of biometric technology in cards to provide an extra layer of security, with added convenience and hygiene during a payment transaction.
Secure touch-free card payments
Biometric fingerprint payment cards provide end-to-end encryption – securing the user’s card and data. A fingerprint biometric card allows the user to authenticate their ID by touching their finger to the card’s sensor while holding it over the contactless card machine. Therefore the shopper only has to hold their own card over the PoS system and the entire transaction process is free of public PIN pads or checkout counters – making it no different to how consumers currently use contactless payments cards. This touch-free payment technology provides the consumer with the convenience of contactless or a mobile payment but with far greater security, as the card is personally tied to the owner.
Biometric identification is already firmly incorporated into our everyday lives. Thanks to unlocking our phones and authenticating payment apps, we are increasingly using our fingerprint to verify our identity. Now that consumers are familiar with the technology, biometric identification in payment cards will become essential to help consumers navigate the shopping and transaction process safely, speedily and securely.
As our economy gradually reopens, financial services providers must protect consumers during the transaction process. In stores, on transport systems – even in stadiums – a fingerprint biometric payment card will provide touch-free payment authentication for all.
THE BASICS OF BUSINESS FINANCE
When you’re starting your business, you’ve got a lot to be thinking about. You need to find affordable suppliers, market your business effectively, bring in paying customers, and perhaps even hire staff to get your fabulous idea off the ground.
Although they’re not the most exciting of these topics to think about, your business finances and how to best manage them should be at the top of your list. Get them right from day one and you can worry less about those smaller details and focus on making your business a success. Get them wrong, and you could be creating unnecessary stress and worry that could potentially harm your business.
With this in mind, here’s a useful introductory guide to business finance that can help you navigate the basics.
Find the right business bank account
Choosing a business bank account is a key decision that could either save or cost your business money. It will help you keep your personal and business finances separate, budget effectively, manage your accounts and complete your tax returns more easily, even if you’re just a sole trader. You may also be able to access financial support that has been specially tailored to your business needs.
However, business banks offer different services and charge different fees compared to your personal bank account. That’s why it’s worth finding out which account would be best for your business needs.
According to leading small business advisors Informi, “The high street banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest) have all upped their game in order to keep up with the digital-only offering of the so-called challenger banks (Monzo, Starling, Tide Business).”
Keep track of everything
Whenever your business spends money or earns money, you should make sure you’re making a note of it and keeping the information somewhere safe.
Getting organised early will simplify your bookkeeping and accounting process, form great business habits and help you stay financially in the black. Depending on your business structure, this may also be a legal requirement.
This should include, but not be limited to:
- Incoming and outgoings
- Invoices sent (including invoice dates, numbers and full client information)
- Inventory details including dates purchased, stock numbers, purchase prices, dates sold, and sale prices.
Understand your tax obligations
Starting a brand-new business is an exciting time and the last thing you want to think about is taxes. However, you also don’t want to be hit with a large, unexpected tax bill at the end of the year. That’s why you should always be clear what your obligations will be and budget for it accordingly.
What you need to pay depends on whether you’ve registered as a sole trader or as a limited business:
Sole traders (self-employed): You’re liable to pay tax on all your income after your personal allowance is deducted. You’ll also need to pay your own national insurance contributions.
Limited companies: You’ll need to pay corporation tax and make employers’ national insurance contributions. Any employees must pay tax and national insurance on their income via a PAYE scheme. If you’re hiring freelancers, they may need to take care of their own tax.
This needn’t be confusing if you’ve kept financial records from the beginning and you’re clear on what you need to pay. For more information on UK government business taxes, visit their website.
Consider whether you need finance
Paying for your new equipment, premises, advertising, wages and other overheads can soon add up when you’re in the initial stages of starting your business.
If you don’t already have enough funding, you could get extra support from the government or bank. This may be in the form of a loan or grant such as the UK government StartUp loan.
However, be careful about taking on too much debt, especially during these unpredictable times of the coronavirus. Consider how much you can repay and make your decision accordingly.
Take care of your business finance basics and it will be much easier to start and sustain your new business during these challenging times.
Make sure that you choose the best bank for your needs, keep detailed records, understand your tax obligations and consider whether you need extra finance to help get your business off the ground.
But most of all, have fun! This is the start of an exciting new era in your life.
‘Choosing the best business bank account’ – https://informi.co.uk/business-administration/choosing-best-business-bank-account
‘6 Small Business Finance Basics You Must Understand’ – https://smallbiztrends.com/ – https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/small-business-finance-basics.html
‘Business finance and support’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/finance-support·
‘Apply for a Start Up Loan for your business’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/apply-start-up-loan
‘Business tax’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/business-tax
‘Finance Your Startup Business’ – https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/ –https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/financing-a-business/start-up-funding/finance-your-start-up-business
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