The Shorthand - a boost for flexible working

The Shorthand
The week's small business news in under 5 minutes
29 April 2022
5 minute read

Welcome to this week's edition of The Shorthand, your weekly digest of the top news stories that affect small businesses in the UK! Here, we break down the stories you may have missed during the week, detailing what they’re all about and, more importantly, why you should care.

And all that in under 5 minutes.

Go on, put the kettle on and we’ll have you caught up with the most pressing business news stories of the week by the time you’ve finished a cup of tea.

1. Remote and hybrid working can boost productivity

What’s going on here?

According to data from an extensive survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), an increasing number of business owners in the UK see the remote, hybrid and flexible working practices – which became the norm during the pandemic – as good for productivity.

The numbers differ by sector and company size, as well as the age and gender of employees. More large businesses (47%) than smaller businesses (36%) are in favour of continued remote working, for instance. However, the overall picture shows that UK businesses are embracing the benefits of a new way of working.

One of the key statistics that the survey brings to light is the difference between the percentage of businesses that expect to return to full-time office work (41%), and the percentage of employees for whom that is the preferred option (25%). Meanwhile, 40% of business owners say they expect to keep a model of working equally, mostly or entirely from home, while a sizeable 58% of employees preferred this arrangement.

Why should you care?

Many businesses around the country are reaching a moment of reckoning with remote working as we move towards ‘living with covid’. While some individuals have been urgently campaigning for a full return to the office, others have taken notice of the peculiar benefits of this new way of working.

Just from a cost perspective, if your staff work mostly remotely, your business can save significant sums on the hire of office space. But how does remote working impact productivity in small firms? Superscript’s very own talent manager, Derrick Smart, commented:

Recent studies have shown that working remotely has increased levels of productivity. Employees are have a better work-life balance. They no longer have daily commuting stress, and with that brings a happier and healthier work life.

Also, making the decision to offer employees flexible, remote or hybrid working models can be crucial to remaining an attractive employer in the job market.

Derrick Smart explains:

When trying to attract top talent, offering a hybrid working model opens up a whole new talent pool for us to source. We are no longer limiting our search for candidates within a specific radius of our office.

working from home can boost productivity

2. Small businesses are operating below capacity

What’s going on here?

While the future looks bright for remote working, the picture is less rosy for small businesses hoping to grow this year. Survey data, from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests that 55% of small firms are operating below capacity and almost half do not expect growth this year.

The increase in the cost of fuel, utilities (including energy) and rising tax are all contributing to an increase in operating costs that is being felt by an astonishing 87% of small businesses.

The national chair of the FSB, Martin McTaguesaid, commented that:

Spiralling costs are eroding small business margins at a rate that many have never experienced before, whilst workplace absences are making it hard to operate at full capacity in a tight labour market.

Why should you care?

All small business owners will know that balance between success and failure as an SME is a matter of fine margins, and operating below capacity has the potential to have a hugely negative impact on the future success of any small enterprise.

The manner and extent to which your business might be impacted by these rising operating costs depends very much on your industry. The manufacturing and retail sectors have seen the biggest hit to their operations, while the food, communications and accommodation industries actually reported positive readings on the FSB’s measure of business confidence.

If your company is one of the millions who’s growth potential or capacity has been affected by rising operating costs, you may want to read our guide to energy price rises for small businesses.

3. Small businesses want to go green but they don’t know how

What’s going on here?

The Sun reports on a survey conducted by Ecologi which emphasises that small business owners are overwhelmingly aware of the need to make sustainability a priority and are willing and eager to do so. The problem is that they feel that a lack of proper guidance, available time and data means that they struggle to achieve the sustainability goals they want to.

Some of the most telling data that emerged from the survey included:

  • 22% of businesses have a dedicated Chief Sustainability Officer
  • 80% of owners admitted younger employees place more value on sustainable practices
  • 61% of SMEs advertise and market their environmental credentials
  • 30% of business admit they ought to be more sustainable than they currently are

    Intriguingly, the survey results also indicate that a quarter of the respondents (24%) admit they are more environmentally conscious at home than they are at work.

small business owners want to go green

Why should you care?

The results of this research are particularly important for small businesses as they highlight the gap between aspiration and reality when it comes to small firms playing their role in creating a more sustainable economy.

A full three quarters of SME owners feel overwhelmed about how their organisation can tackle climate change. What’s more, the jargon used in discussions of sustainability has an alienating effect on some business owners, with 70% not fully understanding terminology such as ‘net zero’. With SME owners predicting that 26% of their turnover is spent on green initiatives, closing this knowledge gap is crucial.

If you own a small or medium-sized business, then the chances are you could be amongst the 83% of SME owners who think the government needs to do more to educate and support businesses in their sustainability efforts, helping firms that actively wish to be greener, achieve this.

Finally, if your business is one of the 61% of SMEs that advertise and market their sustainable credentials, it is important to know how to advertise this properly, and avoid the pitfalls of so-called ‘greenwashing’.

If you're looking for ways to make a more positive impact, check out our blog post on how to become a more sustainable business.

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This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer.

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