Jan Post, MD of RIFT Group, writes about practical ways for SMEs to lessen the results of strikes and traffic chaos.
For thousands of British entrepreneurs and workers it must feel like “Operation Stack” or London Tube strikes are as regularly featured on the news as weather summaries.
Multitudes have wasted countless hours this summer sat behind the wheel in traffic jams instead of working at their desks.
The knock on effects from such disruption can be hugely damaging, even fatal, for SMEs. Which is why when strikes, extreme weather or other public incidents loom on the horizon it pays to have a backup plan so that commuting chaos doesn’t bring business crashing to a grinding halt.
Rather than sit about feeling frustrated, why not check your company’s ability to cope with situations when most people can’t get into work? Not only are there plenty of things you can do to limit disruption, you’ll be surprised at what you can do that will actually improve how you work and boost morale at the same time.
Create a remote working plan
However tightly you cross your fingers, sooner or later something will happen that will prevent you and your team getting into work. Make a list of what typically occurs on a normal day in the office and look at what can be done to make those things still happen when the office is out of bounds.
If there is a team meeting every day, can you arrange a video call instead? If clients regularly call, is it possible to divert their calls to another number your staff can access remotely?
Working through a typical day helps you visualise what needs to be in place when you have to work remotely. As a bonus, you’ll often see that many of the things you do or the way you do them need revamping, fixing or can even be scrapped. Think of it as a health check on your workflow
Soften the stiff upper lip
The British stiff upper lip can be a wonderful asset in business. But sometimes you need to ask yourself if toughing out a five hour round trip in traffic or cycling fifty miles to beat a transport crisis is productive.
Dragging an employee through a nightmare commute for an non-essential meeting or event won’t do anyone any good. Good leadership involves flexibility and taking account of the wider picture. Sometimes having someone come in in these conditions will actually be less, not more, productive.
So when major traffic chaos looms be pragmatic and only have staff make journeys when there is genuinely no other alternative.
Find new ways to talk
If you don’t use video calls day to day, it’s vital your team has an agreed platform such as Skype or Google Hangouts for days they do have to work from home. There are plenty of free tools out there to do the job. Make sure everyone has each other’s contact details so you don’t waste any time setting up calls when it’s time to use them.
Email can often become unbearable when working from home as thousands of messages bounce around replacing what would have been face to face conversation. Software such as Hip Chat which allow much better and smoother internal communication than email, can majorly boost productivity and keep everyone in the loop and on course.
Look for the answer in the clouds
Cloud computing, storing your info and data on the internet rather than on hard drives, has revolutionised how SMEs can work. Whether it’s your accounting records or monthly client reports, now even the smallest firm can access files from anywhere (even from their mobile device) if they have an internet connection.
People no longer have to lug huge files of sensitive data around with them if they are working out of the office and if a sudden traffic situation means they have to stay at home they aren’t stuck without the files they need.
As part of your ‘remote working’ plan, it is a good idea to check that all key files are logged and saved accurately and that the entire team has the login details needed to access if they have to work from home.
The last thing you want is allowing everyone to work from home and then to find out the files aren’t saved where they should be or people can’t login. Consider it an opportunity for some file ‘housekeeping’.
Build on the positives of working remotely
Don’t be scared that staff working from home won’t be productive. A good deal of of research indicates that some staff who base themselves at home can be even more productive than in the office.
If that’s the case with any of your team then capitalise on it. Perhaps that person can work from home a few days a month when they have tight deadlines or big projects.
It doesn’t mean you have to revamp your entire working practice to having everyone work from home, it just means it may be worth considering a more flexible working structure.
Keeping your mind open on things like this might mean the occasional bit of traffic chaos actually helps you and your team get even better at what you do. That’s a journey worth taking.
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About Jan Post
Jan is the founder and MD of RIFT Group.
She has been a passionate tax refund champion for individuals and small businesses for over 20 years. From a family of entrepreneurs with a background in small business support she’s always fought against the norm and striven to provide innovative and great value financial services for customers.
In the early 1990’s Jan formed a small business support company, providing virtual accounting, PA, HR, Payroll and tax advice services plus rented office space, helping small businesses and start-ups begin their ventures. Through this Jan got to know many of the construction companies that had come to Kent to work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL). She spotted a way to help these workers directly, and in 1999 RIFT Tax Refunds was formed to offer a hassle free, no upfront cost service.
The RIFT Group now employs over 150 people, achieving a turnover of £7.2 million in 2014 and successfully reclaiming over £80 million in tax refunds for our customers.
Jan was honoured and delighted to be listed as one of the 40 most influential business leaders in Kent in 2015, and has been voted Woman in Construction 2014 and Business Woman of the Year, among other awards.