Bartering Your Services

Drawings illustrative of Captain Cook's First ...
Be wary of requests to trade or barter your services.  While it can seem like a good way to get goods or services without spending cash - think carefully.

- Is it really something you want or is useful for you and your business?

- Would you be prepared to pay for it anyway?  There's no point in trading for a product or service you'll never use or don't want.

- Make sure it's a like for like trade and of equal value.

- Be very clear about exactly what they're getting.

People take liberties when they think they're getting something for 'free' and will often push for more.

Make it clear this is a one-off or only applies to this transaction.  Any further work is a separate transaction and requires full payment.  If you've already given away or traded your services once - they may well expect a discount for anything else.

Does the person offering the trade actually value what you do or are they just after a freebie?  If they can't afford you normally, they won't value what you do and are more likely to end up being difficult to work with, quibble over price and ask for more.

One of the businesses I'm working with recently fell foul of this.  They agreed to a trade of equal value.

  • What they got wasn't actually worth it for their business.
  • What they offered was accepted and agreed. But the additional work they took on was changed several times and last minute changes and additions were even made on the day.

Needless to say a discount was also 'assumed' and they were left chasing payment.  Fortunately they've now been paid for most of the work but are still waiting for payment for the additional work completed on the day.

P.S. Be aware of the tax implications of bartering your services.

'Maori bartering a crayfish' (Photo credit: The British Library)

The Right To Flexible Working

flexible storage

From June this year all employees in the UK (who've been employed for 6 months) can now request flexible working.

Just because they can, doesn't mean they will or that it will suit every employee or business.  Don't panic - this could be great for your business.

Flexible working allows people to work in a different way:

  • reduced working hours - either permanently or temporarily
  • compressed hours - contracted hours in fewer (longer) days
  • park time working
  • overtime - to cover peaks in demand
  • working from home - full-time, part-time, occasional
  • job-share
  • different start/end times (flexitime)

You can attract the right people for your business - not everyone wants to work a standard 9-5, five days a week or your business might not need full-time staff.

You'll have a more productive, motivated and loyal workforce if people are able to work hours that fit around their lifestyle or other commitments - childcare, carer, life changes, study etc.

Saves time for travel and commuting which can be quite significant for many people.

Having a flexible working environment in your business could enable you to extend your business hours outside a standard working day by having staff who start early or finish later in the day.  Good for businesses with overseas customers or providers, as they can cover a broader timezone.

Reduces overtime and overhead costs, potentially freeing up office space or reducing the need for expansion.

You build a level of trust with your employees.  Once you've got over the idea they'll be sitting around watching daytime TV, they'll actually get a lot more done if they're working flexibly from home, away from the everyday distractions and interruptions in the office.

What you need to consider:

  • additional costs involved
  • reorganise, managing the existing workload
  • recruiting temporary or agency staff
  • skills and potential within the business
  • impact on quality and performance

Consider the needs of the business and your staff member before making a decision on whether flexible working is appropriate.

Useful resources:

The Right To Request Flexible Working (ACAS Guide)
Code of Practice (ACAS Guide)
Liberating or isolating - working from home
The benefits of flexible working

flexible (Photo credit: darkmatter)

And now it's Wimbledon

English: Wimbledon Championships
I might not have been glued to the World Cup but now Wimbledon is on - I have something to watch.

There's potentially more of an impact to office productivity, because the games are on during the working day.

Here's how I organise my time when I can, so that I can watch a few my favourite players.
  • Schedule my lunch break to catch up on the closing stages of a match.  The early ones will just be finishing and the later ones just starting.
  • Take frequent breaks.  This is something you should be doing anyway - you'll actually be more productive if you do - now you have an excuse.  See who's playing, who's still in, who's out.
  • Deal with emails or social media while watching a particularly good game.  These are potentially good tasks for multi-tasking, as they don't necessarily require focused concentration.  You can quickly clear and sort your email - flagging those that need more time or a measured response for later.
  • Be selective - I don't need to watch ALL the games to get involved and enjoy Wimbledon.  I rarely watch the women's games - too much grunting and shrieking just puts me off.
  • If a game is particularly gripping and I decide to spend longer watching it - I start earlier or finish a little later, spreading the working hours across the day rather than just between 9-5.
  • If I'm away from the home office for the day, there's always the daily evening updates to catch up on the highlights of the day and of course social media will keep you posted on events as they happen.  Be selective and be aware of 
OK, so I have the luxury of working from home and can be more flexible with my working day.

What about you?  Do you manage to watch the sporting events you enjoy while ensuring work gets done and you stay productive, or do you record or watch the highlights?

And next week we have the start of the Tour de France!

English: Wimbledon Championships (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

World Cup Productivity

2014 FIFA World Cup in Brasil
2014 FIFA World Cup in Brasil (Photo credit: alobos Life)
England may be out of the 2014 World Cup but business goes on as usual ... or does it.

With big sporting events there's a desire to get involved and this can have a significant impact on business and productivity.

What effect have you already seen on your business in the first  two weeks of the World Cup?

Are your staff taking time off work to catch up on key games?

As most of the games are in the afternoon, evening (UK time), it might only slightly impact the working day, but are they taking time off 'sick' the following day to recover?

The buzz around the World Cup can also keep people motivated to get things done before the end of the working day, so they can be ready for the 5pm kick-off.  This might actually increase productivity if employees realise the benefit to wasting less time, so they can finish early or on time.  On average we waste about two hours a day through distractions and interruptions.

Alternatively, they may now spend more time chatting to their friends and colleagues about scores, goals, penalties, players and controversial decisions, which distracts them from work.  Keep chatter to break times - frequent breaks are fine (within reason) as you'll actually work more effectively.

It's tougher on shift-workers who may well be working when the games are on but equally they'll have the benefit of being off-shift at other times.

If you don't already, you might consider flexible working - start early, finish early.  Allowing people to finish in time to watch the games.

Treat requests for holiday time and day's off fairly.  You need to ensure there's adequate cover in the office so that phones get answered, emails are responded to and work still gets done.

What are you doing to engage your staff but keep them motivated and productive?

Do I Have To Do Everything Around Here!?

Help Wanted...
Quite often when I'm talking about delegation - I'll hear the comment "Oh, but I've got no one to delegate to" or "Everyone 'delegates' to me".  Sometimes this might be the case, there really is no one else that can do the work but quite often there are ways and means.

If you run your own business - you can still delegate or outsource tasks that you either don't want to do or aren't your main skill or area of expertise, to other people.  You don't need to employ people to do this, you can outsource the task and add people to your 'business support team'.

- A book-keeper to keep your accounts up to date.
- A virtual assistant to do some of the paperwork, invoicing or deal with emails or social media.
- An admin person or office junior to help with paperwork, filing and data entry.
- A printer for your graphic and printing requirements.
- A web designer to update your website.

Anything that costs you more to do (in real terms) than it would to pay someone else to do - can and should be outsourced.  This gives you more time to focus on the important tasks that only you can do.

This doesn't just apply in business - you might feel you're chief cook and bottle washer at home but you can delegate there too.

- Delegate tidying up and a few simple household chores (get your partner and children involved)
- Delegate some of the gardening tasks - mowing the lawn, hedge-cutting to gardening services.
- Delegate DIY tasks - you know, the one's you always put off - painting, decorating.

Even if you are the person who ends up with all the work or there really is no one else you can delegate to, it's useful to know how to delegate effectively.

Know and understand the who, what, where, when and how - ask the right questions to make sure you know what's being expected of you and to make sure the task gets done.

Related articles:

What's your time worth
Who What Where When Why and How
Help Wanted... (Photo credit: Thewmatt)

The Importance of Taking Breaks

work caffeine
When you're too busy to stop, you often end up working right through the day without taking a proper break.

While I spend most of my time enabling people to get more done in their busy day, I also emphasise the importance of taking regular breaks.

You might think you're too busy to take a break, after all there's so much to be done, if you can squeeze another task in to that 5, 10, 30 minutes - it's another thing ticked off the list.

Actually taking a break can increase your productivity.  Your efficiency drops the longer you work on a task.  You lose focus and are more easily distracted.  Especially if it's not something that absolutely grab your undivided attention.

Take a break at least once an hour for a few minutes and then a longer break every 2-3 hours or so.  Ideally a break every 20-25 minutes is better.

Make sure you take that lunch break.  Skipping lunch or eating at your desk does you no good - physicalaly or mentally.

With more frequent breaks - not only will you be more productive when you get back to work but it's good to switch off mentally every now and then.

It's when you take a break or go and do something different that your sub-conscious often pops up with a solution to a problem or a great new idea ... you know those Eureka moments.

The longer you work, the more tired you become and the less productive you are, so it's wasted effort.  Better to stop before you get over-tired, take a decent break and come back refreshed.

So go on, take a break - you need it and you deserve it.

If you find it hard to take breaks - get in touch.  It's easier than you think.

work caffeine (Photo credit: #9)

Is lack of sleep affecting your performance?

Sleep Like A Baby
... and your health?

We all know the importance of sleep but more and more these days, people are getting less and less and feeling the effects.

Whether you're just putting in long hours at the office; running your own business outside of your full-time job; working at two jobs or just have a hectic lifestyle - we can all be impacted by not getting enough sleep.  Working long hours increases risk of heart attack.

We're programmed to respond to a day/night cycle and our internal body clock and our hormone cycles are disrupted when we don't get enough sleep.  As well as affecting our productivity during the day, it also impacts our health and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Taking your smartphone or iPad to bed and working late on your computer are bad habits that impact the quality and length of your sleep.  Leave technology out of the bedroom.  Is your smartphone depriving you of sleep.

Make sure that working late and stressing over your workload aren't keeping you up at night.  Get in touch if they are and find out how to get a better night's sleep.
Sleep Like A Baby (Photo credit: peasap)
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