British businesses have had a lot to contend with recently, what with the economic slowdown and the drop in net lending to businesses. The challenge that remains for SMEs of today is for them to remain productive whilst keeping down their costs. One way to do this is to embrace the huge advances being made by remote working and sharing tools and developing a flexible attitude towards staffing out your workforce.
One thing that the past years of recession has taught us is how to adapt and improvise and SME’s are in a great position to do this. They have agility and flexibility on their side; allowing them to adopt new practises with relative ease. The increasing influence of mobile technology and internet services has opened the floodgate for new and exciting workforce solutions for small businesses which will help ensure they stay on par with or ahead of their larger competitors. Here are some ideas for you to think about:
1. Do you even need an office space anymore?
Freshbooks questions whether small businesses really need an office at all anymore. Cloud computing has made it possible for people to work from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection and many UK workers are opting to work remotely rather than within the traditional office space.
Of course, not having an office will significantly lower your overheads, making it an attractive option if you’re just starting out your business or need resource for other areas. You’ll save on rent, utility bills and insurance before even considering the staff-related benefits. There would be no transport costs for you or your staff and commuting times are eliminated. Londoners top the list for having the longest commute in the UK, spending on average 56 minutes travelling to and from work each day.
The availability of cheap or free business applications and programmes strengthen the argument to lose the office; you could start using Google Hangouts for example, a free and easy way of hosting face to face discussions with team members in different locations.
2. Offer the option of working remotely to attract the best minds
In the quest to become more productive regardless of your company’s location, remote working allows you to hire the skilled people you need to grow your business, whether they live in the next town or on the other side of the world. Hiring the best person for the job is no longer limited by geography, essentially multiplying the size of your recruitment pool.
Having the option of working remotely is also a selling point for your business and could promote employee retention as well as attracting new, bright minds who like the concept of more freedom around how and where they work.
This is a growing trend as well: remote workers has nearly tripled over an 8 year period to 2011.
3. Find yourself a freelancer
We’re seeing a shift from the traditional 9-5 roles to project-based work meaning freelancers are having a pretty good time of it at the moment. Forbes reports that in 2012 alone, the part-time and project-based workforce generated $200 million in earnings from Elance, an online marketplace connecting freelancers with employers. Their report suggests that if you’re in web design, you’ll have seen your earnings increase by a whopping 205% over the past year, due to the increasing popularity of hiring a freelancer.
If you need a specific job done and you don’t have the internal resource, freelancers can fit that gap. Hiring people with a specific expertise may save you time, money and resource. You get back to what you’re doing best; running your business, and you can let the experts do what they do best, on your terms.
There are a number of sites that can connect your business with freelancers, such as Elance, oDesk, Freelancer, People per hour and Fiverr, where tasks start at just $5.
There is also TaskRabbit in the US, who allow you to outsource household errands and skilled tasks. They say they’ll be opening in the UK this year too.
4. Offer flexibility to promote a happier and more productive workforce
Having a flexible attitude to working hours can also contribute to improved and increased output, a report by Lloyds Commercial Banking suggests. They found that flexible working had improved staff morale, which in turn helped them better meet customer demand. Almost half of the small businesses in the sample reported an increase in productivity too.
Flexibility could simply mean giving staff the option to avoid peak times; they decide between starting work earlier or later than the rest of the population to avoid the stressful commute, which has adverse effects on our health.
The Financial Times reported that the London Olympics was a great example of the success of flexible hours. This could very well lead to a happier and more productive workforce, which O2 witnessed during the Games when they promoted flexible working.
5. Part-time or shift work
Although this concept is not so much an unusual staffing solution, there are still reasons as to why part-time workers could be essential for your business growth. If a job was repetitious for example, it’s important to have people working in short, sharp bursts so concentration on the task in hand is maintained. Or, perhaps you only need staff for certain hours of the day, as you would find in the catering industry. It makes financial sense to employ people as and when you need them.
There’s also the benefit to the employee; shift work may work better for many people, who have other commitments with their family or their studies.
As an added benefit to the business, you’ll need less office space which will lower your overheads as you limit the headcount in your business at any given time.
6. Hold off from employing that extra person, could the solution be online?
Take for example, your bookkeeping. There are numerous accounting tools which you can find online that will not only simplify the job in hand, but may also save on hiring an extra person.
HR is an area where you may be able to get by with online solutions, such as My HR Toolkit, Tribe HR, and Bamboo HR to name a few, which will all help to streamline your HR admin without an extra pay-slip.
There are also a number of web-design software packages out there, so if you don’t have the internal resource for an extra employee or freelancer, you could start creating your web-page yourself by using any of the following tools: 350 pages, Moonfruit and Weebly.
With all of these online solutions it’s important to shop around and find the software package to suit your needs. The likelihood is, there’s definitely something out there for you and your business.
What other staffing solutions can you recommend?