Phil Sugden, director at flexible workspace solutions provider, Portal Group, discusses how rapidly growing SMEs can alleviate the extensive capex obligations incurred when relocating offices.
For both small and large businesses alike, an office move can be an incredibly daunting and time-consuming process.
The start of a brand new year offers businesses a crucial opportunity to attract new talent. January is not only a peak time for prospective employees to begin looking for their next career move, but also a key time for growing SMEs to consider relocating their workspaces to larger premises due to growth[i].
However, the uncertainty of the current market conditions, and of course Brexit, means that UK-based SMEs are now required to adapt their operations to become more flexible than ever before.
The fixed terms and extensive lease lengths associated with the conventional leasing model can present significant challenges for smaller businesses experiencing rapid growth.
While growth is one of the most esteemed characteristics of any successful organisation, research has found that 78% of SMEs actually delay moving offices due to the stress associated with property acquisition[ii].
Despite this, property expansion is a fundamental phase for SMEs. Relocating to larger premises allows businesses to meet fluctuating demands, while also facilitating the introduction of a larger workforce.
Property acquisition is commonly considered to be one of the most costly financial investments a small business can encounter. Under a traditional lease, business owners must consider an array of different expenses, including fit out and facilities management at the start of a new lease, and dilapidations and exit fees at the end of their current lease.
Unpredictable fees can have a seriously negative impact on businesses, forcing even the most well-established businesses to reassess their budgets. With various different costs incurred throughout the process, forecasted budgets can easily be exceeded due to delays, oversights and issues emerging unexpectedly.
This, in addition to the time-consuming process of acquiring the multiple formal approvals required for revising budgets, can have a detrimental effect on output and productivity.
In comparison to other areas of the business, property acquisition under the traditional office lease presents a substantial capex obligation, and the cost is not always guaranteed if the project is managed incorrectly.
As a result, SMEs today are far less attracted to the financial burden of a lengthy traditional lease, and instead far more attracted to contemporary workspace contracts that can facilitate their future growth strategies.
Small to medium sized businesses are now viewing their office space requirements as a strategic component of their business plan, and thus opting for more flexible leasing options at a fixed price, with no additional costs.
In the UK today, the vast majority of traditional office leases require a commitment for a 10-15 year fixed term. For SMEs growing in a rapidly evolving market place, this can limit future business developments and changes to working culture.
The contract lengths for managed office options, however, typically range from 3-5 years. This enables companies that require a high number of workstations, to closely align their accommodation requirements with their actual business needs, allowing them to expand or downsize as required.
The first step of the property expansion process is sourcing a suitable building and location. Under the traditional office lease, businesses are required to self-source their chosen property. Packaged offerings will undertake a bespoke property search which closely aligns with business requirements, in addition to handling the entire project management, which will be combined into a single cost.
Once a suitable property has been selected, the terms of the contract can then be negotiated. This is a crucial time for SMEs to reflect on their growth strategy and meticulously forecast for how their property requirements could change over the given time period.
Once negotiations have completed, SMEs relocating under the traditional lease should begin the process of relocating their IT and telephony infrastructure. This is a critical part of the relocation process, and one of the biggest causes of reductions in productivity if not managed correctly. Managed office models integrate the IT move into the project, minimising business interruption and downtime.
One of the final stages of the expansion process is fitting out the new workspace. SMEs should carefully consider the time, resource and costs associated with designing and branding their new office. If opting for a conventional lease, this will need to be outsourced, in addition to sourcing the furniture and managing the utilities, which can present a substantial additional expenditure
Businesses are also highly restricted on how they can utilise their office space to reflect their brand and organisational culture. With flexible managed office models, office design is determined by the occupier and not the provider, and can be bespoke to the business’s requirements.
Under the traditional office lease, the possibility that SMEs may need to expand, reduce, reallocate or relocate their workforce can be extremely costly and entirely impractical. Conversely, opting for a managed office approach will allow contracts to be priced on a per workstation basis with no capital expenditure or risk.
With simple, streamlined systems and structured terms from managed office options, business owners can invest their time, effort and money into their businesses, not bricks and mortar.
Simply put, the rise of companies opting for flexible office options is allowing them to not only access all the amenities they need at a fixed price, but also to eliminate risk and work within a flexible financial model that fosters their own unique growth and culture.
For more information visit www.portalgroup.uk.com.
Young adults lean towards ‘on-the-job’ learning as 6 in 10 say pandemic has impacted educational plans
- Six in 10 (61%) of 16-25s agree learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way to get on the jobs ladder in the current environment
- 59% would rather study a degree subject connected to a profession than one they are good at
- 59% believe tech sector offers strong career opportunities and is voted most futureproof sector by 16-25s following the pandemic
- QuickBooks launches free online programming course with Amigoscode to help young people kickstart their tech career
Nearly two thirds (63%) of 16-25s have seen their future educational plans impacted by the pandemic, new research from Intuit QuickBooks1 – the financial software provider – reveals, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 driving young people to look for faster and more secure ways to get jobs.
And with more than half a million young people now unemployed – a rise of 35,000 from the previous quarter2 – six in ten (61%) 16-25s agree that learning ‘on-the-job’ is the best way of getting on the careers ladder in the current environment.
With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of more ‘futureproof’ career options, the technology sector has been identified by 16-25s as offering particularly strong career opportunities (59%).
To help young people kickstart their tech career, QuickBooks – home to top UK tech talent – has launched a free online programming course with Amigoscode.
Careers-focused learning takes priority
If they were to attend university or study for a degree, 59% of 16-25s would rather study a subject connected to a profession than one they’re good at, while nearly a third (31%) would only consider studying for a degree that would help them get a job in a sector that is likely to grow in future.
However, almost half (45%) of 16-25s are now reconsidering attending university at all. A quarter (26%) believe it is now more important to get on the job ladder than get a degree, while 19% don’t want to go to university because they are worried about their safety.
As remote learning becomes the new norm, more than a quarter (28%) of 16-25s now plan to carry out an online university degree (such as those offered by the Open University) instead of physically going to university.
Technology sector is voted most futureproof
The research reveals 16-25s believe the technology sector is the most futureproof (40%), ranking significantly higher above the second most popular option (construction – 27%).
Almost a fifth (19%) of the 16-25s surveyed already have a career in the technology sector, while 34% are considering it – rising to 38% of those aged 16-19.
Of those who are interested in the sector but are not currently considering it, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing how to get a job in this area (32%), closely followed by having never received any information about the sector from careers advisors etc. (30%). A quarter (25%) don’t think they could afford to undertake the necessary training or qualifications to get a job in the sector.
Ben Brown, Head of Engineering at Intuit QuickBooks, comments:
“With COVID-19 causing economic uncertainty and driving unemployment levels, young people are increasingly looking for ways to fast-track onto the careers ladder. And getting straight into the tech sector, which has proven to be resilient in the face of the pandemic, is particularly appealing. Technology, after all, is the fuel that has allowed many other sectors to continue operating.
“On-the-job learning is common in the tech sector, but to be a successful candidate, applicants need to demonstrate genuine interest and enthusiasm by having carried out their own independent learning. Employers can enable this by creating opportunities for young people to take part in free training courses and taster sessions, which helps them to gain valuable skills and decide if the sector is for them.
“QuickBooks engineers frequently host and coach participants through Code First Girls sessions – which are aimed at women looking to learn more about programming – and we are thrilled to be partnering with Amigoscode to offer a free programming course.”
Nelson Djalo, Founder of free coding resource Amigoscode and Software Engineer, comments:
“The perception of not having enough knowledge is the main barrier to young people getting into the technology sector. Skills can be built over time – passion, drive and a willingness to learn are the most important qualities to have. People from lots of different backgrounds and interests can get into the sector, and there are a whole host of roles aside from programming and software engineering.
“I offer programming courses and coding tutorials because I believe the sector should be accessible to anyone. I’m pleased to be partnering with QuickBooks to offer a tailormade course for anyone who is interested in getting into the industry and wants to learn more about programming.”
The Amigoscode x QuickBooks course is available here as a video, and here as a playlist. The 2.5 hour course and video playlist covers the basics of programming; the basics of Python and a project task (building a CV). Participants will also build a portfolio which could be the starting point of their tech journey/career.
Watch Nelson’s other tutorials on the Amigoscode YouTube channel here.
Case studies of young QuickBooks software engineers are available on request.
Five things to consider when organising a remote work Christmas party
By Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula
Christmas is usually a time of cheer and celebration, and the perfect way for employers to incorporate this in the workplace is by organising a Christmas party for their staff. However, things will have to be a little different this year due to the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While the easiest, and cheapest, option for employers is to not go ahead with their annual festive plans, in the spirit of keeping Christmas alive some may choose to organise a remote party.
There are, however, some important things that employers should be aware of.
- The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for employers to keep their employees’ wellbeing in mind, much more than ever before. This is why, even with something that can be considered a ‘treat’ for employees, people who are working carers, have been struggling with work-related stresses, may not want to partake in a Christmas party this year, however well-intentioned it may be on the employer’s part. It is therefore advisable that remote parties should be optional and not constrained to a certain timeframe in which staff must be in attendance.
- Employers should ensure that those in attendance do not feel excluded from any activities during the party. For example, if an employee does not drink alcohol and a virtual wine tasting activity makes up the bulk of the event, such a person would not be able to contribute to the fun and may therefore feel left out. Consequently, it may be better for employers to ensure that there is a wide range of activities available that cater to the individuals who are attending.
- When attendees and potential attendees, have been established and the activities have been finalised, it is in the best interest of the company to send out emails to them. It should detail what is expected of them at the event and highlight that the same conduct is expected of them at a remote party as it would be at an in-person event. It should also outline that the same disciplinary procedures would apply in a situation where an employee commits a form of misconduct during the event.
- Similarly, employees should be made aware that the same grievance produce applies – to ensure that if company rules are broken by an employee or a grievance with the company itself, the affected employee will be able to raise this with the company.
- Finally, while employees can use their social media accounts in their own personal time, including at work social gatherings, employers must ensure that the use of social media should be done in a manner that does not adversely affect the company’s reputation.
To conclude, remote parties are the perfect way to ensure that social distancing rules are adhered to and that employees are rewarded for their efforts, there should be a mutual sense of responsibility on the part of the company and its employees.
Reasons to remote manage in a socially distanced world
By Paul Routledge Country Manager D-Link UK and Ireland
As the world continues to adapt in varying degrees to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and enterprises will find themselves adjusting to more permanent, new ways of working, problem-solving and service delivery. Governments and global leaders have already introduced new measures to support these adjustments, and as a result we have already seen many companies re-evaluate how they work as well as how teams are organized and provided for. As the pandemic remains a fixture of this year of which the impact will continue to be felt in the year ahead, it’s becoming clear that the role of technology and the innovation therein will be key to ensuring businesses can weather ongoing the crisis.
For many businesses, until recent years, the vast bulk of network management was conducted and carried out on location at the client site. However, the value of remote network management has fast become an asset to businesses in the 21st century – giving IT service providers more capacity to manage a larger number of customer sites at any given time.
In addition, remote network management solutions play an important role in increasing transparency across sites by providing a complete view of the status of different networks via comprehensive interactive dashboards and informative management systems. For example, Nuclias by D-Link offers an easy to set up network management solution that provides flexibility to make onboarding, studying, troubleshooting, and reporting network activity quick and easy.
For IT service providers, establishing new ways of working is particularly important. As they seek alternative methods of supporting customers in different locations, many will be looking to the advantages that remote network management has to offer.
Before the pandemic, D-Link Europe explored the state of play of network management and challenges its partners were facing in this space. The study found that, 75% of IT service providers in Europe were already using remote access tools to support or manage network infrastructure on customer sites, yet a quarter (25%) were still relying on in-person visits to resolve network issues for customers.
Interestingly, the findings show that the larger the number of clients a provider has, the less likely they are to use remote management tools. Only 22% of European IT service providers surveyed provide more than 50 customers with remote management services. Complete adoption of remote network management methods will be a gradual process, yet the pandemic and the government restrictions in place across much of Europe have a part to play in creating the circumstances where in-person visits occur much less often if at all.
As a result, it is likely we will see a more permanent adoption of remote networking management systems – as businesses work hard to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and an unpredicatable year ahead. The point of this will not only to provide network management services in a more efficient and less time-consuming way but also to uphold the safety measures now expected of most workplaces.
This is particularly pertinent in an environement where businesses are limiting contact in the workplace and adhering to safetymechanisms also seen more widely in society – including technologies such as group temperature screening cameras as well as track and trace systems. There is a clear opportunity for IT service providers to make the most of remote networking management tools’ benefits to uphold the safety and health of their own employees, as well as personnel at client sites by reducing unnecessary human contact.
An additional benefit to be reaped from remote network management is how IT service providers can economise on time spent travelling to and from client sites, in addition to time spent resolving issues on-site. D-Link research found that 60% of European IT service providers spend between four to six hours per week installing and configuring new wireless or wired networks at client sites. This additional time spent travelling to and from client sites puts employees at particular risk, especially as they often travel long distances to get there.
What’s more, in terms of the time technicians usually spend at client sites, when it comes to configuring a replacement wireless access point, only 31% of providers feel they can keep this service under one hour. Remote network management allows technicians to use this time more effectively. Nuclias by D-Link, for example, will enable administrators to stay on top of any management tasks like creating guest networks, adding Wi-Fi to additional locations, updating devices and upholding network security.
Furthermore, IT service providers will be able to offer their clients more benefits, by providing centralised management and more visibility of their network, allowing them to act on network disruptions and problems before they become pervasive issues. Nuclias Cloud is designed for smaller businesses who lack in-house IT skills, such as hospitality and retail chains. These companies can benefit from easy network expansion and implementation of updates without the need for additional training.
Remote management solutions, like Nuclias, are also well-placed to support the growth of IT service providers as they look to offer more managed services. Not only do they enable teams to provide deployments but also increased administration services and supervision of client networks; resulting in improved reactivity to issues and better quality of service. The added advantage of unlimited scalability, thanks to the use of cloud-enabled devices, means providers can also keep resources and costs low – generating a more significant return on investment.
Right now, it still feels like there is some way to go before normal life resumes – however, as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 become more apparent, companies worldwide will need to continue to relying on innovative technology to tackle workplace concerns. With solutions such as remote network management playing an important role in supporting service providers and their clients as they do.
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