Category Archives for "Employees"

Find the Right Balance for your Remote Workers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Covid-19 , Employees , Technology

Is your business planning to keep all or some of your employees working from home once the pandemic is over?  Though many giant companies are planning to keep employees working remotely, whether your company should do the same will depend on varying factors such the type of industry the size of your company and your available resources. Here are four things you should consider if you are planning to keep your workers working remotely.

1.  The resilience of your company and your employees - it can be difficult to create a workable balance between how things were done prior to the pandemic and how they will be done under the new conditions, and adjustments will need to be made. Companies can create a plan where some employees work from home and some work in the office, but remote employees should still have some on-site presence.  Distributing a workforce has to take into account business functions, workplace characteristics and office culture and weigh it against the preferences of the employer and employees.  As these changes will have quite an impact on your employees it is important that they are resilient and able to adapt to the changes so that their mental health, productivity and health and safety do not suffer.  

2.  Setting up a distributed workforce will require some logistics - work premises will need to adhere to new health and safety measures including ventilation, proper distancing and limited use of common spaces, but outside factors also have to be considered such as the use of public transit and access to the building.  Outside factors particularly can make it very difficult for a company to isolate itself even though they have the proper rules in place within the workplace they cannot control what is happening outside the office and the building.  Logistics for remote staff will include the home office set up, providing the equipment and technology and security measures to protect the business and it's information.  Clear remote working policies will need to be set including confidentiality agreements and compensation terms, vacation allowances and expense eligibility. 

3. Aligning employer and staff - some workers will want to return to the office but there will be those who prefer to remain at home.  The company needs to take into account each employees risk tolerance and remote working environment.  Not all employee situations are the same and can change, so employers and employees should be willing to be flexible as needs change. 

4.  One of the upsides of having remote workers is the ability to choose new employees from a wider pool of candidates anywhere in the world.  However these workers also come with additional responsibilities for the employer including adhering to different labour laws, tax laws and employment benefit obligations so it is important that the employer is familiar with the rules in each country where employees are working.  It is the new reality that many employees have made the change to work remotely and are looking for work that allows them to do that.  Employers need to pivot to accommodate these workers if they want to hold on to their talent and acquire new staff.  At the same time companies need to create an inclusive culture so that everyone feels part of the work team and this can include attending meetings in the office from time to time to keep in touch as face to face contact is invaluable.

From an article by Sophie Nicholls Jones

New Practices you Should Adopt Before Re-opening your Business

By Randall Orser | Business , Covid-19 , Employees

As businesses are slowly reopening employees who have been working remotely may slowly be phased back into the office.  To do this safely employers have to consider changes that make sense to protect their employees while still operating effectively.  A risk assessment should be done to look at all potential risks such as those that are hygiene related, safety related or involve staff scheduling and deciding what measures need to be put in place to reduce them.

Here are five best practices that employers should think about putting in place to create a safe as possible workplace.

Create a Task Force and a Contingency Plan - Establish a team to monitor the workplace.  They can create a response plan should workers test positive for workplace disruption and enabling the business to continue.  All contingency plans should be continually revised to reflect the current situation and should document all response lessons learned over time.

Communicate Effectively - Employers should communicate their return to work and safety plans effectively either through the task force or the health and safety representative.  Most employees will be anxious about the return to work and these anxieties need to be addressed by employers strongly communicating the safety plans to their staff.  Staff need to be kept up to date either weekly or even daily by email or conference call so that they know what practices are being put in place or revised to protect employees from potential risks or exposure and how these practices will affect their jobs.  It is a good idea to involve employees in conversations and safety plans.

Plan to have a slow return to work - Some companies are finding that having staff working from home is working successfully while for others it is a short term solution which is not sustainable. Phased returns, staggered shifts and different start and end times are a good way of reducing risk so that only a portion of the workforce is present at a given time.  Many companies are now used to working with a remote workforce so employers can decide who must return to work as soon as possible and who can be gradually called back.  Employers should be more flexible when considering the individual circumstances of employees such as those who are at a higher risk of serious illness or those who need to have child care in place.  

Maintaining Distance in the Workplace - Whatever the plans for the return to work employees should be returning to a set of guidelines to help them to continue physical distancing.  Working closely together is difficult to avoid in change rooms or manufacturing lines and even in offices there are challenges that arise in elevators, kitchens, washrooms and boardrooms.  It might be necessary to do some office re-design or create pods of workers to optimize physical distancing.  

Additional Guidelines;

  • How to deal with non-essential visitors 
  • Should employers be taking non-essential travel?
  • Guidance around self-isolation
  • Plans for workers who start to feel ill at work including who they should notify.
  • Implementing cleaning and hygiene measures including cleaning and sanitizing all common areas and providing hand washing and hand sanitizer facilities.

In BC employers can find help through the following resources:  

From an article by Ethan Rotberg

Tips for Pivoting your Business During Covid-19

By Randall Orser | Budget , Business , Covid-19 , Employees

In the past few months we have seen companies take amazing leaps to change the way they do business and manufacturing businesses retool to make new products to meet changed market demands.  From distilleries and hair product manufacturers making hand sanitizer, to clothing manufacturers making surgical gowns, other industries making ventilators and fine dining restaurants turning to take-out and delivery.

It used to take companies a long time to develop strategies to change manufacturing plans but during the pandemic it has been necessary for businesses to make new plans at lightening speed in order to stay in business and keep their workers employed.

However many companies are struggling to meet this new reality and need help to reinvent themselves.  Lior Zehtser from Connect CPA says that "To pivot, you really need to think outside the box and be comfortable with taking a risk and experimenting with a different or unique business model.  Your idea obviously has to take the friction away from close contact, so that anything delivery based or "contactless" would be a great start.

Here are some ideas that might help you to make some decisions:

1. Solving Delivery Dilemmas - the need for delivery especially in the food services sector is insatiable. An outside of the box way of shopping and delivering unique goods to customers is a good idea for a new business. It can be expanded from food to all kinds of products that people would like to have but are not shopping for if they are only going out for necessities.   

2. Going Back to Basics - instead of producing your whole range of products concentrate on the ones that are most popular to make best use of your resources.  Companies are listening to what consumers want the most and are limiting their production to those high demand products instead of producing their whole range of products.

3.  Provide Entertainment -  as families are spending more time together at home offering them a diversion to relieve the boredom is a great idea.  Specialty bookstores and game stores are offering delivery services which are successfully increasing their bottom line.

4. Add to your Product Mix - for example if you are a company that usually delivers drinks or snacks to offices pivot to making home deliveries and add other basics such as milk, eggs and bread and fruit and vegetables.  Many restaurants are doing this by adding many of their sauces and desserts etc to their menus so that people can cook at home with gourmet foods as well as having meals delivered.

5. Make a Product to Help to Fill Health Needs - many distilleries are making hand sanitizers and hand wipes and offering them for free or at a discount to essential service providers.  This is a way to give back to the community and builds brand loyalty.   Many clothing manufacturers have pivoted to making face masks and surgical gowns as well as fashion face masks for sale direct to customers.  

6. Take your Business Online - live streaming and video conferencing are the new ways to stay connected and do business.  By doing this you can keep in touch with your customers and suppliers but at the same time have the chance to acquire a completely new audience.  

7.  Join a Group of Other Companies Seeking Solutions - to build contacts and nurture ideas to help to create opportunities for your business and others.

8.  Get Inspired Globally - look online and find inspiration from what others are doing.  Learn how other businesses around the world are adapting and discover new inventions from companies and individuals that are helping in the pandemic.

9.  Support your Community - connect with charities in your area to see how you can help your neighbours.  Offer discounts on the purchase and delivery of your products, everyone loves a deal and it brings in customers which will help your bottom line.

10. Keep yourself up to date with the latest trends - no matter when the crisis ends the way that businesses operate has changed forever.  It is important to stay on top of changing consumer demands and have a flexible plan to allow your business to keep adapting to meet those demands.

From an article by Margaret Craig-Bourdin

What Small Businesses can do to Survive the Pandemic

By Randall Orser | Budget , Covid-19 , Employees , Small Business

Businesses are doing all they can to navigate the unknown and to stay afloat during the pandemic, including laying off staff and reduced hours.  However up to 30% of small businesses are going to be unable to survive according to Jasmin Guenette from the CFIB.  

Here are a few actions that small businesses could take that might help them to deal with their situation.

  1. Check your reserves and insurance - talk with your accountant about your cash flow and reserves and how they can be best used.  Also check your insurance policy to see if there is anything that can be covered for lost income.  Even though many businesses have business interruption insurance, as this is a pandemic it does not count. 
  2. Have honest conversations with your staff about how you are going to try and keep them on the payroll but what might need to be done if your situation worsens.  
  3. Brainstorm with your staff for any ideas about how things could be done differently to save money and layoffs.
  4. Think about allowing your employees to work from home if it is possible in your business. If you can save on rent and utilities for your small office that could help your bottom line.
  5. Think about reducing business hours if possible.  This will give employees extra time to carry out cleaning and sanitizing for the office or if your are open to the public.
  6. If your business is open make sure that you follow all health and safety protocols to ensure a safe environment for your staff and the public.  Make sure all staff are fully trained and know what is expected of them.  
  7. Talk to your suppliers and lenders about stretching your payments and make sure that you take advantage of all the government, provincial and municipal help available to you.
  8. Get help from your accountant and business advisors to decide which government programs are most appropriate for your business.
  9. Continually think and plan ahead to see what you can do to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on your business. 
  10. Consult useful resources geared to small business:

From an article by Margaret Craig-Bourdin                              

How the Pandemic is Affecting Canadian Businesses

By Randall Orser | Budget , Covid-19 , Employees , Small Business

Even though many small businesses have fully or partially reopened the financial effects of the pandemic have been disastrous.  The serious decrease in revenue has meant that many have had to take on debt in order to stay afloat and many are calling for further government financial help.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has been tracking small businesses through the pandemic and the most recent survey of more than 4000 businesses found that 40% of them have seen revenues drop by 70% and & 70% have seen revenues drop by at least 30%.  

Even with the easing of restrictions by provinces and municipalities allowing for small businesses to reopen it is going to be a long time until sectors such as hospitality and entertainment will start to show a profit again.  Ted Mallet the vice president and chief economist of the CFIB has said it is more difficult for small businesses to operate now and despite being patronized by people who love unique products and services, many of these businesses will not survive.

The new reopening rules mean that restaurants are only able to have 50% of their normal capacity.  They usually have a profit margin of 3-5% when times are good so despite having curtsied pick up and home delivery it is difficult for many to continue to hang on. 

The CFIB survey found that 34% of respondents were behind on their major bills such as rent, credit card bills and critical suppliers, that number is 47% in the hospitality sector.  More than 25% said that their biggest worry was having to close their business, they are borrowing money to keep going but are building up debt that is going to be difficult to pay down.  In addition they have the costs associated with the changes necessary to operate their business post lockdown.

Though it is doom and gloom for many businesses, due to a change in consumer behaviour there are some business that are thriving, including home-gym products, those selling renovation products on-line, hobby shops and bike shops but these businesses are in the minority.

From an article by Ethan Rotberg CPA Canada

Will Covid-19 Relief Measures Affect my Taxes?

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Employees , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Small Business

Accountants are not completely certain how the various government benefits being received by individuals and businesses during the pandemic will affect their tax bill next year.  However what will be certain is that if the benefit is a taxable benefit then you need to be prepared to pay tax on it in 2021 when you file your 2020 tax return.

As of April 2020 here is the information available from the CRA website and current legislation.

1. For Individuals

  • Any CERB payments are taxable, any payments that you have received will have to entered onto your tax return and an information slip will be available to you next year in MyAccount under Information slips so that you can enter your income in the correct boxes on your tax return.
  • One time additional payments for the Canada Child Benefit and the GST/HST tax credit are tax free and it is not expected that this will change in 2020.  The GST payment is also tax free and it is not expected that this will change.
  • If your student loan payments have been suspended then you will probably not have as much allowable student loan interest to claim on your income tax return as long as it is a qualifying student loan per CRA guidelines.
  • Deferred payments under mortgage support are added to the outstanding principal balance and are repaid over the life of the mortgage.  The mortgage support system is managed specifically by your lender and any deferral of payments is an arrangement between you and them.  The only impact on your taxes might be experienced by those who are self-employed who are able to claim business use or use of home expenses on their tax return.
  • The minimum withdrawal limit under the RRIF has been reduced by 25% for 2020 which means that if you take out less money you will pay less tax as money in your RRIF is only taxable when it is withdrawn.  

2. For Businesses

  • Tax credits and other benefits provided by the government still apply so any money received as a wage subsidy is considered government assistance and is included in the employers taxable income.  If you apply for the CEWS benefit you need to understand the tax implications of receiving this benefit.  The subsidy must be noted in your bookkeeping records and will become part of your business income that you report on your T2125.  
  • The TEWS or Temporary Wage Subsidy will be recorded in the same way.  The subsidies are a reduction in the amount that you send to the government for income taxes that you withheld from your employees and it becomes income for your business.  

It is paramount that you keep accurate accounting records throughout 2020 as they will be very important when you do your tax return in 2021.

From an article by Susan Watkin

How to Manage Flexible Work Arrangements for your Business

By Randall Orser | Employees , Small Business

Prior to the pandemic employees were already looking for new incentives to keep themselves motivated and engaged including the most popular one flexible working arrangements.

From an employers point of view offering flexible working means that there are some hurdles to be overcome. These can include the feeling that not making full use of the office space that they have invested in is a waste of money and secondly how can they make sure that their employees are being productive if they are not continually supervising them?

Due to the pandemic many more employees are working from home employers have had to change their mindset to embrace this.  For example instead of measuring the amount of hours spent at their desks they need to measure their employees productivity. Previous research into flexible working arrangements showed that employees have a greater degree of job satisfaction and higher productivity rates when they work away from the office.

It is true that flexible working arrangements do not work for every business especially if face-to-face contact with clients is important. However during the pandemic many businesses are getting around this by setting up Zoom meetings with their clients.  

Flexible Work Locations:

Offering flexible work arrangements will include work locations.  Employees can work in the office part of the week and from outside the office the remainder of the week whether it be at home or at another remote location of their choice.  Alternatively they can work entirely out of the office and just be in the office for special training, staff meetings or special events.  One advantage to this system is that employers do not have to hire talented workers who live locally instead they can hire from the best talent available in the industry wherever they live.

Flexible Schedules:

Instead of the 9-5 schedule required in the office employers can allow workers to set their own eight hour work day within a 12 hour period, or they can work 10 hour days for four days a week.  This schedule could be subject to change after a 3 or 6 month time period depending upon the requirements of the company.  

Job Sharing:

Job sharing allows two employees to share one full time job.  Sometimes an employer cannot find a person to work full time but can find two employees who can share the tasks which often happens in businesses that hire from an employee pool including students, mothers and seniors.  The benefit of this to the employer is that they often do not have to pay the same benefits to part time workers that they pay to their full time staff thereby saving on overhead.   The downside is that the employer will responsible for coordinating the work between the two employees to make sure that all the required tasks are completed and that everyone is on the same page.

Although flexible working comes with advantages and disadvantages for both employers and employees these arrangements were becoming more popular but the outbreak of Covid-19 has seen an  unprecedented move from office to home working.  It will now remain to be seen how many companies will continue to have their employees working remotely.

From an article by Alyssa Gregory

Four Things Not to Do While Working at Home During the Pandemic

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Freelancing

Many people and businesses were already considering working from home prior to the pandemic, but once social distancing became a reality it accelerated the movement from office to home working.  This has been a massive and sudden transition for everyone involved and it has brought about a new way of working for many of us.

While many thought that they would easily embrace working from home, many also found that it has a set of challenges to overcome.  So whether you are enjoying this new way of working or you are struggling here are a few things that you could do to make your working at home experience more positive and productive.

  1. Don't be Overwhelmed by Small Details  -  Don't be stressed by the sounds around you such as traffic, children and pets which can make your working conditions less than ideal. Other people are also dealing with these distractions, so when you make video or phone calls make light of your less than ideal working conditions to relieve your own anxiety.
  2.  Don't wear pyjamas all day and don't take video or phone calls while still in bed or in the washroom. As much as possible remain professional in your interactions with clients and peers. Get into the work mindset, dress appropriately and allow yourself the usual breaks that you would take if you were in the office.  Try and keep your work routine as normal as possible.
  3. Don't go silent, make sure you keep lines of communication open with other work colleagues and team members.  Set up regular check in times and video meetings this will provide you with regular updates and keep you feeling like you are still an important part of the team.
  4. Don't work in uncomfortable conditions.  It is easy to set yourself up with your laptop in bed or on uncomfortable chairs at the dining table but this will result in aches and pains which will distract you from the tasks that you are trying to complete.  Even if it is only a desk and chair in the corner of your bedroom, set yourself up with a comfortable and ergonomic workspace.

From Dr Laura Hambly on Global News

How to Stay Motivated When Working from Home

By Randall Orser | Employees , Home Based Business , Small Business

Due to the coronavirus many more people are joining those already working from home.  It is quite a change from your normal routine of going into the office five days a week and working with others, so you need to make your new work environment as comfortable as possible for you to be productive.  When working for your company from home you should still to stick to your normal hours of work as much as possible and it is important to keep in touch with your colleagues by phone or video conferencing so that you do not feel isolated.  

For those who are their own boss and have been working from home for a while you don’t need to worry about being late for work, being written up, laid off or fired.  However, you are solely in charge, so it is up to you to face all the challenges involved in owning a business, most of all making money.  

If you are now finding yourself in one of these two situations how do you stay motivated while working from home?

1. Work-life vs Family Life

When working at home family can be your biggest distraction, particularly now as most of your family including kids may be at home.  It is vital to set up a separate room in your house to work where you can close the door if necessary.  You need to let the family know that when you are in that room you are working and unavailable except for an emergency.  Don’t forget that this separate workspace can allow for a tax deduction if you are self-employed.

2. Keeping your concentration when working from home

Difficulty concentrating one of the biggest problems reported by people who work from home.  You may have to deal with family noise, activities outside your window or even the view of your backyard especially if the sun is shining.  You may be disturbed by people who have a hard time accepting that you are working from home and think that you can run errands for them or that you have time to chat on the phone.  Some solutions to these problems might be to close the blinds, wear noise reducing headphones or ask the family not to do noisy activities while you are working.  You also need to make sure that friends and relatives know that you are not available between certain hours because you are

working.

3. Motivational Challenges

It is up to you to motivate and challenge yourself unless you are still employed by a company and working from home.  In that instance you still have to answer emails and phone calls from colleagues for information and updates.  This will help to keep your mind on the job.  If you own your own business, it can be way more difficult to keep motivated and let your attention slip to more appealing things.  You need to keep your end goal in mind which is to grow your business and make money


4. Dealing with the lack of Office Equipment

If you are working from home, either temporarily or permanently it is important for you to have the necessary equipment to do your job.  When you are working for an employer at home, they should provide the equipment that you need to do the job.  If own your own business, you should invest in the office equipment that you need.  These days computers, and multifunction printers and scanners are way less expensive than they used to be.  Look out for low interest and interest free deals offered by stores to help reduce the costs and you may be able to offset some of these expenses on your taxes.

5. Getting Access to Company Documents

If you are working from home for your employer, they need to set up a way for you to able to access company documents from home over the internet.  There are many programs and apps that will allow you to do that easily.

6. Egonomic Issues

It can be difficult to keep your concentration if you are not comfortable in your workspace.  Make sure you are equipped with a proper office desk and office chair to support your back, neck and shoulders. Take a few minutes break each hour or two and standup, walk about and stretch.  Be conscious of your posture while working as bad posture will result in pain and trips to the chiropractor or for physio.

As working from home is becoming more of the norm and may become even more so as companies realize that their employees working remotely can save them money, and workers find that working from home gives them a better work-life balance.

Working from Home – Why it can be Advantageous for Employers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Small Business

If your boss is on the fence about allowing you to work from home a compelling study from Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom was featured in an article by Ari Surdoval in Ideas.Ted.Com showed that it can be very advantageous especially for employers. 

When most people imagine working from home they see someone in their pajamas watching Netflix on their laptop.   They believe that working from home can be shirking from home.  Professor Bloom had previously worked from home himself and knew that it was becoming more and more common around the world, so he believed that there had to be more to it than just watching Netflix.  

In the US the number of people working from home has tripled over the past 30 years and was 2.4% of the workforce in 2017.  In countries where mobile technology and improving digital connections have coincided with traffic congestion and sky high commercial rents between 10 and 20% of employees work from home for at least part of their work week.  This was true of the company Bloom used for his controlled trial to put remote work to the test.  The company was one of China's largest travel agencies with a workforce of 16,000.  The company CEO recognized that the company was losing many employees in part due to workers being priced out of the city of Shanghai and having to endure long commutes.

More than 500 employees in the call centre volunteered, about half met the study qualifications which included having a private room at home in which to work and a decent broadband connection as well has having been an employee for six months.  Those with even numbered birthdays would telecommute four days a week while the others would remain in the office as a control group.  Company managers were concerned that as the call centre workers were among the youngest in the company they might be easily distracted without supervision.  

The study lasted for nine months and the results stunned Bloom and the CEO.  The company saved $1900 per employee on office space during the study


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