Every business has specific times during the year that are generally very busy. For example, tax time for an accountant; summer time for a landscaping business; the holiday season for a custom gift business. It is very important that everyone in the company has the opportunity to take a deep breath when he or she needs it during these busy times. It’s good for your people, and it’s good for your business.
The good news is that with a little planning you can get ahead of the game, head off unnecessary stress and avoid burnout. As a small business owner, here’s what you can do.
You know when your business tends to ramp up, so make sure your staff is aware of the anticipated busy season. Set a deadline for submitting leave requests during the busy times, and let your staff know that last-minute requests will not be granted except in the event of an emergency. This gives you a better picture of your staffing needs and helps you make sure your busiest days are covered.
Stress levels soar when your staff is unable to keep up with the needs of customers, so this helps you head that off before it even starts.
Use the schedule you created for your regular staff to determine whether or not you will need to hire full-time or part-time temporary help. Then post job announcements a few months prior to your intended start date to allow sufficient time for interviews and offers. If you’re debating whether to grant overtime or hire additional employees, remember that balance is important. Seasonal staff make it possible for you to give your regular employees a much-needed break.
Before you jump in and hire a handful of new seasonal employees, here is what you need to know:
Although you probably have a good idea what time of year your business will be busiest, seasonal spikes can come quickly, sometimes without a lot of ramp-up time. This is why it's smart to start the hiring process early so you're not left scrambling around last minute. Plus, you never know how long it will take to find the right employees; it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to go from job ad to interview to job offer. So it’s a good idea to start the process early so you can bring seasonal staff on board before your business is swamped.
Don't overlook the power of your current business network when searching for seasonal employees. Spread the news that you're hiring for the season to current employees, regular customers, vendors, and anyone else who you work with regularly in your business. Word of mouth can help you quickly identify potential employees, and this person also comes with a recommendation from someone you know and trust.
Hiring seasonal employees may need to happen on a quicker timeline, but that doesn't mean corners should be cut. Treat the interview process for seasonal employees the same as you would permanent staff. After all, seasonal employees are still representatives of your company. Here are a few interview questions to add to your list.
While you're not necessarily prepping seasonal employees to become long-term superstars in your business (although if they do, that could be a huge benefit as well!), each new employee will still need to be trained on the ins and outs of the business prior to hitting the floor. You can create a modified orientation process that incorporates the most important introductory materials and systems/tools training for new staff so they have all of the information they need to perform their jobs well.
Just because an employee is temporary doesn't mean you are free from providing any benefits or paying taxes. Some potential benefits you may be required to provide include Unemployment Benefits, Social Security, and Worker's Compensation. When it comes to taxes, the same tax withholding rules apply for seasonal workers as they do for regular employees. Review seasonal employment regulations provided by the IRS so you know what your responsibilities are.
Be prepared to do some creative problem solving when it comes to making sure your business hours are covered. Instead of stressing over who’s going to cover for an employee’s absence, encourage everyone to do a little problem solving on their own first. Let employees discuss splitting shifts and swapping shifts if last-minute changes are necessary.
Busy doesn’t have to mean hectic; make your busy season more fun for employees by providing snacks, games, regular breaks, and other fun incentives. Use little pick-me-ups to keep the mood fun and give employees a chance to delight in some pleasant distractions. You can also make it a point to recognize huge successes. Try keeping track of customers served during the season and celebrate milestones like 100, 200 or even 1,000 customers helped.
While it may not be your biggest concern at the moment, you would be remiss not to consider the effects of home office design, decor and layout on productivity. According to various studies and reports, your home office set up may have more to do with the success and growth of your business than you realize.
It’s important to consider how the home office environment is set up, organized, and designed.
The goal is to create an environment that closely mirrors the professionalism of a traditional work space, while retaining the advantages of having a unique office.
No longer are you stuck in a dull, drab office. Now you can design and decorate your space in a way that fits your work style and motivates you. If you have an employee or contract worker who comes to your home to work, you should allow them some leeway to design and/or decorate their work space.
Aside from their own home or apartment, the average employee spends more time at work than any other place. And while that workspace may not legally or contractually be in their possession, it is theirs for all intents and purposes. From an employer’s point of view, it’s important to give employees freedom to express themselves in the workspace. Admittedly, this can be difficult in a home office. Allowing people to make changes to your own home’s design can seem foreign and strange, but the benefits are mutual.
Being able to decorate and organize a workspace often gives an employee a feeling of ownership and encourages them to feel comfortable within their own confines. Consider allowing employees to purchase wall art, hang posters, or add personal touches to their desks to show you care about them as individuals.
Employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would. In other words, open floor plans limit the frequency of personal exchanges and directly impact an employee’s ability to handle work.
Additionally, individual offices allow employees to close their doors when they need to concentrate or can’t be disturbed. This allows them to focus on the work in front of them, as opposed to dealing with constant chit chat from neighboring coworkers.
From a very practical standpoint, a partitioned layout helps mitigate the spread of germs. One study found that employees working in open offices took a whopping 62 percent more sick days than peers working in individual or closed offices.
As you can see, there are benefits to both open and portioned layouts. Depending on your home and available space, you may not be able to work separate from the rest of the household or provide a private office for your staff. But knowing the pros and cons of each can help you create a productive atmosphere.
As already alluded to, noise is a major source of distraction at work, even in a home office. In open floor plan offices, you should attempt to reduce the amount of noise by incorporating sound cancelling elements and features. One idea is to install noise-absorbing features into walls and ceilings.
While it may not be aesthetically pleasing to install acoustic panels or noise-absorbing boards in your home, you can help mitigate sound levels by filling empty spaces with furniture and wall art that prevents sound waves from continuously reverberating throughout individual workspaces.
Did you know that as many as 68 percent of employees complain about lighting in the workplace? That’s more than two out of every three employees. According to the research behind that number, the most common reason is that lighting is either too harsh or too dim.
Both of these issues are commonly tied to artificial light and rarely associated with natural light – meaning the latter is ideal when it’s available. Furthermore, natural light has been shown to increase happiness and boost energy, which is ideal for the home business owner. It also means lower absenteeism in employees.
Proof of this comes from a study at a U.S. post office in Reno, Nevada in the late 1980s, which made a simple lighting upgrade that not only saved on energy costs, but also boosted employee productivity resulting in an additional $500,000 in revenue a year.
The advantage most home offices have over traditional offices is that they have more windows and better access to natural light. Use this to your and your employees’ advantage. Choose office space that has windows (as opposed to a basement) and set up work spaces in such a way as to get plenty of natural light.
You probably won’t see a financial return of $500,000 like the Reno post office, but you may be surprised at how much more productive you and your employees will be through some tweaks. While you know your employees better than anyone else, consider starting with aesthetics, noise, and lighting. These three areas are typically the most significant and should be addressed before pursuing any other improvements.
If ever there were a time to make sure employees have an opportunity to take scheduled breaks, this is it! Make sure to schedule sufficient breaks and lunches. Hungry and tired employees are grumpy employees, and grumpy workers have a really hard time making customers happy. Encourage your employees to remind you when a little relief is needed. Breaks are sometimes overlooked in the chaos of dealing with customers; they might have to remind you or a co-worker when it’s time for someone to cover for them.
By planning ahead, you can make your busiest season more productive and more enjoyable for everyone.
Nicholas H. Parker is a business coach and marketing manager with a huge experience. He writes articles for those who want to buy essay online to develop their knowledge. He is highly interested in the web design sphere.
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