Our workplaces have changed a lot over the past few decades. They’re always evolving, keeping pace with the latest technologies, large-scale social transformations, and new levels of human freedom. Sometimes these changes are quite slow, but there are moments in human history that can cause business owners, government officials, and other policy-makers to speed this process up.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a historical event of this kind. It has affected our workplaces dramatically. Now we’re all wondering which of these innovations are temporary and which ones are here to stay. In any event, employers have gained a new perspective they wouldn’t have developed otherwise, and they have more info to act upon and make decisions about this. Here are some of the most important trends we’re already seeing in our workplaces that are all about the future.
Surely the most obvious change we’ve experienced since the start of the epidemic is a huge increase in remote work. Of course, many companies started utilizing telecommuting a while ago, but many others first introduced it only recently as a response to social distancing measures.
So what are the consequences of this massive experiment? A lot of businesses have realized that they have increased productivity and/or cut expenses after most of their employees started working from home. Surely, this fact wasn’t unheard-of before the crisis, and giants like AT&T or Dell reported they had saved millions of dollars thanks to different telework initiatives. But only now it is becoming a fact wide-spread enough that we can expect it to cause changes on a global scale.
Moreover, remote work suits employees as well. As much as 91% of them say telecommuting is a good fit for them, and 37% would agree to receive a 10% pay cut in exchange for working from home. Also, the number of available different jobs that can easily be done from any spot on the planet is on the rise, so telecommuting seems like one of the trends that will only grow in popularity.
Emphasis on work-life balance
If we want to understand the workplace of the future, we need to recognize that the upcoming generations have different priorities. Chasing more and more money at whatever cost doesn’t seem too appealing to millennials and Generation Z. This should turn out to be beneficial for companies as well, as we can expect more productive workers once the stress levels start to fall. Namely, a staggering 60% of workers experience performance drops as a consequence of chronic work-related stress.
Of course, businesses will have to adapt to this reality. The best salaries are not sufficient to attract the best talent anymore. The new generation’s priority is to have the best possible balance between work and life and to have an opportunity to live their lives to the fullest. That’s why we’ll see companies investing a lot in employee experience. This includes providing some essentials such as sick leave or flexible hours, but also some apparently less important perks like cozy offices, game rooms, or creative team building ideas. Organizations will have to adapt their entire cultures to this new set of employee demands.
Some companies even allow power naps at work. It may sound silly, but it’s actually perfectly sensible given that the effects of sleep deprivation include lack of focus, poor memory, emotional stress, and erratic behavior. It seems that in the future, businesses will want their workers to be stress-free and well-rested so that they can truly excel at their jobs.
A certain amount of flexibility from both employers and employees is becoming a must for any successful company. We’ve already seen that workers will expect less rigidity about when they will work and where they will work from. But we’ll also see executives expecting employees to show some adaptability.
Most businesses of the future will have their work processes and activities dictated by new technologies as well as their ever-changing markets. This means they’ll need some quick learners on the team, who should even be ready to unlearn some of the things they know in order to adjust to new circumstances.
Furthermore, the focus of employee training will be acquiring a wider set of skills and cross-functional knowledge that can prepare them to jump in new positions whenever necessary. In combination with increased talent mobility, this will allow companies to scale their business easily.
You don’t really have to be a prophet to anticipate artificial intelligence taking a large part in the workplace of the future. Up to 47 percent of US jobs might be at risk of being completely automated in the next 20 years.
This makes it even more important for workers in many branches to diversify their skills if they want to survive in the new, AI-driven reality. As Marc Andreessen, a famous American entrepreneur put it – in the future, there will be two types of jobs: people who tell computers what to do and people who are told what to do by computers.
AI already has a significant influence on the world of business today. Different AI-backed softwares help companies streamline workflows and increase productivity. They collect and interpret massive amounts of data that affect practically all important business decisions. And because they’re basically self-learning and self-teaching algorithms, they’ll only get better at it.
Fewer long-term commitments
We’ve already seen that new circumstances will lead to a lot more flexibility at work, in terms of talent mobility, diversification of skills, and roles and positions that are not as well-defined as in the old days. This will have another important consequence. It will inevitably lead to a less stable job market, which means fewer long-term contracts and more contingent workers.
And it’s already happening. More than 90 percent of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. The fact that there are more and more independent short-term projects and on-demand work has influenced a huge increase in the number of freelancers, and this increase won’t be stopping any time soon. Thirty-six percent of Americans are freelance workers, with this number predicted to hit the 50-percent mark as early as 2027.
Given the convenience of freelancing and the evolution of different platforms for freelancers, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. However, the gig economy has many downsides, and the never-ending uncertainty it entails can be stressful and overwhelming. Freelancing is a great path to take when it’s a matter of choice, but when it’s a matter of no choice, it can be difficult and distressing.
As always, the workplaces of the future will shape the workers of the future. These places will be exciting and unpredictable, but also vicious sometimes. And this job market will demand dynamic, agile, and versatile candidates that can adapt quickly and fit multiple different roles.
That is, if there are no major surprises in the forthcoming years. But we’ve seen we can’t take that for granted. We have no idea just how bad the consequences of the current epidemic-induced crisis could be, let alone predict what the decades ahead of us will look like. We can only be sure they won’t be boring.
4 Virtual Office Christmas Party Ideas
Regardless of whether this would have been your company’s first Christmas party or the twentieth, you were probably putting plans in motion for a while now and hoping that COVID-19 would have been handled by the time the holidays arrived. However, seeing as how we are still in this situation where social distancing is recommended and many of us still work from home, your plans for the office party have probably changed. If you’ve decided not to cancel the cheer this year and opted for organizing a virtual party instead, you might be looking for some ideas and tips on how to make it a success even if you can’t all be in the same place. Keep on reading for some suggestions.
Socialize over cocktails
Even though you’re not all in the office or a place you’ve rented for the party, it doesn’t mean that you can’t set a time and date for the party and get fancy. Provide everyone with the platform you plan on using, whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or something else, and give them instructions on how to dress. You can either simply dress for a cocktail party or give the party a theme, such as wear your worst Christmas sweater. Seeing as how you’d be paying for drinks anyway, you should consider food and drink delivery to everyone’s home so that you can all have the same experience. When it comes to décor, allow the participants to do as they please, as it’s possible that some don’t celebrate Christmas or just don’t want to put up decorations. If you work in different time zones, it might not be time for cocktails everywhere so you can opt for coffee and snacks instead of drinks.
Play party games
Video calls also make it easy to play various party games. When planning the event, make sure to come up with these games in advance so that you know if there is anything that needs preparing beforehand. Luckily, there are many games that don’t require any preparation. For example, charades don’t require anything but a willingness to have fun. With a simple notepad and pen, you can also play Pictionary. Then, if your employees are a creative and talented bunch, you can organize a company talent show. Keep in mind that some workers are more introverted and might not want to take part in showing off their skills, so consider appointing them to be judges. Something else to take into consideration is giving out silly prizes to your team members – just make sure no one is overlooked.
Organize a Secret Santa exchange
If you were planning to do a Secret Santa gift exchange, you can still do that. You can find an organizer and generator online to help you get everything ready. When it comes to gifts, you should probably set a budget and rules as you don’t want some people to be disappointed by only getting a Christmas card and someone else getting a new laptop. Remember that you are also taking part in this and that you have to get a gift for one of your colleagues. If you get a female coworker you respect a lot, you should browse the internet for some Christmas gift ideas for her before you make a purchase. However, if you don’t know her all that well, a hamper full of sweet and savoury delights as well as a drink or two might be the solution you are looking for. Remind everyone to send their gifts on time so that you can all open them during your video call.
Make cookies together
Sometimes, a Christmas office party doesn’t have to be a party at all. If there are only a few of you in the company, you might be only looking for a way to spend some quality time together. One way to do that is by setting a time when you can all make cookies together. Maybe one of you is an expert at baking and is going to teach the rest how to make tasty treats for their families. Make sure you tell everyone which ingredients are necessary and what other equipment they might need. If you all agree on this, it’s essential that you are all relaxed as tension has no place at a Christmas party. In case someone can’t follow along, be patient and help them keep up. If baking is not your company’s forte, you can opt for other types of crafting projects, such as making your own decorations or gifts for other people.
While you can stick to the regular party setting and have everyone sip on cocktails from the comfort of their own home, you can also make the most of this new reality and come up with something new for your office holiday party. Who knows, maybe this new approach of baking together or playing games online turns into an annual thing.
The fitness industry, the pandemic, and the future
In 2019 the fitness industry grew to ever greater heights. Buoyed on by global government understanding of the value of a healthier population, and an increasingly wide gap between the ultra-wealthy and the middle class, there seemed to be no stopping the march towards success. A younger population less interested in drinking and smoking and a lot more interested in looking good on camera. Fitness had become an affordable luxury and pursuit beyond simply having a summer beach body.
The pandemic can be seen through the prism of the different sections of the industry. For example, outdoor bootcamps were less immediately affected, and faster to open. Large box gyms, reliant on inactive member bases, were quick to close, slow to open and faced financial impacts that could shape the immediate future of the industry and beyond.
Then the pandemic struck and within the space of a few weeks the industry was suddenly plunged into doubt and fear – indoor training seemed like it could be one of the easiest spreading environments.
The industry response was nothing short of incredible. Within weeks it had completely pivoted and was now offering an online version of its classes and keeping members along the path to their goals – and mental health. Beyond that, fitness classes became more than just about fitness and represented often the only community contact that an attendee might have in a day during the lockdown.
We have experienced three main stages so far – the immediate backlash, the response, and the second wave of understanding. Hopefully, they will soon be joined by a fourth, but for the time being here is what we’ve learnt so far and what it means for the fitness industry.
The immediate backlash
The first thing that we saw was that the fitness industry seemed very likely to be hit, and very early. The second thing was that the industry was largely being ignored in favour of hospitality.
This seemed to fly in the face of mounting evidence that health and fitness largely dictated the potential danger of the virus, with the obese and unfit hit most hard. If anything you could say that a reasonable response to the virus would have been mandated weight loss boot camps.
Why was the industry so exposed?
With rising rents and the popularity of small box fitness, the industry has been working in smaller and smaller spaces. This was a bad sign and there were concerns over viability if class sizes were reduced by a large amount. This immediately looked to impact the most customer-focused businesses – small group and boutique classes.
This didn’t impact personal trainers in the same way, and with this an important revenue stream for most businesses, many clients switched to this format.
Indoor sanitation and cleaning
Quite simply, the perception of many fitness spaces was that of bad hygiene. The reality is of course quite different. Reputation is vital and most fitness spaces recognise that cleanliness and safety are key parts of customer happiness and retention – and even beyond that the ability to stay open in the face of regulations. You could say that the fitness industry was ahead of the game in this respect.
Different types of fitness appeal to different age groups. Once it was clear that the virus was less dangerous for younger clients, the immediate fears subsided greatly.
Level of sweat
An early South Korean study showed that low impact exercise like yoga and Pilates were actually incredibly low infectivity risks. The study was based on two infected instructors who taught both a high impact dance based class and also low impact classes on the same day. The clients who attended the high impact class were infected considerably. The low impact class? Zero infection cases.
In March 2020 most fitness businesses closed their doors with the future uncertain. In what will be looked back on as one of the most incredible stories of the pandemic, most did not stop trying to help their clients.
The response of most fitness businesses was to ask:
• How can we help customers maintain their fitness
• How can we ensure the survival of our business
• What does that look like
There were only really two options for business owners – try to stay open and relevant, or shut down for a time and try to survive.
In countries like the UK, this was greatly helped by grants that were made to the hospitality sector, including the fitness industry. However, this was also tempered by the lack of help with rent payments. So, effectively, grants were made to support private landlords. This meant that sitting still wouldn’t be enough.
In shock, and in the space of about two weeks, around 50% of small fitness businesses had switched to an online offering supported by software systems like TeamUp that pivoted to help their community of users.
The response was amazing. Customers didn’t just embrace the new classes… they loved them. Communities coming together
Stuck in lockdown, many customers felt disconnected and lonely. Online fitness classes filled a huge gap and even the before class chat became a key connection point.
Some fitness owners ran quizzes and fun sessions just to focus on that community aspect. Disposable income
Although many were struggling with loss of income there was also the flip-side with many fitness customers on furlough. This meant more disposable income and combined with the boredom of confinement a rise in impulse purchases.
Blended online and in-person
As studios started to re-open, new and exciting business models emerged. The main one being a blended model where online classes now filled an important role in the consistency of training. Now there were options for when a class had to be missed due to other commitments.
A second wave of understanding
Most gyms re-opened in the early summer of 2020. With smaller classes and continued online classes, it felt like a short term break from what was coming next.
Gyms and studios emerged as one of the safest environments
A UK study found that in 300,000 cases there were only 72 confirmed cases of the virus in gyms. That was incredibly low and testament to the safety measures that fitness business owners had put into place.
Customers desperate to get back to fitness
A study run by TeamUp with one of their Pilates customers showed that 50% of customers were desperate or willing to get back to in-person classes. This was tempered by the other half of customers wanting or being willing to continue with online classes in some form.
As the second wave gained pace, the UK, like many other countries, implemented a tiered system for determining how businesses should respond. They included gyms closing which provoked a furious backlash.
One owner in Liverpool refused to close his doors, and was fined by the police multiple times. The industry rallied behind his story and others, and the overwhelming sentiment led to the changing of the rules around gyms, meaning they only had to close in the most extreme of cases.
The evidence supported this approach and it was another great example of the industry being able to effect change.
The future holds different risks and opportunities for different sectors. The format and size of classes is a key part of any response.
What does the future look like?
For each type of fitness business, the future looks different. Class size, membership models, facility specifications and the demographics of their members are big factors.
Class size is a big factor in the success of in-person or online classes. If a business is not profitable with small classes they might be unable to run them, or if they cannot help clients in a personal way, then they will face competition from pre-recorded sessions.
Memberships that are too inflexible risk cancellation if circumstances change. The same for offerings that are dependant on a particular set of equipment that can’t be replicated at home. However, some fitness offerings like pole fitness did not struggle to replicate their programs to keep customers motivated and happy.
Entrance size and physical safety of common areas are factors. Also, the shape and overall floor space will likely dictate class size for a long time to come.
Personal training is less affected but the number of trainers on the floor and the extra time spent cleaning will impact profits.
It goes without saying that the older the customer group, certainly for the first wave, the more impacted a business will be. An outstanding example of a response to this is the Pilates industry which, despite unfavourable demographics, found that their help extended easily through screens.
What does the future look like for…?
Depending on the type of business, there is also a very different outlook and set of opportunities. Box box gyms
Without a doubt, big box gyms are the most at risk. Despite having the space for larger classes and occupancy, their financial model is not based on the members actually at the gym. With huge costs including rent, equipment and cleaning, they are under a lot of threat.
There is also the perception of less safety in a bigger environment.
With customers at home they are also not close to the big gym they use near their office.
In an industry whose profits are based on membership fees for inactive clients and who naturally have a less active community, the future is looking challenging. Of course there are outstanding businesses in this sector who will find a way to thrive.
Boutique and small studios
In-person might vary in availability but the good news for the smaller class sector is that they have shown themselves to be able to adapt quickly and customers being willing to accept change.
Coached online – small classes via platforms like TeamUp for Zoom. This is the perfect blend of online and small group coaching. The industry has adapted and the quality of classes and delivery is very high.
It’s clear that customers place their fitness relationship at the centre of their world and independent fitness businesses who do the same will survive and thrive.
However, it is the time to adapt and blend models if these businesses rely on large indoor classes, specialist equipment, or coach heavy training that cannot be replicated online. With a bit of imagination and innovation, this shouldn’t present an impassable obstacle.
Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes
Home gyms and pre-recorded online classes are likely to boom for the foreseeable future. New programs launching and equipment sales are at breaking point. The only thing stopping this sector is the availability of global shipments. Even movie stars have jumped on this wave. However, competition is high, and the problem remains that when you pay for a coach you pay for accountability and results. Online interest tapers off quickly and results can be disappointing. However, this is not true of coached online…
Whatever the immediate future holds, the fitness industry has shown itself to be capable of incredible feats of change and adaptation. Fitness customers wanting results aren’t going anywhere, and even with a more diverse offering of routes to their goals available, are never going to stop needing accountability and support. The industry is ready for whatever comes next.
About the Author: The article has been written by Tim Green. Tim is the Head of Marketing and Partnerships at TeamUp.
8 Finance Mistakes of First-Time Small Business Owners That You Should Avoid
Just started your own business? Congratulations! After years of sleepless nights, careful planning, and raw dedication, what was once a small idea in your head is now an income-generating machine you can count on
Running a business comes with a ton of complications and risks. Over time, you’ll eventually come face-to-face with many tricky situations, and the way you manage things can ultimately define your long-term stability.
Research shows that 20% of new businesses fail within the year due to finance and management-related issues. If you want to thrive in the years to come, you should start by taking note of the mistakes of others. The guide below will teach you how to avoid and overcome these common small business challenges.
- Not separating personal and business expenses
As you claim your clients’ payments, you may feel the urge to use that money for your ventures. But, before you cash out for your new car, it’s important to take a step back and remember what your priorities are. Always remember that cash generated by your company should go to the business first.
Many first-time entrepreneurs make the common mistake of not separating their personal and business expenses, and this behavior can be consequential in the long run. Not being able to draw the line paves the way for bad spending habits and will give you a difficult time determining your actual financial standing.
With this in mind, you should start by creating separate bank accounts. Having everything in one place or using one credit card for all your transactions may feel more convenient, but making a clear distinction will make all the difference in your accounting.
- Mismanaging cash flow
For your business to maintain its stability, you need to have a positive cash flow. Many new entrepreneurs make all sorts of accounting mistakes, and this ultimately gets in the way of their day-to-day operations. Hiring someone else may do the trick, but if your budget says otherwise, you need to take matters into your own hands.
Luckily, cash flow mistakes can be solved with some diligence. Monitoring your accounts religiously and making sure that your partners understand your payment terms will lead to seamless transactions. If you feel the need to hone your financial management skills further, you should consider taking online classes.
- Expecting income to arrive instantly
Everyone knows the age-old saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Your clients and customers may owe you some money in the months to come, but this doesn’t mean that you should bolster your spending.
Given that daily business life is unpredictable, don’t expect your clients to settle their balances on time. Money that’s promised to you shouldn’t count as an asset just yet.
- Immediately making big purchases
It’s normal to feel excited once you win a big client. After they’ve officially closed a deal, you may want to provide new laptops, replace old work equipment, or upgrade to new software as soon as possible. However, don’t let the rush cause you to make an irrational decision. Making a big purchase without care will strain you more than you like.
Similar to how you divide your monthly income for food, electricity, and rent, you need to keep the same approach when it comes to your business expenses. Given that you’ll need to spend on work equipment, monthly salaries, affordable marketing strategies from your partner agency, and so on, a guide to follow will ensure that your spending doesn’t go overboard.
Note: Saving money? Don’t trim your marketing budget! Boost your promotions and take note of these simple ways to create marketing.
- Not paying yourself
Many business owners tend to forget about their efforts. They treat their businesses as if it were their own children, but neglect themselves in their effort to sustain it. Because of this mentality, it’s easy to be misled into thinking that you have gained profits when, in fact, you are working for free.
Even if it’s your business, don’t forget to pay yourself. Always consider that if you are not there to handle these responsibilities, you will need to hire someone else to take your place. To help you calculate your own salary, think objectively of the work requirements and determine how much you will compensate another person for doing this job.
- Not seeking professional help
As the head of your company, it’s natural to want to stay in control of everything. However, there are times where the best course of action you can take is to seek help from others. Running a business will take more than just sheer will power, and finding the right partners can make an incredibly huge difference.
If you’re unfamiliar with tax laws, seeking the services of a CPA can save you from hefty fines. If you’re dealing with an intellectual property issue, having a lawyer can save you a lot of trouble. Professional fees may look unattractive, but they can save you more money in the long run.
- Failing to create an emergency fund
If there’s one thing all business owners can take away from COVID-19, it’s the fact that building an emergency fund has turned into a must. Your business may be flourishing at the moment, but you’ll never know when a crisis will strike and turn things upside down.
Without preparation, you may need to look at credit providers for a way out, or worse, you may be forced to shut down.
Having extra money set aside can save you a lot of trouble. Financial experts recommend that your emergency fund should be at least three to six months’ worth of your monthly income. While this may not be enough to curb your losses, it’ll keep you from incurring debt and enable you to stay afloat for the meantime.
- Careless hiring
Compare your business to a car. You may be the one steering it, but your employees are the components that allow you to run at full speed. Without the right fuel and parts, you can expect things to break down sooner or later.
Always screen candidates with the utmost care. You may be excited to fill your vacancies, but hiring carelessly can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Settling for anyone just to address your requirements is problematic, as it won’t just cause operational and service quality issues; it can also be a tough blow financially.
As you go about recruitment, always remember that getting talented people will naturally take more time and money, but it should be worth it.
Preparation is Key
It’s common for new ventures to run into challenges, so you must have a plan for when you need to face them because one wrong decision can make or break your business. While you should take some time to unwind and enjoy the fruits of your labor, it’s important not to get distracted. After all, starting a business is one thing; maintaining is another.
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