How has your office changed since you started your career?

It’s thirty years since I first set foot in an office and it’s incredible how much has changed in that time. British Gas have created an infographic of the evolution of the office since 1700, and I’m sure a time traveller from 1700 wouldn’t even recognise our offices today. One interesting fact is that the typewriter was invented in 1867 – did you know they’d been around that long? I didn’t.

My first experience of an office was when I had two weeks of work experience as a 15-year-old in the late eighties. One of my GCSEs was in office technology – all of which would be laughably obsolete now! – so I spent two weeks as an administrator in the sales department of an engineering company. At that time staff could smoke at their desks, which would seem very strange today, not to mention it being illegal! The most obvious difference was the technology, though. There was no Internet or email, so a large part of the administrator’s role was typing up letters and memos, then circulating them.

The only electronic communication we had was a telex, used mainly for international messages. I had to type up my message on a computer, save it to a very large floppy disk, then walk down two floors to the only computer which was attached to the telex line. This was fairly cutting edge because until that time telexes had essentially been typewriters connected to a phone line. As far as I know there was no fax machine in the building.

By the time I was temping during my university holidays, around five years later, there was a PC on each admin person’s desk, running Windows, and we had a fax machine. As far as I can remember the PCs were used as little more than advanced typewriters. Files were printed on paper and kept in ring binders. I don’t remember any server where you could save files that could be accessed by other members of staff.

Working from home was unusual at that time, partly because it wasn’t part of the culture of most workplaces but also because the technology didn’t exist to make it feasible. If all the files you needed to do your job were on a shelf in the office, then you needed to be there too.

Fast forward to my first proper desk job in 1995 and we finally had email. But only one computer in the department was connected to the server, so you had to use that computer every time you wanted to send an email. Most internal communication was on paper and to contact someone outside the organisation we used the phone or post.  I had my first peek at the Internet in 1995. I thought it was interesting but I couldn’t really understand what I’d use it for other than as a kind of encyclopaedia. How things have changed!

As you can see from the infographic, the Internet has created a revolution in the way we work. The Internet exploded in the 1990s, going from 500,000 users in 1989 to 248 million in 1999.  But it’s not just the availability and the connectivity of the tech that’s made things possible, it’s the cost of the equipment.

By 1998 I’d changed jobs. I had a computer on my desk with email and internet access, which was a huge step forward. But I travelled a lot for work and the small business that employed me couldn’t justify a laptop for me as they were about £2000 each at the time. And that laptop would have been much less powerful than the smartphone an average teenager owns today! By 2001 I was a freelance software trainer and had to buy my own laptop, a mid-range one for £1000 which was still a lot of money at the time.

As the 21st century moved on, Internet speeds became faster, devices became cheaper and mobile technology progressed at a rapid pace. All of this has enabled me to work from home when I had two young children in a way that wouldn’t have been possible ten years before. For us self-employed mums our offices can be anywhere from the kitchen table once the kids are in bed to a soft-play centre in the school holidays. I feel incredibly lucky that that this era in home working and technology happened to fall at the time when I had a young family as it’s given me an ‘office’ and a business that I could only have dreamt of at the start of my career.

How has your office changed since you started your career?


Creating A Job You Can Do Anywhere In The World

Living the good life these days is not about having the executive suite, it’s about having the most experiences possible and making the most of your life. That is the driving force behind the growing trend to digital nomadism – working in a job that can be done from anywhere in the world, to combine a love of travel with earning a decent income. Plenty of us dream about leading this type of lifestyle, but what holds a lot of us back is imagining what kind of career we could have that doesn’t tie us to a single location. A lot of these jobs require you to be self-sufficient and take the initiative, but the payback of global freedom is more than enough to entice you.

Start A Blog

How to start a blog is something a lot of people want to know – the idea of creating content on a subject that you love and getting paid for it seems amazing. But growing your blog to the point where you can make a proper living out of it is harder than it might seem. You need to find different sources of revenue for it, from creating paid downloads and e-books, to selling advertising space or affiliate links, sharing promoted posts and building up your number of followers and your engagement level on social media. This all takes time, but once you’re established you can also run social promotion work for other bloggers as well, or create graphics for things like media kits and website banners to sell to them. You could also look at working with an SEO Company to create articles for link-building and place them onto your own site or outsource them to others.

Become A VA

VAs, or Virtual Assistants, are becoming a huge force in the digital world. There are a range of roles available for different skills and talents, involving everything from transcribing interviews and producing reports to booking travel arrangements and dealing with media requests. All you really need is to be well organised and a quick typist with good attention to detail.

Go Into Events Producing

Another field which lends itself to remote working is the role of events producer. Handling all aspects of putting on large gatherings such as booking venues, hiring entertainment, promoting your event, getting sponsorship, issuing invitations and remote managing delegate lists, for a can-do person this could be the ideal opportunity.

The Right Side Of The Law

If you have a legal background, working remotely becomes a real possibility. Providing legal counsel on issues such as conveyancing or copyright law can be done over the web, as can mitigating risk or appealing verdicts. Operating a virtual legal clinic on a variety of issues gives you the freedom to practice via correspondence rather than coming into an office. You may not be able to handle every single aspect of practicing law, but certain elements as a specific service will be possible.

Image: Bruce Mars


Renovating Your Office? Discover These 4 Ways to Make It Look More Professional

It is important to renovate your office if it is outdated and unappealing to your prospective clients. When considering how to renovate your office, consider a potential theme or overarching style that you are looking for. It can be useful to look at design books, blogs or magazines to look for a certain professional touch that you are striving for. In order to learn more about four potential ways to make your office more professional, consider the information below:

4 Ways to Make Your Office Look More Professional

 Use these four tips to make your office look more professional attract more future business:

 Update Your Glass Decorations

 Using glass partitions is a great way to make your office look more sophisticated, elegant and professional. Glass partitions can complement existing fixtures you have or you can entirely custom design your office to have a new and fresh style. Be sure to plan this out carefully and the results will make your office space look incredible.

Accessorize with Accent Pieces

Accessorizing with accent pieces is an excellent way to add character, yet elegance to your space. By knowing a clear theme, you would like your office to have, you will be able to find accent pieces that match that theme. Some examples are vases on desks, coffee table books, decorative plants, among others. These extra touches illustrate a central theme in your office that will look sensational to your clients.

Redesign Your Receptionist’s Space

 Your reception space to receive guests is important because it is essentially the first impression that they will have of your office. It is wise to have a sleek coffee table, chairs, sofas, and an established area for your receptionist. In addition, it is important to have coffee cups that are classy to serve to clients while they are waiting. If you are able to decorate your reception space with style, it will create an excellent first impression for your clients.

Revitalize Your Flooring and Furniture

Your flooring and office furniture needs to be maintained regularly. If you let the furniture go unmaintained it will look bad to your employees and clients. Employees thrive in spaces that are well designed and enjoyable to be in. Your clients, should they have to walk through your office, will also have a positive impression on your space if it is up-to-date, organized, and sleek.

 Final Remarks

 Making your office look professional should be your top priority. The offices that do not look professional look awful to current and prospective clients. The impression that your clients have when they are in your office will ultimately make their decision of whether or not to take you seriously enough to do business with you. Renovating your office is sometimes necessary for maintenance or for starting a new phase of expansion for your company. By carefully researching different styles and office themes, you will be able to find the ideal solutions that will make a sensational environment in your office space that both your employees and clients will enjoy.

Image: StartUp Stock

Effortlessly Find Business Solutions

We say effortlessly, but this isn’t always the case for most people. Finding business solutions is most definitely something that doesn’t come easy, and we just know that it’s one of the reasons why so many businesses are going downhill at the minute. People are actively looking for solutions, to problems that need more attention than they’re getting, or to problems that don’t even have a solution yet. You might think that very business problem has a solution, but a lot of the time it will just be pure luck that a problem resolves itself, or it will be one random move that’s made that will help the business get back on track. So it’s not even necessarily something that’s done on purpose which solves a business, and that’s what makes like even harder. But if your business is failing at the minute, this isn’t the news that you want to hear. You want to be able to effortlessly find solutions to the problems you’re having, and luckily we’re going to bring a few to you. So sit back, and hopefully let us help you melt your troubles away.

Find The Route Cause

The route cause is something you really need to try and get to the bottom of, before you start thinking about the problem itself. Because you don’t want to be solving a problem that’s going to come right back around again. You want to be solving a problem that you fully understand, and often people don’t go right back to the beginning. So take one of the most common problems that a business seems to be facing at the minute. So many are being struck down with money problems, yet fail to understand how the problem first started. For a lot of you who are struggling with money, it will be the loans you took out when you first started up, and how you have since managed the payments of those loans. But if you were to knuckle down and find a solution to the money problem that is debt, you could easily get yourself right back into the mess, unless you understand when it’s right and wrong to borrow. Only should a business ever borrow if they’re in with a project that they know will bring the money right back, or if you’re only lending a tiny amount that won’t really do you much harm in the long run. It’s when you start borrowing big loans for silly reasons, that you really start to have the problems.

Find The Software To Suit You

Software is a businesses biggest aid, and so many of you won’t be using it to the best of your ability. In fact, so many companies don’t rely on software at all, yet struggle to understand the facts and figures of their business. Software is there to be a business aid, and you should always be thinking of ways that you can use it to the best of your ability. User testing software is just one of the things that you could think about looking into. It will influence the interactions that you have with your customers, and allow you to better understand the market that you’re working in. So this would give you a solution to a lack of sales, or a lack of growth that you might have been expecting within the market!

Take A Different Angle

This is obviously going to be risky for everyone, because trying to take a new angle always involves an investment of some form. But taking a new angle could be the saviour to your business, especially if the angle you’ve been taking at the minute is not one that has been working for you. Introducing new services is much easier than products, but we know some of you won’t have the ability to do that. So if you are selling products, think introducing them slowly, with a hell of a lot of marketing beforehand.

The Solutions You Might Not Have Considered

There will always be solutions that you don’t know about now, and there will always be new solutions entering the market, as the demand from businesses goes up. But there are some solutions that you might just brush your eyes over, purely because you don’t think they would work for your business. One that we know some people ignore, is bringing in a business analyst. They will analyse your business, and give you some excellent solutions that could really save your business, so the investment in bringing one in would be more than worth it!

Financially Preparing For The Journey We Call Life

Life is a journey full of little surprised, no day is the same, and you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. When you think you’re all sorted, something can come along out of the blue and turn everything upside down. But that’s what life is all about right? Never knowing what is around the corner whether it’s good or bad? It could be an unplanned pregnancy, a new job opportunity abroad, or it could be that you lose your job, you’re involved in an accident, get ill or lose a loved one. Anyone of these events could potentially have a significant impact on your finances. So, are you prepared for life, and for what could happen? Do you know how you can prepare for these kinds of events while still enjoying yourself and living life to the full?

Be Realistic

No one plans for illness; it’s a rather morbid and negative way to live life? No one prepares for a having a tree fall on their car – why would they? However, when one of these out of the ordinary events happens, it is good to be prepared and to know how to deal with it. It also makes life so much easier if you have the means to deal with such an event. This way, you won’t be surprised or shocked, you might even have some money put by, and hopefully, you’ll be able to talk to the right people to help you through it. It’s difficult to focus on traumatic events until you’re forced to, however, if you do and you can mentally walk through a big event then it can help you to work out what you might need. Do you know what you would need if you were hit with a sudden illness, a personal tragedy, or a natural disaster? Think about what you would need for your family and what you would need to do professionally. What help would you need to get through the situation in the best way possible?

Can You Prepare For A National Disaster?

Do you live somewhere where flooding or storms are frequent? If you do, then it is is a good idea to prepare for these kinds of natural disasters. You can see from the media the devastating effects these events can have on homes and families, and they can also happen very suddenly. Insurance is a must, and as well as that, a good emergency kit and five-day supply of food and water are advisable to prepare in your home, car or office. You don’t have to prepare anything extreme or elaborate, but planning in this way can make a stressful event much easier to get through.

Think About The People You Know

Who is in your life who would be willing and able to help you if you needed them? Is there a decent number of people you can count on? Have you helped people out yourself in the past when they have needed you? It doesn’t have to be just financially, but do you know people who can give you advice, coaching, or counseling, then make the most of them. Each different person will be able to offer something from a unique angle; some people will be good at providing practical help such as home-cooked meals, friends might stop by to help out around your home or with your kids. Having a support network can be invaluable when life gets in the way, and you need it, so think about who yours would be.

What About Your Job?

If you get sick or have an accident and find yourself off work for an extended period of time, this can add additional stress on top of whatever you’re going through. You will probably be worried about your job, your clients and your team. You will wonder if they will be able to manage without you. It can be a good idea to get a system in place for these kinds of eventualities; this will help to keep your mind at rest, as well as improve your team. Your employer’s mind will also be at rest knowing that everything will be taken care of. Organizing passwords and your workflow enables more freedom for you and means you won’t have to worry about it making you replaceable. By sharing information and cross-training your colleagues adds value to the company, and as a valued employee you will not be easily replaced. Having this helpful attitude is very beneficial to a company, and they will know that. If it wasn’t for an unexpected life event, but even when you go on annual leave, it also makes life easier for everyone rather than creating a sense of panic and emergency.  

As well as the day-to-day job elements, it is also advisable to invest time in building strong working relationships. Having a reputation for being a reliable and valid member of the team is essential should a personal emergency arise. It makes you an invaluable part of a business community if you can create unique contributions and look for innovative ways to add value this will ensure a higher chance of your company supporting you and giving you the time you need when you need it most.

Also, while you shouldn’t do things for people to get something back, however, if you support your colleagues when they need you most, then they are more likely to help you out too when you need them.

Think Clearly

When life throws you a curveball, it can be hard to think properly and not get caught up in the emotional aspects surrounding what has happened. Make sure that you take care of yourself as much as possible during these times and find ways to alleviate stress and keep yourself calm. Whether it’s going for long walks, drawing, or just spending time with family and friends, find the activities that will help you remain calm and centered so you can make the best decisions in stressful circumstances.

Begin with an Emergency Fund

One of the best you can do is to prepare a substantial emergency fund. Your emergency savings want to cover up to six months living expenses ideally. If you are a single-income family, then building an emergency fund of up to a year is desirable. This will provide security for you and your family if you should suddenly lose your job and struggle to find a new one quickly, or if you are struck by an illness and have an unexpected gap in your earnings.

It is good to know you have the money there and can put you at ease and give you one less thing to worry about while you are concentrating on dealing with the other issues going on in your life such as finding a new job or attending doctors appointments.

Money Money Money

It is vital to prepare financially as much as you possibly can, do you have any money put aside if your car or boiler were to break? Saving money, investing in insurance to protect your assets and income, and creating a comprehensive financial plan can help you to bounce back from difficult times. Speak to your HR department at work about what your company benefits are and what they can offer you. More and more companies are making financial counseling and planning advice available to their employees now so knowing your employment policies and employee rights, knowing what type and how much leave you are entitled to is essential.

Do You Have Life Insurance?

Having life insurance for your family or your spouse if you are married, and especially if you have children is very important. Life insurance can provide your family with enough money for them to pay off any debt and live on comfortably should the worst happen and you’re not around anymore.  Make sure that the insurance covers the cost of your children’s education, and if your partner doesn’t work or doesn’t earn enough, they will also be dealing with the loss as well on top of everything else, so will likely need time off work.

Do you need insurance for anything else?

Even if you don’t live somewhere susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricane or earthquakes, it doesn’t mean that you are exempt. Make sure that you have sufficient health insurance, as well as renters or home insurance. While this ultimately adds to your bills and your monthly outgoings, it will save you money in the long run. Remember that accidents can and do happen and sadly the costs and consequences of these events can add up very quickly and end up leaving you in some debt.

Think Outside The Box

While all of the above might seem easier said than done, if disaster does strike when you are unprepared, there are plenty of options for you to turn to, whether it is asking family or friends, getting a business cash advance, or taking on extra work to earn more money. There are always options and advice available.

Image: Pixabay

Business Productivity Hacks

Increasing productivity is a great way to boost your revenue and improve your end of year profits, but it isn’t always easy to find ways to enhance output and efficiency. If you want to make the most out of your business, take a look at our handy business productivity hacks…

Be More Flexible

Examine how your business works and find out if being more flexible could make you more efficient. Changing staff working patterns, modifying roles and giving employees clear targets can help you to stay on track and you should find that your business performance improves as a result. When you think outside of the box and adapt your operations, increased productivity can easily follow.

Improve the Workplace

Creating a good working environment is key to managing a successful staff. As well as meeting your legal obligations in terms of workplace health and safety, ensure your employees have a happy working environment. When workers are relaxed, confident and secure in their roles, their productivity increases, so it benefits individuals as well as the business.

Embrace New Technology

Automating your processes and using the newest technology is one of the easiest ways of increasing productivity. Organise your warehouse with picking containers and use automated pickers to dispatch orders more quickly, for example, or introduce automated manufacturing techniques in a factory setting. Almost all types of business can increase automation in at least one area, and incorporating new technology can ensure you get a great return on your investment.

Measure, Modify and Motivate

In order to reach maximum productivity levels, you’ll need to know how efficiently your business is currently performing. Reliable and proven measurement methods will ensure you can monitor how well your business is operating and thorough analysis of these results will enable you to identify areas in which there is room for improvement. When you make changes based on verified data, they are more likely to have a positive impact on your productivity and be sustainable in the long-term.

Get To Know Your Team

Managers don’t always realise how good their employees are and you could be overlooking some great talent. Ensuring your workers feel appreciated and valued is the first step in motivating them, and when people are motivated you’ll see where they really shine. Once you’ve identified their strengths, be sure to delegate appropriate tasks to them. This can take the load of other employees and ensures that everyone is working to their best strengths.

As all businesses are eager to improve revenue and profits, productivity is an area which simply cannot be ignored. By making selective operational changes, you should be able to notice an improvement in your productivity levels fairly quickly but don’t get complacent.

Ensuring high productivity levels is an on-going task and you’ll need to commit to regular monitoring and modification if you want to reach your maximum productivity levels. In doing so, your business will benefit from increased productivity in both the short-term and better business performance in the long-term.