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News

Are you finding it hard to switch off from work? Moira Dunne suggests fencing off pockets of time to "commute" to and from work. One of the perks of working from home is having no commute to deal with every day. We gain extra time each morning and evening and there is no traffic stress to contend with. But a daily commute does have a benefit – it helps us separate our work lives from our personal lives. A big challenge of working from home is the blurring of the lines. As we are working in the same spaces where we live, the transition from one to the other can be too sudden. Minutes after breakfast you may need to solve a challenging work problem or run a difficult online meeting. There is no time to adjust your mind; no time to get into “work mode”. The daily commute allowed time for this transition. So, here are three things you can do to gain the benefit of commuting without the associated stress. 1. Daily routine The first thing is to make sure that you have a daily routine. Start work at approximately the same time every day, whatever time that is. This especially helps on a day when motivation is low – a day when you may procrastinate and start later. The routine helps you “work yourself” into a productive mood. It also sets the boundaries for other family members in your house. 2. Commute to work Before you start work, do something to help you transition into work mode. This will be your ‘commute’ to work. It could be a quick walk around the block, an exercise routine or 10 minutes reading a business article. Find what suits you. This provides the time to park any personal thoughts and consider the work for the day. 3. Commute from work It is equally important to ‘commute home’ from work in the evening. An evening transition helps you tune out of work and be more present with family or friends. Again, identify an activity that helps you clear work thoughts from your mind. This could be planning the next day, committing to a family activity or some exercise or personal downtime. Even simply putting away your work devices can help you switch off. If you can see your technology after hours, you may be tempted to work on emails. Remember, getting some work done in the evening may be productive at the time but it can impact your ability to get things done the next day. Commute to separate work from home Being productive while working from home feels good. It also helps to reduce stress. Use these commuting tips to take control of your time so you will have more productive days. Moira Dunne is founder of beproductive.ie.

Aug 20, 2020
Management

As the pandemic continues to rage throughout the world, how are SMEs coping with maintaining their liquidity and cashflow? David Lucas explores finance options that are available to help Irish businesses thrive and persevere. The COVID-19 pandemic has uniquely impacted SMEs throughout the country. Cashflow is scant, debt is racking up, and many businesses have yet to resume trading in any meaningful capacity. Those that have recommenced have found a desolate and unfamiliar trading environment. Shops and high streets are empty, many stores remain shuttered, and dented consumer confidence looks unlikely to rebound fully until a vaccine is developed. Supports available to SMEsWithout access to the significant cash reserves available to larger enterprises, liquidity and cashflow are key concerns for many SMEs during this time. Fortunately, there are a number of supports available, and businesses should be doing all they can to avail of the Credit Guarantee Scheme, COVID-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme, Future Growth Loan Scheme, Fund, Trading Online Voucher, Local Enterprise Offices Grants and Microfinance Ireland Loans wherever possible.  Furthermore, the COVID-19 warehousing provisions, in particular, have been a very well-received benefit during this difficult period, allowing businesses to effectively warehouse their VAT or PAYE payments into an interest-free loan for 12 months and a 3% loan for the subsequent 12 months. Quick cashThese measures can provide critical relief and cash supports to businesses, but there are additional measures SMEs can take to meet liquidity needs as repayment moratoriums expire towards the end of the year. For example, businesses can optimise by selling slow-moving stock to generate cash. Debtor management sounds obvious, but assets can become tied up, and the longer debt remains unpaid the less likely it is to collect. People talk about loan-to-value and property, but at the end of the day, it is cash that repays debt.Managing debtIn this volatile business landscape, SMEs may need to renegotiate covenants, or even a complete a full restructuring of their debt. At times like these, open communication with lenders is crucial. Businesses need to be extremely well-prepared as approaching the banks can be painstaking and time-consuming, but they understand the position businesses are in – everyone wants to be able to pay down the debt and keep the business in operation. Further funding optionsFor businesses seeking to access further funding, it is crucial to know the different options that are available on the market. Alternative lenders can be less onerous in terms of covenants. They tend to lend a little bit more than the traditional banks, but they charge greater interest, often up to 6 or 7%.Invoice discounting (also known as invoice finance) has become a very popular way of lending from a working capital perspective. This is a process whereby banks or alternative lenders will lend money based on the business’ debtor book. This gives the lender increased security as there is direct access to the debtor book and no reliance on revenue or cashflow.Private equity is another potential option for SMEs in need of a capital injection. This route has become increasingly popular in recent years as these investors provide experience and growth potential as well as capital.  Many SMEs are apprehensive about selling a piece of their business, but it’s always better to own 80% of a thriving venture than 100% of a failing one.Above is a snapshot of a wide range of options for SMEs looking for ways to finance their business through this uncertain period. Not all options are suitable for every business, but a proactive approach in identifying the best available options will give SMEs with cashflow difficulties the best chance of survival.David Lucas is a Corporate Finance Partner at PKF O’Connor Leddy Holmes.

Aug 14, 2020
News

COVID-19, along with a possible hard Brexit, means a lot of uncertainty for SMEs now and going forward. Mark Degnan urges companies to act early to maximise their options to ensure their future survival.The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to what appears to be an ever-increasing likelihood of a hard Brexit on the horizon, has created a lot of uncertainty in our economy, and while government supports have been greatly welcomed, they cannot continue indefinitely. We are seeing significant signs of market stress across multiple sectors, with retail, hospitality and leisure being the most affected areas at this time. While, unfortunately, there will be a natural increase in business failure and insolvencies in Ireland over the next 12–24 months, there are a number of alternative options and supports available to businesses when considering their future survival.Act early to maximise optionsIn order to ensure a business has the best chance of surviving such volatile times, it is key for management to act early and assess all available options and supports to them.Right now one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is the lack of liquidity and working capital available, in addition to significant reopening and operational costs and the ongoing how or when a business will reopen or ever return to profitability.While government packages have provided much-needed support in the areas of employee costs, statutory property costs, warehousing of tax liabilities and a moratorium on certain bank repayments, what might lie ahead for businesses after such supports extinguish remains uncertain.Formal restructuring processes explainedIreland has a very robust set of restructuring tools, such as Part 9 Schemes of Arrangement and Examinership, both providing a flexible and often successful outcome for many Irish businesses through our courts system. Changes to Company law (as of August 2020), will now allow companies a longer period of time in Examinership (from 100 to 150 days) to present a viable scheme of arrangement for their survival. While the changes are only temporary in nature, this is a welcome move to provide companies with an extended moratorium from its creditors, while seeking a restructure and refinance of the underlying business.Options available to businessesWhen working with clients in analysing the availability of formal restructuring processes, we strongly recommend that prior to a company seeking a formal restructure of its business through the courts, other options such as debt restructuring, sale of non-core assets/subsidiaries, equity raise and contingency planning be considered to allow the business owner to take the most appropriate steps for its survival. While many businesses will access some form of restructuring process, unfortunately, there will be businesses that will not have a reasonable prospect of survival, and in such circumstances, company directors must be aware of their duties if a company is deemed to have traded while insolvent.By actively engaging with specialised restructuring experts, supplemented by wider financial advisory teams, management and business owners will put themselves on the best footing to ensure their future survival.Mark Degnan is a Director in Deloitte’s Financial Advisory team.

Aug 14, 2020
News

Investing can be a risky business. What, then, is the best way to mitigate that risk? Oliver O’Connor provides eight helpful tips on how to give your investments the best chance of success.Investing depends a lot each individual – what risk level you are comfortable with, financial goals and your circumstances. However, if you are thinking about starting to invest, here are some eight tips to help you along.ObjectivesBefore making an investment decision, it is vital to identify what you are trying to achieve. Having objectives will give you the confidence and discipline to manage your emotions at times of uncertainty.Time horizonTime horizon (i.e. the time you expect to hold an investment) can have a significant influence on your investment decisions, as it helps to identify your ability to absorb short-term risk for the benefit of long-term returns. Generally, a shorter-term investment should be taking a below-average risk, with longer-term investments taking an above-average risk, relative to each investor.Risk toleranceWe all have different emotions and biases which influence our behaviour with money. Acknowledging how you react to investing in positive and negative environments helps to identify the types of investments which are right for you. Combining your objectives with time horizon and risk tolerance should set the base for any investment decision you make now and in the future. DiversifyDiversification of, and within, asset classes can help reduce risk and smooth investment returns. Diversification across the various asset classes is key to identifying the right level of risk for you and your investment. It’s key to note that diversification within each asset class reduces risk which is specific to an industry or region.Avoid market timingIt is impossible to tell which asset class or sector will outperform in the years ahead. Global diversification within the right mix of asset classes will allow you to benefit from investment returns whenever and wherever they occur.Manage your emotionsIt can be difficult to separate your emotions from investing. Acting on these emotions can lead to irrational decisions which damage your investment’s performance over the long term. Filter through the noiseThe constant stream of information through online platforms and 24-hour news can be overwhelming and compel investors to be reactive with their investments. It is important to remember these sources are speaking to a general audience. They are not aware of your current objectives and long-term goals, so do not let them influence either.Focus on what you can controlAs humans, we are drawn to chase returns and the next big winner. However, we have no control over the returns on offer in the future.What we can do is ensure we give our investments the best chance of success by focusing on what we can control – time, risk and behaviour. This usually requires the help of a professional, to ensure human behaviour does not adversely impact your long-term returns and objectives.Oliver O’Connor is Partner in Private Client and Wealth Management in Grant Thornton.

Aug 14, 2020
News

With offices beginning to re-open, how can you engage with a dispersed and disjointed team? By collectively coming up with a team engagement plan, says Anna O’Flanagan, much of the worry and anxiety about returning to work can be expelled.Have you thought about your team engagement plan post-quarantine? How can you rebuild a team that is currently dispersed and disjointed? Without a clear path for people returning to work, there will be some anxiety around the next steps. Instead of letting this mishmash of individual interpretations create the narrative, why not consciously and collectively think about a team plan to determine the 'new normal'?How do we do this? Here are four pointers to get the conversation moving with your team.Figure out the ‘why’It is useful to revisit the ‘why’ of your team. Why does our team exist? Why do we do the work we do? Why do we do it that way?This can focus a team’s attention on the purpose of their work and determine new priorities that may have emerged in the past few months. It can also enhance confidence around the approach and provide an opportunity to clarify any issues.Share the lessons learnedGather your team, either remotely or in person, to discuss the lessons they have taken from this remote or blended working experience and what changes you would all like to make as a result.Create a planWrite up the notes from the two exercises, create a plan, and share it with the team. Explain that it is a living and flexible plan, which can be adapted as you go. Seeing it written down will give team members assurance that they have been heard and that what they have said counts. The plan also provides people with a point of reference, safe in the knowledge that there is a plan that keeps the team at the heart of everything.Meet upGet together in person. It doesn’t have to be for long, and it doesn’t need to be indoors or even have a work focus. But, if it is possible, try to meet outside the office for an enjoyable experience together. Team members have been cooped up, stewing in worry and ambiguity for too long. It is time to meet (safely and socially distanced) for a couple of hours and be together in support of one another in these strange times.Some teams are still cautious about meeting up in person, but there are many ways to bring a team together safely. Meet up in a park near the office on a nice day, or for a fun outdoor activity like an organised, professional treasure hunt or hike. These are effective ways to de-stress and re-unite remote and blended teams.Anna O’Flanagan is the Founder and Head Squirrel at Red Squirrel Team Building.

Aug 10, 2020
News

While working from home has its advantages, many are looking forward to getting back to a physical working space. Caroline McEnery outlines why working at the office is beneficial for both employers and employees.In this ever-changing environment, the subject of remote working has never been more topical. While it has many advantages, it’s also important to bear in mind the benefits of working from the office.Shared lessonsA key advantage of having a full team in one place is the ease with which colleagues can interact. Individuals learn from each other all the time, and having a colleague nearby to consult with on a query is invaluable. In an office environment, staff can soak up knowledge from others and are generally more aware of the full picture of a case or a client.Work-life balance, time management and productivityRegardless of how disciplined you are, it can be difficult to separate work life and home life when working remotely. Having a clear divide between your work environment and home environment can help ensure that one doesn’t impact on the other. The office provides a structure that allows employees to focus on the tasks at hand and be truly in ‘work mode’.SocialisingLet’s be honest, there is more to work than work! In recent months, we’ve all had to limit our social contact in every aspect of our lives. In a world of Zoom, Skype, Teams and all other manner of virtual communication, there is a lot to be said for real-life human interaction. The social aspect of work – chats with colleagues about non-work issues, humour and laughter – is what many remote workers miss, and the benefits of these social connections and relationships have been studied widely.DisconnectingThe ability to disconnect becomes more challenging when not working from the office, especially for those who are new to remote working. If an employee does not have the luxury of a home office, work inevitably takes over some section of their home and so, they may feel on duty even when they’re not. The ease of access to the remote “office” can lead to employees dipping in and out of emails or other tasks outside of their normal working hours, which can cause issues for the employer when the legal obligations around working hours are considered. It can also cause problems for employees when excessive work hours leads to issues with productivity and burnout, for example.The open doorAll employers should have an open door when it comes to an employee raising concerns, and the vast majority do. However, this open door isn’t quite as approachable when it’s a virtual one. When an employee is in the office, it’s easier to raise issues as it doesn’t have to be a scheduled call or video conference. There is a risk that a virtual open door won’t be used as often, which may lead to issues going unaddressed. This, in turn, has the potential to create long-term negative consequences.Caroline McEnery is Managing Director at The HR Suite and an HR and employment law expert.

Jul 31, 2020