How can I support my team through the current global crisis?

As most working professionals spend a third of their time at work, it’s been a massive adjustment for the millions of people who have had to start working from home. With many other stressors and worries piled on top of this, it’s no surprise then that this has had a major impact on the health, happiness, and the wellbeing of those employees.

For a thriving business, you need thriving employees, but not many people are thriving during this time. Therefore, to keep businesses afloat during the current global crisis, it is the responsibility of the employers to support their employees and this includes their mental wellbeing. Here’s how to do just that.

The 3 Ps

1. Prioritise – the health of your team

You need to create the right conditions to help your employees feel empowered and supported during this stressful time. You can do this by:

  • Taking advice from the World Health Organization and region-specific public health authorities such as the CDC.
  • Measuring and tracking the stress of your team via surveys and then offering help to those who need it most.
  • Providing consistent and clear objectives to give your employees a sense of control and purpose.

2. Promote – positive habits

Anxiety and stress can lead to the formation of bad (and unhealthy) habits. To help your employees deal with this stress, encourage the formation of positive habits such as:

  • Making a weekly and daily plan of action.
  • Sticking to their daily routine as much as possible.
  • Self-care activities such as meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises.
  • Taking regular breaks to properly ‘switch off.’
  • Limiting their use/exposure to social media and the news.

3. Practice – compassion and empathy

Some of your employees may have lost loved ones or they may be suffering from anxiety or depression during this time. To support them as best you can, here is how to be a more compassionate and empathetic leader:

  • Check-in with your employees regularly and keep an eye on their energy levels.
  • Listen to how they are feeling and encourage sharing when your team communicates.
  • Pause and give yourself time to respond to certain situations rather than reacting to them.

How can I reduce my stress?

As 2020 nears its end, it probably would be described as a very stressful year for many people. Perhaps, for some, the most stressful year of their lives. Covid 19 has literally turned the whole world upside down. First and foremost, many have lost their loved ones, in the most awful of circumstances; not being able to visit in hospital, or perhaps being able to attend a funeral or have their family around them to grieve. Many have been left very ill in the still unexplained ‘long COVID’. Then there are the wider effects of social isolation and loneliness as we are forced to stop meeting with our family, friends and community. O.K so we have zoom or the telephone, but it zoom isn’t available to everyone and even that is just not the same as face to face interaction. Then we have work; many find themselves unemployed and in financial hardship, and those that own their own businesses facing challenges that a year ago were unheard of.

With a vaccine on the horizon there is light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime how can we control the stress that we feel. As we know long term or chronic stress is bad for us. Unhealthy levels of stress release high amounts of hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline which trigger various reactions in the body such as hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, chronic inflammation and reduced immunity. The hormone Oxytocin on the other hand is known as the ‘anti-stress’ hormone or ‘love-hormone’. Oxytocin is the reason you fall in love with your newborn baby and why cuddling and nurturing feels good. Both hormones have essential functions in your body but they should work in balance.

kitten hanging off sofa

Make one simple change rather than trying to tackle it all at once.

So how can we help ourselves during these incredibly stressful times, reduce stress and stay healthier? There is much we can do, but it’s important to take baby steps and change one thing at a time. If you try to do too much at once, the changes won’t stick, and you’ll find that you just end up more stressed.

Recognise what is causing your stress by asking yourself these questions.

  1. Are you trying to do too much? What can you say no too?
  2. Are you getting enough good quality sleep?
  3. Are you taking time out to relax and take care of yourself?
  4. Are you eating well to give you energy to tackle the day to day?

We have all heard the metaphor ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ and this is true, if you take care of yourself, you will be more able to take care of others. How often have you found that the more ‘stressed’ you become the more things start to unravel at work? You can’t concentrate properly, people seem to annoy you, you become more forgetful? Then when you get home, you find yourself tucking into the chocolate, bickering with your partner or shouting at the kids?

Take control of one thing at a time, and the changes soon add up.

Take sleep for example. Lack of sleep has the same effects on the body as stress itself, so not getting enough or good quality sleep is going to make you feel stressed before the day even starts! Lack of sleep is also likely to make us crave more junk food and affects our memory, attention and decision-making abilities, as well as making us more emotional.

Tips for good sleep


Get a good dose of sunlight every morning for at least ten minutes. Going outside is best, but you can even just have your cuppa by the window. The exposure to the light helps set your body clock.

Stop using devices an hour before bed. Just as the exposure to the morning light affects our body clock, we are more sensitive to the ‘blue’ light in the evening and exposure to it through devices tells our body that we should be awake. If you can’t resist, get blue light blocking glasses.

Write down your thoughts before you go to sleep. Often when we go to bed, we have a million things going around in our head, getting them down on paper can ‘offload’ our brain enabling us to sleep.

Do not eat 3 hours before bed. Eating late is a stressor to our bodies, so eating earlier helps us to move out of a stress state into a ‘thrive’ state.

Avoid liquid stress. A glass of wine is tempting after a stressful day and as alcohol is a sedative, we often think that it helps us to sleep. But alcohol disrupts our sleep and wakes us more during the night, it also blocks our deeply restorative REM sleep.

Avoid caffeine from midday. One quarter of a cup of the coffee you enjoyed at lunchtime will still be in your body at midnight!

Saying No!

It’s so easy to overstretch yourself and to feel pressured to say yes to everything. Take some time to work out your boundaries so that you have got time to say yes to the things you love such as taking a bath, reading a book or going for a walk. Remember, doing the things you love balances out the effects of stress.

Getting to grips with time management can make time for self-care

Saying no is easier if we have a plan. Evaluate your daily and weekly tasks and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. For example, can you delegate other members of the family to cook on some days? Or perhaps put on a load of washing. Giving people specific tasks on specific days can be more successful than a ‘it would be nice if….’ Which might get overlooked!

Schedule in time with friends and family (even if it is on zoom), this is just as important as the other things in your day!

Alarm clock

Wake up 30 minutes earlier. Sometimes having some time to ourselves first thing in the morning can give us that space we need to feel refreshed and revived. You could journal, meditate, stretch or go for a walk, or even just have that few minutes of calm before the day starts.

Schedule your times for checking your emails and scrolling social media. You’ll be amazed how much time you can save when you do this!

Taking regular breaks at work can help you feel alert and well and focused.

Make time for being active and getting outside because fresh air can impact your overall health. Can you park a little further away from work, or pop out for half an hour at lunchtime or kick a ball around with the kids when you get home?

Sound of music

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Often, ‘what to eat’ can be a source of stress in itself. There are a thousand ‘diets’ on the internet telling us what to eat drink and when to eat and drink. It shouldn’t be this complicated. And it’s not. What is important is for us is to eat a wide variety of foods that are as close to natural as possible. If we eat whole foods when we are hungry, we won’t need to snack on ‘junk’ foods. The best way to do this is to plan our meals ahead of time for the week. Some people prefer to ‘batch cook’ on the weekend. Shop for these meals and organise who is cooking them on which days. If we do this, the odd ‘treat’ or ‘take away’ won’t matter so much. It’s being in a good routine the majority of the time that makes the difference and the more organised you are, the less stressful it will be.

Remember the important thing is to tackle one thing at a time and to turn it into a habit. Maybe make a list of what you would like to change and introduce one new thing each week or even each month. Small changes add up and looking after ourselves really matters.

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Our thoughts on Rishi’s statement yesterday

The Chancellor’s update to the House of Commons yesterday made pretty grim listening. It’s not going to surprise anyone to hear that due to two national lockdowns and a myriad of local lockdowns, the economy has shrunk in 2020 by 11.3%. The economy is forecast to recover back to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

You can look at this two ways. Either let it get you down. Or remember that after the Spanish Flu pandemic finished in 1920, Britain enjoyed the roaring 20s. In other words, better times are coming ahead. And we are here to help you get to those better times and enjoy the fruits of your labours.


Apart from gloomy economic figures, the chancellor did announce some changes you need to be aware of:

  • The minimum wage (now rebranded as the National Living Wage) will increase in April to £8.91 an hour for people 23 and over. 16 and 17 year olds will see their pay go up to £4.62 per hour.
  • People with a defined benefit retirement scheme will see their pensions reduced from 2030. This is due to the pension payments, from 2030, which increase with the cost of living using a new cost of living calculation. Currently the cost of living is calculated using various measures, including the Retail Prices Index. Whereas from 2030, the cost of living will be calculated using the CPIH: The catchily titled “consumer prices index plus housing costs”. These changes will not impact the state pension.

Given that the country has its highest borrowing levels outside of war time, it is fairly certain that we will see in the next year or so rising taxation to help the treasury balance the books. We don’t know yet what taxes will be raised and what reliefs will be lowered. But expect – if the media is to be believed all these to be raised; Capital Gains Tax, Inheritance Tax, Income tax, and NI contributions for self-employed people.

We are already seeing some of this happening at HMRC. They are toughening up their stance on ‘time to pay’ agreements, as well as investing very heavily in fraud and tax investigations. As with all these things, if you are concerned about your cash flow or any potential irregularities please get in touch with us sooner rather than later. The earlier we find out about any problems the easiest it is for us to help mitigate the impact for you as a business owner.

What happens after lockdown?

English Government announce new winter plan to beat COVID-19

This week seems to be a week of announcements from Boris. So, you may see a few updates from us too this week.

On Monday the English government published its winter plan to beat COVID-19. You can find the full text of the plan here. Having read through the plan it seems to be good news for most businesses.

The English government announced yesterday that:

  • Full lockdown will end on the 2nd Dec 2020
  • England will go back into the 3-tiered regional approach.

However, there are changes to those tiers. And on Thursday this week regions will find out what tier they are in.

So what will change?

  1. The stay at home requirement will end, with domestic and international travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.
  2. Shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen.
  3. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, subject to social distancing.
  4. People will no longer be limited to seeing only one other person in outdoor public spaces – the rule of 6 will now apply as it did in the previous set of tiers.

How has the tier system changed? 

The changes to the tiers are as follows:

  1. Regardless of your tier the government would like working from home wherever possible.
  2. In tier 2, pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals along with accompanying drinks.
  3. In tier 3 all hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through. Hotels and other accommodation providers must close (except for specific exemptions, including people staying for work purposes or where they cannot return home. All indoor entertainment venues must also close.
  4. The 10pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm. This allows customers to depart gradually and provides greater flexibility.
  5. In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sport and business events can now resume inside and outside with tight capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.

We will have more updates this week when we have more news on the tax updates from Rishi and any further updates planned by the government.

What is working from home relief?

Working from home relief = FREE CASH

Due to the current pandemic, many businesses have been working from home this year (ours included). It looks like those who can work from home will be until March 2021 at the earliest.

We have also seen a change in attitude towards flexible working. It has become the ‘new normal’ and many employees may continue working from home in the future.

What many businesses haven’t realised is that they can get free cash from HMRC for working from home. WOW!

So what is working from home relief?

From 6 April 2020 employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home. Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive tax relief from HMRC.

Find out full details here –  www.gov.uk/government/news/54800-customers-claim-tax-relief-for-working-from-home.

In a very interesting twist Martin Lewis has reported that even if you work from home for just one week, you can still claim a whole years relief. This is a very public statement from Martin Lewis and we are certain that he has proof from HMRC. However there may be a caveat when HMRC realise what they have said.

Read his article here – https://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2020/04/martin-lewis–working-from-home-due-to-coronavirus–claim-p6-wk-/

Our advice for employees 

If your employer is not paying the allowance, which they are not obliged to, log into the HMRC portal and make your claim. For basic rate tax payers this is worth £62.40 and higher rate tax payers it is worth £124.80. For 10 minutes of your time, it is worth doing!

Our advice for employers

You do not have to pay the allowance. However as we are coming into the festive season, why not incorporate the £6 per week into a Christmas Bonus? There are no PAYE or NIC deductions for the employer or employee making it a great treat for the end of this turbulent year.

What are the new business support schemes for covid-19?

What are the new business support schemes for covid-19?

Yesterday the government announced more support for businesses and the self-employed. This blog takes you through the announcements and what it means for your business.

On the one hand, it is great to see the government making available this help. But this probably means we will see fairly strict lockdown conditions between now and March 2021. We hope we are wrong about this, but in your contingency/scenario planning, particularly in regard to cash, please extend this 4-week lockdown until the end of March. If you need help with your business planning, please get in touch.

Here are the full details from the Government’s announcement.

The Self-Employed Income Scheme

On 30th November you will be able to claim a grant for up to 80% of your profits, to cover you for Nov – Jan 2021. This is capped at £7500. They also declared there will be one more grant which will cover the period Feb – Apr 2021. Details are yet unknown of when this will be paid or for how much.

To receive these grants, you need to have received the previous grants.

The ‘Furlough scheme’

This has now been extended to the end of March. Which in effect means that we are unlikely to see the Job Support Scheme operational… You can Furlough any member of staff, as long as they were on the payroll before Oct 30th 2020. And the government will pay up to 80% of their wages, capped at £2500 per month.

As a result of extending the Furlough scheme the planned Jan 2021 ‘Job retention bonus’ of £1000 for any employee you Furloughed who you still employed has been deferred. Until when? Who knows?

Help with cash flow

If you haven’t taken a Bounce Back Loan or didn’t take the maximum amount available to you, you can now top this up. And you will be able to take out a CBIL or Bounce Back Loan now until the end of Jan 2021.

Mortgage payment holidays for those who haven’t taken a payment holiday will be available for 6 months, without this being noted on their credit files.

Remember that for many businesses the deferred Q2 VAT payments, general tax and self-assessment tax is now becoming due in the next few months. Please get in touch if you haven’t already identified how you will manage your cash to make these payments. We can put you in touch with finance providers or help you organise a time to pay agreement with HMRC.

What support is there for my business in lockdown 2?

Last night the prime minister addressed the nation and announced a month long lockdown for England. Something we never considered happening in our lifetimes is now happening twice. Businesses all over the country are being forced to shut once again, and people told to stay home and save lives. If you own a business, the question now is ‘what support is available to help my business survive?’.

Firstly, we need to apologise as details are still very sketchy. Indeed, the government’s own website on the job retention schemes have not yet been updated after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday evening. For more details about the support for businesses announced yesterday see the government’s press release here

This is what we are aware of at the moment:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or ‘Furlough’ as it has come to be known will be extended for another month on more favourable terms.
  • The replacement for Furlough, “The Job Support Scheme” due to start today, starts in early December after the Furlough scheme officially finishes.
  • A grant available to self-employed people affected by COVID-19 has also been doubled to 40% of profits, with a maximum grant of £3750 over a 3-month period.

There are still grants available for businesses with rateable premises who are forced to close due to local or national restrictions.

The good news for small business owners (if there can be a silver lining) is that now the government will put in the full 80% of wage costs, up to a max of £2500 per month, for furloughed employees, with employers only needing to cover the pension and NI contributions. And similar to the scheme rules from July, you can have your furloughed employees working part-time under the scheme.

You will be able to furlough anyone who has been on the payroll by 30th October 2020. And they don’t need to have been furloughed before. And similar to how the scheme has operated, you will make your furlough claims with your payroll submissions.

Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will still be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.


If you are based in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you will have money made available to you to replicate a similar grant scheme for closed businesses.

Let’s not forget….

We’ve all been here before. We know that it is a tough time for business owners. And there are no guarantees that this lockdown will stop after the 2nd December. However, we are here for you and have got your back.