4 Productivity Tips From 1 Accounts To Kickstart Your New Year

4 Productivity Tips To Kickstart Your New Year!

Many people find it hard to return to work after the long Christmas and New Year slowdown, but the pandemic has slowed many people down to a halt. It may take longer than normal for some people to return to their usual productivity levels – but why stop at “usual” when things are unusual? Why not aim higher?

To help you do just that, here are 4 productivity tips to being as productive as possible when you return to work.

1. Know what you want to be different

Think about what normally happens when you start back at work. What tasks do you do that don’t really need to be done? What high-value tasks can you do instead? How much time do you usually have before things properly kick in and you’re very busy?

If you think about what you want to change so that you can start the year right, your intentions will be clear going into your first day and you’ll be far more likely to achieve what you want.

2. Identify the habits you’ll need to change

When you know your intentions (i.e. what you want to change), you then need to think about what action you will take. What steps do you need to take every day? Do you need to break bad habits that waste time and create new ones or do you just need to adapt them?

For example, if you want to develop a habit to do business development every day, try to link this to another habit that you already have. Something like, every morning after I get a cup of coffee and switch on my computer, I will do 10 minutes of engagement on LinkedIn.

3. Prioritise the right tasks

You shouldn’t have mounting emails or multiple requests from team members on your first day back, so use this time wisely. Prioritise the tasks that give you the most bang for your buck or the essentials that usually get pushed further and further down your to-do list. Plan your work for the next few months and start getting ahead.

You can even use this time to build those all-important relationships with your network. Phone up your best clients to find out how their Christmas went, let them know you’re back and to give you a shout if they need anything.

4. Don’t forget to look after yourself

Yes, looking after yourself is essential for productivity! The worst thing you can do is return to work and slot right back into the busyness and leave all those benefits that come with having a break behind. All that will do is result in you getting overwhelmed and potentially burning out after a few weeks or months. Instead, you should use this time to implement some self-care elements into your routine which you can carry on throughout the year.

Find out what works for you. Maybe it’s writing down a few things that you’re grateful for at the start of every workday. Maybe it’s going for a walk at lunch or the gym after work. Whatever helps you to focus when you’re working and switch off when you’re not, you need to make these a part of your daily work routine. What you’ll find is that you’ll keep that holiday feeling for as long as possible AND you’ll transition into a much healthier way of working where you’re far more productive.

Is it time to change the tax rules for Christmas parties?

HMRC rules currently allow employers to spend up to £150 tax-free per employee per tax year, on events such as Christmas or summer parties. This has been the case since 2003.

The tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg has called on the government to double this amount to £300 as they believe the current limit is “massively out-of-date”.

The firm also states that increasing the limit to £300 per employee per year would help reduce the overall costs faced by employers and encourage them to provide employees with a ‘genuine thank you’ for all their efforts throughout the last two years.

Specifically, the raised limit would mean that in most reasonable cases, there would be no need for employers to report any taxable benefit-in-kind charge via a PAYE settlement agreement (PSA).

An additional benefit of changing the limit is that it would also provide businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, with some ‘much needed support’ as they continue to try and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm states that where employers need to cover the tax cost of a Christmas party via a PAYE settlement agreement, they can face an effective tax liability, including taxes and National Insurance contributions (NIC), of up to 107% of the core value of the Christmas party.

This can mean that the effective, cumulative cost to the employer of providing a Christmas party can easily in some cases be up to 200% of its headline, initial per head cost.

Robert Salter, a tax service director at Blick Rothenberg said: ‘Employees need to ensure that they avoid making some common mistakes, when it comes to budgeting for their Christmas party.

‘For example, the £150 value mentioned above is not an ‘allowance’.  Hence, if the per head cost of the event is above £150, the full value of the event becomes a taxable benefit and not just the excess amount over the £150 threshold. It can be a minefield.

The tax-free amount should really be increased, and the rules should be simplified.’

The current system means that businesses do not have to report to HMRC or pay tax and national insurance on a party or social function if it is open to all employees, is an annual event, such as a Christmas party or summer barbecue, or costs £150 or less per person. If there are multiple events in the year it is still exempt from tax if the combined cost of the events is no more than £150 per head.

Blick Rothenberg states that if a company spends £100 per employee on a summer event and another £125 per employee on a Christmas party, the tax would have to be paid on the whole amount for the cheaper event rather than just the amount that takes the total up to the £150 per employee limit.

Salter concluded: ‘As Christmas approaches, it’s time for the government to show a bit of goodwill to firms, employees, and the hospitality industry.’

In December 2020, gift company Hampers.com’s survey of 500 businesses revealed that UK companies were expected to spend an average of £225 per employee for the Christmas season, which was 12% less than was recorded in 2019, when they spent £257 a head.

However, many catering and hospitality businesses have seen a slump in their December bookings for parties. This is said to be due to the rising cases of Covid-19 with many deciding not to attend an office party in order to be able to go home for Christmas.

On Times Radio this month, business secretary Kwasi Kwartang reassured people that it is still worth planning an office party, stating that he was ‘looking forward to having a Christmas party as usual’.

Last month, health secretary Sajid Javid stated that the public should take advantage of the free lateral flow test provided by the government and that if they are attending a Christmas party then they should take a lateral flow test before they attend.

Some companies are choosing to give their employees a gift instead of a Christmas party. Belfast accountancy and advisory firm Tilly Mooney Moore states that if companies are considering gifting then they must be aware of the tax implications.

The firm states that gifts to employees such as hampers will be tax free, provided they fall within the ‘trivial benefit’ exemption.

This applies when the cost including VAT does not exceed £50 per person, it is not cash or a cash voucher that could be exchanged for cash, it is not provided in recognition of past or future services by the employee, bears the name or logo of the business and does not include food, drink, or tobacco.

Where the employer is a ‘close’ company and the benefit is provided to a director, the total value of trivial benefits they can receive in a tax year cannot exceed £300.

In terms of gifts from third parties, such as suppliers or customers, employees can receive vouchers without tax as long as they do not exceed £250. This must be genuinely intended as a gift, however, and not provided in recognition for hard work.

We think this is an important discussion to have, especially as companies want to give their employees an extra treat for all their hard work during the pandemic.

Christmas picture

How to combat Christmas stress in your workforce

Although Christmas is a magical time of year full of celebration and quality time with family and friends, it can cause stress too. Beyond just the pressure of gift buying and financial stress, the month is a lot shorter and there’s an increased pressure to meet deadlines, hit end-of-year targets, and attend additional social functions. And that’s not even mentioning the stress that comes with hosting people for the actual holidays!

According to the Health and Safety Executive, approximately 50% of all work-related illnesses in 2019/2020 were caused by stress, anxiety or depression. And that was without the stress that comes with the holiday season. Too much stress at work can lead to bigger problems for your employees – impacting productivity, morale, and wellbeing – so as an employer, you need to think about how you can support your team through this time of year.

To help combat Christmas stress (so that rather than burn out, your employees come back in January refreshed, engaged and motivated to get going), here is an essential checklist.

Your ‘combat Christmas stress’ checklist

1 . Plan Christmas-themed activities

If you have your team in one office, get everyone to decorate together. An easy group activity such as this can be very therapeutic. As well as decorating their own desks, you can also arrange festive activities such as Secret Santa, Christmas jumper day, and of course, the office Christmas party.

If you have a remote team, think about how you can bring the team together and nurture festiveness. Can you send the whole team gifts which will be opened together at the virtual Christmas party?

2. Help staff manage their workload

Time management is a big source of stress in December, so can you help your employees with this? Since the season has fewer work days but the same amount of work, help your employees plan ahead as much as possible so that their productivity isn’t affected.

Another option is to outsource or take on temporary staff over busy periods.

3. Maintain effective communication

Is everyone doing okay? Do your employees need anything from you to make this time easier on them? Make sure to increase your communication with your employees this season or at least maintain effective channels when things get busy.

One of the most important things to communicate during this period is when everyone will be taking their holiday. Help your employees communicate this to each other and also to their clients! If everyone is clear who is off and when in advance, then things won’t build up right before Christmas and your employees can properly switch off without worrying about what they are coming back to.

4. Help staff reduce their financial stress

Financial stress is one of the biggest pressures during December, so think about the ways you can help your employees with this. Can you give your employees an end-of-year bonus? Or other financial rewards such as gift cards or vouchers? Can you recommend finance planning apps for budgeting? Or get a financial expert to come in and run a workshop on “holiday budgeting” or “how to avoid overspending”?

5. Encourage healthy eating and exercise

The holiday season is full of rich, unhealthy foods and drinks, all of which can reduce mood and energy and increase stress and anxiety. If you want your employees to come back in January healthy and raring to go, help them to make wiser food choices.

You can start by offering healthier food at the company Christmas party and encourage the team to compete over the holidays – who can eat healthier and log more steps? Maybe you can all do a food or exercise challenge together?

6. Check for signs of anxiety/depression

Is anyone displaying signs of social withdrawal, anxiety, depression or grief? Keep your eyes open for the tell-tale signs and be prepared to give extra support to these people.

Christmas and New Year can be a lonely time for people, especially for those who have recently lost a loved one, so be aware that some may need alone time while others may feel isolated and will need encouragement to get involved.

Other things you can do is to maximise natural light in the office and encourage employees to take vitamin D!

7. Encourage work/life balance

Can you offer your employees flexible hours or to work from home this season? If your employees can schedule work around their personal lives, you’ll see a huge difference in productivity and wellbeing. Even if it’s a simple as allowing people to work earlier and leave earlier, so they can take care of their children or finish their Christmas shopping. A good work-life balance is essential for mental and physical wellbeing.

Pave the way for a prosperous New Year!

The more you can reduce stress in December, the more productive the New Year will be, so help your employees. Help them manage their workload, their client expectations and their work-life balance. Think about how you can help to reduce their financial stress and always keep an eye out for anyone who is struggling.  If you do this, you will combat Christmas stress and you’ll have a full team who switched off during the holidays and have come back refreshed, motivated and raring to go.


why should I switch to a digital payment process

Why should I switch to a digital payment process?

According to studies, SMEs spend on average, a whopping £4.4 billion per annum chasing late payments. This problem is only exacerbated by traditional (and slow!) payment methods too such as cash and cheques, so what is the solution to this?

To reduce the time between invoicing and the money actually clearing into your accounts receivables – thereby minimising the negative impact on your cash flow – small and medium businesses should consider switching to digital payment. Here’s why.

6 benefits of switching to a digital payment process

1 . Consistent cash flow

Digital payments mean a faster processing time which results in a much faster cash conversion cycle. This means no more big gaps in cash flow due to late payments.

2 . Lower processing costs

Switching to digital means lower payment processing fees than standard bank transfers. As there’s no need for manual reconciliation, labour costs are also reduced.

3 . Greater visibility of your finances in real-time

Businesses that use a digital payment process always have their accounts receivables in real-time. This allows them to refine their credit control processes and make informed strategic decisions.

4. Quicker reconciliation

Digital payments don’t take days to reconcile, they show up on your accounts receivable almost instantly. The result? Better documentation and more time for your staff to focus on the high-value stuff instead.

5. Happier clients

Going digital benefits your clients too as it gives them the widest and most convenient range of payment options to choose from. Making it quick and easy for your clients to pay makes them happy and it builds loyal relationships too!

6. Security compliant

The vast majority of software providers abide by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This means all business and client data can be processed securely.

Wave goodbye to late payments

Payment delays can build and threaten the future of your company. To avoid potentially irreparable damage, implement digital payments sooner rather than later. Not only will this balance out your monthly cash flow and reduce manual work and extra costs, but it will also improve your client journey and most likely ensure repeat business.