Construction Workers

Pressure On U.K. To Curb Non-Essential Construction Work During Coronavirus

Uncertainty over whether self-employed construction workers should continue working on building sites across the U.K. has led to mounting pressure for a decision to be made over what should be considered ‘essential’ work.

Following prime minister Boris Johnston’s decision to put the U.K. on lock down to help curb the spread of COVID-19, there was much confusion within the business community as to what this meant for workers who could not continue to work from home. Over 2.7 million people employed directly or indirectly by the construction industry have been left in a state of limbo, as the vast majority of workers tend to be self-employed or sub-contractors. They have been left confused by the message to stay at home, yet are being told by bosses to turn up to work as normal. Some have even been threatened with loss of pay or total job loss if they do not turn up. With many being paid weekly, this is leaving construction workers fearful to go to work, but completely unable to stop without suffering from severe financial distress.

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The official stance from the government following lock down was that construction work could continue, providing sites and employers were able to keep to the guidelines issued by Public Health England. This included being 2 meters apart from any other workers at all times. The trouble with this arrangement was that it was simply not practical or possible on many construction sites. Workers were conducting work which required them to be close together and at break times, the canteen continued to be full, with minimal distance between chairs and tables within the already confined space. Furthermore, images were circulated in the press and on social media which revealed that London’s tube trains, which were running on a reduced service to try and control the numbers using it, were severely overcrowded with a large proportion of passengers comprising construction workers trying to get to work.

Many construction sites have remained open and there have been reports that workers have been told they must come in to work, despite them being concerned about the health risks of continuing to work in a particular location. Also, because the vast majority of construction workers are self-employed, the lack of clarity provided over the support self-employed workers will receive has led many to continue working even though they would prefer to self-isolate. Those that did decide to stay at home are those who have taken the decision to forfeit any further income from their work, and most have only got a couple of weeks worth of savings to survive on before they enter into financial hardship. Many are simply living from week to week, so cannot stop as they have no savings or back up money to rely on.

The government has been clear that key workers and essential businesses must continue throughout the pandemic, but there are now calls to define exactly what type of work should continue and which should be stopped. Medical experts are in agreement that social distancing is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread, yet this is only partly being adhered to while self-employed workers continue to work out of fear of falling into financial difficulty. Once everyone knows that they will receive some kind of government support, they are far more likely to be willing to stay inside and support the national effort to stop cases of COVID-19 from reaching levels which are unsustainable in hospitals.

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Following sustained pressure for clearer answers for the self-employed, on Thursday 26th March the U.K. government unveiled its plans to support self-employed workers, although had issued a prior warning that not everyone will avoid financial hardship during the Coronavirus and that some businesses simply can’t be saved. They revealed that self-employed workers will be able to claim up to 80% of their earnings, averaged over a three year period. This money will be available from June for an initial period of three months after which this will be reviewed and possibly extended. In the interim period, they have been advised to apply for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan. Whilst this package has been created to help around 95% of self-employed workers, there are some who will fall outside of this bracket. Those include people whose profits exceed £50K per year or those who have not submitted a tax return due to only recently setting up as self-employed. Those individuals have been asked to seek support through the welfare system.

The support provided to both individuals and businesses in light of the Coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented and has been hailed as one of the most generous currently being offered by any country. Whilst there is still some way to go before these measures are working in practice, it has left the vast majority feeling a little more settled financially when faced with several uncertain months ahead. For a limited number of individuals however, it appears that they have still fallen through the cracks.

Team Working Together

How Coronavirus Is Affecting America’s Workers

With the coronavirus outbreak affecting businesses not just across the country but the entire world it is understandable that American workers are becoming concerned about their employment.

Currently workers are losing their jobs at a rate that has never been seen before as much of the economy has been closed down. Sectors including the aviation industry, travel, hospitality and retail are seeing large amounts of their profits reducing as we stay home and try to avoid spreading COVID-19 further.

However, with so many more citizens becoming unemployed it seems that the government has not put a strong enough contingency plan in place, with many unemployed struggling to get help from where they need it most.

So far it has been predicted that over one million employees will find themselves unemployed by the end of the month, a huge increase to the near low record unemployment rate of February. Some experts are also predicting that March could be the most damaging month in American history for unemployment.

Last week the Labor Department announced that 281,000 people had applied for jobless benefits in the previous week, an increase of 33 per cent from the week before. And the prediction is that it is going to continue to increase. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group has seen profits drop dramatically, leading to the decision to axe 2,000 employees while the Pebblebrook Hotel Trust have let 4,000 workers go. Furthermore, Caesars and MGM Resorts have also had to cut employment numbers, as have thousands of small businesses including coffee shops, gyms, bars and restaurants.

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The self-employed and freelance sector has also seen a huge hit with many companies dropping their freelancers before they reduce the number of their permanent employees.

The state unemployment insurance offices have reported a record number of claims being made over the last few weeks including Maryland’s who reported five times as many claims being made. Colorado also saw an increase in claims with 11,000 filed in just two days, nearly three times the weekly average.

And with so many people trying to claim benefits the demand has seen a negative effect on the state unemployment offices. Websites for unemployment insurance have crashed due to the high number of visitors while callers are complaining of waiting on hold for hours to speak to somebody – often to call centers that simply do not have the manpower to cope with the demand.

However, when the callers eventually do get through to their unemployment insurance companies many are finding they either are unable to qualify or are awarded an average payment of only $385 a week. There have also been reports in some states that claimants are having to wait at least a week before they receive any financial help.

Schmidt Futures’ Labor economist Martha Gimbel explained that, “workers expect unemployment insurance to be there for them in a downturn. A bunch of workers are about to find out that it’s not. This is a real-life nightmare. Every hole we allowed to grow in our social safety net is hitting us all at once.”

As with the rest of the world, the pandemic has moved fast through America, and the sudden unemployment of many is being compared to the Great Recession.

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With so many unemployed citizens being denied benefits Congress has been called upon to increase the amount of funding available for state unemployment insurance. Last week President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which included $1 billion to assist states with their costs of processing the increased number of unemployment insurance claims. Currently twenty-three states have already seen their unemployment trust funds severely hit, and that was before the coronavirus crisis hit us.

There is also the possibility that the amount of money received by the unemployed could increase as well as an extension to those who are ‘gig’ workers and the self-employed. This is power that Congress is able to utilize in the event of a natural disaster. With many others unable to qualify for benefits, including tipped workers, contractors, undocumented workers and full time students, this is an avenue that many are encouraging the government to explore, especially as those who were in lower paid positions do not have enough in savings to cover their bills.

As well as the struggle to get any benefits, many workers are concerned about the uncertainty of everything. At the moment nobody knows how long the crisis could last – some countries including Italy are in total lockdown while China – where the pandemic originated – has been in lockdown since January.

Spain has also been ‘closed’ and many countries have banned all international travel. In the United Kingdom they are not on lockdown as yet but all schools are closing from Monday onwards, with many believing that due to their school break falling in July and August, they may not reopen for six months.

Self-Employed Woman

Concerns For The Financial Security of American Self-Employed Workers

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt businesses across the world, there has been widespread concern for the financial security of self-employed workers.

The rise of ‘Gig Economy’ in recent years has led to a surge in self-employed workers across all sectors. People have been actively encouraged to set up their own businesses and many organizations have utilised contractors extensively to help manage peaks in demand to create a more agile workforce. Reports suggest that 16 million Americans are self employed, and that they collectively make up 30% of the workforce. However unlike employed workers, these individuals are at high risk of being left in financial difficulty thanks to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the devastating effect it is having on economies across the world.

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The flexibility of contractors means that they can unfortunately be dropped at a moment’s notice. Even if there are contracts in place, the organization can call time early and it would be down to the contractor to formally chase for enforcement of the contractual terms, which could be lengthy and costly. The impact of Coronavirus is affecting businesses not just on the frontline, such as shops, cafes, restaurants and theaters, but the various support services that work for many of these businesses. An alarming number of self-employed marketing professionals, PR agents, social media specialists, trainers and other advisors have all seen their contracts paused or terminated as the uncertainty leaves many businesses in fear over their short term finances. Whether these people were directly employed by the organization, or were subcontracted work through larger agencies, the outcome is still as precarious. These individuals risk being left without work through no fault of their own and none of the protection they may receive as a result of being employed. This also extends to sickness caused by COVID-19, either directly, or with another member of the family suffering such as a child, who they then need to care for. This is leading to many days lost in terms of billable income, putting this particular category at risk of being hit hard by the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

The US is experiencing continued spread of the virus in similar ways to other countries and its effects are predicted to last several months. This means that some self-employed workers could be facing months ahead of paused contracts, a lack of income and worry over how they are going to pay their bills and put food on the table. In an effort to help soften the blow, many larger organizations are being encouraged to keep their on contractors wherever possible, even if it is on reduced terms, to help ensure that people are able to survive the next turbulent few months. There are a number of sectors which are shown to still be performing well despite the crisis, particularly areas such as B2B tech, online entertainment and healthcare services. There have also been reports from the self-employed community of larger clients who are not facing financial difficulty offering to pay for work months in advance to help their contractors to manage the reduction in income experienced during this difficult time.

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If you are a self-employed worker who has faced a loss of income as a result of COVID-19, it is likely to feel like a very worrying and stressful time. Particularly if you are working in the leisure or hospitality industry or much of your work centered around events or conferences, you may even be in a situation where you have lost all of your income. Whilst this may seem like a completely desperate situation, it is important to retain a positive mindset and to look for the opportunities which are still out there. There are many self-employed community groups on Facebook and LinkedIn which are actively coming together to help support each other through this unprecedented time. From sharing workload opportunities to posting notices for upcoming contracts, there are new and exciting opportunities if you are open to viewing things from a different perspective.

If you are a business which is currently employing the services of freelancers, spare a thought for how they will cope with a massive loss of income. They are not just a commodity that won’t be affected by cancelling a contract before time. Of course you will need to find ways to cut back on expenditure, but try to have open and honest conversations with your contractors in the same way that you would your own employees. Your contractors have families to support too, and particularly in the current climate may not be able to replace that income very quickly.

The economic outlook in the midst of COVID-19 is uncertain, but what has been reiterated over and over across the world is that the only way through this is to work together and to support each other. There is light at the end of the tunnel, it will just take a group effort to get there.

Disney Parks

Walt Disney Confirms Theme Parks Closure Around The World

Coronavirus has affected many businesses across the world due to staff being too unwell to work or customers not wanting to head to crowded areas. But while we all thought COVID-19 could only affect humans, it turns out mice can be affected too. Well, two mice.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse have been the face of Walt Disney’s empire since Mickey’s first appearance in Steamboat Willie in 1928. Since then the Disney business has grown to include media powerhouses – Disney Studios, The Disney Channel, Disney Pixar, Touchstone Pictures, brands and film franchises – such as Star Wars, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Winnie the Pooh and all his friends and much more – including ABC, ESPN, Hollywood Records.

They also own Walt’s own personal favorite, theme parks.

Since Walt Disney first started construction on Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida in 1967, the Disney Company has continued to build parks around the world, including in Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris, generating around $26.23 of revenue worldwide. And nothing has stopped the growth.

Until now.

Disney’s flagship theme park resort in Orlando has had to close their gates to the public due to coronavirus. The global pandemic has also seen Disneyland Paris close and a suspension of any new departures on the Disney Cruise Line.

It had already been reported that their resort in Anaheim California was to close, and with locations around the world having problems, all of the theme parks in Asia, Europe and North America have had to close.

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A spokesperson for Disney released a statement saying that:

“In an abundance of caution and in the best interests of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month.”

A further statement came soon afterwards stating that Universal Orlando Resort would also temporarily close, also starting at the close of business on March 15.

A recent report by AECOM listed The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World as the world’s ‘most visited theme park’ after over 20 million people visited in 2018.

The Walt Disney Company has recently opted to invest large sums into the theme park division of the company with both California and Florida opening Star Wars lands. The investment – though to be billions of dollars – also includes the new “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway’ ride which had its debut only this month at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Generating over $26 billion in sales in their Parks, Experiences and Products division in 2019, Disney theme parks bring in around 37 per cent of the company’s total revenue.

With these investments the closure could not have come at a worse time. The company’s Chief Executive Officer – Bob Iger – stepped down with Bob Chapek stepping in to replace him, leaving his role as Chairman of Disney Parks.

Since the announcement shares in Disney (DIS) have dropped over twenty per cent, in part due to the coronavirus closing the theme parks, but also due to the delay of the release of “Mulan’, who had its world premiere only a few days ago.

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And with many sporting events and seasons being cancelled – including the NBA season, the NHL and the MLS season being suspended for thirty days, the MLB delaying the start of their season as well as motor racing, soccer and college basketball around the world – the revenue from live sports streams will also be severely affected.

In a further announcement, Disney have confirmed that their hotels at Disneyland Paris and at Disney World will continue to stay open, however this is something that can change. All cast members will continue to be paid while the parks are closed which some companies have opted not to do.

Employees at Walt Disney Television, ESPN and Walt Disney Studios, as well as their parks and products divisions and its direct-to-consumer divisions have been asked to work from home where possible, a move that has been replicated by companies across the world, with many taking advantage of video conferencing calls rather than meeting face to face.

The closure of some of America’s biggest businesses shows how easy it is at the moment for the economic climate to change. The travel industry has already been suffering from a slump in bookings and the affect of coronavirus is highlighting where there may be areas to be concerned about.

Trip Miller, Managing Partner at Gullane Capital Partners as well as a Disney shareholder spoke to CNN Business and said:

“These parks are iconic brands etched in the culture of America and every childhood. To close assets of this scale around the world would speak to the seldom seen seriousness of this health threat.”

With this in mind, we hope that both Mickey and Minnie are ready to open their doors to the world again soon.

Woman Working at Home

Top Tips For Working At Home

With Coronavirus continuing to spread across the globe, more people than ever are contemplating working from home. Some have no choice as their offices are closed, or they are required to self-isolate due to potential symptoms or perhaps have been around others who are infected with the virus. With nurseries, schools and colleges closing too, many parents are having to juggle the demands of work alongside additional childcare and may even be fighting off the symptoms of illness too. All of these factors can place pressure on workers who are expected to continue with ‘business as usual’ except from their homes! If you are having to try and work from home, here are a few tips for maximizing your productivity.

Create a dedicated workspace
Some people are lucky enough to have a home office or a dedicated space for working, but for those who don’t usually work from home, finding somewhere to work could be challenging. At first it can be tempting to simply curl up on the sofa and work on your laptop, but if this is likely to be for an extended period of time, you’ll soon find that this doesn’t bode well for productivity or posture!
Ideally you should be sitting at a table with a good supporting chair. Your laptop or computer screen should also be high enough so that you are looking straight ahead and not crouching over. Also make sure you base yourself somewhere with good lighting, as otherwise this could lead to eye strain and headaches.

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Don’t get distracted by the TV
Working from home might seem like the ideal way to get your daily tasks done while also catching up on your favourite TV programs. The trouble with this is that if it is too engaging, you’ll end up paying more attention to what’s on the big screen and less on the work that needs doing! This can mean that you spend much longer working than you really need to, and your attention to detail may lapse too.
Background noise from the TV can help some people to stay focused however, so if you are one of these people, just make sure that you’ve got something on which is not likely to distract you. Keeping the volume fairly low too can also ensure that it doesn’t become too overpowering during your working hours.

Set specific times for working or tasks to complete
If you are working from home and your children are off school too, particularly younger ones, it is going to be near impossible for you to complete a full day of work with no distractions. Many parents often feel this pressure, as bosses often assume that working from home means you’ll still get the same amount of work done, but when you add children to the mix, all good intentions go completely out of the window.
If you know that you’re going to struggle to get a full shift in with the kids around, preparation and planning is key to being as productive as possible. Set yourself specific tasks to complete or windows during which to work which are reasonable and likely to be achieved. Don’t be unrealistic or too ambitious with these as it is far better to get everything done with time to spare for extra work than to constantly feel like you’re missing the mark each day.

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Take a lunch break
Working from home will feel very different to working from the office and so you might not feel the need to take a proper lunch break, but it is important that you do so. Time away from working, even at home, helps your brain and body to relax a little and will help you to be more focused when you return to work in the afternoon. If you have children, this gives you time to spend with them, perhaps reading a book, playing a game or even having an indoor picnic. This little break in the routine will help you to keep on track and feel like you have achieved your goals by the end of the day.

Build in time for activities with the children
Many people find that they are actually more productive at home than they are in the office. Often this is because there are less distractions, less time for chat with other employees and generally less opportunities for their mind to wander. The positive thing about this is that you may find you get all of your daily tasks done with some room to spare!

If the children are at home, you might feel some parent guilt for working all of the time and not spending any time with them, even though you are technically being paid to work a full shift. It can be useful to change your working pattern a little so that you can build in some time to play with them, to watch a movie, or simply to focus your attention on them for a little while. It could be that you get up a little earlier to work before they get up, or catch up on some work in the evening. Everyone is different, so find the flow that works best for you.

Working from home may not be ideal, but hopefully these tips will help you to make the most of the situation whilst also feeling fulfilled both in your work and as a parent.

Coronavirus Mask

Coronavirus Affects Business Across America

The start of the new decade has not started well. Disasters including the Australian bushfires, Thailand’s floods, increasing tensions in the Middle East and now the Coronavirus has brought more heartbreak and misery in the first two months than the world was necessarily prepared for.

To date, COVID-19 – the disease caused by Coronavirus – has infected 98,000 people worldwide, with over 3,280 deaths in 79 countries and territories. Although the death tally is very high it also means that around 94,700 people have survived the illness.

And while we are all being advised what to do to avoid contracting the disease – including stopping physical contact such as handshakes and singing Happy Birthday twice when washing your hands – many are wondering what big businesses are also doing.

This week Starbucks made the announcement that they will not be allowing the use of reusable cups or ceramic ‘for here’ ware in their stores. Following a sharp drop of around 50 per cent of same-store sales in China during the outbreak, many coffee shops were closed. Although they are now starting to re-open the stores the policy of only using disposable cups has remained in place worldwide.

Although the company – along with many other coffee shops – have been promoting single use cups recently due to environmental issues, Starbucks have decided that ‘caring for the health and well being of customers and partners’ as well as ‘supporting local health officials and government leaders’ is their main focus as they try to help communities to contain the virus.

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While many may see this as an extreme reaction to the virus, scientists have predicted that the virus could in fact live on surfaces for up to nine days. Starbucks have also announced their intentions to increase their sanitizing and cleaning procedures; with many staff being paid overtime to ensure this is done.

However there are other companies that are seeing an increase in business including Costco who have reported a three per cent increase in monthly same-store sales, in part due to ‘panic buying’ by customers wanting to stock up in case of a pandemic. While this may seem extreme California, Maryland and Washington have declared a state of emergency with others looking to follow suit. Seattle, San Francisco and New York City have also taken measures after cases were reported in the areas while Congress has passed an emergency package worth $8.3 billion.

Grocery store Kroger has also had to bring in regulations regarding the amount of ‘flu or cold related products can be bought per customer. With so much hysteria over stocks diminishing, these products – as well as sanitary products – have been restricted to five of each per order.

Apple has also taken measures in the wake of the outbreak. Developers are seeing their COVID-19 related apps being rejected if they are not from a recognized institution such as a hospital or a government, with one developer being told, “apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution”.

However the effects of the disease on real estate has been positive with investors, predominantly from Asia, purchasing property, in particular single-family homes. However they are not heading to America, opting to buy online instead.

The travel sector has also been hit significantly with resorts, accommodation and tourism being affected, not just in America but also worldwide. In Europe, airline Flybe has gone into administration, citing COVID-19 as a major factor. And they could be the start of a worrying trend.

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James Goodall, transport analyst at Redburn believes Flybe could be the first of many casualties.

“We expect that the demand destruction caused by COVID-19 accelerated its demise and we believe further airline bankruptcies should be expected in the coming months”.

Meanwhile, United Airlines and JetBlue have already reduced their flight schedules with United reducing their number of international flights by 20 per cent while their domestic flights and to Canada have been reduced by ten per cent. President Scott Kirby and CEO Oscar Munoz announced in a note to employees that there are similar plans for May.

In a further attempt to reduce costs all administration and management staff have seen their merit salary increases postponed until the beginning of July. There has also been a ban on new hirings throughout the organization until further notice.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have also announced they predict airlines could potentially lose between $63 billion to $113 billion globally due to travelers preferring to stay at home rather than go on holiday. Corporate travel has also dropped with many organizations opting to utilize applications such as Zoom, Skype or BlueJeans for video conferencing rather than sending their employees to conferences, meetings and business fairs.

Cathay Pacific have already had to ask some of their staff to take up to three weeks unpaid leave in an attempt to cut costs, while Emirates have asked their staff to take up to a month of unpaid leave.

Woman Being Bullied

Women More Likely To Be Bullied By Other Women

Bullying in the workplace is a frequent pain point for many organizations, but research has revealed that woman-on-woman bullying in the workplace continues to be of particular concern, and somewhat of a taboo subject.

Figures released by The Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that women bully other women up to 80% of the time. This supports numerous other findings that women who have female bosses tend to experience a much higher level of bullying and even job sabotage.

Anyone who has been bullied at work will know how isolating it can feel. With the rise in digital technology and 24/7 communication bullying can happen in many different ways both inside and outside of the workplace and to varying extents. It can also be difficult to specify what exactly constitutes bullying as it can often be considered a grey area.

Sadly, bullying can have a lasting impact on an individual such as mental health issues including depression, anxiety or even suicide. Therefore any actions that constitute bullying should be taken seriously especially in the confines of a workplace. However due to the lack of legal recognition for some forms of bullying, many victims do not feel confident enough to speak up for fear of lack of support, or that they’ll make the situation worse.

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Workplace jokes which are always at someone’s expense and passed off as “just banter” can constitute as bullying especially if they are consistent and targeted at the same individual. If you are laughing ‘at’ someone instead of ‘with’ someone you may be contributing to the bullying even if you are not the main contributor, particularly if the joke is regarding a legally protected characteristic which can include race, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

Although this might seem an obvious point, employers must treat all employees fairly with the same equal opportunities. If they are only offering training or promotion opportunities to certain members of the organization repeatedly, this can isolate other team members and affect their self-esteem negatively. Also if individuals are receiving an increased workload that seems clearly unfair compared to others or are not receiving the same rewards for the same amount of work are all clear cases of favouritism. Everyone is legally entitled to equal opportunities at work and if this is not being offered this can be described as a form of bullying.

On occasions where an individual is receiving unfair criticism for every task they do without any grounds this can be deemed as workplace bullying. Unfair criticism is often used as a power tool for a colleague to exert their authority and belittle another team member, this could considerably demotivate the employee and can have a negative impact on an organisation’s productivity.

Office gossip can easily get out of hand as rumours escalate and get adapted and changed like a game of chinese whispers. This can cause conflict between team members and trigger others to take sides making the situation much worse and impacting considerably on team morale and their ability to work cohesively together.

If these actions sound all too familiar to you and you feel you may be experiencing bullying at work it is important to remember you are not alone and there are steps you can take to improve the situation.

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1. SPEAK UP!

Do not suffer in silence, often the first step in rectifying a situation of bullying is to speak up and tell someone you trust what has been going on. Getting it off your chest and talking about the issue will help reduce your anxiety and stress levels and will also provide you with the support you need to change the situation whilst also providing an outsider’s point of view on why the bullying may be happening. They can provide guidance on how you can report the incident to your organisation.

2. SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE

Bullying can impact your mental health and well being, if you feel this is the case it is important to visit your doctor or counselor for a professional opinion to help you through this difficult time as often talking is the best medicine.

3. SEEK EMPLOYMENT ADVICE

An employment adviser can provide you with expert impartial advice on your legal position and explain what laws your employer should be adhering to. They can also provide you with the contact details of any charities or support groups that specialize in this area who may be able to help you.

If you are being bullied it is important to speak to someone and try to find a way to address the matter at work. If the bully happens to be a superior, this can make the issue even more problematic. If there is no one you feel you can speak to within the organization, look for help outside as the sooner you start to address the problem, the sooner you can move forward.

Small Business Meeting

How You Can Make Sure Your Small Business Survives

While many citizens across the country may dislike President Donald Trump – especially his articulate use of Twitter and unpredictable behavior – the American small business market has grown significantly under his administration.

This could be due to less regulation and lower taxes during Trump’s first term in office, or the fact that due to advanced technology online ecommerce means you can communicate with your consumer directly – whatever size your business. Or it could simply be that more of us are finding that little bit extra in our pay packet.

To ensure America maintains its current economic growth small businesses are a large part of the plan. Employing more than fifty per cent of our private sector workers, small businesses are producing more than half of America’s non-farm private GDP as well as being predicted to create nearly three quarters of all new positions in the private sector. And it does not stop there. The new decade will see small businesses continue to grow and their economic and social impacts have also started to escalate.

However the Small Business Administration (SBA) has published a report showing that statistically one in five new businesses flop within the first twelve months, around fifty per cent within five years and only around 33 per cent of new businesses manage to survive longer than a decade. So how are some businesses succeeding and others not?

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Adapting to change. While some businesses prefer to maintain their origins in some businesses this is not always practical. For example, if you are a clothing business you need to move online either as a sideline to your bricks and mortar store or as a replacement. Likewise, if you are publishing business it is essential that you rethink your strategy to ensure your business not only survives, but grows as well.

If you have started a small business it may be time to take a step back and reassess your business strategy. By taking a look at your business as a customer rather than the owner you can see if there are any changes that could be made. You should also identify who your competitors are and see which areas they are succeeding in and, if you are struggling, alter your procedures.

It is also important to remember that while big business was always the main competitor to smaller businesses this is no longer the case. Many businesses are being run as ‘side hustles’ and ignoring these could be your biggest mistake.

Another issue you could experience in your business is a new trend or fad. Each year there are plenty of new trends that will grip the local, national or worldwide audience and you could see a dip or increase in your business. Stay aware of what your customers are looking for, or need, and try to stay ahead of the game. You would be surprised at what becomes the ‘next big thing’.

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If your business is in a niche area you must become the ‘go to’ for all that area’s needs. Become the expert not just in your product but your sector too. For instance, if you are a provider of healthy food you need to make sure your business can back this up and perhaps offer ways in which your customer can put together a food plan, exercise plan or more.

You may have a business that is varied so why not take one area of that business and become the experts in that niche. By becoming an expert in what you are selling you will be increasing consumer confidence in you, your product and your brand, helping your business to grow.

Many businesses are now choosing to turn their back on the traditional office block or store, preferring to have their staff work remotely or providing their services purely online. Not only does this reduce overhead costs you are also reducing your company’s physical footprint. There are many companies online where you can find freelancers to work for you, or why not tap into the stay at home parent sector? Parents bringing up babies can be some of the best employees you can hire when logistic problems are removed.

Taking the time to sit back and see which areas of your business you are not too confident in could be essential in whether your company succeeds or fails. Some of your daily or weekly tasks could easily be outsourced leaving your employees to spend their time on the more productive jobs, such as bringing in sales, updating your stock or increasing profits.

The above advice can be used to help maintain and grow your company however they are not the be all and end all of business. It is essential that you look at your business, cater to change, see where your sector is changing and, most importantly, adapt!

Norwegian Spirit Cruise

£77 Million Renovation To Luxury Cruise Ship Norwegian Spirit

Cruise holidays are on the rise with more travelers looking to take a holiday across the seas than ever before. Despite having a reputation for being the preferred destination for older passengers, there are a wealth of luxury cruises available that are attracting much younger travelers as well as families. The most recent addition to the luxury fleet is the Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Spirit ship, which has just undergone an eye-watering £77 million transformation.

Forming part of its Norwegian Edge program, The Norwegian Spirit has long been a favorite amongst its passengers and its refurbishment was designed to improve the guest experience and promote its exceptionally high standards. The investment has been reported as being the most expensive full ship renovation in the cruise line’s history, and the company now proudly boasts a portfolio of seven luxury liners.

The new look Spirit now boasts 14 new venues, upgraded staterooms and public areas and its facade has taken on a brand new look. Cruise holidays are known to be the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, which is why passenger well being has also been made a top priority with an upgrade to the Mandara Spa, a new thermal suite, the creation of a new relaxation area and a full modernization of the Fitness Center.

Fine dining is one of the most memorable experiences of a cruise and food lovers will not be disappointed with the introduction of a second ‘Onda by Scarpetta’ restaurant. This is in addition to a further dining room, a 24-hour eatery, a bar and grill, a garden cafe, an outdoor bar and a pool bar.

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What cruise is complete without an array of outstanding entertainment on offer and The Spirit now offers two ritzy lounges, an adults-only lounge complete with two hot tubs which transforms into an after-hours entertainment venue. And who needs Vegas when there’s also an on-board casino for those wanting to partake in a spot of gambling as part of their trip.

A cruise may be relaxing, but there is no need to put a stop to the fitness regime, particularly with all the amazing food available! Keeping active has never been easier thanks to the ship’s very own basketball court, golf driving net and jogging track. And for those in need of some retail therapy, there are a vast array of shops and boutiques to cater for all tastes and budgets.

When it is time for rest and recuperation, passengers can opt for a luxurious penthouse suite, of which they are just five available. Other options include a room with a balcony, an ocean view and there is the option to sleep up to four guests within one cabin.

The new look Norwegian Spirit embarked on its first journey on February 14th, when it departed from Italy. Passengers are now able to book a variety of cruise expeditions which range from 17 days up to 28 days, with the option to visit 3 continents during their holiday. In addition, there will be 7 day cruises to the Greek Isles, Turkey and Israel. A number of new destinations have been added to the itinerary and upcoming departure points include Dubai, Cape Town and Athens.

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The impressive upgrade reflects Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to making cruise holidays the must-have experience for travelers of all ages. Having been recognized as ‘Europe’s Leading Cruise Line’ by the World Travel Awards for 12 years in a row, the brand is dedicated to promoting the many benefits that can be gained from taking a cruise holiday, and strongly believe that it can effectively compete with most luxury on-land holiday offerings.

From young couples to families and older passengers, luxury cruises can now offer all the perks of an ‘on-land’ holiday but with added beauty of experiencing the wonder of life at sea. The night sky from sea is particularly spectacular and is quite unlike that seen from the mainland due to the light pollution caused by modern living. There are not many options to see the sky exactly how it was intended, and a cruise provides a unique opportunity for people to enjoy it’s natural beauty and wonder.

If you have never considered going on a cruise holiday, now could be the perfect time to explore this option further. It provides the perfect opportunity to travel the world and explore a wide range of destinations while only having to unpack once and with regular stops and on-land excursions on offer, there’s little chance of suffering from cabin fever. With luxury liners like Spirit offering the ultimate in high quality accommodation, relaxation, shopping, sports and entertainment, what else could you want from a holiday experience? What is clear is that it is no longer just the holiday option of choice for the retired and ageing traveler.

Junk Bond

The Rise, Fall & Resurrection Of The Junk Bond Millionaire

Businessman Michael Milken has had a career many others could only dream of. In the 1980’s he became a millionaire before he had turned 30 with many looking at him as a prime example of the excesses of the decade. However he soon ended up falling from his position as one of the most powerful financiers, resulting in a spell in prison for charges including fraud and conspiracy.

The recent pardon by President Trump of many businessmen from that era, including Milken, clearly shows that when it comes to the Trump administration money counts. But what about Milken?

Born in Encino, Los Angeles in 1946, Milken was working with his father at ten years old, preparing tax returns for his clients. He continued his work in finance after attending the University of California in Berkeley, studying business administration.

It was not the opportunity to become rich that helped him make his career choice rather than his yearning to help the ‘man on the street’ gain access to capital following the Watts riots in Los Angeles, in August 1965.

Talking in an interview in 1999 he explained:

“I met a man who burned down a building that he worked in. He had no savings. I couldn’t understand what his thought process was. He worked in this building and when he woke up in the morning there would be no job and he had no savings.

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“And he told me he didn’t feel part of America, there was no American Dream. He wasn’t part of that business. There was no opportunity for him or his children. And in the heat of the evening, it was his way of striking back.

“I concluded that we never had a democratization of capital, that people actually did get money based on who their parents were or what they looked like, not what their abilities were.”

While working towards his MBA in Philadelphia he secured a part-time position at investment bank Drexel Firestone & Co, taking a full time position as a junior bond trader once he had graduated. The company eventually merged with stockbroker Burnham & Co in 1973 followed by another merger in 1976 with Lambert Brussels Witter, the American subsidiary of investment company Groupe Bruxelles Lambert.

Milken then based himself in New York and began studying and trading the bonds for organizations that were struggling to continue in business. Because the levels of the bonds were not considered to be ‘investment grade’ they were often referred to as ‘junk’ within the market.

However during Milken’s studies he soon came to the realization that although Moody’s and Standard & Poor – the two main companies who rated business – were compiling their findings on whether or not a company was creditworthy by looking at its history, they should be looking into the potential earnings that the companies could be making.

With this theory Milken decided that many of the companies that were being unnecessarily written off were actually far more valuable. He was one of the first businessmen to utilize junk bonds as a means for small businesses to access much needed capital. Junk bonds were also used during hostile takeovers.

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It was during this time that he decided he would rather live in Beverly Hills than on the east coast and moved the junk bond division of Drexel Burnham Lambert to California. This move also meant he was able to be closer to his father who by this stage was quite ill.

The gamble paid off and towards the end of the 1970’s Drexel was controlling around 90 per cent of the junk bond market. Hostile takeover bids began to flood corporate America – may financed by Drexel – and by the mid 1980’s their profits rocketed.

Profits from Milken’s division increased thanks to an expansion into other areas and Milken earned $550 million in 1987, a record at the time.

But the finance world started to fall after the conviction of Ivan Boesky in 1988. Rudy Giuliani, the US attorney for the southern district of New York at the time, believed that Boesky could not have been the only ‘rogue trader’ and began to investigate Drexel. In a settlement with the US government, Drexel made a deal that would result in Milken being charged with 98 counts of insider trading, manipulation of stock prices, racketeering and fraud.

His 1990 deal with the Securities & Exchange Commission allowed him to plead guilty to just six charges resulting in a ten-year prison sentence and a $600 million fine. However Milken only actually served 22 months thanks to payments of $1.1bn in penalties and fines.

Since his release in the early 1990’s, Milken has created a charity looking into medical research, specifically cancer research, something close to him after he beat prostate cancer.

Following the announcement of his pardon President Trump said:

“Mike Milken [has] gone around and done an incredible job for the world with all his research on cancer. He paid a big price, paid a very tough price.”