Working From Home

When the COVID-19 lockdowns reached their peak, at-home workers across America turned to Zoom meetings to get things done. The efficiency increases within these companies and the response of their home-bound employees have not gone unnoticed. Many companies are seriously considering (or firmly planning) “Zoom forever” even after the pandemic has passed. And surprisingly, the majority of workers are okay with this!

Working from home has its advantages: money saved on restaurants, parking, Uber rides, gasoline, clothing and daycare. Just roll out of bed, look good from the waist up for Zoom, work in socks, play with your kids, and graze from the fridge at will. Then there’s taking a mid-day bike ride, and “not available” days just for yourself or with friends because keeping in touch with the office is a text message or cellphone call away.

But for too many, there’s loneliness. When humans spend too much time alone we can begin to question or doubt our adequacy for accomplishment or the quality of our relationships. It’s human to desire an emotional attachment or connection with others. When we lack that emotional support, we can feel empty and lonely.

Feelings of loneliness can affect our physical and mental well-being. It can cause us to hang back from conversation or even withdraw during social events. Loneliness gives rise to depression and a feeling that we are misunderstood or disliked. This gives rise to insecurity, self-doubt, negative thoughts, and increasing isolation.

According to a Gallup poll in January 2021, 56% of U.S. workers always or sometimes worked from home, and by April it was 70%. Today, it’s more like 33% “always” working from home, but the poll says that 44% prefer to work from home and 39% want to work at the office. It seems that convenience trumps the commute.

How will this last year change the landscape of small business? What long term effects could it have on our employees’ mental health? No one is sure, but awareness is a good place to start. Bottom line is that federal law entitles all employees to a safe workplace, making the coming months very interesting to watch.

Become a Better Listener

Malcolm Forbes was an American sailor, balloonist, motorcyclist, and entrepreneur-by-inheritance. This outspoken owner of Forbes Magazine once said, 

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” 

We all listen, but do we really listen well? It’s been said that good listening is much more than staying silent when the other person talks. It’s being present in the moment, in the here and now. It is not thinking about what we will say in response. 

Have you ever been to a business event where a moderator passes the microphone around the room for introductions? If so, did you attentively listen to each introduction, or were you silently preparing for you own?

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Will Rogers

The human tendency is to move toward people who listen to us, and away from those who talk only about themselves. So if you want to be remembered, become a good listener! Practice staying in the moment and maintaining eye-to-eye contact. Turn toward your speaker and actively listen. 

Listening, really listening, requires a decision on our part to care what someone else has to say and accept their words with an open mind and without premature judgement. It’s so easy to think to ourselves, “I would have done that differently” or “I see that differently” — but in those moments we are no longer listening; we are unable to empathize or attempt to understand another point of view.

A good listener is more likely to be successful. Bernard Baruch, American financier and statesman, offered this advice:

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

We can challenge ourselves to embrace listening as a key part of how we operate, and we can practice-to-perfection active listening until it runs deep into who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

Small Business Election Effect

Before the election, 81% of small businesses said that the 2020 election would affect their small business — no matter the outcome. According to the report issued by Verizon, small business owners’ concerns ranged from financial viability, social distancing regulations, and the post-COVID business climate. This was a national survey, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the business climate here in southern Ohio…but as a nation, many of us are interdependent in many ways — whether as suppliers or consumers.

After the election, reality set in that a Biden win coupled with a sympathetic Congress is likely to mean more than COVID concerns. We are looking at the likelihood of the cost of employment rising due to an increased minimum wage from $8.70 per hour ($4.35 for tipped employees) to $15 per hour, plus mandated paid time off (PTO) for employees.

Biden also promised to modify Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, raising the current corporate tax rate of 21% to 28%, and will likely raise the income tax rate for the tax bracket in which most small business owners operate. Plus, we can’t rule out a tax increase on income from capital gains.

Since 2017, CNBC has conducted what they call their “SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey”.  Since the high of 62% in 2017, responses had never dipped below 50 until 2020 (coronavirus). Now that Biden is President, there’s uncertainty among some small business owners, but it’s divided. Republican business owners are more pessimistic than Democratic owners and the earlier confidence from both sides stemming from the assumption that raising taxes on small business would be difficult in a Republican-controlled Senate have been dashed.

At any rate, if there’s one single thing most small business owners have, it is tenacity. Always willing to take risks to achieve their goal, the successful small business owner is so self-motivated and so self-reliant that they can survive anything that comes their way. For those with businesses hit hard by COVID, grants instead of loans would be helpful and for the smaller companies, a Godsend. 

If you have any questions or concerns in these uncertain times, please feel free to call us knowing that our conversations are held in the strictest confidence.