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71% of small business employees found life at work “tough”

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Life at work is tough sometimes, isn’t it? If you’re like 80 per cent of small business workers in the UK, you want to change something about it this year.

Google conducted research that found some frustration behind the new year’s resolutions of small business teams. If only they could leave work on time now and then, talk to colleagues more, work more efficiently and communicate better – 2013 has to be easier than an exhaustive 2012.

The study, which gathered opinions from over 3,500 SME employees in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, found that some 71 per cent of small business employees found life at work “tough”, with a lack of teamwork and long working hours cited as key bugbears.

Working from early to late isn’t the only thing that’s getting on employees’ nerves. Email problems on a weekly basis aren’t helping, with mailbox size being the biggest issue.
And don’t get them started on meetings. Each of them takes approximately an hour-and-a-half to arrange!

Teamwork is frustrating too, with the old issue of getting everyone in the same place at the same time to discuss projects. Oh, it’s not easy…

When it comes to the way employees interact, many workers are still clinging to such very old-fashioned methods of communication such as the phone, email and meetings. What could make life a lot easier are online collaborative tools, which are inevitably on the rise. Interestingly, new digital tools are more commonly used by those individuals whose organisations have seen an increase in profits or turnover in 2012.

Google thinks this could suggest that the more forward-thinking, tech-savvy small businesses have a greater understanding of how collaborative technology can benefit the workplace.

Seven Suphi, leadership expert and behavioural specialist, added her views on the research: “One of the biggest things for me of this research was that only a third increased their use of online collaborative tools, despite the desire to interact more. This is perhaps explained by the fact that many of us have not grown up with multiple communication means at  our fingertips and are still more comfortable with more traditional options such as face-to-face meetings, even when they’re not entirely necessary.”

Perhaps 2013 will be the year of technology’s greatest impact on society. Digital natives have grown up with technology, but today’s babies are using touch screen tablet devices before they learn to talk. At the same time, the grey consumers, the “rock and roll generation” alienated by the complexity of PC computing, are re-engaging with technology thanks to the ease of use provided by the tablet.

Tools (more often than not in the form of free software) are available en masse. Try Producteev, Basecamp, Teambox or – the very obvious one – Google Docs, for a start. 

Communication is one of the most common areas people can get wrong in a business, especially as companies grow and teams get bigger, more diverse or global. Remember that different characters will respond differently to various communication methods – and there’s no easy answer for that problem.

Christian Mouysset, co-owner of popular £1.5m turnover restaurant chain Hummus Bros, is one entrepreneur with a particular love for collaborative tools: “With three different sites, it is getting harder and harder for my business partner and I to oversee every aspect of the business from one location, but we still need to make sure that communication lines are constantly open with staff and customers, wherever we are. Having online access to emails, documents  and calendars is massively important to us, making it quicker and easier to do everything from scheduling the managers’ meeting to responding to customer queries and collaborating on new recipes.”

How about you? Is 2013 the year you’re going digital?

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