Telling the truth about SME life today

In many countries, May Day is synonymous with International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day. It’s the day that business owners everywhere recognise the achievements of their employees. So if you haven’t given each of your workers a high five yet, you’d best get to it.

Unsurprisingly then, there has been a whole raft of May Day press releases concerning staff and employment matters. Luckily for you, Real Business is here to give you a round-up of the workforce issues you didn’t know you had!

First up, an observation from New Business: "Small business owners feeling under pressure must not allow this to be transmitted to their staff" warns the advice website.

Ultimo founder Michelle Mone agrees: "A few years ago I used to come into the office and be quite stressed," she says. "The staff would think ‘Oh God, she’s stressed’ so they used to get stressed. Your team will smile when you smile and be stressed when you’re stressed. That’s something that I always remember: even if you have to put on a good face and be a good actress, do not let staff get down."

So, if you’ve been sporting a recession frown, time to turn it upside down.

(No, Real Business has not relocated to happy clappy land, we’re trying to be upbeat, okay?)

Then there’s the news that one in three of British employees would willingly hand over company secrets to a stranger.

It’s not as bad as it sounds: they’d demand dinner first. In fact, two thirds of these would-be traitors said that it would take £1m smackeroonies before they’d do the dirty on you. So don’t go firing all your staff straight away.

The research was conducted by a bunch of security conference workers collaring commuters at London railway stations. They asked what it would take to tempt them to download and hand over sensitive company information to a stranger. "The surprised researchers couldn’t believe their ears when two per cent of the workers admitted that they would hand over their company’s crown jewels just for a free slap-up meal," says a rep for the Infosecurity Europe show [from].

From disgruntled bosses to a caring employer who’s not only gone the extra mile, but a whole extra league to look after his staff.

Charlie Mullins is so worried about the threat of Swine Flu that he’s taken drastic measures to protect his plumbers. The founder of Pimlico Plumbers has introduced "anti-swine flu packs" to his fleet of 150 vans to try and reduce the risk of any spread of infection.

“We are taking the swine flu issue very seriously," he says. "With over 150 plumbers visiting anywhere up to 200 homes in a single day, the potential impact an outbreak could hold for our business and our customers is immense. And while we do not wish to cause any alarm, we have to hold the health and safety of all our employees as paramount.

“By next week, all our vans will carry an anti-swine flu pack, to include protective masks, anti-virus sprays and hand wash. In our offices we are going into overdrive with extra wipes, sprays and anti-virus gels everywhere, to clean telephones and keyboards and keep people safe.“

Isn’t that nice Staff everywhere will be heartened by this example of boss loyalty. However, this May Day feel-good story doesn’t quite cushion the blow that wages in the UK have declined 6 per cent in just 12 months.

The Office of National Statistics has just released figures proving that the average weekly wage is now £459.10, down 5.8 per cent year-on year from February 2008 – the largest drop since the ONS began collecting such data in 2001.

Hang on! £459.10 per week! That’s more than the whole Real Business team earns in a month! Must be that dirty scoundrel Fred Goodwin pushing up the total…

That’s it for your May Day round-up, readers. Enjoy the sunshine and have a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

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