Tax Talk Newsletter Spring 2020
Boss burnout: Spot warning signs in yourself
From workloads to wellbeing, the COVID-19 pandemic poses many challenges.
As a small business owner or manager, it’s important to keep an eye on your stress levels. Learn to spot warning signs and pick up tips to improve your wellbeing. Your health and happiness - and your business - will benefit.
No matter how COVID-19 has affected your business, good and bad, it poses a mental wellbeing challenge. Operating in uncertain times is stressful - even if you relish change and new ways of doing things.
For many, there’s the added financial stress of reduced or uncertain earnings. And some business people face cutting jobs or closing altogether. This takes an emotional toll, and takes away social connections forged at work.
“We’ve had to change the way we do things. COVID-19 has challenged our sense of how the world works, how our careers go, how our relationships go,” says Lisa Ducat, workplace wellbeing specialist at Mental Health Foundation.
“It’s been a full-on impact on the three areas that keep us well: feeling good, functioning well, feeling connected to others.”
When it comes to wellbeing checks, you might be focused on your staff and loved ones outside work. But it’s equally important to check on yourself.
It’s common for small business owners to wear many hats, to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities, to work long hours. Even if you’re used to doing this and doing it well, it’s harder in uncertain times. Even before the pandemic hit, 80% of business owners reported feeling isolated in a survey by Business Mentors New Zealand. All this adds to stress.
“Business owners are used to seeking business-orientated support from an accountant or IT expert. You get support to keep business going,” says Ducat. “Remember you are the business. Your health and wellbeing are your business’s biggest resource.”
Ducat recommends making space to reflect. And she warns against “toxic ” -feeling forced to only talk about the positive and resisting negative or difficult experiences.
“Our feelings are our feelings. They give you important information,” says Ducat. “Ignoring feelings you don’t like may hinder problem solving. Toxic positivity will also stop others from feeling safe talking to you about what they are struggling with.”
Instead, consider the pros and cons of what you’re going through. “This might be saying to yourself ‘yes it’s difficult AND I’m upset AND I got through it’,” says Ducat.
“It’s a balancing act. Knowing it’s awful. Knowing we have limited control. Recognising you managed to shift your business operations and lifestyle at short notice. Thinking about new possibilities now life isn’t going how you thought it would.”
How to help yourself
Learn the signs of stress. Think about when you notice stress in yourself - what are your personal warning signs?
What helps ease your stress? If you’re not sure where to start, try these suggestions:
- Give yourself permission to not be at your best.
- Be kind to yourself, as well as to others.
- Involve others in problem solving. Talk to your team, other business owners, a mentor.
- Look after your physical health, get sleep, and eat well. Your mind can’t work well if the engine runs empty.
- Take notice of small things each day that make you feel good. Try and make time to do more of these
How Valuable is your Time?
It’s a fair question for business people, but what your time is worth becomes especially relevant when we spend our (paid) time working on something an expert could do in less time - more effectively.
We’ve probably all experienced the tech glitch we thought we could fix. About 1½ hours later and it was still not working. The tech expert could probably fix it in 30 seconds.
As Kiwis with a No 8 wire can-do mentality, we’re generally keen to tackle problems ourselves. But as a business person, we have to think about the cost.
“There’s no problem spending a few minutes fixing a technical problem when we’re confident we can do it..
However, unless you really have spare time, remember the clock is ticking. It’s simply bad business to try to do an expert’s job.
Think about how frustrating it is when you have expertise and client tries to do your work themselves. You often have to tidy up the mess, which takes longer than it would have in the beginning.
So consider what your time is worth on an hourly rate, and work out how much time you're spending on a tech problem. Then work out what an expert might charge. Chances are you’ll save not only your time but also the frustration that goes with it. If the problem is fixed quickly, you and your business can get back to work.
A handy app worth installing is Team Viewer (from teamviewer.com). Once it’s installed, it allows a tech to access your computer through a password you provide. They can then work on a problem remotely, from anywhere in the world.
Of course tech problems are not the only ones you should consider letting others deal with. Could you, for example, get someone else to do the banking? You can add answering the phone, scanning and similar types of jobs.
One successful business person famously said the first person to hire is the one who does all the jobs you shouldn’t
Rent for Employee’s Home
You may wish to compensate an employee who has been using their home to help run your business during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Inland Revenue has issued a list of conditions for making a payment. These are contained in a publication called Determination EE002, which also sets out how much you are permitted to pay.
There is also the matter of how you pay a share of the equipment the employee is using, such as desks, carpet and light fittings. Inland Revenue allows a one-off lump sum payment of $400, without the need to have to produce any evidence of these costs.
If you read the determination, you will notice the employer can reimburse the employee up to $15 a week to cover all other expenditure. You will probably agree this is not very much.
You don’t have to follow this publication. If you and the employee want to work out an allowance based on actual costs and use this instead, that is fine
The determination applies from 17 March 2020 to 17 September 2020.
WFH is the New Work Environment
If there’s one thing the Covid-19 crisis has taught us, it’s that many of us can work from home.
It’s even spawned a new initialism, WFH (working from home)
There have been some interesting consequences – and new opportunities have arisen. City cafes and bars have suffered because there are fewer people in town getting a coffee, lunch and after-work drinks. However, that’s provided more business for the suburban and small town eateries, who seem to be doing very well post-lockdown.
Whatever your business, there might be big opportunities for you, too. In the new “think-laterally” world, how can you market yourself to make the most of the changing environment
Where do people work when they’re at home? As a painter you might market your ability to redecorate a spare room. An electrician can put all the new power points in the right places, or get the lighting right for a WFH office. An IT wiz can set up all the gear to work remotely. A builder might add the extra room needed.
Even real estate agents will soon be adding ‘office space’ as a
marketing option for houses, rather than saying ‘studio’ or ‘spare room’.
Think about what you can offer to ride the new wave
Covid-19 and Staff Redundancies - It’s in your interest to follow a proper process
The COVID-19 situation continues to challenge businesses. Many employers say they are feeling the pressure to adapt quickly. Some are considering staff redundancies.
If you are restructuring or planning redundancies you have legal responsibilities to follow proper processes.
What do restructuring and redundancy mean?
Employers restructure their business so that they have the right set-up and roles in place to respond to economic changes.
Restructuring means changing the operational set-up to improve the way the business runs. Businesses need a genuine business reason to restructure. Examples include a change in market demands, financial constraints, realigning your brand, changes in customer behaviour, wanting to outsource some business functions, or a merger.
Redundancy usually means reducing or changing the makeup of a business workforce because a job or jobs are no longer needed or there is the need for a different skill set. Section 4 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 requires employers to act in good faith when making employees redundant. Employers cannot for example make an employee redundant and then replace them with someone else in a substantially similar position but with a different job title.
Before you consider any redundancies
If you think a new structure could improve the way your business operates, you might want to investigate restructuring. This doesn’t necessarily mean making employees redundant, although that can happen, but it might mean employees' roles change.
Restructuring cannot be used as a way to manage individual employee performance issues.
Employment laws also protect some groups of employees including cleaning, catering and laundry staff, in certain restructuring situations.
Once you have decided to look at restructuring or redundancies
You need genuine business reasons to restructure your business. You’ll need to state these reasons clearly as you proceed. You must follow the proper redundancy process. If you don’t follow the proper process, your employees can apply to the Employment Relations Authority for re-employment, loss of salary and/or compensation for acting illegally. You can also receive hefty fines.
Employment New Zealand has resources and guidance for both restructuring and redundancy. A good starting point is to visit
Important: This is not advice. Clients should not act solely on the basis of the material contained in the Tax Talk Newsletter. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute nor convey advice per se. Changes in legislation may occur quickly. We therefore recommend that our formal advice be sought before acting in any of the areas. The Tax Talk Newsletter is issued as a helpful guide to our clients and for their private information. Therefore it should be regarded as confidential and should not be made available to any person without our prior approval.