As a business owner, you have little control over your fixed costs. You pay the same amount of rent whether you’re open 24/7 or keep regular business hours. You can, however, control variable costs such as labor and energy usage, and the costs of both of these are directly tied to your working hours. If you’re not setting the right store hours, you may be spending more than you should.
In today’s increasingly technological business environment, the best retail store hours may not be the traditional 9-to-5 work shift. Flexible work schedule ideas — shorter workweeks, employees who capitalize on the benefits of working remotely, and similar tactics—can lower your variable costs and reduce your business’s energy consumption. If you’re looking to optimize your business’s hours, then check out the following tips.
Retail businesses and customer service industries tend to have longer business hours than other businesses, as they want to be available to the customer as much as possible. Such businesses may open earlier or close later than traditional business hours, or they may even remain open 24/7. This widely accepted practice can have implications for both energy consumption and employee productivity.
According to the Energy Conservation Office at the University of California, Davis, the energy consumption of a building is directly tied to occupancy. Simply put, it costs money to keep the doors open. If labor, energy use and other operating costs total more than sales revenue, you’re losing money instead of making it.
Many business owners are tempted to have longer hours of operation to match their competitors’ hours, but the cost of longer hours often outweighs the benefits. The best retail store hours don’t necessarily keep the store open earlier or later — they keep the business open when it’s most profitable.
The best retail hours increase your return on investment (ROI). Sometimes reducing hours saves money. Below are several ways a business owner can maximize the ROI of their working hours.
If you have a point-of-sale (POS) system, use it to generate a data-based report of your daily and hourly sales. The report will show which times of day are most profitable. Trying to generate such reports is very difficult without a POS system, so the ability to track transactions is crucial for businesses seeking opportunities for improvement.
The more data your POS system can access to generate the report, the more accurate it will be. Base your report on at least several weeks of sales. Several months’ worth of data provides even better results.
Your POS report helps you create a profit and loss statement. Use the report to compare your hourly revenue to your hourly costs and determine your best retail hours. Watch for times when your average sales fail to cover the cost of labor and energy use. Such times could indicate the need for a change in your work schedule.
Use the data in the profit and loss statement to create a new business schedule, and alert your customers to the new schedule ahead of time. Small businesses should keep their hours relatively consistent to make the new schedule easy to remember.
When it comes to reducing energy use and capitalizing on flexible schedule benefits, online businesses have an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Customers may expect 24/7 service, but this doesn’t mean your employees have to be in the office to provide that service. The benefits of working remotely are recognized as one of the most important emerging small-business technology trends.
Saving energy in the workplace is easier if your employees work from home. The more employees present in your workplace, the more energy you need to keep the business up and running. One of the benefits of working remotely is that you don’t have to provide the energy needed to keep employee computers running, the lights on and the building temperature regulated — the employee absorbs those costs at home for the chance to work outside the office.
Employers may worry that remote work will lead to a drop in productivity — after all, they won’t be able to keep an eye on what the remote employees are doing. But in fact, remote work sees an increase in productivity of up to 13%, according to Stanford Graduate School of Business. Employees are willing to work harder to have the chance to work from home.
You can roll out a remote workday program slowly, starting with the employees you feel are best suited to work from home, and then adding other employees to the program as you see fit. As you implement remote workdays, keep the following in mind:
Your first step is to determine how much energy is associated with your employees. Who uses the most energy, and why? An energy monitor or energy management system provides insight into which employee tasks require the most energy. Monthly energy bills also offer clues to where you’re using the most energy.
While some employees work remotely full time, most need to be in the office at least occasionally, if only for meetings and face-to-face interactions with coworkers. Those days least likely to include meetings offer the most opportunity for remote work, as they have the smallest impact on the workweek. You can use conference calls and video chats in place of in-person meetings for employees who are hired specifically as remote workers.
As with any flexible work schedule, it’s important to set employee expectations regarding remote work from the start. Discuss responsibilities and how remote work will be tracked (online project management tools are excellent for collaborative remote work). Also ensure your employees know that working remotely does not affect any deadlines or project completion dates.
Keep customers and clients aware of your remote work schedule so they know in advance whether specific employees will be in the office. This is especially important if clients rely on regular conference calls regarding your service or product.
Ideally, all employees would be at their most productive at the same time of day and in the same setting. The reality, of course, is quite different. Some workers are at their best in the morning, and others are more alert in the afternoon. Some employees work best by themselves, while others thrive in a team environment.
Alternative work arrangements, such as flexible work schedules and telecommuting, allow you to focus on when and where individual employees are at their most productive while also providing them with a better work-life balance.
A compressed workweek is one of the most popular flexible work schedule ideas. The schedule allows employees to work full-time hours in less than a five-day week, typically by extending hours four days a week and keeping the office closed on the fifth. Empty buildings require less energy to operate, so this schedule can have a positive impact on your energy usage.
Employee productivity typically drops during the summer months: According to Alvernia University, employees are 20% less productive and 45% more distracted in the summer. The problem is especially pronounced on summer Fridays, when everyone is anticipating the weekend.
A summer Fridays policy is a way of acknowledging this problem by allowing employees to clock out earlier on Fridays or even take the entire day off. While it seems counterintuitive, the system yields several flexible schedule benefits. Worker morale is higher, and they’re more likely to be productive during the rest of the week in order to earn their early Friday clock-outs.
Implementing a flexible work schedule can become a significant part of your business sustainability plan, helping you reduce energy consumption while maximizing employee productivity. When used correctly and creatively, a flexible work schedule is better for your bottom line, your employees’ work-life balance and the environment.
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