Fuel Bank – 2 years of making a difference

Times are tough: 13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line, and 950,000 UK households are in Income Crisis & can’t pay 2 or more essential bills.

We’ve seen from our work with partner charities like The Trussell Trust and Durham Christian Partnership how far-reaching the effects of poverty can be first hand. And we wanted to do something about it. So we pledged £2.25 million towards helping vulnerable families get back on their feet.

In April 2015, we launched the  npower Fuel Bank™ with the Trussell Trust and National Energy Action (NEA). After a successful trial in four areas (Kingston Upon Thames, Durham, Gloucester and the Wirral) the scheme has now been rolled out to 61 centres nationwide.

npower launches Scotland's first ever Fuel Bank at Glasgow South East Foodbank. (l-r) Fuel voucher receiver, Florian, Foodbank Manager, Audrey, npower's Matt Cole and Foodbank volunteer

npower launches Scotland’s first ever Fuel Bank at Glasgow South East Foodbank. (l-r) Fuel voucher receiver, Florian, Foodbank Manager, Audrey, npower’s Matt Cole and Foodbank volunteer

The scheme has helped 95,000 people so far

Anyone with a pre-payment meter who gets referred to a participating food bank could qualify for a voucher to provide enough credit for around 2 weeks of energy. And as you can see from the comments below, it’s making a huge difference:

Fuel Bank Stories

Anon. from London

“I guess it was years of working as a removals man that did my back in. I trapped a nerve, the area got infected and now I suffer from chronic pain. I’ve got arthritis too, which doesn’t help. With things the way they are, I can’t work and instead rely on disability benefits. In November, these stopped, leaving me without money for the winter.

“Going hungry a few times isn’t the end of the world; you learn to eat less. It was the cold that got to me. My flat’s small and reasonably well insulated, but with the arthritis, I felt it right down to my bones.

“I went along to the food bank hoping that eating a little bit more could help me weather the cold but I was so grateful to also receive help with the fuel bills – that was a life saver. Thanks to the warmer flat, I wasn’t in as much pain and didn’t have the stress of having to choose between food or fuel, or health or debt.

I’m doing a bit better now and am able to stay on top of bills, but without npower’s Fuel Bank™ voucher, I would have had a very, very difficult winter.”

Anon.  from Glasgow

“A while back I had some difficulty getting my benefits and I’d run out of money. I couldn’t afford food and the power was out. I had no light, no heat – nothing at all. I was desperate, basically. I went along to the food bank and they told me I could also get help with my energy.”

npower's Fuel Bank voucher for Foodbank users

npower’s Fuel Bank voucher for Foodbank users

“I remember just breathing this big sigh of relief. Honestly, it was fantastic. I would have nothing without that. No power, nothing. I don’t know what I would have done. Then a couple of months later, I had problems with my benefits again, and they helped me out again.”

“They’re amazing, they really are. There are people like me sitting a home in the dark, in the cold, and hungry and then they go along and do something like that. I’m so grateful, honest to God. And now I’m in a brand new house and I hope the problems are behind me. I’ll never forget their help though, through the hard times.”

40% of our vouchers help families with children

Clare, Birmingham

“My partner and I live in a first floor flat with our two boys. It is important we keep our home warm because of my disability – and damp conditions within the flat mean that we have a weekly heating bill of £60, which we struggle to pay. Having the voucher has been a god-send as I’ve been able to keep healthy by heating our home, cook hot meals and keep the children warm – simple things we all do every day and often take for granted.”

We’re just getting started

Our work isn’t done yet. There are still people in crisis all over the UK. That’s why we’ve committed to support this great cause until at least 2018. It’s also why Fuel Bank™ support is available to everyone that needs it – regardless of whether we supply their energy or not. In fact, of the vouchers we’ve issued to date, 84% have already gone to people with different energy providers.

If you run a business and are concerned about being able to pay your energy bills, we can help. Start by taking a look at our post on Coping with Energy Debt.

Auto Enrolment: what you need to know

MM20553 Guest Blogger_Malcolm Goodwin Aviva

Here’s our partner Aviva with some guidance on what to consider when setting up a workplace pension for auto-enrolment.

If you’re due to stage for auto-enrolment this year, you’re not alone. The Pensions Regulator estimates that over 500,000 small and medium-sized companies (SME) will auto-enrol their staff into a workplace pension in 2017.

Any small employer should think about the following things which are key to any business:

  • Retaining your best people: A workplace pension is a very valuable benefit. That can be a really powerful incentive to stay with a company.
  • Attracting talent: A workplace pension that offers a generous employer contribution could be the difference when a candidate receives two job offers at the same time.
  • Being a paternalistic employer: Providing a workplace pension offers staff a chance to plan for their retirement.
  • Allowing staff to retire at the right time: There is no default retirement age anymore so people can just go on working indefinitely. Aviva’s own research found that a third of workers over 50 plan to retire later than they had hoped and on average work for 8 years longer.
  • AE is a legal requirement: All businesses must have a workplace pension. It’s the law now and The Pensions Regulator has the power to fine companies who don’t get their pension set up in time.

Choosing your workplace pension

Pensions aren’t ‘one size fits all’ and the nature of a business, the number and demographics of its employees, payroll set up and its future growth plans all need to be considered when looking for a pension provider.

AE applies to ALL employers, so even if you only have one member of staff, you still need to set up a workplace pension for them.  Many providers will now let you apply for a workplace pension online using streamlined processes that will give you an idea of how much a scheme will cost in just a few minutes.

Contribution rates are going to rise

Currently the minimum contribution rates for an AE pension are 1% of salary from the employer and 1% of salary from the employee (including tax relief).

From April 2018 that will rise to 5% in total, with a minimum of 2% coming from the employer.  Then from April 2019, this will rise to 8%, with a minimum of 3% coming from the employer. These are the minimums though and employers are free to pay in more if they wish.

Embrace auto-enrolment

A workplace pension is now the law, so businesses need to make it work. Putting money away for retirement is not just sensible, but is now essential. The full state pension is currently around £150 a week. If that is your only income from the age of 67, it’s not a huge amount of money to buy food, pay bills and enjoy a decent standard of living.

Find out more about auto-enrolment 

Got any questions? You’ll probably find the answers here.

 

We’ve teamed up with Aviva to offer you a discount on their workplace pension scheme. Aviva’s scheme is compatible with all types of payroll software, and can be managed online.

Find out more.

 

Aviva Life Services UK Limited. Registered in England, No. 2403746. Aviva, Wellington Row, York, YO90 1WR. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Reference Number 145452.

 

 

 

 

Time to take a break

We know that lots of you have been beavering away since the start of the year, working hard to keep your business going. So surely you deserve a break by now?

Taking a break from work will reduce your stress levels, and you’ll be more productive when you return rested and refreshed. The same goes for your hardworking staff!

Here’s a selection of our Business Rewards holiday and travel offers that you and your staff will love:


Camping – without the hassle
Luxury_tent

Camping is one of the most affordable ways of holidaying, but if you’re travelling to Europe, making sure you’ve got all the gear you need soon takes up a lot of space, not to mention weight!

With Eurocamp, all the hard work is done for you – all tents come already pitched and equipped with all the essentials for a comfortable stay. All you need to bring is your clothes and other personal bits to start relaxing as soon as you arrive! We’re offering customers up to 30% off Eurocamp holidays.

Make your getaway with National Express

coach

Whether you’re planning a city break, making your way to a festival, or travelling to the airport, National Express can get you there comfortably and affordably. With 100s of destinations, and fares starting from as little as £5 one way, everyone can afford to get away this summer!
You and your staff can save 20% on National Express bookings, so what are you waiting for?

Timetastic – a nicer way to book time off

Managing staff leave can be an organisational nightmare – especially over the summer when people often want time off at the same time, but your business needs to carry on as usual while they are away. With Timetastic, your staff can easily request any type of leave, and you can view, approve and manage it all from any device. As an npower Business customer, you can try it free for 6 months.

timetastic

We hope you enjoy these deals. Have fun on your getaway!

Like what you’ve read? Join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow or Linkedin at npower Business

The real cost of stress

Stress costs small businesses nearly £1,000 a year per employee (Source: Huffington Post). If left unchecked, stress can result in staff absence, and the cost to your business escalates even futher. Clearly this is bad for your workforce’s health and bad for business. But the good news is that tackling stress in your business can make a big difference, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, a few simple changes could help you save time and money, not to mention keeping your staff healthy, happy and motivated.

It’s natural to want your workforce to be happy. But there’s far more to it than just being a caring boss.

It’s important to be able to spot the signs of stress amongst your staff, before you can do anything to help. If anyone in your business regularly has any of the following issues, it could be a sign they’re stressed:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable or depressed
  • Apathy and loss of interest in work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Social withdrawal

Thankfully there are some simple, and free, things you can do to help make your staff’s working days less stressful.
It’s also a good idea to practice what you preach. Following these tips yourself will help to look after your own health and set an inspiring, healthy example.

Get out: Encourage people to go outside on their break. As little as five minutes in the fresh air can help reduce anxiety*

Be flexible: Flexible working helps your staff manage their work and home life more easily. And businesses who already offer this report fewer days off, more loyal staff, better productivity and more satisfied employees as a result

Make it manageable: Encouraging your employees to stick to reasonable working hours, perhaps by using their skills and time better, will help make their workloads far easier to manage

Adapt yourself: There’s no one management style that’s right for every employee. Great leadership is all about listening to your team and paying attention to the early warning signs of stress. Make sure you adapt your management style to suit each person’s individual needs

Show your appreciation: Recognition or rewards can be a great way to show your staff you value them. To make this really easy, npower Business offers all our customers free treats and other benefits for themselves and their employees – take a look for yourself.

If your business is based around shift work, then some of the above points may be easier said than done. But don’t worry, there are still some very useful things you can do.

First of all, talk to your staff about their lifestyles. Believe it or not, early birds and night owls really do exist, and you might be able to find new ways to organise your rota to suit different people’s needs.

It also makes sense to try and review your schedule as a whole and make sure it works as well as possible. It’s well worth trying to avoid things like asking someone to switch between early and late shifts, as this will disrupt their quality of sleep – which is a leading cause of stress and illness in shift workers.
With just a few small changes, you could dramatically reduce the impact of stress on your people and your business.

 

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and LinkedIn at npower Business

What causes the largest amount of stress in small businesses?

As it’s Stress Awareness Month we took a look at how stress can affect you both physically and mentally, as well as delving into the types of stress that are common in smaller businesses and how to tackle it head on. Things such as financial difficulties, competition, employee turnover and burnout can all affect your ability to successfully run your business. As well as a risk to the business, you’re also putting your own health at risk when stressed and while this may cause you to suffer from milder ailments such as headaches, it can also lead to really serious problems like a cardiac arrest.

According to Business Knowledge Source, a lack of control is the leading cause of stress in the workplace. For small business owners this may include the weather, employee behaviour, supplier prices etc….so the only area you have real control over is yourself and how you react to these unpredictable and uncontrollable factors. Try to recognise these factors and develop ways to handle them when they do occur.

Trying to hide your worries and frustrations as well as failing to communicate comes a close second as another cause of stress in the workplace. Carrying ‘the weight of the world’ can end up with you experiencing a stressful breakdown. Recognise the signs of stress: lack of appetite, poor sleep, unexplained aches and low energy levels. Slow down and seek help if necessary.

Excessive workloads are of course common in small businesses. With such a small number of staff it’s often the case that you’ll be doing two or three people’s roles and probably working much longer hours, which can lead to you feeling rushed, under pressure and overwhelmed.

Stress is usually triggered by your attitude toward things you can’t control. A positive outlook toward your business and your employees can help you better accept their shortcomings and appreciate those areas that do flow smoothly at work. Letting go of unrealistic expectations can really lower your stress levels. For example, you can’t control the weather, so there’s no point in stressing when it interferes with your business plans.

Stress isn’t always negative, a certain amount of it is necessary and can even motivate us. When you’ve got a super-stressful day ahead, look at it as a challenge. Set goals, focus on the most important tasks, encourage yourself along the way and reward yourself, even if it’s just with a mental pat on the back as you cross each item off the list

Find support among your peers who face the same kinds of uncontrollable stress. Join a business network that provides opportunities to share experiences, vent and look for solutions.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

£288,000 raised for Macmillan!

2016 has been yet another great year for npower’s volunteering and fundraising efforts. Over the course of the year, npower staff from all areas of the business walked, ran, baked, cycled and crawled to raise money for Macmillan – while others preferred to sponsor colleagues, buy cakes, or donate an hour’s pay from the comfort of their seat.

Here are some of our fundraisers in action:

Did you know:

npower matches all staff charity fundraising pound for pound!

For 2016 we had an ambitious target of raising £100,000 for Macmillan, but npower employees are never afraid of a challenge, and we actually raised a grand total of £144,000! This gives Macmillan a massive £288,000 once npower have matched the amount, money that will go towards helping those battling cancer keep warm without the worry, as well as supporting Macmillan’s brilliant work to ensure sufferers don’t face cancer alone.

Npower has had a partnership with Macmillan since 2004, and we take great pride in getting as many people who work here as possible involved in our fundraising efforts.

MAC15975_NPower_Infographic_1920_AW

Read more about our relationship with Macmillan.

Macmillan wasn’t the only charity to benefit from our contribution in 2016, we had another successful year with colleagues going to amazing lengths to challenge themselves while fundraising for their charities of choice, often local to their communities. Over 70 npower staff supported different causes by volunteering to dig and replant gardens, paint the inside of schools, weed and clean dog shelters, cuddle cats, and get muddy for local charities. Barnados, Dementia UK, the Trussell Trust and WheelPower were among some of the charities to benefit from a share of the £78,000 we raised last year.

Take a look at what they got up to!

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

Not well? Stay home!

Illness is a huge problem for businesses of all sizes, with staff absence costing UK employers billions of pounds each year. Slogging into work when we feel unwell often feels like the right thing to do, especially in a small business where there are less people to cover the work.  By coming in and soldiering on, many of us feel like we’re doing the company a favour and helping to keep things running.  However, the real effect of doing this is very different:

  • Making our colleagues (and customers!) ill too – infections can spread far more effectively
  • Work is affected – whether it’s productivity or quality, we’re not functioning on all cylinders
  • You’ll feel bad for longer – taking more time to recover and generally feeling
  • Loss of energy and motivation – resting and recovering properly will allow you to return to work refreshed and raring to go

Together this results in the average adult taking over 9 days off work each year.  Changing our attitude to calling in sick can help to remedy the problem and reduce the £23bn cost to UK businesses*.

Winter compounds the problem – we all spend more time indoors, and colds and other viruses are rife. So how can small businesses help themselves?

  1. Communication – most importantly make sure everyone understands and believes that taking a sick day won’t affect their career or standing in the company.
  2. Organisation – Establish who can cover whose work if someone is ill, so staff don’t feel as pressured to turn up for work. Document procedures so everyone know what to do if a key person is away.
  3. Hygiene practices – basic actions like clean hands, and keeping your distance if you think you’re coming down with something
  4. Work life balance – over worked and exhausted people are more prone to illness. Do what you can put an end to self-sacrificing behaviours
  5. Healthy living – if you can afford it, little touches like office fruit encourage people to get their five a day.  Why not treat everyone to juice or smoothies as a weekly breakfast vitamin boost? You could also encourage your team to get involved in healthy social activities like lunchtime runs, walks or gym sessions to keep people fighting off germs all year round.

Setting an example is also important. If people see their boss working long hours, skipping meals (or eating junk food) and putting their health and wellbeing at the bottom of the agenda, they’ll think that’s what you expect of them too. Show them what a proper work-life balance looks like, and encourage them to look after themselves. They in turn will feel valued and appreciated, which goes a long way to gaining their loyalty to your company long-term.

Here’s to the best of health for your and your staff in 2017!

 

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

*http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/sick-leave-costs-uk-employers-29-billion-a-year-says-pwc

Meet Bob. The real hero behind Christmas.

Every successful business has unsung heroes like Bob. You know, the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the wheels turning.

If that sounds like you, you’re in for a treat.

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As npower Business energy customers, you and your colleagues are entitled to FREE npower Business Rewards.

That means you can enjoy hundreds of freebies, offers and discounts on things like days out, spa breaks, travel and shopping sprees.

Use them yourself or give them as gifts – they make great Christmas treats for everyone who has worked hard this year.

All you need to do is get your boss (or whoever takes care of the energy bills)to register with your npower business account number, and then take your pick.

Register now for FREE business rewards and make the most of them. Bob will!

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SMEs: The Beating Heart of the Economy

Dale Murray CBE, Board Advisor at the Centre for Entrepreneurs shares her views on the SME Growth Forecast Index.

As a former entrepreneur I am frequently inspired by the energy and innovation of small and medium sized enterprises. Yet for all their entrepreneurial flair, they are not just the backbone of the UK’s economy, but as Capital Economics’ report for npower Business shows, its beating heart.

The statistics tell their own story. SMEs generate £16 billion annually for the economy, support jobs for 16.8 million people and have been behind four-fifths of the increase in private sector employment since 2010: small and medium sized they may be, but they are huge in terms of impact.

As the report shows, there are clear hotspots for SME growth. This “heat” is driven by a number of factors, over which policy makers have considerable control; not least access to a skilled and growing workforce, which improves skills matching for employers and employees.

Good living conditions and positive transport links also score highly as a driving factor of SME growth. A compelling Newsweek story highlights how the small US town of Ogden turned itself into a thriving and egalitarian hub of business activity. It did this in part by attracting recreational and lifestyle businesses, to make Ogden an attractive place for people to live. They improved living conditions with their recreational offering, which in turn attracted high-tech start-ups.

It will come as little surprise to any business owner, meanwhile, that business rates were cited in the report as among the top barriers to SME growth. Some 33 percent of those surveyed cited this as an issue. (On the positive side, Enterprise zones, simplified local authority planning and government support all help).

Good internet (and transport) connectivity are also crucial: business performance slumps with sluggish connectivity and picks up with a fast and reliable connection. Happily for SMEs and start-ups it’s getting cheaper to start a business: the development and greater use of information, communication and technology products has pushed down equipment and advertising costs for example; uninterrupted digital highways are increasingly more important than real ones.

Such falling costs allow entrepreneurs and SMEs to take more risks, whether they are in Birmingham, Brighton or Bristol (all thriving as the report shows, in no small part thanks to their innovative small businesses). Growing numbers of people across the UK are choosing to strike out and start businesses, Capital Economics’ shows. This has been the largest contributor to SME employment growth in recent years. Entrepreneurs are putting their time, energy and capital into enterprises that they are passionate about. The greatest hotspot is, ultimately, where the heart is.

Want to know more? You can catch Dale’s webinar online until 5th October – watch the webinar on BrightTALK.

Download the report and take a look.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

Getting staff rewards right

SMEs are great places to work, as employees get real hands-on experience of a wide range of areas and often take a lot of responsibility. There’s also a real sense of pulling together in a small team to get things done.

One drawback, however is that often smaller businesses are not able to match the salaries and benefits that are on offer elsewhere. This is a big challenge for SME owners, as it makes it harder for them to retain staff long-term.

Rewards and perks can be the deciding factor when a potential employee is looking at job opportunities in your business, so it’s a good idea to state what you offer in order to differentiate between your company and the next. Putting some time into a structured reward scheme will pay off when you are not only able to attract excellent talent, but can also keep those staff and grow your business.

Will you have a one-size-fits-all reward structure? While this is perhaps simpler to manage, the same reward might not suit everyone. For example, discounted car parking is no use to someone who commutes to work by bus, and sending flowers to someone who suffers from hay fever won’t go down well!

But rewards don’t have to break the bank – if you’re an npower Business customer you can reward your staff for free with our Business Rewards scheme.

We’ve asked a few people what the best and worst rewards they’ve had are, so that you can decide what would work for you and your staff – and the ones you should definitely avoid! We’re mentioning no names to spare the blushes of those involved!

Thumbs up – more of this sort of thing

“I was given an extra day off as an impromptu thank you – it meant a lot because I’d worked especially hard on that project and needed a break!” 

“I got a bonus even though I was a temp and the company wasn’t obliged to give me anything extra. It made me feel really appreciated.”

 

“My boss took me out today for lunch,  we had fish & chips and a cuppa and it was delicious!”

Fish&Chips

“A colleague got me a chocolate orange – not only had he taken the time to find out my favourite, but because it came from someone I really liked and respected it meant even more.”

“I work in tiny micro companies who never really have the money for rewards. I really appreciate the handwritten cards of thanks I’ve got from clients. It means a lot to me.”

Thumbs down – avoid these ones!

“I got a dubious company-branded paperweight featuring a group photo of the partners – I kept it for a long time even though I hated it, as I had no idea what to do with it. You can’t exactly take it to a charity shop!”

“I won a bottle of the worst chardonnay I think I’ve ever tasted and The Full Monty soundtrack. Would rather have had the money!”

“A company I used to work at gave everyone a frozen turkey for Christmas each year. One year they all had to be brought back as it was discovered they were several years out of date!”

“After 10 years’ service at a company, I was given £25 of vouchers as a gift. The punchline came when I tried to spend them and no shop would accept them.”

Raffle tickets made a really poor sales incentive at one place I worked at…”

So if you’re looking at setting up a rewards scheme in your business, here are a few points to bear in mind:

Make it fair – make sure everyone gets a chance of a reward; it’s easy to spot the high-fliers in a sales team (they will be sure to tell you, in case you didn’t notice!), but what about the person who quietly goes above and beyond every day to make sure things happen on time, or that customers are happy?

Give them a choice – if you set options and levels of rewards based on value, then the lucky recipient can choose their preference, e.g. meal out, spa day or adrenaline-fuelled experience.

Get them involved – nominating the person they think deserves a reward, suggesting or organising new rewards and sharing the results on Social Media are great ways to engage your team and get them on board.

It’s the thought that counts – sometimes less is more. As several of the examples above show, choosing a gift you know someone will like is a thank you that they’ll remember for a long time. Small gestures such as giving staff free hot drinks while at work, or providing fresh fruit won’t break the bank for an SME, but will be appreciated and enjoyed by your staff every day.

Food for thought – giving people food or a bottle of something as an individual thank you can be a minefield. Your staff’s preferences when it comes to food are probably so varied that you’d have a be a miracle worker to get it right – and that’s before you take into account any serious allergies or religious reasons why they might avoid certain foods. You don’t want to be the boss who gives a ham to a Jewish or Muslim employee, or chocolate to a diabetic! Unless you have a great memory, or can record details of preferences like this somewhere, food and drink might be best avoided.

If you’re an npower Business customer you can reward your staff with brilliant offers and discounts through Business Rewards – find out more and register at www.npowerbusinessrewards.co.uk

Not an npower Business customer? Take a look at other ways you can keep staff happy.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

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