Passengers ‘less satisfied with rail’s value for money’

Anyone who’s sick of heading to work by train and has been dreaming of working at home instead is unlikely to have their mind changed by the picture of Britain’s rail services that emerged from a recent survey. 

Watchdog Passenger Focus has warned that there continues to be too much variation between how satisfied passengers are with rail services in different parts of Britain in the wake of its latest National Rail Passenger Survey.

Though this survey, from last autumn, discovered overall satisfaction when it came to rail services to be 83 per cent, year on year there was a fall in punctuality rating, now 79 per cent against last year’s 83 per cent. This is said to reflect a fall in actual punctuality during this time.

But punctuality ratings from passengers haven’t altered much during the past half decade – they were 81 per cent in 2008, the watchdog notes.

The way operators handled things when delays occurred was given satisfaction ratings ranging from 23 to 69 across Britain.

The overall rating had dropped, now 40 when last year it was 44.

This has risen a little since 2008′s rating of 37 per cent, but the watchdog has expressed disappointment at the figure given that a lot of work has been put into supporting operators in managing and communicating better when delays occur.

It won’t surprise anyone that the value for money satisfaction rating slipped, now 45 per cent against last autumn’s 47 per cent.

But the data was collected prior to the latest fare hike news coming out – and Passenger Focus suggests these hikes are expected to have an effect on the outcome next time the survey takes place.

“There are gaps of around 20 per cent between the best and worst-performing services, and satisfaction with value for money varied from 28 to 82 per cent,” commented Passenger Focus acting chief executive, David Sidebottom.

“Although generally satisfaction has remained fairly high over the last five years, we want to see a more consistently high level of service for passengers, wherever they may be travelling to and from.”

These statistics, though, don’t have the ability to paint a full picture of the experience some commuters face.

Even if you really enjoy train travel, having to face a long trip to work every day by any form of transport can be a huge drag.

When things are running smoothly, commuting still has its downsides – whether it’s by train, on the road or by some other means.

But when things go wrong – like a delay occuring – it can suddenly become even less fun!

At the beginning of the day, when you’re in a rush, or at the end when you’re desperate for a rest at home, even a small disruption or delay can be a massive irritant.

One way to well and truly deal with the problems of commuting is to change your place of work – and of course, that doesn’t always mean having to leave your current job.

Where possible, people who want to take positive action to boot the commute could look into whether they can work remotely from their own home.

The next question is where to set up office – you’ll need somewhere that’s perfect for working, and a home garden office from The Garden Office could well prove to be just the thing.

You can choose your size and customise in other ways to create an ideal spot.

Your quality of life – not to mention productivity – could well soar once your new office is set up and you’re a remote worker – especially if you used to have a long commute.

No more extra-early starts, you’ll likely be more refreshed each day – and have extra time with the family each evening.

2014 – A GREAT YEAR FOR CYCLING

2014 is going to be massive for cycling enthusiasts in London and across the whole of the UK, with a host of high profile events on the calendar. If you love cycling and are not already in a London cycling club, now is the time to look into it so that you can enjoy this momentous year with like-minded enthusiasts.

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The action on these shores starts on Saturday 5th July when the 2014 Tour de France gets underway in… Leeds. Yes, not for the first time the world’s foremost cycling spectacular is taking its first stage “Grand Départ” out of France and this year the beautiful county of Yorkshire will take centre stage. Day one will see the tour move from Leeds to Harrogate, and on the following day it will set off from historic York en route to one of the UK’s great sporting cities, Sheffield. By the Tuesday the tour will be on French soil, but not before it makes a welcome return to our capital on Monday 7th July – that day’s stage travels from Cambridge to London, with the Olympic Park and The Mall among the highlights on the route.

Next we go north of the border, where the XX Commonwealth Games (Wednesday 23rd July – Sunday 3rd August) in Glasgow will lay on a feast of cycling. There will be mountain biking on a purpose built cross country course in Cathkin Braes Country Park, a road race through the city’s shopping streets and parks and track cycling at a venue bearing the name of a cycling legend – the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

Think you might not make it up to Yorkshire or Glasgow? Fear not – you can catch these events on television surrounded by your cycling club buddies, and you will still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy your sport on the streets of London…

Coinciding with the closing weekend of the Commonwealth Games will be the London Triathlon, where entrants will cycle for up to 80km through the city, as well as swimming and running. Around 13,000 triathletes of all ages and experience are expected to take part.

Just one week later, on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th August, RideLondon – a two-day festival of cycling – takes place. Billed as a legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games, the weekend will feature: the opportunity to take part in a free cycle around an eight-mile traffic-free circuit in central London; a Grand Prix showcasing the Olympic and Paralympic cyclists of the future; the London-Surrey 100 and London-Surrey Classic – two races for amateurs and professionals; a Cycling Show at ExCel London, with three days of exhibition, guest appearances and more.

Last but not least comes the Tour of Britain, from Sunday 7th until Sunday 14th September. Route details remain under wraps at this time, but a London stage has featured every year excluding 2012 – when Londoners were given a little break to let them recover from the excitement of the Olympics.

London has many cycling clubs, some specialist and some open to all forms of cycling. Activities on offer vary from club to club, but among these you can expect sportives, time trials, racing, training rides, recreational rides and coaching. Furthermore though there can be a fantastic social element to joining a cycling club. Besides the camaraderie of the cycles themselves, they can be a great place to hook up with other fans of two wheels and perhaps make arrangements to watch or enter these great big organised events as a group. Some of the clubs have their own coffee shops and bars, so you can also watch the action from Leeds, Glasgow, Paris and more on screen with a refreshment. The London cycling scene has never been so alive – make sure you are a part of it in 2014.

 

 

 

How can orienteering help build team unity?

Productivity is something that all managers want out of their team, but if you’re working in a team environment, this isn’t always possible if team members don’t know each other or don’t really get along. This is where the manager needs to facilitate some events where people can work together for a team goal that will hopefully help the business in the long run.

There are plenty of different team-building activities – some that include problem solving in the office or a quiz night at a pub. One very popular form of team-building is to set up an orienteering event where workers are often taken out of their comfort zone to work together.

Orienteering should bring together team members with different skill sets so they can work alongside one another to solve navigational problems.

What to expect at an orienteering event

An orienteering team building exercise can heighten both the fun and competitive aspects of being a team, as well as creating special decision-making situations that could focus on more recreation or business-related training. Events will often include custom designed courses that help to meet the needs of the group.

Your workers will be split up into groups and introduced to team building concepts through different activities and provided with technical orienteering instruction so everyone has the necessary tools to work together. They will then get a course map and be given instructions on how the exercise will be carried out. It is then up to your workers to work together as a team to ensure they come out on top against everyone else. And to round off a good day, why not enjoy a meal and some drinks with your colleagues after the event.

What’s the purpose of team building?

We all know what the perfect scenario is from a team building exercise – everyone returns best of friends and are able to work much more productively with one another. However, we don’t live in a perfect world so let’s not pretend we do. The main hope from going orienteering is that people get on with each other better than they did before the exercise. A harmonious workplace is a much more pleasant place to work and this in turn could lead to better productivity, lower staff turnover and a world-class culture to help attract and retain the best talent.

Keep the brand at heart for any orienteering

While it is important that everyone goes out and works as a team to build a stronger bond with one another, it is equally vital that staff don’t lose sight of why they are doing it. Use a teambuilding event to reinforce your brand values and reiterate key strategic objectives.

To help build brand awareness, ensure that everyone taking part in the event is wearing branded clothing with your company logo emblazoned on it. Distribute personalised sports bottles if the weather is expected to be hot and sunny. To check out all the different promotional items available to you, look at 4imprint.

A Look at How Casinos Are Helping Businesses Grow

Since the 1980′s, thirty states have made the surprising decision to join Nevada and Atlantic City in legalizing gambling. The main reason for this dramatic shift in policy, is due to the fact that other states are beginning to realize the potential for economic growth that casinos can bring to an area. Not only do casinos bring taxable revenue to state and local governments, they can help boost employment, and increase business profits. In 2001, Nevada reported $9.5 billion in annual profits, making it possible for the state to fund important programs such as education, housing, and health care. While state and local governments are certainly benefiting from the new tax revenue, area businesses are also seeing an increase in sales and profits.

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Retail Sales are Rising

Recent studies are beginning to show that casinos can increase sales in area businesses. While some economic experts worried that the shops and restaurants included in many casino complexes would actually hurt local businesses, the opposite is proving to be true. Area restaurants and nightclubs both report higher earnings after a casino is opened, and many also reported increasing employment and even opening expansions. Along with the food and beverage industry, chain and local retail outlets are also experiencing higher retail sales. Much of this is due to the increased numbers of visitors and tourists who come to enjoy the casino and local attractions. Another important retailer reporting higher profits are the area liquor stores. While this increase may worry some, states and local businesses are benefiting from the increase tax revenue that the casinos are helping to generate from liquor sales. It is not just casino complexes that are helping to rejuvenate area businesses, but online gaming sites are also contributing to lagging local economies.

Online Casinos and Businesses

While it may be difficult for many to understand how online casinos such as, www.platinumplaycasino.com can help with business growth, studies are showing that in fact they can. Countries with legalized online gaming now only report an increase in taxes going into their economies, but also an increase in retail sales. Experts expect that as more and more countries will begin legalizing these online casinos as they see the positive effect these online gaming sites can have on local businesses and economies.

The debate over the positive and negative effects casinos have on local businesses and economies is not likely to end anytime soon. What is not being debated is the positive effect that these gaming complexes can have on an area’s economy. Not only is the tax revenue used to support and implement many of the government programs, including health care and education, the increased revenue has an extremely positive affect on area businesses. Increased sales, added employment, and even expansions are just some of the benefits that both established and online casinos can bring to an area.

Tradesmen hours among the longest for UK workers

 British tradespeople are some of the hardest working in the country. Research conducted by Direct Line for Business has found that around 8 out of 10 tradespeople skip meals during working hours and 73% of them admit to not getting enough exercise.

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But it can be hard to draw the line between productivity and burning out. What are the warning signs that you’re burning the candle at both ends, and may eventually need more than a builder’s tea to get going again?

In the same study, it was discovered that 70% of British tradespeople work unpaid overtime hours. This hard-working bunch are collectively working £4.8 million in unpaid overtime every year. They complete 5.29 hours of additional unpaid work per week. This adds up to around £1,702 of lost income per year. Although some of this over-working may simply be result of circumstances beyond their control, there’s some ways to mitigate against the risks of over-tiredness.

Knowing one’s limits and upholding the principles of work-life balance are a great start. Give yourself permission to take time out to revitalise and repair mind and body. Contrary to popular belief, human beings aren’t well oiled machines that can continuously function and produce exceptional work without enough rest. The ingredients of a well-balanced life include a minimum of eight hours rest every night, exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day four times per week, and a well-balanced diet.

The dangers of overwork are hard to ignore. It could result in losing contracts or reputation due to poor performance as well as accidents. Tiredness can mean that your work doesn’t meet health, safety and regulatory requirements. However, the main reason to pay attention to overworking with no proper kip, is that this eventually takes its toll on your health.

Henry Ford initially championed the idea of the 40 hour working week in the 1920s. He found that working more than 40 hours per week is costly, dangerous, and is causes workers to make mistakes

Whether you work long hours, or are able to strike a healthy work-life balance, it makes sense to consider tradesmen insurance. This will protect you and your clients should you make a mistake at work.

How to prepare for a child studying abroad

Heading abroad to study at university is a hugely exciting and fulfilling experience, but the time leading up to the move can be stressful, particularly for parents.

While it is perfectly natural for mums and dads to worry before such a big change in their child’s life, you can take reassurance from the fact that careful planning and preparation will increase the chances of everything running smoothly.

Read on to find out more about how you and your child can get ready for overseas study.

Give yourself plenty of time

When you and your child are anticipating a life change as significant as attending university in a foreign country, the last thing you want to be doing is rushing and worrying about deadlines for applications.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to consider, research and plan the move. As well as offering practical advantages, this will help both you and your child get used to the idea of studying abroad.

According to Prospects.ac.uk, a graduate careers website, you should start to assess your options and make a timetable of action 24 months in advance. You could begin with identifying potential study destinations and looking at universities your child might want to attend.

Other steps that could require some time to complete include applying for and completing entry tests for your chosen university and securing funding.

Research, research, research

You will feel much more informed and comfortable with the entire process of your child studying abroad if you have done some thorough research.

The chances are you will need to focus on a range of topics during your preparations.

One of the first steps will be finding the right course for your child, based on their primary interests or career goals.

It is also a good idea to learn more about the destinations where your son or daughter could be living, and the range of services available at prospective universities to support international students.

Check whether the qualifications your child has gained at home will be sufficient to gain entry to higher education institutions in the countries you are interested in. Will there be entry examinations to think about, and will you have to get references to support the application?

Other topics to consider during your research include tuition fees, any available sources of funding and potential visa requirements.

The financial side

Just like attending university at home, studying abroad can be a major financial commitment.

It is worth looking into scholarships, grants and any other forms of financial support that might be available to you.

Also, you could consider setting up an account with a service that allows you to make regular international payments. This will enable you to make quick and easy money transfers to the country where your child is studying, providing peace of mind that you can help them out with some extra cash whenever necessary.

You might want to consider setting up a joint credit card your child can use in emergencies, or even look into buying a property as a long-term investment.

The emotional side

While there are all sorts of administrative and financial aspects to consider when sending your child overseas to study, one of the most difficult things for parents to deal with is the emotional side of the process.

Of course, it is perfectly understandable for mums and dads to struggle with the prospect of their son or daughter going abroad for a long period of time, but it is important to remember that this is about your child gaining new experiences and broadening their horizons.

Try to focus on what they will be getting out of the move, rather than what you will be missing out on, and don’t take it personally if you don’t get a phone call or a message every day.

You can also make yourself feel better by thinking about the many benefits your child will gain from studying overseas, such as new life experiences, greater confidence, knowledge of a different culture and improved career prospects.

Could an IT career put you at the heart of the office?

We all seem to have a preconceived idea about what an IT career is normally like. You have to go to university, complete a standard three-year course of computer science and have a brief stint at Google or Microsoft along the way.

This isn’t true. Almost anyone – even people who aren’t great with computers – can get a job in this industry if they put the time and effort in.

IT apprenticeships, for example, offer school leavers without many qualifications (or even those with all A*s!) the chance to get the skills they need to make a career out of all things tech.

CV

Any 16 to 18-year-old that has just done their GCSEs will know just how difficult it can be to plan their future, especially with the job market the way it is at the moment. But there are ways you can boost your CV.

Getting involved in an IT apprenticeship could give you the chance to be at the centre of a busy, dynamic office environment – something that will look fantastic on your CV.

Most people in their late teens will find their resume is full of part-time jobs, small projects and the odd course, but this doesn’t give bosses enough to employ you on, as they will want to know you can hack it when the going gets tough.

Apprenticeships are great for this reason as they give you a really good taste of what life in an office is like, but without you having all the pressure of getting absolutely everything right.

Mistakes

You will make mistakes if you take on an IT apprenticeship. That’s just a fact of life. But if you learn from that time you accidentally wiped a hard drive, instead of dwelling on it, and show your employer that you will put in the effort to improve, then you will almost certainly set yourself apart from the crowd.

The vast majority of people that take on apprentices know they are not the finished article and as such won’t expect heaven and earth from you. This gives you a real one up on fully-paid counterparts, who have the pressure of a normal entry level job position on their shoulders.

Centre of the office

The thing about being in the IT department is that absolutely everyone in the office relies on it. We all know how important computers, as well as the wider internet, are to our day-to-day lives so when this stops working – it’s only natural that everyone will flock to you.

While you probably won’t be tasked with developing whole new cloud platforms, or changing your employer’s data encryption systems in your apprenticeship, the fact that you’ll be seeing colleagues on a daily basis to fix their computers will put you right at the centre of the office.

You’ll immediately be recognised as a vital part of the company and this will give you a great chance to get a full contract, but will all the know-how and expertise you need to get the job done to the high standards expected.

If you want to find out more about getting paid to learn while you work, try looking at some of the positions listed on the Positive Outcomes website – where thousands of school leavers have found employment and the job of their dreams.

Money management tips for contractors

For most people in permanent salaried roles, money management can often be as simple as ensuring there is enough to cover your outgoings, with something extra going to one side in the form of savings if possible. However, for limited contractors, there is much more to consider.

Despite this, keeping on top of your accounts does not necessarily need to be a difficult task. As long as you are aware of your financial obligations, managing your finances doesn’t have to be difficult.

Calculating tax

Limited company contractors are required to pay a number of taxes, with each of them due at different times and calculated in a different manner.

Corporation tax - Limited company contractors are required to pay corporation tax based on the profits of the company. This is levied once per year and is usually paid nine months after the end of the accounting period.

Income tax - The vast majority of people are aware of income tax as this is payable on most earnings. This includes salary, pensions’ income, interest on savings and income from a share portfolio. It is paid monthly through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) payroll system.

National Insurance - Your contributions through National Insurance are the things that entitle you to a state pension, access to the National Health Service and other state benefits. These are again made through the PAYE system.

Tax Returns

All limited company contractors are required to complete personal tax returns and this can prove to be a significant undertaking, particularly for those with little or no previous accountancy experience.

For limited company contractors, an additional company tax return must be completed and this is often even more difficult. As a result, many choose to engage the services of an accountancy services provider to assist them, particularly as this can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to submit the return.

Those who attempt the task alone are often required to take two or three days off to finish the necessary administration, meaning they are unlikely to be bringing in any money during this time.

As a result, it is often more financially prudent to enlist professional help, especially as there are a number of expenses you may be entitled to claim for but are not aware of.

Many business expenses can be offset against the level of tax you are required to pay, including insurance, legal fees, mobile phone contracts, broadband, travel and subsidence as long as they are incurred wholly, necessarily and exclusively in the performance of your duties.

A qualified accountant will point out what you are and are not entitled to claim for – which may even help to avoid the stress of an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

Planning ahead

Regardless of whether you need to take time off for holidays, sickness or a period between contracts, it is important to manage your finances efficiently during this period.

Limited company contractors are recommended to build up a buffer of between three and six months’ earnings as this will help to guard against emergencies where you cannot work for some reason.

Get help when necessary

With so much to consider, it is easy to see how contractors may become overwhelmed when it comes to managing their finances.

If bookkeeping and administrative tasks are detracting from your life outside of work, or affecting the quality of service you are providing to clients, you may well find the benefits of seeking professional assistance are more than justified.

 

Things to consider when buying multifunction printers

One of the main technological developments in the last few years, although not as headline-grabbing as smartphones, tablets and the like, has been multifunction printers.

Gone are the days when even the smallest of officers would need half a dozen different large and clunky devices to carry out essential tasks such as copying, faxing and scanning.

Companies can now invest in just one device to replace all of these – a multifunction printer. But what do firms need to think about before they are ready to select one of these devices?

Your requirements

One of the first things any organisation has to do before it is ready to purchase new multifunction printers is to consider what its requirements for the devices are.

Will the firm need the printer to be able to manage forms? Does the business need a device that can simplify workflow? Or is it just a printer that is also able to handle scanning and copying?

Once the company has made a list of the features it needs from any new all-in-one printer it buys, it is ready to look into the cost benefits of doing so.

Cost/value benefits

Among the main reasons companies will be investing in multifunction printers is that they are more cost-efficient than the scanners, copiers and printers they can replace in the office.

Instead of running five or six different energy-intensive machines, a business will find it is able to get rid of all of these and instead use just the one multifunction printer, which can result in major savings on the office’s electricity bills.

There’s also the boost to the environment to consider and with many organisations becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the planet, how vital this is cannot be underestimated.

With consumers placing more importance on the environment, businesses must make sure their carbon footprint is as small as possible and that they are not wasting energy.

Investing in all-in-one printers will also free up space in the office that can be used for something else, although companies should calculate the cost of supplies before making a purchase.

Multitasking abilities

Although multifunction printers will typically enable a business to get rid of older devices such as scanners and copiers, companies will need to check the multitasking ability of any machine they buy before handing over their money.

It’s all very well having a device in the office that can take on a number of different jobs, but if it is only going to be able to do one thing at once then this could slow down work for members of staff. Envisage a situation where people end up queuing to use the printer – this is something businesses will want to avoid if they intend to be as efficient as possible.

Security and confidentiality

The internet is now absolutely crucial to companies, but it brings risks as well as benefits. Security concerns are paramount, especially for businesses that handle sensitive information about their clients and customers, so it’s important to check what safeguards a multifunction printer has in place.

These devices tend to be wireless now, so measures need to be taken in order to ensure nobody can hack into the system and access sensitive documents remotely.

Furthermore, organisations are going to be becoming increasingly interested in the bi-directional communication capabilities of any device they introduce to the office in the coming years.

Once all of these factors have been carefully considered, a company is ready to select the right colour multifunction printer to suit the needs of their office and reap the rewards of the new technology and the cost savings it can provide.

Getting your school ready for the end of year ball

As we are approaching the Spring, the time is coming ti begin thinking about and planning your school’s end of year ball. After all, the sooner you start the better it’ll run!

There is a lot of planning involved in these events. Venues, entertainment, food, lighting and clean up crews must all be considered. Staff members usually spend months organising and arranging all that needs to be done in order to deliver an enjoyable and memorable ball.

Keeping costs low

One of the things that must be considered when planning an event of any size is the cost.

The dedicated staff members who will be organising the ball will spend hours searching for the cheapest and best service provider.

Finding the right venue

Holding the ball at the school may be the best option, but if the school is small or there isn’t a room large enough to accommodate all the guests then a more appropriate location will need to be found.

Hotel ballrooms make great venues for end of year balls as they are large and the business is used to accommodating big numbers of guests.

The hotel may also offer discounts for large parties, so it is worth asking about any offers they have.

Do you need transport?

If you have arranged to have the event at a location off campus then you will need to consider how the students will get there.

You could consider hiring coaches or minibuses, but these costs must be factored in to the overall budget.

Is the school willing to allow students to make their own way to the venue if they wish?

This will allow them to have the experience of riding in a limo., but will add complications to the event as staff members will need to keep track of who is coming by coach and who is making their own way.

Finding the right DJ

The perfect DJ will have previous experience of working similar types of events. They could have worked with the school in the past and have built up a good relationship with staff members. The right DJ will play appropriate music and get everybody up on the dancefloor.

The internet is a great resource for finding the right DJ as you’ll be able to compare prices and read reviews from previous customers.

Deciding on what food to serve

Before deciding on what type of food will be served at the ball you need to arrange the venue and work out how many guests will be attending, as this will inform your decision.

If the event will be held at the school then a buffet may be the best option as it can be prepared beforehand and set out before the ball starts.

A sit down meal may be more appropriate if you intend to use a hotel ballroom as the students can decide what they would like to eat beforehand and the hotel kitchen would easily be able to prepare large quantities of food.

The clean-up

If the event is being held at the school the likelihood is there will be a lot to clean up the day after.

School cleaners do not generally work weekends, so if the ball is taking place on a Friday then either staff will have to clean up or the mess will be left until the cleaners come in on Monday.

There is another option, organisers of the ball may want to arrange for a contract cleaner, such as Nviro, to come to the school the day after and clean up the party aftermath. This means the normal school cleaners won’t be shocked when they return after the weekend.

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