Just a few short days into January, pundits are already trying to predict what 2016 will bring. Despite last year’s slowly steps toward economic health, economists doubt any outstanding recovery in the coming months ― especially with the current state of global markets. The monumental rise of startups in 2015 will likely fall precipitously this year, and even some of the most successful, like Airbnb and Snapchat, could go public or fail. Perhaps the most difficult revolution in 2016 ― and the one that most small-business owners eagerly await ― is the presidential election, as the outcome has the potential to drastically change how American business works.
Yet, amidst all the changes of the New Year, small-business owners can be thankful that that some ways of doing business will certainly remain the same. Safety, sustainability, and security are crucial to supporting a business, and they will remain so for the foreseeable future.
In different industries, safety has different meanings. In the industrial sector, safety is ensuring one’s workers are relatively protected against bodily harm, as heavy machinery can easily cause severe physical damage to the vulnerable human form. Several agencies oversee industrial businesses’ adherence to various safety regulations, such as the availability of safety equipment and the implementation of rest and refreshment. When the rules are followed, few accidents occur, and one’s workers are deemed safe.
However, safety is also essential to workers in industries that take place in offices. White-collar employees are at risk for a number of devastating health problems, ranging in severity from seasonal sickness to arthritis to heart and lung disease to diabetes. In 2016, a safe workplace is one that is focused on preserving its inhabitants’ health in all ways. Business owners should offer the best possible medical insurance as well as additional wellness incentives like gym memberships. Then, all employees will feel truly safe at work.
Undoubtedly, sustainability is the newest and most exciting of the three. While the concept of structuring a business for long-term survival is nothing new, doing so while planning to mitigate environmental destruction and improve community relations is a beneficial modern trend. Moreover, most environmentally sustainable practices slowly cut costs over time, helping businesses with bottom lines as well.
Strategies to “be greener” often instruct offices to wean themselves off paper products and start recycling initiatives, but few businesses can function outside of the digital sphere, and in truth, little paper waste is created anymore. Other tips, like turning using energy-efficient lightbulbs and installing aerators on faucets, can have a small positive effect, but the most impact comes from the office building itself.
Commercial structures account for more than 20 percent of all energy usage in the United States, and roughly 30 percent of that energy is wasted. Much of that energy goes into construction, as inefficient, unsustainable materials squander a surprising amount of the world’s resources. Utilizing new, recycled building materials, like the steel and textiles in fabric structures, does much to limit a building’s environmental cost.
Additionally, advances in green architecture, such as passive solar heating, open ventilation systems, and natural lighting, do much to encourage sustainable practices within a business. The most prolific architects of our age are struggling to create supremely eco-friendly buildings that are as efficient as they are aesthetically pleasing, such as the Crystal in London or the Bullitt Center in Seattle. No longer will cutting paper and replacing lightbulbs satisfy the need to be sustainable; green architecture is a necessary step in maintaining a strong business in 2016.
The rates of cybercrime continue their upward trend, with millions more users affected in 2015. Estimates suggest that the average U.S. business loses at least $15 million every year to digital attacks, and without proper security measures, businesses could lose as much as $40,000 per hour. Worse, no business is inherently safe from attack, as automated viruses and malware will steal information from any open, unprotected system.
Fortunately, simple and effective countermeasures exist to prevent cybercriminals from successful infiltration. A digital security suite, which should include antivirus, antispam, and anti-phishing software as well as a strong firewall, coupled with thorough employee screening and training will deter nearly every type of cybercrime.
Still, the popularity of digital crime does not lessen the importance of physical security. Controlling physical access with strong locks and regulated keys is crucial, especially in high-risk areas like server rooms. Business owners should consider a reliable monitoring system to catch suspicious behavior before it becomes problematic. Finally, employee education on proper security techniques will solidify a business against outside and inside attack.