On 19 May Prince Harry will marry the American actress Meghan Markle. The press has filled with stories of who is invited and who will wear what, and others are starting to plan celebrations and street parties. Big public events can bring staffing problems for companies, as workers wanting to watch the spectacle overload management with holiday requests or, worse, pull a sickie.

The happy couple has chosen to get married on a Saturday, which will save many firms from being affected, but if yours is one of the many businesses that operate on weekends, you will need to make sure that your operation isn’t hindered by the event. So how can you prevent the couple’s happy day from turning into your nightmare?

Talk to staff ahead of time

Take the time to find out how much you will be affected. Different team members will have their own attitudes to the event, ranging from supreme indifference to patriotic fervour. Knowing who falls where means that you can plan rotas accordingly, or allow employees to trade shifts with each other so that your staffing levels meet your requirements.

Think about flexitime

Some staff may want to watch the service on TV. If your business needs allow it, think about giving them some flexibility with the timing of their shift. Could you allow a longer lunch break, with the time made up either at the end of the shift or on an earlier or later day?

Bring the event to the workplace

If staff does have to work through the wedding when they would rather be watching or celebrating it, think about how you can compromise. Could you have a TV screen in the workplace so that people can keep up-to-date while they work? Perhaps you can arrange your own on-site “street party”, with decorations and food to join in the celebrations.

Turn it to your advantage by involving your customers

Celebrating the royal wedding doesn’t have to be limited to your team. You could use it as a way to engage with customers. Why not tie the event in with special offers, or competitions for customers to take part in?

Like any major event, making sure that the royal wedding doesn’t hurt your business is about planning ahead and working with your team. This approach can also help you to find a positive effect. Take advantage of an opportunity to engage both with your employees and your customers.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on May 25th. These apply to any organisation that holds data on EU citizens.

In Part One of our guide to GDPR we told you to calm down, and suggested that you take a look at what you need to do to comply with the new rules. In Part Two, we’ll take a look at one of the big new aspects introduced by GDPR – Security by Design.

What Is Security by design?

GDPR contains a requirement that organisations embrace “data protection by design and default”. The data protection community has dropped the “and default” only for brevity’s sake. So when we talk of security by design we mean both parts of the requirement. Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office sums up security by design rather nicely:

“You have a general obligation to implement technical and organisational measures to show that you have considered and integrated data protection into your processing activities.”

What this means is that security is no longer the bolt-on afterthought to how you handle data, but a core of how you consider the process.

Some security measures are things you will be doing already, like using firewalls and antivirus software on your computers. If you follow best practices you will already be encrypting files or drives that store sensitive data, as well as any data that you send by email (sending the password by a different channel, e.g. if you email the file send the password by WhatsApp). If you are not already using firewalls and encryption, now is the time to start doing so. Tools are available cheaply or for free to help you do this.

Secure Deletion?

Another aspect of security overlooked by many firms is secure deletion. Files deleted from a device are not gone until the disk space they occupied has been written over with fresh information. Because of this the security guru Bruce Schneier reports a trial where data deleted by the previous owners was recovered from 10 used cell phones. This is especially important since GDPR introduces a right for individuals to request the deletion of data they hold about them. The simplest way to handle this is to use a secure deletion tool, which will automatically overwrite deleted files to the standards used by the US Department of Defence. There are several tools available, again either cheaply or for free, including BCWipe and CCleaner.

What needs to change?

There are two parts to regulations such as GDPR. First, you need to comply, and then you need to be able to demonstrate that you comply.

This means that your security protocols should be stated in your data protection policy. Don’t go into details, otherwise, you risk undermining them by warning hackers what they are up against. Do outline that you will for example use firewalls on all computers, devices, and servers, encrypt all stored files, and use a secure deletion protocol.

‘Security by design and default’ also means that data protection should be included in the planning stages of any project, rather than as an afterthought. In the same way that you include a health and safety risk assessment, identifying hazards and how you will mitigate them, do the same for data risks. Identify what data you will be gathering, how you will store it, what you will use it for, and when and how you will delete it.

Next, identify the vulnerabilities and specify what you will do to reduce or, if possible, remove the danger. Obviously, there is the risk of hackers or ransomware attacks on your servers. A good quality, properly updated firewall will do here.

Next, are you going to send data? Are staff going to work from home on their own devices? Will third parties handle or use any of your data? Are your cloud providers secure?

By laying out these and taking specified steps to address them you have made your data secure by design.

This is part 2 in a 3-part mini-series. See part one.

How to manage Christmas when you’re self-employed

Christmas is coming and when you are self-employed it can be hard to unwind and enjoy the festivities. We’ve even heard of one self-employed delivery sled driver who works a night shift every Christmas Eve, making millions of deliveries.

What’s different?

Without the security of paid holidays, or an office closure over the holidays forcing you to take time off, it can feel as though Christmas is a luxury you can’t afford. Without the routines and traditions of secret Santa and office parties, it can be hard to get into the spirit of the season. The festive season can in fact be a huge opportunity, a chance to recharge your batteries, reconnect with friends and family, show your client base your fun side, and most of all to enjoy a Christmas to remember.

Approached in the right way, Christmas can provide enjoyable, relaxing time off and benefit your business at the same time.

Here are our top five tips to make sure you have a fabulous festive season.

Working for yourself, the temptation is often to work flat out and non-stop. This can be bad for you and it’s important to relax now and then. Just as for someone in traditional employment, a few days away from your working routine will boost your state of mind and your physical energy. Christmas is a perfect opportunity for this, after all, your clients will probably be enjoying the holidays themselves and will not be expecting you to keep your nose to the grindstone.

Working for yourself is demanding, one advantage is that you set your own working hours. This level of control over when you work and take time off is something those “normally employed” people would give their right arm for. The kids want to go and see Santa? You can take them. All you have to do to make it possible is to be a good boss to yourself.

Well maybe not the actual day, they probably don’t have a spare chair. But do reach out to them. Your business is built on relationships, so you should welcome any opportunity to nourish them. You needn’t be extravagant, the old saying “it’s the thought that counts” applies here. Send a Christmas email, send cards, send hampers, whatever your budget reaches. Let Santa be your marketing team.

Fun on social media is not just fun, it’s a chance to reach out to potential clients. Get involved in conversations and challenges, find out what people are doing for Christmas, and spread some Christmas cheer. Think about running a pre-or post-Christmas promotion or sale to catch the attention of those who see your seasonal Tweets and posts. At the very least embracing the holidays on social media will get you into the festive spirit, and in the new year, you may just have some new leads.

The first Christmas as self-employed can leave you thinking of the fun your former colleagues are having at their party. Remember the whole thing. The awkwardness of Gerry from accounts getting drunk, the youngsters from sales complaining about the music, the boss trying way too hard to be your friend. Now, remember you don’t have to go through that … unless of course, you want to splash out on an employee of the year trophy.

Those are just five of our ideas to make the most of the holidays both for yourself and your business. Everyone has their own idea of what makes a great festive season.

What are your plans for enjoying this Christmas?