SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Ivan kicked things off with Bobby by discussing office romances. A survey carried out by SimplyHired offered some interesting insights into what people really think about getting involved with colleagues. 

Over 900 people were surveyed and from those, 482 have been in a sexual relationship in the workplace and 456 have never been in a workplace relationship. 

Here are some of the results:

  • 47% of men think office romances are acceptable, while 40% of women thought the same. 
  • The majority of the relationships were not affairs but women came out 8% more likely to be involved in a cheating scenario when it comes to office romances. 
  • Among those who have been in an office relationship that involved one or both cheating on a partner, 33% worked in the education sector. This is closely followed by finance and insurance at 30% and manufacturing at 29%. Hotel, food services and hospitality came in least likely at 17%. 
  • The sector that deems workplace relationships to be most unacceptable is the medical and health sector. People who work in marketing and advertising find it most acceptable, according to the survey. 


Now onto your questions... 

We're a rapidly growing IT computer services company and at the moment about 60% of the staff are in an open plan office setting. I'm in management have my own private office. Have you seen any evidence that open plan offices create better team productivity? I don't fancy the idea at all, says John. 

Bobby says 80% of all office setups are open plan now, which is a higher figure than even he was expecting to see. He says he read a piece recently by Hennigan Peng Architects, who designed the Airbnb offices, where they discussed the pros and cons of open plan office spaces and focused on balancing creativity over focus, encouraging spontaneous interactions, etc. 

So Bobby says to consider how often would these spontaneous encounters or bursts of creativity happen? And if they did, does your business allow for them to be utilised or explored? Another point is open plan offices often encourage people to work more or harder because everyone can see what you're working on so that can be good but can also come across as kind of brutal. 

Bobby says he genuinely believes that the best of both worlds is the best solution - where people can collaborate and be open in work together but then also have the option of retreating somewhere more quiet or private for some focus time when it is needed. 

Can you give your views on management structures who are trying to get rid of legacy staff because it is an issue where I work currently, in a major semi-state body? Most of the legacy staff are nearing retirement. 

Bobby says places will do this if they are trying to reduce costs. They might do things like encouraging retirement or hiring interns for a lower cost. He says Dave is probably better protected in the semi-state environment than he would be in a smaller, private company in this instance. 

Bobby says if it is happening this way and this person has evidence then he should address it but be careful this isn't anecdotal. 

I am turning 30 and want to start investing 10% of my income in passive income investment. Where should I invest my money? Or how can I get more advice? 

Bobby's advice for this query is that there is no such thing as easy money and passive income investment isn't as easy as it might sound. He says there should be a big caveat attached because the likelihood of a decent return is considerably low.

One piece of advice is to clear your debt if you can, you could also join a lending club or invest in real estate. You could also invest in a small business as a silent partner or even rent out a room in your house on Airbnb.    

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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