Category: Business Support

Thames Valley tech scale-ups set to lead COVID-19 economic recovery.

The Thames Valley’s high growth tech sector will be a core driver of the region’s economic recovery, according to new research from consultancy Beauhurst. Its COVID-19 Business Impact report showed that nearly 20% of tech businesses (19%) have been positively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis:14% cited a “surge in demand”. Meanwhile, 23% reported a “moderate” negative impact, with just 5% saying they were “critically” affected.

Tech community remains strongest part of UK economy

Partnering with tech and digital platform ConnectTVT,  Beauhurst’s report found the Thames Valley following London as the region with the highest number of positively impacted business. Tech led sectors that enable remote working – VoIP, EdTech, eHealth and digital security – are seeing a rise in demand. The country’s extremities, primarily the South West and devolved region are the most negatively impacted.
An analysis of the region’s response to the pandemic shows that 19% of the 2,000 businesses surveyed have limited their physical services. Seven per cent have had to further limit their service or product with the same figure losing a main customer group.

Investment key to future success

Elsewhere, Beauhurst’s report found that 22% of jobs (615,000) in the high-growth economy are immediately under threat. Additionally, investment capital is on shaky ground with £18.9b of equity investment at moderate to critical risk.

Louize Clarke, founder of ConnectTVT says, “These findings are reassuring only in the short-term. Looking ahead, we know the region is heavily reliant on investment – 69% of the Thames Valley’s scale-ups have used equity funding to grow since 2011. With this lifeline under threat, businesses will need support elsewhere to be able to hold onto teams, innovation and any chance of growth.”

Henry Whorwood Beauhurst’s Head of Research & Consultancy adds, “These firms will be integral to the UK’s productivity as we enter recovery, so it’s crucial interventions proposed by the Government reach these companies.”

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Coronavirus: a guide to business support for the tech ecosystem- Updated 04/05

In the face of coronavirus, many of us are looking at ways to safeguard our future. We’ve tried to collate all the information available into one space for you. Things will be changing all the time and we’ll be updating this page regularly as the Government provides more information and support.

Support for our community

The team we’re here to offer any support and advice that we can, you can contact us via hello@techspark.co

Below we have detailed some of the packages announced by Government and how they could impact you

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Government  has announced it will provide support to businesses around wages:

  • All employers are eligible for the scheme.
  • It’s only wages of people who aren’t working but are furloughed and kept on the payroll. We don’t know how you’ll show people are furloughed
  • The grant will cover 80% of their salary and offer retained workers up to £2,500 a month
  • It can be backdated to 1 March.
  • Employers can top-up salaries if they wish
  • There is no limit on funding and it’s open for at least three months.
  • IT will be paid to businesses by the end of April

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme will offer access to lending and overdrafts for businesses affected by the current crisis. The government will provide the banks with a guarantee for 80% of funds loans so lenders have the confidence to still provide finance.

  • Rates are 0% for the first 12 months
  • This is still a commercial loan so needs repaying, will be assessed on your business and may require security for the remaining 20%
  • The maximum amount to borrow is £5m
  • Loans will be available from Monday 23rd March
  • More info via the British Business Bank here 

UPDATE- Bounce Back Loans

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme has gone live today. Supplied by the British Business Bank’s accredited lenders, the programme offers access to loans worth 25% of a businesses turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000. Details of the scheme include:

  • Up to £50,000 loan: Loans will be from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover or £50,000, whichever is lower.
  • Interest rate: The government has set the interest rate at 2.5% per annum, all businesses will pay the same rate of interest.
  • Interest paid by the government for 12 months: The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to the lenders to cover the first 12 months of interest.
  • No principal repayments for first 12 months: Borrowers will not have to begin principal repayments for the first 12 months.
  • Finance terms: The length of the loan is for six years but early repayment is allowed, without early repayment fees.
  • No personal guarantees: No personal guarantees are allowed

More info here.

Business rates – £10,000 grants.

The Government has announced that many companies will not pay Business Rates in 2020-21. Most relevant to our sector is the £10,000 grants which will be given to up to 700,000 businesses in the UK.

  • Grants of £10,000 will be awarded to businesses who are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief.
  • This scheme is being run by local authorities and awards should happen without you having to apply if you have SBRR eligibility. Funding will come to councils in early April to do this.
  • If you are in managed space you likely haven’t done this so you won’t be eligible.
  • It’s possible your managed space provider has so worth checking in.
  • More info here

UPDATE – Business Rates £10,000 grants

Over the weekend that the government has released new funding of £617m for co-working space tenants, market traders and other businesses in England who aren’t being given funding through the coronavirus business rates grant scheme. The grants are to deliver £10,000 and £25,000 grants to companies 

The government has said this fund is aimed at

  • small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs,
  • prioritising businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief.
  • Businesses must be small, under 50 employees,
  • must also be able to demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop in income due to Coronavirus restriction measures.

However local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.  We are working with Local Authorities in the West of England on this scheme and will update as guidance is released.

Statutory Sick Pay

All SMEs will be able to reclaim statutory sick pay for employees affected by Corona however no system is yet in place for this so it may take weeks to months for money to come back.

  • It’s for SMEs only (fewer than 250 employees)
  • It’s for 2 weeks SSP per employee who are off because of Corona
  • No sick note is needed just employer records

Self employed /  Contractors / Freelancers

If you are self-employed Government offers support similar for employees

  • You will receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly profit up to £2,500. You can still work through this time, unlike furloughed employees.
  • it will initially be for 3 months but payment won’t be until June
  • You need at least self-assessment return for 2019 & payment will be calculated using average monthly profits over the last three financial years
  • The cut off is for self-employed profits of £50,000 p.a.
  • If you are eligible HMRC will be in touch.

Some people won’t be eligible for the above. If so Government  has said it will make it easier for you to claim Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit at the rate of Statutory Sick Pay

  • During the crisis, the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be relaxed if you are sick with Corona or self-isolating
  • People can claim Universal Credit and access upfront payments without going to the jobcentre if they are self-isolating
  • Employment & Support Allowance can be paid you’re sick with Corona or self-isolating from day 1 (instead of the usual day 8)
  • Universal Credit has been increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months.
  • All self-assessment payments for businesses will be deferred to 2021.
  • Info on Employment and Support Allowance is here and Universal Credit here

Tax & VAT

Both business and self-employed can receive support from the HMRC time to pay scheme which means you can defer payments

  • The Chancellor announced that he is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. You now have until the end of the year to pay them
  • HMRC will discuss instalments, suspensions of debt collection or cancelling interest
  • They have a Corona hotline 0800 0159 559.

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Businesses still see opportunities for growth, despite pandemic

Despite Covid-19, many firms have identified opportunities for growth over the next nine months. Approximately one third of those surveyed believe business opportunities will rise due to increased or new demands related to Covid-19, particularly in cloud services, digital connectivity, remote working technology, and digital health solutions.

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Coronavirus Support: Manchester Digital to provide free membership

The coronavirus has had a serious impact on Greater Manchester’s technology sector and Manchester Digital is here to support the region and its businesses.

Manchester Digital’s COVID-19 revealed that for most businesses, the most impactful way the organisation could help was to use its platform and network to allow businesses to maintain an online presence and a connection with other businesses that may require their services.

For that reason, Manchester Digital has come the decision to offer free membership to the wider sector.

Benefits include:

  • The promotion of a company’s news, initiatives or offers
  • Helping to increase the audience attending a company’s online events and webinars
  • Aiding business’s recruitment drive via access to a job board and enhanced profiling
  • Access to research, resources and support
  • The ability to connect and network with other members of Manchester Digital’s community
  • The ability to feed into Manchester Digital’s lobbying work around business support for the tech sector during the Corona pandemic.

What else are Manchester Digital doing?

#MDTechCommunity Slack Channel – The organisation’s Slack channel boasts over 250 members and a dedicated #coronavirus channel in which members are sharing tips, advice, and camaraderie.

Content – Manchester Digital has also been creating content to help the sector, and will continue to do so. Some examples of the information it has shared can be found below.


Want to raise your profile?

If you want us to help you to raise your profile, contact michael@manchesterdigital.com to arrange sharing your news, jobs or events on their site.

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ConnectTVT announces the Thames Valley’s tech and digital future makers

Now in its fourth year, the 50 Game Changers the Cohort investment rises by 33%. The 2020 cohort shows that the region’s tech and digital innovators continue to attract investment into the Thames Valley, raising a total of £83m in investment in the last year. This is an increase of 33% on the previous 2018-19 Game Changers, which raised £55m.

Importantly however ConnectTVT’s 50 Game Changer selection process takes into account selection criteria other than financial performance: indicators include impact of product or service, team and talent strategies and leadership.   

Pushing new boundaries with innovation

From autonomous vehicle software, enabling barcodes to provide true full lifecycle product ownership, full immersive audio experiences and quantum security through to simple and affordable space missions and innovative ways of applying satellite data to help companies solve the world’s biggest challenges, this year’s Game Changers are pushing new boundaries in tech and digital even further. 

50 Game Changer creator, Louize Clarke comments, “50 Game Changers is about capturing the true story of the tech and digital ecosystem. We’ve always wanted to highlight the incredible founders and community builders at the heart of the startup scene here in the Thames Valley and we’re truly blown away by the talent and contribution this year’s cohort is making to the region’s tech leadership and place on the global technology stage. A huge thank you to our partners for helping to make this happen.”

Co-founder Matt Bovey adds, “The 50 Game Changers is all about celebrating the region’s true innovators, the exceptional leaders and teams shaping the Thames Valley’s future. While 2020 has the potential to be a brilliant year for many, our cohort still needs support from outside their own networks to reach their full potential, particularly developing sustainable talent pipelines, investment in innovation and ecosystem building.” 

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Coronavirus: a guide to business support for the tech ecosystem- Updated 27/03

UPDATED 27/03

In the face of coronavirus, many of us are looking at ways to safeguard our future. We’ve tried to collate all the information available into one space for you. Things will be changing all the time and we’ll be updating this page regularly as the Government provides more information and support.

Support for our community

The team at TechSPARK is here to offer any support and advice that we can, you can contact us via hello@techspark.co.  TechSPARK, as part of the TCGUK (Tech Cluster Group UK) is in contact with the government and feeding in ways in which they can support us.

Below we have detailed some of the packages announced by Government and how they could impact you

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Government  has announced it will provide support to businesses around wages:

  • All employers are eligible for the scheme.
  • It’s only wages of people who aren’t working but are furloughed and kept on the payroll. We don’t know how you’ll show people are furloughed
  • The grant will cover 80% of their salary and offer retained workers up to £2,500 a month
  • It can be backdated to 1 March.
  • Employers can top-up salaries if they wish
  • There is no limit on funding and it’s open for at least three months.
  • IT will be paid to businesses by the end of April

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme will offer access to lending and overdrafts for businesses affected by the current crisis. The government will provide the banks with a guarantee for 80% of funds loans so lenders have the confidence to still provide finance.

  • Rates are 0% for the first 12 months
  • This is still a commercial loan so needs repaying, will be assessed on your business and may require security for the remaining 20%
  • The maximum amount to borrow is £5m
  • Loans will be available from Monday 23rd March
  • More info via the British Business Bank here 

Business rates – £10,000 grants.

The Government has announced that many companies will not pay Business Rates in 2020-21. Most relevant to our sector is the £10,000 grants which will be given to up to 700,000 businesses in the UK.

  • Grants of £10,000 will be awarded to businesses who are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief.
  • This scheme is being run by local authorities and awards should happen without you having to apply if you have SBRR eligibility. Funding will come to councils in early April to do this.
  • If you are in managed space you likely haven’t done this so you won’t be eligible.
  • It’s possible your managed space provider has so worth checking in.
  • More info here

Statutory Sick Pay

All SMEs will be able to reclaim statutory sick pay for employees affected by Corona however no system is yet in place for this so it may take weeks to months for money to come back.

  • It’s for SMEs only (fewer than 250 employees)
  • It’s for 2 weeks SSP per employee who are off because of Corona
  • No sick note is needed just employer records

Self employed /  Contractors / Freelancers

If you are self-employed Government offers support similar for employees

  • You will receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly profit up to £2,500. You can still work through this time, unlike furloughed employees.
  • it will initially be for 3 months but payment won’t be until June
  • You need at least self-assessment return for 2019 & payment will be calculated using average monthly profits over the last three financial years
  • The cut off is for self-employed profits of £50,000 p.a.
  • If you are eligible HMRC will be in touch.

Some people won’t be eligible for the above. If so Government  has said it will make it easier for you to claim Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit at the rate of Statutory Sick Pay

  • During the crisis, the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be relaxed if you are sick with Corona or self-isolating
  • People can claim Universal Credit and access upfront payments without going to the jobcentre if they are self-isolating
  • Employment & Support Allowance can be paid you’re sick with Corona or self-isolating from day 1 (instead of the usual day 8)
  • Universal Credit has been increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months.
  • All self-assessment payments for businesses will be deferred to 2021.
  • Info on Employment and Support Allowance is here and Universal Credit here

Tax & VAT

Both business and self-employed can receive support from the HMRC time to pay scheme which means you can defer payments

  • The Chancellor announced that he is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. You now have until the end of the year to pay them
  • HMRC will discuss instalments, suspensions of debt collection or cancelling interest
  • They have a Corona hotline 0800 0159 559.

Other Information

How you can help

To combat the coronavirus outbreak, the Government is looking to collaborate with startups who might be able to lend support and expertise in the following:

  • If you can help with vaccines: Nervtag@phe.gov.uk
  • If you are able to support in the manufacture of ventilators: ventilator.support@beis.gov.uk
  • For any broader support or ideas to help with the response on innovation or tech: DNHSX@nhsx.nhs.uk
  • There’s also the European Commission’s funding scheme for startups that could help in treating, testing, monitoring or other aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak. The deadline for which is today Friday 20 March at 5 pm.

Bristol cases

As of 16.30 on 26/03/20, there have been 41 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bristol. Please note, the Government has decided not to test people with mild symptoms. Local authority numbers of confirmed cases are reported on this dashboard and updated each afternoon.

Volunteering

Lots of people want to volunteer to help. You can do that in Bristol via the Can Do Website and in Bath via B&NES 3SG Community Connectors

The Quartet Foundation is also directing money to the communities in more need locally, you can donate here

Other Helpful links

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Surviving COVID-19 – some practical advice for startups

Many businesses are facing severe challenges in the current crisis. Although not a definitive list, hopefully the following thoughts will give a framework for founders to consider, especially in smaller businesses.

This is my personal response – I hope you find it helpful when considering your own challenges – Rick Chapman, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, SETsquared Bristol.

Business continuity in a crisis

1. Cash flow will kill you

Even in normal times, cash flow is one of the biggest reasons for businesses going under. It’s easy to forget the importance of regular injections of cash into your bank account to meet your ongoing liabilities. In times of crisis such as this, it is even more vital given future revenue may be even more uncertain. Consider the following points:

  • Minimize spending wherever you can – be brutal if neededAll businesses over time continually add small amounts of regular spending. Look at how many SaaS products you are paying a monthly subscription for. Do you really need them all at present? Larger projects such as marketing campaigns should be reviewed or, at the very least, rescheduled. Even costs that appear to be committed may have flexibility – talk to your suppliers and see if they can help, but remember they will be facing challenges too.
  • Pull invoicing forward If you are in the fortunate position of having larger customers, especially public sector, approach them to see if you can get more favorable payment terms. Dorset Council have just proactively offered immediate payment terms instead of their usual 30 days, which is fantastic.Larger entities are more likely to have reserves to ride out crises, and the more nimble of them may be willing to support their supply chain more actively.If you are able to, ask your clients if you can progress work ahead of schedule and invoice for completed work immediately.
  • Defer your spending, but don’t just push problems down the supply chainAs above, if you have larger entities as creditors, they may be willing to wait longer for you to settle your bills. Do not assume this will be the case – check – but don’t be afraid to ask.Larger entities are also more likely to hold insurance against business interruption, so may have protection to cover loss of income etc., from smaller partners.

2. Look for additional finance

In a very dynamic environment, many additional sources of finance are becoming available. This blog will almost certainly be out of date within hours of publication, so I won’t try and be exhaustive here – check media sites, especially for your sectors and clusters. e.g. Tech SparkTech Nation and of course www.gov.uk.

Some sources you may consider are:

  • Government Aid (Deferred Tax Payments, Loans, Furloughing employees etc.)
  • Business Interruption Insurance – check if you have this. In the last week I’ve talked to several SMEs who did not realize they had this cover as part of their insurance package.
  • Short term loans and overdrafts
  • Invoice financing
  • Customer advanced payments – see notes on larger entities above

3. Liquify assets if you have them

As the old saying goes, do not cut off your nose to spite your face! I’m not advocating selling off your key assets here, but many companies have assets that are going to be idle for several months. Can they generate alternate revenues, or can you temporarily reduce lease payments, for example?

4. Look for alternate revenue streams as a temporary measure

Standard business advice is to “hold your focus” and “don’t try to progress too many things in parallel”. Sometimes, however, rules are made to be broken. If you are facing several months where Plan A cannot progress, does this create an opportunity to do something else in the interim?

This may be looking to your software team to offer themselves up for agency work, this could be using your manufacturing capabilities to supply products to the NHS. It could include your marketing team copywriting for other clients.  Be creative!

Don’t overlook the fact that ‘furloughing’ your staff under one of the government schemes may help your survival more than keeping them on full pay and trying to find alternate revenue. As always, consider all the options.

5. Network – you’re not alone.

Although we may be stuck at home, life goes on. Video calling is currently a boom industry! Reach out to colleagues, friends and more – they are a source of creativity and information, as well as a vital resource to keep your spirits up! Look on the bright side – we may even emerge with new cooperation models using less transport infrastructure and other side benefits.

Use the media hubs – they are working hard to keep information updated in a rapidly changing environment – but they are also starting new online initiatives to keep us connected and productive.

Business recovery after a crisis

It is important to think now about your plans as the economy improves. Those companies that position themselves for recovery are far more likely to do so. Consider the following thoughts:

1. Cash flow will still kill you

The recovery will be slow. Plan to turn on your spending taps slowly and carefully monitor your situation regularly. Be prepared for a couple of false dawns and blips in the recovery, and so be prepared to keep your spending low for a little longer than you may think necessary.

However, be prepared to nimbly upscale too if the opportunities are real.  Small companies generally have more flexibility to scale up and down, and this will be key to recovery.

2. Prepare your pipeline during the lull

  • Marketing is cheaper in a crisis, concentrate on Awareness and Interest (AIDA)In general, a lot of marketing activity will be scaled back to preserve cash during a crisis. A few very targeted releases may therefore have more impact. Think carefully who you want as your first few customers in the recovery phase and target them. Go back to your go to market strategy and be prepared to almost start again in the same vein.
  • Be prepared to discount recovery salesLike you did to gain traction in your early market, think of a recovering market in the same way. Hopefully your profile means you don’t need to discount as deeply now, but you need to stimulate growth.
  • Time your re-entry carefully – service will be key

Once you do commence sales, ensure you are also scaling support back up. Everyone will be hurting and may need more support than normal as they may be short staffed. Plan for this and become their preferred supplier by facilitating their recovery as well as your own.

  • Consider your channels

Marketing will get crowded as the economy recovers – pick your most promising channels for your first recovery sales. If the infrastructure is weaker, consider changing your channels to more direct sales temporarily. If you use distribution, look to the global recovery patterns and choose which to support in priority order.

3. Collaborate in recovery

Other businesses will be recovering too – there may well be opportunities to share costs and cooperate in new ways. Be open to the possibilities.

4. Don’t rush.

Recovery will take time. Have realistic timescales to rebuild your business and do not over commit too quickly, whilst still being open to emerging opportunities. This is going to be a balancing act, I admit, but assuming a quick recovery will ensure you fall off the tightrope.

Summary

Don’t panic – keep a clear head. I sometimes joke that any serious entrepreneur must have looked over the cliff edge at least three times.  This cliff is real, big and scary, I don’t hide from that fact.

But this is what we do. Plan your way through this.

There’s no sugar coating this, we won’t all survive, but those that do will emerge stronger – and employ the rest of us!

Challenge your pre-crisis assumptions. It is not business as normal, nor will it be. Use the time to re-plan deeply. We rarely get that opportunity in business. Take your immediate actions and then create space for some strategic thinking.

Once you have decided a route forward, ACT!  If you need to make cuts, make them. Businesses will fail through inaction.

Network, network, network!  Help is out there and you are not alone.

For more information on SETsquared Bristol news, opportunities and events, sign up to receive their monthly newsletter.

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How to work from home: 6 key tips

Before he was put in charge of all the words on this site, our incredibly handsome Editor was self-employed for almost a decade. He’s put together a handy list to help you to get to grips with working from home. Although he’s not entirely sure why he’s telling you that in the third person.

Stick to your morning routine

Seriously, get up at the same time you would if you had to travel to work. The thing is, you are going to want to keep hitting that snooze button until it’s 8.59 and while I won’t deny you an extra 10 minutes every now and then – you know what you’re like.

You’ll wake up, have a coffee, sit down with breakfast, stick on whatever it is your binge-watching these days and before you know it it’s 10.30 and you haven’t even checked your emails.

Dress for work – but don’t overdo it

Look, your brain is an idiot. It’s all, like “oh wow we’re at home let’s stay in our pyjamas and read lists on the internet” (thanks by the way), so you have to trick it. Leaving the house is no longer your trigger for ‘professional mode’, so make putting on a shirt your new work themed Bat-Signal.


Although, you know, you’re not at work are you? As long as you look boss on a video call, you’re good, and while those shorts are obviously incredible they signify something so much more beautiful. Not having to wear a belt.

Create a workspace

Your house is now both your office and the place where you cannonball episodes of Americas Next Top Model, it’s wise to separate those true, true necessities as much as you possibly can.

Don’t work in front of the telly. I’m lucky enough to have a little box room for an office, but if you don’t, create a little space in whichever part of the house you use least (although, not there, it smells in there – no offence).

Learn to focus

Like every other millennial you’ve met in the last five years, I’m about to recommend you take up mindfulness. Obviously, there are genuine benefits to your mental health and if you are someone prone to anxiety, stress or depression I’d suggest now might be a pretty good time to get into it.

But it has work benefits too, it helps you to train yourself to be present and to focus. Trust me, there’s going to be days where you ‘accidentally’ take a three-hour lunch because, oh my god how good is it to see Picard back, right? That’s human, but it’ll work out a lot better if, when you are in front of your laptop, you’re actually getting things done.

Manage your time effectively

Obviously right? You’re already really good at it, the office was distracting anyway. You’ve got lists and project management tools and everything. Thing is, and I’m sorry if I’m labouring this point, unlike at the office, your house is full of distractions that you actually enjoy.

You’ve got three cats, 200 books you’ve been meaning to get around to and you’re on the verge of a perfect season in Football manager. Too specific? Add in your own examples.  Set goals, have a reward system -heck – have a punishment system if that’s what you’re into. Whatever works for you, set it up and stick to it, otherwise those days are going to slip away.

Look after your physical health

Look, as much as this blog is a shameless attempt to show you multiple pictures of my legs, I’m also trying to be practical here. There is a base level of exercise you do when you have to actually go to work, that you won’t do at home.

Using myself as an example – I’ll do 10,000 steps by the time I get home if I go to work, working from home I’ll get there by some point next Saturday. Buy a yoga mat, get some dumbbells, download one of a billion free home fitness apps. I believe in you.

That should do it. Obviously there’s more I could say but I feel like I’ve lowered the tone of this website enough without giving you my perspective (and accompanying images) on good hygiene or comfort breaks. But for short, wash your hands.

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