Just how far will bosses go to save those precious pennies? Cutting off the air conditioning, reducing lunch breaks and sacking cleaning staff were just some of the more tight-fisted schemes revealed in telco One.Tel's survey on small business cutbacks.

The study found that a whopping 70 percent of small business bosses are making miserly cutbacks often to the detriment of employees. First up is the internet, with 33 percent of employers restricting employees' online access, primarily during lunchtime — a break which, for nine percent of employees, has also been reduced from the traditional hour to save costs.

In the Midlands and the South West, 58 percent of employers have opted for secondhand or refurbished IT equipment over new devices, leaving employees to run applications on old operating systems and slow, out-of-date PCs.

Not surprisingly, One.Tel points to service suppliers as a possible cost saving option. Its research showed only around a quarter (28 percent) of SMEs had even considered changing their telephone supplier, a move that One.Tel sates could save companies up to two-thirds on telephone calls.

More than half of those that have changed suppliers have moved from BT stating poor customer service and expense as the main reasons for the move. Coincidentally, One.Tel has just launched its new business call tariff of 1.9p per minute available to all businesses, compared BT's 2.4p reduced rate which is only available to large businesses that spend more than £100,000 per year on their phone services.

Cancelling Christmas parties (eight percent) and reducing personal call allowance (25 percent) were also highlighted as the more miserly measures used to beat falling profits.

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