Category Archives: Office Tips

How to Apply a Back-to-School Attitude to Work

No matter how long you’ve been out of school, there’s always that feeling of brand new come September. It’s the season of change and fresh starts that remind us of school days past. Turns out a new school year can benefit everyone, especially if you carry a back-to-school attitude with you to the workplace.

Playful Coworkers Fist Bumping

Not only can it serve as the boost of inspiration your team needs, but having a more playful approach to some of your monthly to-dos, and more work activities can serve well for your productivity levels, positive mentality, and creativity. Studies have proven that employee satisfaction leads to spikes in productivity, in some cases, as much as 12% or more.

In the days leading up to the first day of school, think about how you can take what you’ve learned during your long-gone school days and incorporate the same feeling into your work life. Here’s how to make a more seamless transition into the next season of the year, with more play at work as a stress reduction.

Shop for New “School” Clothes

As kids, shopping for new school clothes seemed like tradition for many households. Whether needed or not, it always felt nice to head back to school with a new wardrobe and looking fresh.

As adults, the same kind of mentality can apply. While the summer may have encouraged a more relaxed type of look, head into fall looking like you mean business and see how it changes your mentality. It doesn’t have to translate to full-on suits (unless your occupation is part of a corporate environment), but looking polished will give you an extra boost of confidence as you head out into your day. Take advantage of back-to-school sales and give your wardrobe the refresh it may need by adding some work essentials to your closet.

Set Reading Goals

Pizza Hut’s Book It! Challenge was a craze in the 80s, encouraging grade school kids nationwide to read more. More reading meant more pizza and what kid can pass that up? Setting goals is part of what makes a school year productive, but setting rewards is what makes us feel like kids again. While pizza might not be the biggest motivating factor (or for some, maybe it still is!), book clubs or traveling to places you read about are adult-friendly goals that help add some play at work and fun to the “task” of reading.

Encourage a friendly competition within the office. Make it voluntary to sign up for a set company goal of number of books to read by a certain date. Then, celebrate accomplishments with a team lunch or happy hour. Consider the idea of a department book club that meets monthly or bi-monthly to discuss a work- or business-related book. This type of learning makes people more engaged with critical thinking of how it can be applied to your business.

“Play-Storm” Vs. Brainstorm

Brainstorming can be difficult when you’re not feeling the creative spark. How can you change the process to get more people involved and collaborate? Incorporate some color, mini-activities, and even music into the brainstorming session. For example, hand out a different color set of sticky notes to your team members and set a timer for five minutes. During that time, everyone writes down their ideas, one per sticky note, without editing. Once everyone is finished, review everyone’s notes and group into different categories. This will help you start to put together the shell of a project. This method is also helpful because it could spark ideas from others presented during the exercise.

Coworkers Brainstorming Around Table

Have In-Office, Friendly Competitions

Friendly competition in school has always been encouraged as a way of bonding and team building. Why not incorporate some of this friendly competition in your workplace to spark interaction between different teams or departments? Remember the “Office Olympics” episode from The Office TV show? It was a fun way to get the group together to participate in different events. Consider organizing something similar for your company to break up the routine for a minute and have some work play fun. Maybe host a competitive event at the end of the year and allow employees to invite their families for a carnival-type affair with separate stations for food and games. Not only would this encourage participation in the event but also help increase employee satisfaction in the workplace.

To disperse responsibility, encourage each team to come up with their own station, which could include ideas like:

  • Ping-pong
  • Target shooting with a bow and arrow
  • Pin the tail on the donkey
  • Putt-putt
  • Water balloon catch

Award prizes for the most creative and host a BBQ or picnic following the awards ceremony.

Gift a Welcome Basket for New Employees

Starting a new job can feel a lot like the first day of school, intimidating yet exciting, scary yet fun, overwhelming yet great to be learning new things. As a new employee, there may be mixed feelings such as these especially when it comes to meeting new coworkers and getting used to the policies and projects everyone else is already familiar with. As part of the onboarding process, include supplies with your branding that can help ease their concerns and prove helpful to your new hire. A gift basket could include:

Include anything that will make a new employee feel welcome and assist them with day-to-day directions. Also include business cards, marketing collateral, and a list of favorite nearby places for lunch to help them get started on the right foot. Not only is this a nice gesture for welcoming your new employees, but a great way to help with stress reduction and their first day jitters.

Encourage Team Lunches

When work schedules get busy, people tend to sit at their desks and work through the lunch hour rather than taking a proper break. This can lead to burnout and decrease in productivity since longer hours don’t always equal better performance. A good way to improve employee morale is to encourage team lunches. Don’t you remember how fun recess and lunch time was in school? Some would even say it was their favorite part of the day! At work, lunch should also be just as great. Whether that means company paid lunches in or out of the office, or scheduling a weekly or monthly lunch hour for the team to get away from their desks and go outside or meet in the breakroom, it can help employees take a much-needed break.

Make your work environment one that encourages an actual lunch break rather than only having a physical breakroom that no one ever uses. Again, this may be especially applicable to new employees who think the office norm is to work through lunch and may feel discouraged from using their lunch hour to eat.

Table with Food for Group Meal

Schedule a “Back-to-School” Picnic

To build on the idea of team lunches, a back-to-school picnic or ice cream social is a great way to introduce new team members, announce promotions, and allow employees to get to know each other better outside of the office. If you remember back in school, back-to-school get togethers usually happened a week in advance, giving you the chance to meet new teachers or see friends that had been gone all summer.

It’s a tradition that can help employees feel refreshed and get back into a better rhythm, especially following months where many people were probably out on vacation. You can use it as a kick-off to a new quarter or to celebrate a company milestone. The focus on the group over the individual helps further illustrate the importance of teamwork and camaraderie among co-workers. Keep things simple by hosting the picnic potluck-style and the company provides the main dish and drinks. Few things bring people together faster as a group than food. Food is an easy (and delicious!) way to incorporate play at work and maintain employee satisfaction.

Thinking about our old school days can make us feel nostalgic for simpler times with less responsibilities, but even if our task lists have increased, it doesn’t mean the feeling of play has to die out. Our work lives are what we make it and by incorporating a back-to-school attitude that focuses on fun as much as it does getting things done will improve mental energy and lead to greater productivity overall.

How to Enjoy a Work Vacation Without Losing Your Mind

School might be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean work is (unless, of course, you work in the education system). But even if the majority of us don’t actually get a three-month hiatus from work every year, there’s still time for a vacation from work.

Man on Trip Taking a Break from Work

Ready for a quick vacation poll? When you get ready to go on vacation, do you:

  1. Stress out until the very last minute, wrapping up deadlines, and throwing clothes into your suitcase.

    -or-

  2. Make a travel plan weeks in advance so you know who’s covering your work while you’re out of the office – along with a packing checklist ready to go a day or two ahead of your travel.

If you answered a), you are most likely in the majority of people who feel like they are rushed into their time off from work, and need a few days before they can truly relax when on vacation. Many employees skip taking their full benefits of time off altogether. Findings from Project: Time Off show that 54% of employees ended last year with unused vacation time. This doesn’t have to be you!

Depending on the number of work responsibilities you have, taking a break from work and preparing for PTO can feel like a job in itself to assure your work is covered and to help avoid any conflicts while you are away. The good news? You can go on vacation without feeling guilty! There are ways to combat this feeling of craziness before leaving on your trip, and tips to help you feel prepared for the onslaught of emails when you return from vacation.

  1. Review Your Tasks

    Alert your team in advance of the days you have scheduled off. The chaos factor will most likely be determined by how many days you’ll be out of the office. If it is one or two days, it is likely you can work ahead and wrap up any forecasted situations before leaving the office. If you are out for an extended period of time, divide and delegate.

    Start with the tasks that have the most pressing due dates, then work with your manager and/or team to find areas where others can assist while you are out. The more you plan ahead, the less stress you will feel as your vacation days approach. You can then leave without feeling like you have forgotten something.

    There might be a to-do list waiting for you when you get back to work after vacation, but the more you prep yourself and your team, the better handle you will feel you have on your tasks.

    Coworkers Planning Getting Back to Work After Vacation

  2. Set Your OOO

    Make sure you set your “out of office” message to direct any pressing emails or phone calls to a manager or another team member while you are out. That way, the person sending the correspondence knows you are not ignoring their messages and know why there will be a delay in the response.

    This also allows for any potential “fires” to be escalated to your team and/or manager right away, rather than waiting for you when you get back or check your email. It is also a good reminder for other people within your company to know you are on a work vacation so they can adjust deadlines and/or expectations for different projects in your absence.

  3. Turn Off Notifications

    Paid time off is designed for taking a break from work and your daily grind to recharge and reset, so you can come back to the office feeling more refreshed. If you continually work while on vacation, you will never get the opportunity to replenish the energy and motivation you may need to put your best foot forward.

    If you are in a position where going completely silent during vacation is unacceptable, designate one time every day when you will check your work emails or respond to notifications. This is better than having constant interruptions during time off of work. No matter how minor they may seem, the alert immediately takes you back to work when you are supposed to be enjoying time off. This can lead to job burnout and fatigue, which can lead to lower performance while in the office, and poor retention by employers. Use this time to also take a notification vacation.

  4. Don’t Talk About Work

    Vacation is vacation and work is work. That means when on vacation, try not to dwell on the deadlines that may be looming when you return. If you do decide to discuss work, try not to make it the focal point of conversations for those you are with. Even if you are taking a solo vacation, the last thing you should be thinking about is work.

    Plan your days to incorporate what will really help you relax. Maybe that is keeping busy with activities from sunup to sundown. Or maybe it is sleeping in, then lounging by the pool with a good book. Whichever way you like to vacation, make sure you are getting the downtime you need.

    Office Chair with Note for Work Vacation

  5. Mitigate Inbox Overload

    One reason why some people decide to check their email while on their time off is to not return to overflowing communication when getting back to work after vacation. Whether you decide to turn off notifications completely or not, when you return to your inbox post-vacation, the best approach is divide and conquer.

    Not all emails will require an immediate response. Prioritize your projects first. That will help determine which emails need to be responded to. Then, in the upcoming weeks, try arriving an hour earlier to get caught up. Also, reach out to your supervisor or co-workers and see where they may be able to assist. Not everything can be done in the first day you are back, and by creating that expectation for not only your team, but yourself as well, it will help you get back into the swing of things without feeling like you are going crazy with a flood of to-dos.

  6. Plan Something Fun

    Coming back to work after vacation and immediately diving headfirst into work again can feel deflating. Schedule a lunch with a co-worker or plan a night where you order takeout and catch up on TV shows, so you have something to look forward to when you get back from vacation.

Finding the work-life balance in your day-to-day can make it seem less extreme when you transition from work to vacation and vice-versa. Although at times it may not seem like it, there is a way you can enjoy your vacation without losing your mind. It may take some planning on your part, but it will feel well worth before, during, and after your time off. Then, all that is left to do is start counting down the days until your next work vacation.

Top Executive Gifts for Business Partners in 2017

Gifts for your boss or business partners can be a tricky landscape to navigate. You want something personal, while still keeping a professional buffer.

Business Partners Exchanging Executive Gifts

Executive gifts should be classy, but they don’t have to be expensive. Depending on the kind of office environment you work in, your boss or business partner could more laid-back and may prefer a practical or funny gift over one that is more expensive. If you are in charge of ordering corporate gifts for several people, think about buying the same gift and personalizing it for each person.

Determine the budget, the occasion, and person you’re buying for when you start gathering ideas on executive gifts. If you’re having trouble thinking of what might be appropriate, here are some of the most popular ideas for gifts for executives in 2017.

  1. Coffee or Espresso Maker

    Though your boss may enjoy a regular cup of joe from the company coffee pot, it’s a nice thought to buy your caffeine-loving boss a coffee or espresso maker of their own to keep in the office or at home. There are several models on the market today that can whip up coffee shop-style drinks in no time.

  2. Personalized Wine Bottle

    Wine is the signature gift for most any occasion. If you’re celebrating a wedding, housewarming, or promotion, wine seems to be the top drink of choice. It’s not any different when it comes to holiday gift giving or special work milestones. Find out your exec’s favorite kind of wine and splurge for a nice bottle with a customized label. Most online sellers will do this for their own bottles, but if the winemaker your boss likes doesn’t provide that option, you can have one made and affix it on top of the original label. Or, you can pair the gift with a set of customized wine glasses for the total package.

  3. Headphones or Earbuds

    If your boss travels a lot, consider giving headphones as a gift. Of course, these can be used at the gym, in the office, and at home, as well. A set of noise-cancelling headphones for long flights can be just the thing your boss needs to drown out the noise and concentrate on work or take a few hours to relax. Research different brands for the best value and make sure they’re portable enough to fit into a purse or a briefcase. That way your boss can take the gift with them wherever they go.
    Businessman Listening to Music at Desk

  4. Business Card Holder

    This is one of those executive gifts that everyone needs. While at trade shows, your boss can have business cards gathered neatly into their own holder, eliminating the need to rummage through pockets or bags to find them. It can also be used to collect the contact information of new acquaintances for safe storage and use for a later date. Get it customized with your company’s name and make sure they are a professional representation of your brand.

  5. Office Wall Art

    Although your executive team will mostly talk about sales, growth, and ROI, they still have interests outside of the office. Try to find what they are interested in. Is it architecture? Travel? Sports? Fashion? Pick a piece of understated wall art your boss can hang in the office to add some personality. An alternative would be to get an art piece for the desk or shelves, such as interesting bookends or a quirky paperweight.

  6. A Day to Relax

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could literally package a day off and present it as a gift? Here is the next best thing that can help you with that endeavor. A gift certificate to a spa or a booked staycation are both thoughtful corporate gifts that say, “Thank you for your hard work. You deserve a break.” Everyone who works hard deserves a day off now and then to recharge before coming back to work.

  7. Celebration Dinner

    Maybe your boss doesn’t like the idea of “things” but would rather enjoy an “experience.” Plan a meal in their honor to show appreciation from your team. Add in personal touches like customized dinnerware, napkins, or a banner thanking the guest of honor. Many bosses like feeling the camaraderie with their employees and colleagues, so this is the perfect opportunity to get together and reflect on how far your boss has brought the team.

    Business Partners Enjoying a Celebratory Dinner

  8. Personalized Gifts

    No matter the kind of gift you choose, you always want it to have a personal touch. Turn a recyclable bag into one filled with goodies such as favorite drinks, artisan foods, and office items they can use.

  9. Themed Gifts

    For example, if your company is located where the sun always shines, send a beach-themed gift complete with a tote bag, beach towel, and bucket hat. It can be a fun way to remind them where you are and be used as a fun invitation to set up an in-person meeting.

  10. Go Beyond the Coffee Mug

    Coffee mugs are fantastic corporate gifts, and will always be popular because it’s likely your clients or vendors drink plenty of coffee to buzz through their never-ending list of things to do. But a fun, unexpected alternative is a Moscow Mule Mug Gift Set. You can personalize it with their name, company, or another greeting or slogan. Coffee says, “We’re here to work” and Moscow Mules says, “Relaxation awaits you after 5 o’clock.”

  11. Gift for the Weekend

    One of the best gifts a client or vendor could receive is one that enriches heir weekend life. A grill and cooler combo set is convenient for camping, road trips, days by the pool, and pretty much any other adventurous excursion that has nothing to do with responding to emails, poring over spreadsheets, and worrying about time in the office. It’s not only a gift, but a nudge toward living a good work life balance.

Gifts for Executives in 2017
Giving gifts for executives has changed over the years. While there’s still tradition behind a nice pen set, explore all your options and choose something meaningful for the person you’re giving it to. No matter what you decide on, you can always add a special touch by making the gift personalized.

Think about the person on the receiving end of your gift and how they might respond to something generic versus one where there was thought put into it and a genuine thank you note from the team. Not only do you want the executive gifts to be well-received, you’ll want to feel good about giving them as well.

Meditation at Work: Strategies to Make Waves by Drowning Out the Noise

Modern life is noisy and often overwhelming. Is meditation the answer? It’s never been so imperative to brain health and general wellness. But can it be done in the workplace?

Coworkers Meditating at Work

Meditation at work may sound counterintuitive. Most work environments are a hub of activity, constant interruptions, and background noise that can prove to be distracting rather than relaxing; hardly the place for Zen. However, it’s for these reasons that office meditation is all the more necessary.

With hectic paces and cut-it-close deadlines, it can seem like there’s simply no time for meditation in the workplace. But once you know how to quiet your mind and drown out the noise, you’ll find taking meditation breaks will help boost your productivity, improve your focus and mindset, and ultimately, be better for your bottom line. For many, it is a life-changing practice that provides heightened self-awareness and a newfound sense of calm.

Why is Meditation Important?

Meditation has been heralded as one of the best exercises you can do to better your mind, reduce stress, and present an overall calmer presence, all of which is important to have a healthy work life. The value of meditation is in making a conscious effort to do nothing and clear out the clutter that overtakes your brain.

It’s important to “reset” your mind every once in a while to prevent burnout. Just as we take time to care for our bodies through healthy eating and regular exercise, it’s also necessary to give that same care and attention to our mind. Several high-profile, successful business leaders have advocated for meditation at work. Rupert Murdoch, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, and Arianna Huffington all appreciate the powerful effects of mindfulness.

How Does Meditation at Work Help?

Many work situations can lead to long hours, little sleep, and unhealthy habits like sitting for hours at a time, little to no exercise, and snacking throughout the day instead of having a proper meal away from the desk.

Meditation in the workplace benefits people in countless ways, including improved performance and a better sense of wellness when in the office, which isn’t always easy to achieve. Every day is filled with mini (or major!) obstacles, which require the brain to work overtime to get through the day. Rather than transitioning from task to task without a break, a meaningful slowdown can help the brain operate at a higher level.

In a Washington Post interview, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital neuroscientist Sara Lazar shared her findings about meditation and its countless benefits, stress relief being a main one. She looked at several studies and concluded meditation can “change the brain.” If a person meditates for 20-30 minutes a day, it can help increase or improve:

  • Communication
  • Productivity
  • Wellness
  • Calmness
  • Engagement
  • Physical and mental health

But what does this mean for the workplace?

Woman Practicing Meditation at Work

Being Present and Having a Purpose

There are several characteristics that can be directly tied to how a person performs at work. Presence has been a buzzword lately mostly due to the popularity of Amy Cuddy, and being present is essential to work.

Amy Cuddy has built a following based on her TED Talk and book covering this topic. She discusses the importance of presence and how to maintain “being present” in everyday life. It’s easy to multi-task and be thinking of a response before someone has even finished talking rather than being present. This often leads to miscommunication, ineffectiveness, and lack of efficiency. This where meditation and presence go hand in hand.

Office meditation can help you listen more efficiently, which can help streamline task, make meetings more meaningful, and instill a sense of purpose behind every part of the project. In short, the practice of meditation in the workplace allows people to work smarter. The Guardian posted an article that indicated 80% of employees don’t take a regular lunch break. Does this mean they’re working harder? Or, should they be working smarter by allowing themselves a break to eat, meditate, and walk around to then tackle their afternoons with full stomachs and better focus?

For the business bottom line, meditation at work delivers a positive return on investment. There’s little to no cost and a minimal time dedication necessary to reap rewards that will prove to be long-lasting.

Implementing Meditation in the Workplace

Once you realize how beneficial office meditation can truly be, the next step is to implement it and make it part of your routine. The best way it’ll get done is if it’s scheduled. Set a timer or a write it in your calendar to prioritize it into your workday. Meditation is exercise for the mind and typically, gets easier with time. For those starting out, it may be difficult to sit quietly for more than a couple of minutes without getting distracted or letting the mind wander. Start small and grow.

If you have five minutes, focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and breathe slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth.

If you have ten minutes, practice visualization. Picture a serene place that instills a sense of calm and happiness or focus on a specific goal (it doesn’t have to be work-related) and hone in on that one thought for the entirety of your meditation.

If you have twenty minutes, shut your office door, go to a quiet space, or head outdoors where you can clear your mind without interruption. To start, download a meditation app or find a meditation on YouTube that will take you through a guided meditation.

People meditate in different spaces and in different ways. Shavasana during yoga is a popular time to meditate and clear clutter from the mind. Others prefer to use apps like Headspace or other programs like Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation Experience. Then, there are those who simply have a mantra they repeat to bring their stillness to do their day. The point is to find what works best for you.

Tabletop Zen Garden for Office Meditation

Making Meditation a Habit

Like your morning coffee or afternoon walk around the block, make meditation a habit. Here are a few tips to meditate at work even if you don’t think you have the time.

  1. Ask yourself why.

    Why do you want to meditate? Is it because it’s being offered as a wellness perk at work? Is it because you’re falling behind on important tasks due to your lack of energy and focus? Or, do you just want to instill more calm into your life? By answering the “why,” it’ll be easier to find a way to stick with a plan.

  2. Stick with a scheduled time.

    Maybe meditation at work is the best way for you to start your day. Maybe it’s the afternoon pick-me-up you need to finish strong. Choose a time that works well for you and stick with it. Mark the time off your calendar and don’t let it be easily pushed aside.

  3. Prep your space.

    There are a few options you have to create a meditation space in the workplace. Go to an unused conference space and play meditation music or soothing sounds. For special meditation breaks, use a singing bowl or light an aromatherapy candle. Turn the lights down low and get in the right physical space so it’s easier for your mind to fall in line.

  4. Keep with it.

    As mentioned before, it can be difficult when first starting out meditation in the workplace. Don’t take on too much too soon. It doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or fifteen, as you long as you do it consistently.

Customize Your Workplace Habits

By creating daily habits that help make your workdays more pleasant, you might be surprised how much easier it is to breeze through your task list. Set time for yourself with mini treats throughout the day, whether that’s a piece of chocolate, time for meditation at work, a quick walk outdoors, or a coffee break with a co-worker. Drown out the noise and be attentive to your mind and body while at work, even if it’s only for a few moments at a time.

Managing Office Politics: How to Boost Employee Morale & Company Culture

While office politics are seemingly unavoidable, it’s really just a matter of turning negatives into positives and spreading the good vibes and do-good attitudes to boost employee morale. Is this easier said than done?

Group of Coworkers Collaborating

Office politics have the power to potentially put a damper on employee morale and company culture. Correcting them can be challenging, especially if your workplace is highly competitive. If you don’t have your head in the game, you may find that you are being outwitted and possibly out promoted by your colleagues. This can quickly lead to harboring jealous or bad feelings, which you can nip in the bud by changing a few things about your own behavior.

Tips to Boost Employee Morale

Unfortunately, you can’t change the attitudes and actions of others, but you can adapt to more difficult situations to make them more favorable. If you’re wondering how to boost employee morale and better manage office politics, here are a few tips.

  1. Get a Pulse of the Company Culture

    It’s a good idea to have a solid grasp of the different personalities you’re working with. Who makes the decisions? What is valued most at your company? Is there an open-door policy? What is the preferred communication style among execs? By taking time to get a feeling for how the office operates, you’ll know how to better approach situations.

  2. Let Your Achievements Shine

    Make sure you have information to back up your claims and avoid coming off boastful. Also, if you’ve worked with other team members to achieve a shared goal, make sure to give credit where credit’s due. If you show support for your coworkers, there’s a better chance they favor will be returned down the road.

    Employees may think their supervisors will automatically notice good work, which isn’t always the case. One-on-one check-ins and internal reviews are an appropriate time to highlight what you’ve achieved and illustrate your value as an employee. If you constantly go above and beyond your job description, make sure you let that be known. Where to start?

    • List projects or performance you are especially proud of and back up the win with facts or data to support it
    • Review initiatives where you took the lead
    • Discuss a time when you found a solution to a client or internal problem and elaborate on how it helped the team
  3. Ask for Constructive Feedback

    If you aren’t moving up as quickly as you’d like or if you feel like you’re not given opportunities to advance in your career, ask your supervisor what you can do to reach the next step. Try to set a goal date to have the next step completed, as setting deadlines holds you more personally Before requesting a meeting with your boss, speak to a trusted colleague to give you honest feedback about your concerns and the way you’re communicating them. It’s important to bring up problems or concerns, but it’s equally important to be part of the solution as well.
    Work Colleagues High Fiving

  4. Have Thoughtful Reactions

    It’s normal to have emotional reactions in the workplace from time to time. After all, you spend the majority of weekdays with your coworkers. Despite any personal conflicts, you must always remember to remain professional. Even if you feel warranted for flying off the handle, the proper steps are to address the problem privately with the person involved, and if a resolution can’t be found, bring in a neutral third party.

    Also, consider if your reaction is directly related to the matter at hand. Sometimes we allow frustrations to build up over time and explode without notice, whether the situation calls for it or not. Don’t invalidate your feelings, but also don’t direct your anger or frustration at a person not responsible for causing it.

  5. Try to Avoid Office Gossip

    Office gossip is inevitable when it comes to office politics, but it can be a slippery slope. Once you’re involved in it, it’s harder to remove yourself from the situation. Ever heard of the phrase “misery loves company”? That applies to office gossip. If one person is lamenting about a less than ideal situation, it can be all too easy to jump in and share your own personal views. However, words can come back to haunt you, so before taking sides, it might be better to listen and limit your involvement.

  6. Build Good Work Relationships

    When you open the door for good communication among your coworkers, it makes it easier to address problems when they arise. Employee morale can quickly tank due to one person’s negative behavior; it can be contagious. But the same can be said of someone’s positivity.

    Rather than jump on the bandwagon of complaining or be affected by the person bringing down the group, strive to be the one to bring everyone up. It’ll help boost employee morale, but will make you feel better about coming to work as well. When people look forward to coming in to the office and spending time with work friends, company culture starts to thrive. Build up your in-office rapport by:

    • Being friendly without falling into specific work cliques
    • Being an active participant in different aspects of the company, whether that’s helping set up social events or requesting to learn from a different department – become known among your coworkers as a team player
    • Building relationships among your peers, but also among your bosses and executive team when there’s opportunity

    Office with a Close Company Culture

  7. Understand Expectations

    In work situations, it’s important that you’re on the same page as other team members, as well as your boss. If you are working under unclear or opposing expectations, this can cause frustrating situations all around. It never hurts to ask for clarification on a project, goals, or other parts of your job. When working collaboratively, make sure the goal is clear and you know your part of what it will take to get there. Establishing timelines and requested deliverables is helpful to identify at the beginning.

  8. Keep Records

    Unfortunately, you may work with conniving or manipulative people. They may try to take credit for your work or throw you under the bus when a project doesn’t go as planned. The first thing is to feel confident in the value in your work, and the second is to keep digital or physical records of communication with this person and save it to a specific document folder.

    If they try to place blame, you’ll have written, factual correspondence. While your first reaction may be to go into defense mode, this likely will only cause an argument. Cite specific emails or meetings where other people were present to set the record straight.

  9. Assess Your Role in Office Politics

    Office politics vary from place to place. If you find yourself in a situation that doesn’t fit your professional or moral requirements anymore, it could be time to assess your employment. Carefully consider all aspects of the situation, and work toward changing the landscape as much as you can for the position you’re in. Don’t let one situation or person ruin work for you. But if it’s a political climate or company culture you’d rather not be in, it might be time to seek opportunities elsewhere.

  10. Make it Work for You

    When you put several, different personalities all in one place, there is going to be disagreements and differences in opinions. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you find your happy medium to make your way through office politics without compromising your work ethic or personal values in the meantime, stick to what works. You can set the tone for your work days.

There will always be an ebb and flow to any work situation. By understanding how to boost employee morale and manage office politics, you can ride the highs and get through the lows unscathed.

Working From Home Part 2: How to Keep Remote Workers Engaged

How do you keep your remote workers engaged and productive when they’re working from home or out of sight most of the time?

Remote Employee Taking a Business Call from Home

Telecommuting isn’t just reserved for IT professionals and C-level executives anymore. In fact, the remote workplace is becoming so common that driving miles across town to an office, parking in the lot, taking the elevator up to the office level, and then settling in amongst a sea of cubicles seems almost outdated. Conference calls, once the hallmark of office life, are now giving way to WebEx sessions, video chats, and other collaborative meeting options. Technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely – and studies show productivity increases substantially when workers are allowed to work from home or otherwise sign in remotely.

“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” – Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group

Ways to Keep Remote Workers Engaged

Now that you’ve created a remote workplace environment for some of your direct reports, keep the following eight essential tips in mind to keep employees working from home engaged:

  1. Touchpoints are Everything

    It’s easy to make small talk with your employee down the hall over a morning cup of coffee or donut in the breakroom, but what about the worker who is logged in from home? In this case, you’ll boost engagement and the personal buy-in of the employee by creating planned touchpoints throughout the workweek. Use these connection points to do more than simply check in on the employee, though – learn more about them on a personal level, ask for feedback and their thoughts on the remote workplace process, and demonstrate that you care about them and their development.

  2. Include Remote Workers Virtually

    Remote employees can easily start feeling like they aren’t truly part of the team when interfacing with the physical office, possibly leading them to resent those who meet onsite. Potlucks, birthday celebrations, company announcements and more can begin to feel like they’re geared toward those in the office – and not all employees at the company. Instead, use live video streams to link up employees working from home with those on location to create one, unified team. Once you eliminate the “us vs. them” mentality that can be common among remote workers, you’ll enhance productivity, reduce turnover and create a more cohesive team.

  3. Encourage Conversations Between Onsite and Remote Employees

    Use available tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to promote casual conversations and “getting-to-know-you” sessions among both on-site and remote workers. Even those who do work at home will likely visit the physical office at least a few times per year, but the lack of daily interaction with peers can quickly alienate even the most independent of employees. To create a collaborative workplace, even when remote workers are part of the equation, encourage employees to chat virtually and discover interesting tidbits about their peers. You can host a bingo game that prompts players to find out unique or exciting things about other employees; then, the first two winners could receive a prize – like lunch or a gift card to a favorite coffee shop. Try to balance the number of work-related conversations and personal chats to drive serious camaraderie and collaboration.

    Onsite and Remote Workers on a Video Call

  4. “Swag” Up Their Home Office

    As mentioned earlier, remote workers often feel disconnected from the main office, but showing them that they are valued and appreciated will go a long way toward keeping morale in check. One way to do this is by outfitting their home office with company swag and branded goodies to remind them of their teammates. We’re not suggesting they sit at home wearing company-logo apparel from head to toe (though that is certainly an option), but something as simple as company-branded pens, notepads, calendars, and other handy office items will elevate morale, performance and the sense of team among home-based or remote workers.

  5. Think Employees, Not Hired Hands

    One of the greatest things about agreeing to a remote working arrangement with one or more employees is the boost in productivity you’ll likely see. Simply put, remote workers get more done in less time – and that’s all you can ask for as a leader of home-based employees. But this high-efficiency approach to task completion can leave many remote workers feeling like “hired hands” – not full-fledged company employees who have unique aspirations and clearly-defined goals. To overcome this concern, make it a point to meet with your remote workers at least twice per year to conduct focused coaching sessions around their personal and professional development plans. Make sure they are making adequate progress toward their goals. Follow up with a future meeting dates to reevaluate the plan. Keep it about their personal growth and careers, and you’ll instantly solidify the strength of your team.

  6. Create a Culture, Not a Mission Statement

    To foster a culture of engagement and performance among remote workers first requires defining, creating, and supporting a culture at your business or organization. Forget the mission statement – your remote workers must understand what your company stands for, what the ultimate goals are and the metrics used to define them, the overall company vision as created by senior leadership, and how each worker can integrate with the company to support the organization’s defined goals. By more intimately understanding the company culture, remote workers will feel a greater sense of empowerment to make decisions for the good of the company. This reduces the need for managers to micromanage employees, too.

    Man Working Remotely from Home Office

  7. Provide Sufficient Autonomy

    Your remote workers expect some level of autonomy. After all, they operate under a commonly-agreed upon work schedule and must deliver results to keep their jobs. Treat them like the adults they are and afford them as much autonomy as possible. Find the ideal balance between a moderately hands-off approach and accountability to create an engaged remote worker who feels valued and trusted. Though autonomy is a good thing, there will be times when your home-based employee will have to react quickly to company demands – requiring you to come to an agreement as to what constitutes a work emergency or compressed deadline and what doesn’t.

  8. Put Appropriate Systems in Place

    Your remote workers will feel engaged if they are supported by you, their peers, and also a robust technology package that keeps them connected and organized at all times. Virtually all businesses with remote workers opt to use popular project management tools like Basecamp, Trello, Jira, Microsoft Project, Smartsheet, Active Collab and more, to keep employees connected to one another and actively collaborating on projects.

Working remotely doesn’t equate to a holiday from the office. Instead, home-based or remote access workers may outwork and out-produce those who opt to work in a traditional office environment. Statistics prove this assertion, showing remote workers work longer hours, are more productive, take fewer sick days and return to work quicker after medical concerns. If you’re ready to create an engaged and high-performance team who just happens to work from home, keep the eight tips above in mind and you’ll boost your company’s performance in no time.

If you’re an employee interested in remote work, check out Working From Home Part 1 to find tips on how to get your boss to approve working remotely!

Working From Home Part 1: How to Get Your Boss to Approve Remote Work

Telecommuting, or work from home, opportunities are becoming increasingly popular.

Work from Home Setting with Laptop and Mug
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 24% of employed people performed part or all of their work from home in 2015. For many who take advantage of the benefit, telecommuting provides a needed change in environment, a chance to focus without the constant distraction of office noise, and the flexibility to change work habits to more closely align with everyday life – all while still delivering quality performance.

There is a certain level of trust and confidence employers must have in an employee to allow a work from home situation, but there are ways to make the remote work transition be handled in a way that makes both parties comfortable.

  1. Be Reliable

    It’s not likely that an employer will offer a remote working situation right off the bat, unless previously agreed upon during the hiring process – especially if other employees are expected to be in the office.

    One way to show your boss that working from home will not decrease productivity is to demonstrate your reliability when in the office. Are you able to meet deadlines? Have you achieved your outlined work goals? Are you prompt to meetings, have good attendance at work?

    Your boss needs to feel you can be relied upon to get the job done wherever you are. If you struggle with meeting the expectations while in a more traditional working environment, making the case for working remotely becomes more difficult.

  2. Consider Your Position

    Remote work situations aren’t for everyone, and won’t be as successful across all industries. Consider how much time you’re required to be in client meetings, team huddles, and other facets of the job where your physical presence is required.

    For example, those who work in sales may spend the majority of time on the phone or emailing leads, while also attending conferences or traveling to meet clients at their own offices. This type of work can likely be done virtually anywhere, making an in-office presence less necessary.

  3. Take Advantage of Technology

    With the advancements in technology, it’s far easier to stay connected during work hours. Platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, and other voice and video conferencing systems can keep the lines of communication open, which is essential when maintaining a positive working relationship among team members.

  4. Schedule In-Person Visits

    While technology allows us to have more flexible work scenarios, it’s still important to touch base in person every now and then as well. Whether it’s to work for a week in the office or to make a visit to be part of a team building activity, people you work with should feel like you are (and want to be) part of the team.

The Shift to Telecommuting

People check their work emails on the weekend. They may take a conference call or two outside of regular business hours. Or, they catch up on deadlines as to not be bombarded first thing on Monday morning. When employees carry over office activity into their home life, there is already the transition of a remote working situation.

According to a Forbes article, there are certain predictions that forecast 50% of the workforce will be working remotely in just three years. Telecommuting was once a special scenario reserved only for the most unique of circumstances, but now is considered more of the norm. It’s up to you to convince your boss that your value at home is just as credible as when you are in the office.

If you are an employer wondering how to keep remote employees engaged, check out Working From Home Part 2, where we discuss bridging the gap between home and office!

5 Tips for Eco-Friendly Office Supplies and Company Culture

Sustainability is a buzzword, which is quickly becoming a best practice used in several industries.

Office Space with Eco-Friendly Office Supplies
Companies are leaning toward ways to incorporate more environmentally-conscious processes and eco-friendly office supplies. According to a 2015 global case study, 91% of consumers reported that they expect companies to operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. Additionally, 84% seek out responsible products whenever possible; all the more reason to become more earth-conscious.

Setting up your office for eco-friendly success doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul from what you’re currently doing, but rather the implementation of small changes that will have a greater impact over time.

Eco-Friendly Office Tips

Ready to help your team and customers limit their carbon footprint? Here are 5 easy ways to get started and go green today.

  1. Create Opportunities

    This broad categorization can be broken down into smaller steps based on your company’s available resources and dedication to a greener initiative. For starters, supply personal recycling bins or a few central larger bins that are meant solely for recyclable waste in your working space. Reach out to your building manager to ensure you have the right supplies necessary to carry out these initiatives as easily as possible.

    Also, simply shutting off lights not in use can cut down on energy waste. Reorganize your space to maximize daylight and help make artificial light less in demand. This helps reduce electricity costs, but can also help improve productivity and health in the workplace.

  2. Pack a Lunch

    Lunch bags aren’t typically considered an office supply, but by providing each employee a customized reusable lunch bag, you may cut down on considerable waste. It encourages others to bring reusable containers and silverware from home rather than relying on plastic utensils and dishes meant for one-time use.

    Tip: Reusable bags are also unique promotional gifts that can help set your company apart from all the bags, pens, and notepads handed out at trade show events or open houses this year.

  3. Provide Education

    Make eco-friendly behavior part of your company’s overall messaging. Whether you include tips about conservation in your internal newsletter or include best practices for green living in your email campaigns to clients, there’s always room to share best practices for how to help protect the environment.

    Take it a step further, and let others know you’re going digital with documents to prevent waste. Brochures, newsletters, and other marketing materials can all be created online and still have a meaningful impact on your audience.

  4. Say No to Plastic Bags

    Reusable bags aren’t reserved only for farmers markets anymore. In fact, many cities are encouraging the use of them for grocery shopping or other smaller day-to-day errands. Based on numbers from the Wall Street Journal, Americans use and dispose of 100 billion plastic shopping bags every year.

    While this number has hopefully declined in recent years as sustainability has increased, the stats are still alarming enough for every business to consider using reusable bags for their business.

    As one of the most eco-friendly office supplies, reusable shopping bags help the environment, while also providing a big boost to brands through customization.

  5. Take Inventory

    Employ your office manager or marketing coordinator to take regular inventory of the office supplies you already have. Too often, in preparation for events or meetings, companies will order additional supplies rather than checking on current surplus.A regular habit of tracking inventory will give you a more accurate tally of what’s needed, which helps save on waste and company costs.

Planning for the Future

Companies and consumers are becoming more mindful about the way they treat the planet and understand that many actionable items take little effort at all. As you make plans for an eco-friendly future, start small by swapping out certain office supplies for those made of recycled materials or items that promote sustainable living.

Encourage conservation of utilities whenever possible. And, make sure you’re also providing earth-conscious options for customers who wish to buy from companies that care about the environment.