Fall for your office: Tips for making your workplace more efficient and productive this fall

With the changing of the leaves comes natural changes in the workplace; some positive, like an increase in productivity; and some less than positive, like an increase in sick days. But there are things managers can do to ensure that positive changes are amplified and the rest are minimized. Read on to learn how you and your employees can fall for your office this fall.

Get ready for a productivity party

Though you might think the opposite, bad weather is actually good for productivity (Harvard Business School). That means that in addition to now being the right time for major projects, product launches or corporate initiatives, it’s also a good time to initiate employee recognition and/or reward programs you may have been considering. At a loss for creative perks? Check out this list of “101 Super Effective Ways to Reward Your Employees” from Inc.

Amp up for sick days

While January tends to be the peak month for missed work due to illness, injury or medical appointments (Bureau of Labor Statistics), September and October see their share of sick days. That’s why right now is a good time to remind employees about guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of seasonal illness—and consider piggybacking on those recommendations with employer-sponsored programs to underscore your commitment to keeping employees healthy.

Some ideas to consider:

And remember, sick days don’t just apply to employees. Parents often need to stay home with their sick children, with that burden falling more on the moms than the dads (Pew Research). Creative scheduling like flexible hours for parents of germy kiddos could go a long way in making employees happier this fall.

Acknowledge more hectic schedules

In nearly half of two-parent households, both parents work full time (Pew Research), which means back-to-school and early fall schedules are probably a lot more hectic for at least half of your workforce. With a new school year comes things like teacher conferences, curriculum nights, committee meetings and more. Consider programs like:

  • Fall Hall Pass, paid time off to volunteer for half-day in a child’s class or attend a school-related activity
  • Employer-sponsored childcare on non-holidays when the kids are off school for teacher work days or conferences, which usually happen once or twice in the fall
  • Companywide policy to try to limit meetings to the hours of 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to allow for participation from parents who drive their children to school or sports
  • Offer flexible schedules, incentives and/or assistance programs for employees going back to school themselves

Remind employees about giving back

With the weather growing colder and the holidays approaching, fall is a great time to give back to health and human services and other philanthropic organizations. Remind employees of your company’s existing philanthropic program—or consider launching one now if you haven’t yet. Giving employees a few hours of paid time off to donate time to their favorite charity may be a cost-effective way to allow employees to stay involved in their community. Or, host a company-sponsored event where you all give back together.

Fall for a shorter workday or workweek

Though it may not work for all companies, the shorter workday/workweek is being adopted across industries as a way to get more focused effort out of employees and thus, in many cases, actually gainproductivity—while allowing employees a better work-life balance. In this Fast Company article by Stephan Aarstol, author of “The Five-Hour Workday: Life Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness” and CEO and founder of beach-lifestyle company Tower, Aarstol says, “The five-hour workday exposed weaknesses that had been hidden by hourly work.” The CEO reports that after a three-month test of the five-hour workday, annual revenues were up 40 percent. Thinking of trying it at your business? Fall’s shorter daylight hours could be just right for a test.


10 Ways to Prepare Your Office for Flu Season

Take a stand and take back your office productivity this fall by being proactive about flu protection.


It’s been said that knowledge is power, and I couldn’t agree more. Knowing the dangers of the flu and the details about fighting it can help your employees stay one step ahead.

1. Educate employees about influenza. Focus on busting those all-to-common flu myths. Your workforce should know the characteristics of the flu, the safety of the vaccine and how they can actively stay healthy.
2. Educate employees about insurance. Your insurance policies become extra important when people are more likely to get sick. Be sure employees know that the flu shot is covered by insurance, and where they can go for more coverage information.
3. Educate everyone about policies and practices. This includes everyone from the CEO to the part-time interns. Be sure everyone is familiar with your sick leave, PTO and telecommuting policies. If you have to, revamp these policies to make them work with your company culture.


The flu needs to be talked about. It’s important to be just as strategic and prepared to communicate about your employees’ health as you would be about any other business task. Take the time to prepare your thoughts and spread the word about influenza.

4. Develop a communication plan. You need an effective way to discuss the flu with your employees. Have a plan to talk about hygiene and flu myths, as well as to spread your educational materials.
5. Identify tasks and strategies. People will get sick during flu season. If they do, make sure you have a strategy to avoid work pileup. Sometimes it’s best to identify a flu coordinator to deal with delegating tasks and finding coverage for sick employees.
6. Maintain flexibility. Your employees might be sick, their children might be sick, and people from other companies you work with might be sick. Where flexibility is possible during flu season, use it. Odds are, you’ll need it.


Education and communication are weak without the ability to move your workforce into action. Take steps to ensure your employees are healthy during flu season and all year round.

7. Improve hygiene practices. Don’t be afraid to set rules for common areas, provide extra hand sanitizer, avoid shaking hands and encourage employees to stay home if they feel ill.
8. Deep clean the office. Your desk phone, the water fountain, your keyboard, the coffee pot and pretty much everything in the break room can get really germy. Clean your office well, and clean your office often.
9. Aid healthy habits. Fighting the flu is much easier when you’re healthy overall. Healthy habits are easier to come by when you feel enabled. Take the time to enable your employees to build an overall healthy lifestyle by integrating health into your office design.
10. Host a worksite flu shot clinic. The CDC stands behind the fact that the flu shot is the best way to combat the flu. Providing the vaccine at work is incredibly convenient and can help you ensure your employees actually get the shot. It’s also a great way to show your employees you care about their health.

Flu season is just around the corner. Don’t wait until the first case appears to take action. Be proactive and get your office prepared for flu season.


Keep Bugs Out Of Your Office – 5 Easy Steps

Do you ever wonder what crawls over your desk when you aren’t there? Have you seen a cockroach at work? Do you avoid the work kitchen because you saw a mouse there once?

Working in an office has great perks but also comes with the responsibility to maintain a neat, pest-free workplace. Commercial pest control service companies may regularly come to your office and spray but employees need to do their part to avoid attracting bugs and rodents.

Here is a quick and easy list you can tackle to keep your office rodent-free.

  1. Avoid eating at your desk

Most of us are guilty of at least occasionally eating at our desk, and while it’s sometimes efficient when we are in a time crunch, this new year is a great time to create better habits. There are many reasons to avoid eating at your desk, including attracting mice and bugs. The crumbs you leave may be so small you can’t see them, but to mice and rats they are a full meal.

  1. Don’t leave standing liquids

Late at night when you are home nestled in your bed, cockroaches are in search of water. They can live without food, but not without water. Make sure you don’t leave cups of water on your desk or pools of water in the bathroom sink or kitchen sink. Flies and other pests are attracted to sweet so be sure the cap is on the soda or sweet tea or you could be drinking more than you bargained for. These will help cut down the attraction to your desk and office space.

  1. Remove dirty dishes from the sink

Leaving piles of dirty dishes overnight for the cleaning people to manage in the morning attracts bugs. Keep your sink area clean.

  1. Throw your food out in a covered garbage can

Do you have a garbage can at your desk? If so, it’s likely it doesn’t have a lid. If you’ve bypassed the first best practice on this list and eat at your desk, be sure to take a little walk after lunch (its good for digestion) and head to a trash receptacle that has a lid to throw away your food. Bugs and rodents have excellent senses of smell and can track down your garbage from far away.

  1. Don’t leave shoes or clothes in the office

In addition to food and water, pests are also looking for nesting opportunities and materials to build a nest. That includes shoes you leave at your desk and coats! Just…don’t.

The next time you see a pest in your office, check your own habits and practices. Are there ways you can help reduce the likeliness of seeing another?


Working in the Heat. How to Stay Productive in Hot Weather

Heat + no school + vacations = a loss of our regular routines. The rhythm of life changes to a slower, irregular pace during the summer. When those things happen, we lose the time boundaries that help us keep up our routines during the rest of the year. But at the same time, we have expectations that summer will give us the “free time” to do those household projects we never have time to do during the other 3 seasons. Suddenly it’s Labor Day, and we realize that another summer has come and gone – and we have little to show for it.

Here are 3 things you can do during the summer of 2012 that will help you maintain your routines – and get a project or two finished:

1. Define and schedule the critical tasks

Some tasks simply won’t wait for a drop in the outside temperature. The garbage and recycling surely will pile up if you don’t take them out to the curb on the appropriate day. You’ll run out of clothes if you don’t wash them regularly. And if you think it’s hot now, just wait until you have no air conditioning because you let your mail pile up and didn’t pay the electric bill.

Make a list of the “must do” tasks that have to continue regardless of the season. Look at your list again. Is every task truly critical? If not, take it off the list. Next, assign the truly critical tasks to specific days on your calendar. Write them down. Then do each task on its assigned day and get it over with!

2. List and prioritize projects

A project is a group of tasks that, when completed, will result in a finished product. For example, organizing your garage is a project. There are a number of tasks that must be completed before you will have an organized garage: sorting, eliminating unwanted items, cleaning, putting things away, etc.

Divide a sheet of paper into columns, or use an electronic spreadsheet. Label each column with the name of a project (such as Organize Garage). Under each project name, list the tasks you will need to do to complete that project. Next, evaluate the importance of each project. What will be the benefits of completing it? What will be the consequences of not completing it? Assign each project a number, with number 1 being the project of highest priority. Finally, schedule “project time” in your calendar, and work on the tasks for your #1 project first. To make the most of your time spent on organizing projects, consider hiring a professional to help you complete the project more quickly.

3. Make time for fun!

Don’t let summer pass you by for lack of planning to have fun! Check the internet or your local library for ideas for day trips. Which friends or family members do you want to visit? Make a list and keep the list with your calendar. Schedule time (yes, schedule it in your calendar!) for the activities you enjoy and the people who are most important to you.


How to properly clean and sanitize your smartphone

Your phone goes everywhere with you. Do you have any idea how many germs are crawling all over that thing?

Years ago, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 92 percent of phones tested had bacteria on them. It sounds frightening, but that’s par for the course for being a bunch of evolved animals with gadgets in hand. That’s also why I sought to find out how the heck to properly clean a smartphone. Here’s a couple of tips I learned along the way.

Make a habit of wiping it down

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A sampling of what you’ll use to clean your phone.

This is an obvious thing to do but it bears repeating: you should wipe down your phone as often as you can. I love pre-moistened anti-bacterial wipes like Wireless Wipes or these stylish screen cleansing towelettes from Sephora, but you can also buy full size screen cleaning and microfiber phone cleaning kits to keep at home.

Alternatively, you can make your own screen cleaning solution from scratch. All you need is a small spray bottle, 8 ounces of 70 percent rubbing alcohol, and 8 ounces of distilled water. (Make sure that it’s distilled water. Tap water can leave behind a residue.) A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and distilled water also works, if you want to keep things organic and don’t mind the odor.

Bust out the Q-tips and toothpicks

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When it comes to cleaning crevices and cracks, these tools are your best friends.

Those tiny crevices in between the glass covering the display and the rest of the chassis store lots of gunk. My Dad’s favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is go through and pick at them with a plain wooden toothpick. It’s pretty disgusting to see what he excavates from the cracks in his smartphone, but he’s a contractor and that’s the only way to ensure his device stays relatively clean.

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Get in there and get that grime out!

Try this yourself and, when you’ve finished, run through the cracks again with a dry cotton swab to clean out any residual dust. For tougher jobs, you can take a fresh cotton swab, dip it in cleaning solution and swirl it around on the camera lens and other parts of the smartphone chassis. Be thorough, but also be gentle; you don’t want to accidentally scratch anything.

Consider investing in a UV sanitizer

You can nab a UV sanitizer to sanitize your devices with light!

If you’re really a germaphobe, you can invest in a device that kills off germs with a UV light. Try out CellBlaster’s Universal UV Cell Phone Sanitizer, or the Easycare Portable Multiuse UV Sterilizer. But honestly, killing germs with UV light is sort of hit-and-miss and you still don’t get the crud off.

Don’t forget to wipe down your headphones, too


If you opted for the UV blaster mentioned above, you can simply drop your earbuds in and take care of business that way every few days. If not, you can wipe each bud down with a soft cloth dampened with a bit of mild dish soap and water.

Headphones are a bit trickier: you’ll want to use same dish soap solution to wipe them down in their entirety. If the headphones include silicon covers, you can remove those and clean them separately with a toothbrush. Anything more serious, and you’ll want to dip a cotton swap in rubbing alcohol and give it a thorough once-over. Then allow the headphones to dry completely before using them again.

Source: Greenbot

How to Create a Summer Work Schedule

Summer flex work schedules are being adopted by more employers than ever! Whether it’s compressing a 40 hour week into four days instead of five, starting and ending the workday at times other than the traditional 9 – 5, or allowing employees to work from home to reduce long commutes and childcare costs, it seems that flexible work schedules are a real possibility!

As long as the work gets done and schedules are coordinated among staffers, summer work hours can be a popular way to boost moral and allow for a better work/life balance.

What do “summer hours” really mean?

Summer hours, typically in a corporate or non-profit setting, mean that as long as an employee covers his schedule, he can take time off each week and not be charged against his wages, or paid time off.

In general, flexible summer hours occur during the months of May to August each year. Employees can either make an individual request for temporary summer flex hours or management may have a company-wide or department policy for employees regarding summer flex hours.

What Do They Look Like?

Summer schedules vary by company and employers need to decide what will work best within their company culture – but here are examples of the most popular arrangements (according to a recent poll by HRinfodesk):

  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day, employees can leave at 1 pm on Fridays. The expectation is employees need to get their work done throughout the week, but it’s the employees’ responsibility to determine what that looks like. There may be times it isn’t possible/appropriate to leave early.
  • Employees are allowed one ½ day off on any workday in the week providing they work 40 hours during the summer months. They can also flex on the week of any federal holiday. In most cases, employees flex on a Friday and they love this option as it gives them control over planning their long weekends.
  • Employees are able to take every other Friday afternoon off. In order to do so, they must have made up the hours in the two weeks preceding the Friday. They can shorten their lunch, come in earlier, or leave later.
  • From May until Labor Day, we start a half hour early every day and get every Friday afternoon off.
  • Our staff hours are such: The staff (who want to participate) work (8) 9-hour days (Monday-Friday) for two weeks and take alternating Fridays off – enabling all to have several long weekends.
  • Our organization lets employees off at 3 pm on Fridays during the summer. This is mainly regarded as a reward for all the overtime managers have worked during the year, but all employees are entitled to it. Summer hours begin the long weekend at the beginning of July and end the Labor Day weekend.

How to Implement a Summer Schedule – Follow the 5 C’s

Create a detailed and comprehensive agreement that ensures employees will continue to get their work done despite flexible or reduced hours. The specifics of this schedule are between the employer and the employee, but should be clearly set and agreed upon in every case. Establishing clear policies protect against any negative effects on productivity.

Be Consistent. If a flexible work schedule is available to one group of employees, it should be an option for all. One of the key goals of this system is to give employees a sense of control over their time in the summer months. However, limiting summer hour opportunities to a specific group may leave other workers feeling under appreciated – possibly undermining the overall positive effects of summer scheduling. In addition, once an alternative summer scheduling policy has been agreed upon, be sure to consistently follow it.

Coordinate who takes advantage of their summer schedule and when they plan to be out of the office. Adequate staff needs to be available regardless of the season, and alternative hours cannot take a toll on overall productivity and customer satisfaction. Supervisors need to coordinate employee schedules to ensure work is still getting done.

Communicate with employees to make sure everyone is on the same page with what is expected and what alternative schedule arrangements are allowed. Listening to what employees need is the key to creating an alternative summer schedule that employees will appreciate and in turn, adhere to.

Check in with employees taking advantage of the alternative summer schedule to make sure their work is getting done and their progress is on track. Performance should be monitored and reviewed closely when the alternative schedule is being used. Also, gather feedback as to how the alternative schedule is working and where there is room for improvement.


12 Easy Ways to Be More Productive at Work

There are thousands of productivity apps and tools on the market promising to help you increase your performance, but sometimes all it takes to improve your focus is a few quick changes to your work habits and your environment. Want to get more accomplished at the office? Here are 12 simple, low-tech tips for boosting your productivity at work.

Before you do anything else, take a few moments at the start of each day to organize and de-clutter your workspace. Having a clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results, said Kristoph Matthews, founder of on-demand storage company Boxbee. By cleaning up and organizing your space, you will greatly increase your productivity and limit the time you spend searching for items.

Color can have a major effect on your mood and productivity throughout the day, said Jenny Gauld, an interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer turnstone. Blue creates the feeling of calmness and helps you focus, while red is great for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus: A study from Washington State University found that workers who were exposed to plants in a windowless workspace were less stressed, more productive, and felt more attentive.

In addition to color and plant life, a few personal knickknacks in your workspace can make you feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can ultimately boost your productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas and awards, and other decorative items that make you feel successful, appreciated and driven.

Everyone has at least one task on the to-do list that keeps getting pushed back, simply because the thought of actually doing it seems so awful. That task is actually the one you should try to complete first, Matthews told Business News Daily. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish a task, get it off your plate as soon as possible. Your other tasks will seem less daunting by comparison, and you’ll stop stressing about that one task all day, making you more productive overall. [See Related Story: Good Morning! 7 Ways to Jump-Start Your Productivity]

Your focus should go to the most important tasks first, so think about everything that you do and just how pivotal or trivial each thing really is. If you can, set aside the low-priority items and come up with a plan to delegate or outsource them so that you can spend more time on the things that add more value to your position and the company, Kathleen Kobel, a productivity business coach and founder of Smart Business Mom, said.

Instead of reading every email as it lands in your inbox, try turning off your notifications and checking messages only at set intervals. Why? Constant email alerts popping up on your phone or desktop can really break your focus. It takes 64 seconds for a person to recover from being interrupted by an email notification, according to Alex Moore, CEO of email productivity solution Boomerang. You can send and receive the same amount of emails in 20 percent less time by checking your email less frequently, Moore said.

Whether it’s a walk around the block, a run to the nearby coffee shop, reading a magazine or visiting with a colleague, taking short breaks that are unrelated to your work can make a huge difference in your performance. Your productivity diminishes the longer you go without a break, Kobel told Business News Daily. Kobel explained that this is why it’s recommended that people don’t work more than 8 to 10 hours per day — at a certain point, your body and mind simply cannot produce anymore, she said.

Exercise isn’t just good for your body — it can help have a positive impact on your work performance, too. Physical exercise has been shown to affect mental health and focus, McIntire said. A great way to feel sharper and more productive? Try going for a run in the morning or starting your day with a workout, McIntire said. It can’t hurt to try to sneak in some exercise on your breaks, either.

Wearing headphones doesn’t always mean you’re antisocial. When working, listening to your favorite tunes can help you get into the zone and knock out your to-do list, Gauld said. It also sends a subtle signal to your co-workers that you’d prefer not to be disturbed.

If your employer allows it, take some time during the week to work in a different environment. Meghan Khaitan, founder of seat belt device MyBuckleMate said that a change of scenery can be a big help in boosting productivity. Head to the library or a local park (weather permitting), or find a place that’s quiet and full of natural light. This can help spur new ideas or shed new light on an old problem, Khaitan said.

It’s not always easy to keep track of everything you need to do, so start each morning by writing down your goals for the day. When your focus is broken or you find yourself procrastinating, you can use this list to keep you on track, Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learn platform dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and employees, told Business News Daily. Write your list down on a Post-it or something that’s clearly visible from your desk, then return to it when you need a reminder of what you should be working on, McIntire said.

Doing more than one thing at a time may seem like the best way to get all of your tasks done, but it can hurt your productivity more than it helps. Multitasking simply doesn’t work, and when you do, you end up wasting time, Kobel said.


Laptops versus Desktops: Which is Better for your Office

A curious thing about modern computing is that it’s gone almost entirely portable. Tablets and smartphones are growing faster than their laptop counterparts, but the older-fashioned desktop computer still exists and a lot of people still want them.

In fact do not be fooled by the hype: the growth may be faster in extremely portable computers but according to figures from International Data Corporation (IDC) the good old PC has returned to growth. Over 10% more PCs were sold in the second quarter of 2014 than the same period in 2013.

So, why would you opt for a desktop-only model, and what is on offer?

You can divide desktop computers into two broad categories. One is the all-in-one unit, in which the computer appears to be built into the screen. Many people like the styling and convenience, but critics tend to call them “laptops on sticks” with very little scope to upgrade without the help of an expert.

Their chunkier counterparts are the more traditional-looking desktop systems that attach to a separate monitor. The advantages can be many, such as the ability to replace only the computer when it has gone wrong, rather than the monitor as well.

James Morrish, HP’s chief technologist, UK and Ireland, says sales of desktop computers are still strong. “One of the key reasons is the affordability they offer as well as the ergonomics of a larger screen, keyboard and mouse,” he explains. The first of those criteria is worth bearing in mind for home workers and people without a dedicated IT budget in their business; you get a lot more computing power for your money with a desktop system, the miniaturisation required for a laptop is something we take for granted but it comes at a premium. “If portability or mobility isn’t a buyer’s priority then a desktop is hard to beat,” says Morrish. “Desktop PCs can provide more flexibility as they are often easier to configure and upgrade, less likely to be stolen or broken and offer a longer lifespan.”

A quick straw poll of LinkedIn and Twitter users found that a lot of people still like a chunkier computer at their desk. On Twitter, PR manager Craig Coward says he prefers a desktop in the office because of the full-sized display and keyboard without the need to fiddle with USB connections and docking stations. Musician and teacher Darren Pullman was even more precise, saying he used a desktop computer because it had a 27in monitor.

Over on LinkedIn, Cathal Morrow says he prefers a laptop, with Matthew Tyler pointing out that he’d never left a desktop computer on a train. Sharon Sweeney highlighted the issue of touch typing, which she says is more difficult on a laptop.

As mentioned earlier, though, the form is changing. Morrish says: “Style and design are becoming as important for desktops as for other devices such as notebooks and tablets.” However it’s not just looks: size matters as well, says Morrish. “Increasingly, smaller form factors such as micro PCs or all-in-one designs are gaining popularity as they reduce the space taken up on the desk and improve the appearance of the workspace. Additionally, enhancements to the user interface are being made with better display technology and the incorporation of touch and gesture recognition. Overall the user experience with desktops can be a very rich and productive one.”

The design issue has been important for decades but not quite understood until comparatively recently. In the mid-1990s when home computing began to become mainstream, manufacturer Packard Bell started issuing desktop systems with clip-on plastic strips of different colors to match someone’s home décor. The journalists at the launch may have laughed, but appearance is vital now, not only for the home but for reception areas. The Apple iMac appears to be the sleek computing object of choice for many but it’s far from the only one, with Dell’s Inspiron 23 5000 Series Touch coming in as low as &599 on the web and looking very smart, while if you have a keyboard and monitor already, simply opting for the HP EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini PC will offer change from $450. Apple’s kit is traditionally more expensive and it has just released its “budget” iMac desktop computer with a slightly slower chip than usual at $899.

The cost differentiator in the desktop versus laptop debate is a powerful argument and so is the sheer computing power at a particular price point. There appears to be life in the desktop market yet, and for the home worker who does not need to carry his or her entire office around with them daily, that is a good thing.


One problem with the desktop computer is that you cannot just slip it into your case when you need to remember something. Your work may be behind in the office just when you need it in a meeting.

One answer is to put everything into the cloud. Depending on your levels of trust in their security, a service like DropBox, Google Docs, Box, Microsoft Onedrive or one of the many other online storage facilities can ensure you have access wherever there is an internet connection.

If you need something portable there are numerous thumb drive and larger drives. The Toshiba STOR.E Canvio attaches to your computer and offers 10 gigabytes of cloud storage so you can access the files even when it is at home and you are not.

Desk Organization

This is where we come in. Smaller computers take up less room but also encourage untidiness. Anything that can be folded up and stacked can contribute to clutter. However, there are a few solutions if you prefer to go the laptop route. You can get a workstation for your desk that your laptop attaches to. This may or may not include an additional large monitor, a laptop stand, a keyboard and a mouse. Using this will prevent your laptop from becoming one with a pile of documents if it is left at the office.

Source: The Guardian

5 Reasons Why You Need A Clean and Organized Office

With all the other things small business owners and entrepreneurs have on their plates, it can be hard to put cleaning and organization on the list of priorities. But these aren’t just “nice-to-haves.” An orderly and tidy workplace improves productivity, boosts morale and reduces absenteeism.

“Go through papers, files and drawers and get rid of those things that are no longer needed or outdated,” says Mitzi Weinman, a Needham, MA–based time strategist and author with Time Finder.

Here’s why:

1. Higher productivity & accuracy. Cleaning and organizing is crucial to help employees do their jobs more effectively. Reducing germs in the workplace keeps your team healthier — which is important when you consider that a Staples survey found that employees experience a 50 percent drop in productivity when working while sick. Organization keeps staff focused. “If you’re sitting at a desk where exactly what you need is within reach, you don’t have to go look for something,” explains Amanda LeBlanc, professional lifestyle organizer and designer for The Amandas, with offices in Birmingham, AL and Metairie, LA. A few minutes searching for something at your workspace or in the supply cabinet adds up over a week, but research shows the lost physical time is amplified by lost mental time. Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that interruptions that last a scant 4.4 seconds triple the rate of errors on the work we return to. So minimizing unnecessary distractions like looking for a stapler or file boosts output and accuracy.

2. Fewer injuries. Having a safe place for everything, including office equipment, storage items, etc., reduces the likelihood that employees, vendors and visitors will get hurt and file worker’s comp and health insurance and even liability claims. Slips, trips and falls account for more than 9 million emergency room visits each year, according to the National Floor Safety Institute.

3. Lower absenteeism. Businesses lose 111 million workdays each year to the flu alone, according to the CDC. “A clean environment helps promote better health,” says Marie Stegner, the consumer health advocate and blogger for Atlanta-based Maid Brigade, Inc. “Dirt, germs, dust buildup and poor indoor air quality all contribute to colds, the flu, viruses, asthma and allergic reactions.” So clean up those work surfaces, break-rooms and bathrooms.

4. Accurate supply inventories. Organizing supplies lowers unnecessary spend and downtime. Keeping supplies in a central, organized location minimizes over-ordering. By some estimates, businesses with fewer than 5 employees spend up to $1,844 per employee on office supplies and furniture, software and technology, and cleaning and breakroom products. When you can easily see what’s in stock, you reduce duplicate orders and lost time from last-second runs to the office supply store. Another great way to cut costs is purchasing store brands, which often offer a better everyday value without sacrificing quality or performance.

5. Proper document storage & retention. “You never know when you are going to need certain financial records and other business data,” Weinman cautions. “Not having it could lead to legal repercussions.” Establish a records management system to properly retain important documents like contracts, receipts, tax returns, etc. It’s also important to make sure you’re storing sensitive information appropriately. The 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study in the United States calculated the cost of each lost or stolen record containing sensitive information was $201 in 2014.

How do you make a cleaner office happen? Make a plan! “Not having a plan at the outset can create chaos and take more time than necessary,” Weinman explains, “taking away from the business of making money.” Our experts suggest a few must-have products to help you keep the office uncluttered, clean and organized all year long:

All-purpose cleaners & disinfectant. “Both products, used simultaneously, will clean and disinfect any surface, thereby reducing germs,” Stegner notes. “First, use an all-purpose cleaner to remove the dirt.” She prefers nontoxic, eco-conscious ingredients, free of chemicals. “And second, apply a disinfectant to get rid of the bacteria.”

Microfiber cloths. “They trap the dust and dirt instead of releasing it back into the air,” Stegner says. “Microfiber is engineered to trap dust and dirt better than terry or other cloth materials, so usually less cleaning fluid is needed to be effective.”

All-in-one printer. “Most important is the scanning feature,” says New York-based professional organizer Donna David. “I scan nearly all of my important documents and store in My Documents and in the cloud so I can shred the original paperwork.”

Shredder. “Constantly utilize this to properly discard your confidential documents and paperwork,” David adds.

Plastic storage boxes. “Great for keeping office supplies together and contained,” notes Monica Friel, chief executive organizer of Chaos To Order in Chicago. They come in many sizes for different types of items, including files, books and project supplies.

Label maker. Make it easy to know what’s in those boxes and files. “You can color coordinate with different colored tape for different areas of the office,” says Melissa Shmalenberger, an organizer and simplicity expert in Fargo, ND.


How to Get Work Done When You’re Sick

When we are sick, the best thing to do is to sleep, hydrate, and focus on getting better. However, many of us do not have the option of taking time off to recover. Many workers don’t have paid sick leave options, and others might worry about getting behind on work or school during sick days. As many as 90% of workers have gone in to work sick. If you absolutely have to get work done while sick, you can alleviate your symptoms and break tasks down into simpler components in order to be productive.

Decide whether you should call in sick.

It is possible that you are too sick for work and should stay home. By staying home you can prevent yourself from getting worse and help prevent the spread of illness. You might also help speed along your recovery so that you are more productive when you do return to work. Think carefully about whether you are better off working or focusing on your recovery.

  • If you have a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit) or spots on your throat, you might have to consult your physician. You should also talk to your doctor if you have trouble staying hydrated or if your symptoms do not get better after a few days.
  • Many workers cannot afford to take time off because of illness. If this is the case, then you will have to find ways to take care of yourself even while working.

Ask if you can telecommute in lieu of a sick day.

It might be possible for you to get your work done from home instead of from the office. This option is great for employees (who can focus a bit more on recovery) and for employers (who do not have to worry about the spread of illness). Talk to your workplace to see if this is an option.

  • In order for telecommuting to work, you will likely require a secure laptop and a high-speed internet connection as well as a reliable phone.

Stay calm.

Being expected to work while ill can be a source of stress. However, stress weakens the immune system and might prolong your recovery time. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that you will be all right. Even though you are ill, you will be able to be productive as well as recover from your illness. It might not be ideal, but you will get through this illness.

Organize your work if you feel like you’re coming down with something.

Sometimes we have a day or two of warning before we get sick. Perhaps you might feel run-down, achy, or sleepy. When you feel a cold or other illness coming on, organize your work tasks so that you do not lose productivity during your illness. Get ahead on as many tasks as you can, and consider taking some work home with you so that you don’t have to come into the office.

Break up large tasks into smaller chunks.

Illness makes it hard to focus and can also reduce your stamina. In order to get work done, approach your work as a series of small, manageable tasks. The Pomodoro technique, where you work in short bursts of 25 minutes and then take a short break, is especially useful when you are sick.

  • For example, rather than putting together an entire presentation, tell yourself that you will simply make one slide at a time. After each slide is complete, allow yourself a break to recover: take a short nap or drink some tea.

Work on low-stakes projects.

If you can, focus on lower-stakes projects while you are ill. This can help prevent yourself from making silly errors on important tasks. Consider carefully whether it is necessary for you to do crucial, important work when you are feeling poorly. Catch up on busy-work whenever possible.

  • For example, a day when you are ill might be an excellent time to do mundane, mindless tasks like cleaning out your email inbox, filing documents, or putting together next month’s calendar. Try to avoid tasks that require high-level thinking, such as writing a crucial research report.
  • It is also a good idea to work on first drafts instead of final drafts of papers and projects.You can reread your drafts when you are feeling more like yourself. This will reduce the likelihood of major errors in the final version.

Set priorities carefully.

Workers who are ill are only 60% as productive as normal. This means that you have to think very carefully about what kinds of work you actually have to accomplish while ill. Examine your deadlines and your calendar in order to prioritize which tasks have to be completed during your sick day.

Keep your expectations reasonable.

Acknowledge from the outset that you will not be as productive as normal while you are ill. Be kind to yourself and resist the urge to run yourself ragged. If you push yourself too hard while you are ill, you might delay your recovery or you might feel even sicker. Be productive if you have to, but allow yourself some time to relax and recover.

Consider delaying certain meetings and tasks.

Sometimes we do not have a choice about what work we have to accomplish. But other times we might be able to rearrange our schedules. If you are sick, think about whether there might be some meetings that would be more productive when you are feeling better. Ask about postponing any meetings that are not time-sensitive or meetings where you will be expected to perform at your highest level.

Take breaks frequently.

People who are sick need more rest than usual and also need to stay hydrated. Be sure that you are allowing yourself lots of time to rest in between work tasks. Go to the water cooler, get tea at a nearby coffee shop, or simply rest your eyes at your desk for a few minutes. You will be more effective if you do not push yourself too hard, too quickly.

Ask for help.

Reach out to your neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers if you have to work while sick. Perhaps they might help you out around the house, bring you some soup, or be able to lend a hand with editing an important document. Everybody gets sick sometimes, and your loved ones and coworkers will sympathize with your plight.

  • If your coworkers help you with your duties, be sure that you express your gratitude and that you return the favor when your colleagues feel ill.

Drink three times as much water as coffee.

It is important to stay hydrated when you are sick. But sometimes we need caffeine in order to get through a workday when we are under the weather. Feel free to indulge in the occasional cup of coffee to get through this tough time, but be sure that you are drinking water as well. Drink 3 cups of water for every cup of coffee you have.

Take a nap.

If you are working from home, let yourself take a nap every now and again. Use naps as a reward to treat yourself when you accomplish an important task. These naps will inspire you to accomplish more at work and will also help your body begin to fight your illness.

Make a schedule for your return.

If you are working from home or only working a half-day while you are sick, take a few minutes to organize your return to full-time work. Make a list of the most important tasks that you will have to accomplish, and begin to envision how you will accomplish these. Set a reasonable schedule to make sure that you catch up on what you might have missed during your illness.

Reward yourself.

Use rewards for finishing goals each day. Treat yourself with comfort foods, hot beverages, naps, or your favorite movie to watch while sick. Feel proud that you could accomplish so much, even during your illness.

Consider alternative forms of productivity.

Perhaps you feel too ill to accomplish your tasks for work or school. Your brain might be too sluggish, or perhaps you cannot even get yourself out of the house. If you are feeling so poorly that you cannot focus on work, let yourself be productive in other ways. Maybe you can catch up on sleep, which will make you more effective when you return to the office. Or maybe you can clean your house or prepare some meals to put in your freezer, leaving yourself more time to work later in the month. Think about other ways that you can be productive, even if you are too ill to focus on your job.