Replacing The Water Cooler Conversations

“Have you heard the rumour that Janet in HR is applying for the new payroll manager role?”
“No way? She would never cope. I’m still waiting to get my holiday for next month signed off, I wouldn’t want to have to wait that long for my wages!”
“I know, and Paul in marketing reckons we are going to be getting new computers because Steve from downstairs overheard Leslie being asked to get a couple of quotes together…”
The water cooler conversations, or informal conversations, has been highlighted in the media as an example of how office workers are missing out on the human interaction that you only get in the workplace on a face-to-face level. Video calls and Zoom have been a great way to stay in touch, but tend to lead to very functional conversations, dealing with the business in hand and cutting out some of the small talk.
Not such a bad thing some might say, but there is a mental well-being issue at stake here too. Humans are not machines, we have needs outside of just being functional. We need social interaction on a personal level, but also to help our businesses to thrive. It is very difficult to ping ideas off of each other in an online brain-storming session, it lacks the creativity, the energy, the talking over each other, discussing, debating, disagreeing before arriving at the most brilliant of ideas that would never have been reached without that interaction.
However, there is an expectation now that many companies are going to adopt a new “hybrid” way of working – Greater flexibility and a balance between office time and working from home. Some will embrace this; others would prefer to just get back into the office and return to a sense of normality. Everyone is different, has different needs and feelings. So, how do you create a balance between offering lifestyle flexibility and avoiding creating divisions and exclusions? How do you stop the person that chooses to work from home more often from becoming the topic of gossip at the water cooler, or excluded from spontaneous discussions and conversations in the workplace?
The first step is for the employer to recognise the importance of the informal conversations and the benefits they bring to the business and take that into consideration when finalising the hybrid arrangements for the company. Once that is realised, a simple first step would be to have all members of the team in the office on at least one particular day. In a larger company it might not be the whole team, just specific departments on specific days.
That is when the magic can happen, bringing people together, keeping everyone informed and feeling a part of the team. Companies can take further actions to facilitate these informal discussions by encouraging people not to eat at their desks on these days and maybe even make sure that coffee machines and water coolers are not in individuals’ offices but in a shared environment that encourages movement away from their own workspace and into an area of interaction; even go so far as suggesting that time is set aside in the day to make a point of walking around, talking to fellow team members and triggering those conversations that can so often lead to some of the very best ideas.
For an employer the key is to provide opportunities for informal communications to happen naturally and not to force it with rigid structures and designated discussion times – That could potentially have the complete opposite effect. We are, after all humans, with changing moods and emotions.

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Simple starting points for the Mindful Maverick

Just getting started can be tough – use these tips to help launch your list-making lifestyle.

Visual cues
Adapt your organisational style to your personality type and make your system work for you.
Are you visually oriented? Or more about seeing things than reading words? Rather than trying to use someone else’s system, lean into your outlook to create more organisation in your life. So, if you’re a visual person, keep a stack of Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, 76mm x 76mm around — with no lines, they’re the perfect place to jot down drawings and doodles that keep you inspired. Since you can stick them and re-stick them however you want, you can use them to create a visual map of your thinking and change it as often as you like.

The brain dump
Get things out of your head and onto paper! Unloading your mind helps you focus on what’s important.
If your tasks are just racing around in your brain and you don’t know what to do first, try a good old-fashioned brain dump. Using a stack of Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, 76mm x 76mm, take five minutes — no more — and write down every single thing you can think of that you need to do in the next week, one on each note. Write down whatever’s cluttering up your brain, personal or professional, and get it out of your head. Once you’ve cleared things out, you can forget about what’s worrying you and get back to what’s important.

Is something bothering you? Jot it down!
If you’ve got a nagging task that starts to take up too much headspace, get it out of there.
Occasionally, a small task that isn’t very important can be disproportionately distracting. Whether it’s something you’ve been putting off or something you’re not sure how to accomplish, this kind of task can easily become a huge energy suck, causing anxiety that gets in the way of productivity. When that happens, even though it might not seem like that task should be a priority, it’s time to make it one. Put it at the top of your to-do list on a Post-it® Super Sticky Note 101mm
x 153mm, and put it right in your line of sight so you can’t ignore it.

Thanks to the mindful maverick,

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The Secret Diary of A Stationery Lover

It seems I am not as much of a freak as I first thought I was. Since the last edition when I confessed to being a Stationery Lover I have been contacted by a number of people who also secretly share a passion for the Rexel Easy Touch Low Force Half Strip Stapler with flat clinch technology…and all other things stationery.
It is starting to get much busier for me at work now, which is good for the company and hopefully an indication of an improving economy, but it does mean that I have less time to indulge in my passion and more often than not have to look for tenuous ways to use as much stationery as possible whilst working. My best effort was last week when I volunteered to update all the signage around the building with covid-secure messages. To be honest, I think my boss was just expecting me to quickly download a few images from the web, plonk them in Microsoft Word with a few images and then print them out – Oh how he doesn’t know me!
First off, I spent ages looking through the specialist Infection Control catalogue sent to me by our office products supplier where I selected a number of ready-to-go signs (some of them are up to a metre long – massive!) and then for the rest of the more personal signs I raided the stationery cupboard for laminating pouches – well, raid actually makes it sound like a quick in and out, I managed to spend upwards of half-an-hour digging through the piles of post-it notes, files and assorted pens, deliberately taking my time to see if there was anything else I could use at my own desk.
Once I had found enough pouches, GBC Fusion High Speed of course, I then reverted to quickly printing off some signs on the printer before preparing myself for an hour of sheer laminating delight (I kicked myself afterwards for choosing the high-speed pouches, I could easily have made the job last over two hours!). I don’t know if you have experienced the sheer delight of laminating? It is so soothing, satisfying and relaxing. Some people might choose a jacuzzi or sauna; not me, give me a pile of laminating pouches and a GBC Fusion 3000L Laminator and I am as happy as Larry.
I do sometimes wonder if there is something abnormal about my obsession for stationery. Driving home the other day I found myself trying to remember the names of all the colour ranges in the Post-it Notes Super Sticky range. Miami, Bangkok, New York and Rio De Janeiro just rolled off my tongue; Marrakesh took me a good couple of miles to recall, but I just could not remember the name of the assorted pack that contains Poppy, Neon Green and Aquawave colours (It’s the Bora Bora Collection for anyone interested).
By the end of the journey I was really quite jealous of the person who had the job of coming up with the names of the different colour collections – Where do they get New York from? I’ve no idea, but I love it! I tried to get the landlord at our local pub to include a round on Post-it Notes in the monthly quiz, but he just told me to go away and get a life! Hey, the cheek of it, him telling me to get a life? I bet he has never punched through 180 sheets of paper with a single staple.

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Productivity is in the Air

If you’re developing a corporate wellness programme, you might be focusing heavily on exercise and diet to improve office productivity. But have you ever thought about the office air quality? Research from Harvard and Syracuse Universities shows that the air circulating in most workspaces may actually be hindering worker performance.
The Average Office vs. The Office with Cleaner Air
In this study, workers conducted their regular office duties in a typical office building workspace. The same workers on other days repeated their daily tasks but in a workspace with improved ventilation and a reduction of indoor pollutants.
Results showed that employees in the clean air environment performed 61% better on cognitive tasks than in the standard office conditions. Further, by doubling the ventilation in the clean air office, cognitive performance increased by more than 100%.
Clean Air Initiatives That Help Employees Be at Their Best
Take these three steps to improve your indoor air quality in any commercial location. The best equipment, some careful observation, and a disciplined inspection routine will improve the air wherever you work.
Implement an Air Treatment System in Your Workspace
Adding an air purifier not only continuously cleans the air, but also shows employees you have their wellness in mind. To ensure you have the best air cleaning system, look for an air purifier that meets hospital-grade filtration. The best commercial air purifiers include:
• A True HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter that captures 99.97% of airborne contaminants including viruses and allergens
• Activated carbon filter that reduces odours and VOCs (Volatile organic compounds)
• Automated features that adjust to changing indoor pollutant levels for optimized clean air efficiency
Focus on ventilation
• Maintain ventilation systems through scheduled cleanings
• Check for damage in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems where VOC’s and other airborne pollutants may be recirculating into workspaces
• Check the entire HVAC system for mould and test the air for CO2 emissions
Stop Air Pollutants at the Source
• Check for common sources of indoor air pollution including paint fumes in newly painted offices or mould and mildew in carpeted areas
• Ensure chemical and other maintenance supply storage is not impacting indoor air
• Evaluate traffic areas that may introduce auto fumes from parking areas into workspaces
With these simple steps, you can boost the well-being and performance of employees, reduce absenteeism, and add a new benefit to your wellness program that is clearly refreshing.

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An All-Inclusive Office Design

Each employee has a unique set of needs, many of which are not always apparent. And businesses are now challenged with creating a post-pandemic work environment that is all-inclusive for a diverse range of employees.
Companies that are committed to competing in today’s dynamic marketplace focus on building a culture that includes engagement, productivity, and collaboration. More and more workplaces are gravitating towards flexible and creative designs, and this is what an all-inclusive office design is all about.
Inclusion in the workforce is a hot topic right now that goes beyond hiring a diverse team. In the last twenty years, there’s been a significant shift in legal and moral policy to encourage companies to recruit employees that were often overlooked or excluded despite having the skills and qualifications to perform the job. But today’s office designs have to go beyond the typical focus on physical differences alone; rather there has to be an equal emphasis on different styles of working as well as on mental health.

Features of inclusive office design
Inclusive office design is about accommodating choice, flexibility and practicality – a work environment that benefits everyone. It is, of course, impossible to design an office to suit every individual’s personalities and needs; it’s more about offering choices to people. Just as importantly, the layout and look should engage employees and inspire them. A change of scenery, as they say, is as good as a rest!
Open plan offices have been designed to help to boost collaboration, build relationships and save on costs. But most open plan offices do not accommodate the needs of every employee. Therefore it’s important to cater to individual needs and provide a flexible layout with different types of workstations to meet employee’s unique working styles. The abundance of distracting noises in a typical open plan office environment can also cause stress, frustration and animosity.
A modern office layout that encompasses private workspaces and collaborative areas, alongside breakout spaces can support how people work through freedom of choice, encouraging organic interaction and promoting movement. With a growing focus on health and wellbeing in office settings, biophilic designs are also growing in popularity, adding some plants and nature into the office to make people feel more relaxed and peaceful.

How to design workplaces for inclusivity
The aim is to use furniture to create workspaces that are easily adaptable. Height adjustable desks such as the Dams Elev8² sit-stand range are a great option, as they can be easily changed to accommodate all needs. 80% of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Constant sitting has also shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and obesity, so providing small conveniences in the workplace can decrease that number.
For employees that get stressed out because they can’t concentrate with the noise around them, private acoustic hubs, telephone booths and meeting pods can also help to keep noise levels down and concentration levels up. Silen acoustic hubs from Dams are standalone pods which essentially create a room within a room and are ideal for small meetings, brainstorming and informal one-to-one sessions. It’s also possible to equip the hubs with features that are useful for meetings such as whiteboards, power and TV screens, together with LED lighting and air circulation units as standard to make sessions comfortable for users.
Offices are not just places of work; they’re places for interaction, engagement, and bonding. Other furniture solutions to improve health and wellbeing include communal breakout areas that encourage employees to take a break from their work, move around the office, and encourage cross-functional interactions.

A post-pandemic all-inclusive office
The importance of an all-inclusive design in the workplace has intensified in recent months due in part to the flexibility people have enjoyed working remotely during Covid-19. Now that lockdown restrictions have eased, employers are contemplating how to accommodate the flexible, post-pandemic needs of their vastly more privileged office workers and about how to entice people to return.
The wellbeing of employees in the workplace is becoming more vital, and office furniture can play a huge part in helping to keep people happy and healthy when they’re working.
Some people want full-time office life back, some want full-time home working, and most would probably prefer something
in between. But whichever category people fall into, one thing is for certain, to get the most out of a post-pandemic diverse workforce and keep everybody happy, companies need to create a work environment where people want to spend their time.
An inclusive office design nurtures a solid company culture, improves engagement and enhances job satisfaction. It helps people personalise their workplaces, feel a sense of belonging and feel comfortable, thereby reducing everyday frustration and effort, and hence increasing mental wellbeing and productivity. Implementing and maintaining an all-inclusive culture becomes far easier when that inclusivity is built into the very fabric of the workplace design.

Super Deduction Tax Relief
From 1 April 2021 until 31 March 2023, companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets will benefit from a 130% first-year capital allowance.
Furniture and office refurbishments will count as qualifying expenditure for this scheme.
This means for every £1 you spend, you save 25p on tax.
If your workplace is in need of a post-pandemic refresh, contact us today to discuss how we can meet your needs.

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Acting Responsibly with Recycology

Cast your mind back a year to empty shelves, queues outside supermarkets and a strange, unfamiliar world where bird song replaced the hum of traffic. As we rushed to secure face masks and hand gels, sanitiser spray and disinfectant it would be easy to assume that in our efforts to ‘stay safe’ and keep the virus at bay we’d kicked our commitment to sustainability into the long grass.
It was – and still is – disappointing to see so many discarded single-use face masks at roadsides, which might lead anyone to conclude that, in the grip of the pandemic, we’d all but forgotten our collective responsibility to protect our environment. But, thankfully, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
Manufacturers are receiving growing numbers of requests for information about refillable products and environment-friendly packaging, just as they were pre-pandemic. And there is still firm commitment from manufacturers to replace single-use plastic packaging with more environment-friendly alternatives throughout the industry.

So, what alternatives are available to help us choose more sustainable products and packaging?
Fifteen years ago, Pentel launched a range of display books, presentation files and folders, called Recycology, made using a minimum of 50 per cent recycled materials. Recycology filing products use fewer valuable virgin resources than non-recycled equivalents, without compromising quality. Ideal for projects, presentations, recipe collections or hobbies, the Recycology range is perfect for home organisation or office filing, helping to keep precious documents and photos protected.

Recycology Writing Instruments
But there’s more to Recycology than display books. Where the Recycology logo appears next to a Pentel pen, pencil or marker this denotes that it, too, is made using a minimum of 50 per cent recycled material.
For instance, two-thirds of Pentel’s quick-drying, smudge-reducing EnerGel range is made using recycled plastic material. In the retractable EnerGel X pen the figure is as high as 84 per cent – and the pen can be refilled too.
In fact, over 40 per cent of the products in Pentel’s UK range are refillable, including pens, mechanical pencils and even bottles of glue. So, there’s really no need to throw away a perfectly reusable Pentel product.
To encourage everyone who buys a potentially refillable product to do just that Pentel has developed the message, ‘If You Love It, Refill It’, to help identify those items that can be used over and again. The logo can be seen next to certain products to make it easy to select the right one.

Reducing the Impact of Packaging
We’re all aware of the need to reduce or eradicate single-use plastic in packaging and it’s no different at Pentel. All boxes of Pentel loose pens, pencils and markers are made using recycled board, and in the last year Pentel have introduced many new wallet sets made from board, not plastic.
Where it’s appropriate to use plastic in packaging – for example, to offer a higher level of protection to heavier products or multiple sets – Pentel uses recycled polypropylene, which can be recycled or reused as required.
So, if we can take a positive from the last unsettling year, some good news is that manufacturers like Pentel remain 100 per cent committed to continuing the quest to help us all reduce, reuse and recycle for today and tomorrow.

Article by Wendy Vickery, Marketing Manager, Pentel (Stationery) Ltd.

*Percentage based on total weight of product excluding consumable elements.

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