The Secret Diary of a Stationery Lover

It’s good to be back in the office after that wretched enforced Christmas break, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love the festive season, I don my Christmas jumper on the big day like everyone else – this year it was a particularly fetching gift-wrapping jumper, knitted by my grandmother and featuring rolls and rolls of Sellotape. And yes, before you ask, it is Sellotape. My gran is very particular about detail (definitely my blood relation) and made a point of including the Sellotape logo on the inside of the core of the roll. She knows that I would only use proper Sellotape. None of these cheap imitators. I love my Gran.

Other than that, it was a typical Christmas in our household. Carrots and whisky left downstairs for Santa the night before, stockings on the bedroom door, wake-up early and open the stockings – all the usual: socks, chocolate, new stapler, pack of pencils, writing pad, refills for my Pentel Energel pen, a Staedtler laundry marker to write my name on my hi-vis jacket at work and endless other stationery items. After breakfast we open presents by the tree, my brother Steve rather sadly failed to hide the disappointment of his gift from me, a rather expensive GBC C210 Comb Binding machine with 100 combs and 50 covers – I didn’t have to include the accessories you know, and almost wish I hadn’t now.

We then have a big Christmas lunch, everyone sits on the sofa, groans that they have eaten too much, complain about the repeats on television, grumbles about how much money we all spend at Christmas – “all that money and effort, for just one day” – and then fall asleep for what I can only assume is a pre-planned snoring competition.

Thankfully that is all over now and I am back in the office carrying out my essential duties looking after all things stationery for our business. I say stationery, but it is much more than that nowadays. Just before Christmas Isla in the Purchasing Department was heard screaming one afternoon. We all wondered what had happened, at first, we thought it was just Old Bob up to his usual tricks, but the screams went on for several seconds, so it was more serious than that. It turns out she had seen a mouse run behind one of the filing cabinets. Our maintenance guy was away for the week, so I actually felt a bit of a hero when I stood up and declared, “Leave it with me. I can sort this out. Our supplier of office items can help.”

They all thought I was mad and started to take the mickey. “What’s he going to do, shoot it with a staple gun!” laughed Jess. “Nah, he’s going to twang it out of the window with his ruler,” laughed Jane. “Maybe he is going to try and stick it to the floor with a Pritt stick” added Harry.

The next day I put down the humane pest control delivered by our office products supplier, caught the mouse, sprinkled some deterrent around to make sure no mouse friends come back (again delivered with our stationery) and even sprayed a little air freshener to get rid of the smell (you know where that came from). I smugly picked up my things once done, smirked at Jess, Jane and Harry as I left and went back to work. 1-0 to yours truly.

That was not my only moment of smugness on this particular day. Paul in accounts tasked me with shredding thousands of sheets of documents from the archives that no longer needed to be kept but needed to be disposed of securely. “That will keep you going for a few weeks” he laughed. How wrong he was.

A quick call to my supplier contact and the very next day they sent around a mobile shredding van to destroy all the documents quickly and securely. It was all done onsite so I know that we met our GDPR requirements and there would be no data leak, and I also know that all the paper shredded will be recycled to help prevent any unnecessary future destruction of trees. Paul couldn’t believe it when I told him the next day that it was all done. I often surprise my work colleagues with what I get done. Although they think I am a bit of a jobsworth (which I am, and proud of it), they also think I am a bit of a hero, which I’m happy with too. But I’ll let you into a secret. It’s not me that is the true hero. It is my local office products supplier, there seems to be nothing they cannot do, and if it makes me look good in the process, hurrah to that.

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Sound of Acoustics

The popular open plan office was once hailed as the solution to boosting cooperation and productivity. But as the number of open, collaborative spaces increases, so do the levels of noise, stress, and anxiety in the workplace. Noise pollution can lead to increased stress levels and dissatisfaction not just with the work environment, but also with the job itself.

Acoustics

Studies have revealed that people waste on average 86 minutes every day because of sound distractions, and interruptions happen around every 11 minutes. In another study, 99% of workers reported that their concentration was impaired by office noise, especially telephones left ringing at vacant desks and people talking in the background, which in turn leaves people distracted and increases their stress levels.

Some people try to combat noise distractions by working faster, but that this comes at a price, with people experiencing more stress and frustration. The frustrations are also felt by the business, given brief interruptions can double a worker’s error rate. On top of this, the trend towards flexible workspaces has meant fewer fixed furniture and soundproof elements, which means sound waves are free to travel the space, impacting acoustic comfort.

The benefits of acoustic solutions

The acoustics of the workplace can be improved to lessen distractions and increase productivity. Acoustic furniture can help to provide a sense of seclusion, giving employees a

place to conduct private meetings or make personal calls. Acoustic seclusion also gives employees a sense of control over their day, which improves job performance and morale. And that’s exactly why acoustic furniture is enjoying its moment in the spotlight.

Long-term exposure to noise can cause a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, stress and elevated blood pressure. Additionally, it hinders productivity whilst increasing stress levels. Office noise limits employee’s memory recall and fundamental reasoning skills. Only a calm setting can provide you with the kind of solitude needed for serious, in-depth chats and focused work. Acoustic control is a cost that pays for itself through increased employee productivity and wellbeing.

The ABCs of acoustic

How do you manage noise in the office? The ABCs, often known as the three primary techniques, can be used to solve acoustic issues in a particular environment. The sound can be absorbed, blocked, and covered.

Absorb

The process by which a surface material disperses sound waves is referred to as sound absorption. Without any materials for absorption in the office, the sound will resonate more strongly and may even produce an obtrusive echo. By absorbing the sound, absorbent materials including carpet, acoustic tiles, or fabric wrapped screens lessen the reverberation. Disruptive noise can even be absorbed by plants.

Block

In an open plan office, noise management and voice privacy can be improved by blocking sound in specific areas and isolating noisy activities from quieter ones. Walls and partitions all function as blocking devices with varying degrees of effectiveness. Adding a divider through a space is usually how sound is blocked, but the makeup of that divider can make a big difference. Consider how much quieter brick walls are compared to stud walls as an example.

Cover

Noise in the workplace can be covered by masking with another sound. The goal is often to create a layer of sound that makes it harder for us to hear individual speech or noise fragments. Covering is the process of producing an organic sound that people are used to hearing, such as noises from nature imitating the sound of water or air flowing.

Piano acoustic furniture

Acoustic furniture is created with specific fabrics and size specifications to reduce noise, heighten privacy, and increase attention and focus. Employees who work in an acoustically comfortable environment produce higher quality work and may take fewer sick days over the course of the year, since comfortable office acoustics lead to better health.

When noise enters the workspace, creativity and productivity also go out the window. That’s why manufacturers of office furniture have thrown themselves into designing elements that limit and absorb excessive noise, creating pleasant workspaces that improve performance.

The Piano acoustics range from Dams consists of five forms of acoustic furniture solutions that can be used in almost any open office plan. Piano Acoustics screens, wall tiles, solo booths, suspended panels and patterned dividers provide open plan offices and breakout spaces with multiple levels of acoustic absorption which are not only colourful and modern additions to the office aesthetics, but are also pertinent to the task at hand in each area.

Cut through the noise

A few years ago, nobody gave a lot of importance to the aspect of sound, but the trend for open plan office designs, particularly in new workspaces, has put sound at the forefront of design. Today, acoustics have become essential in making our surroundings enjoyable by minimising noise, controlling reverberations and general improving the quality of the acoustic environment in all office, education and commercial interiors.

Acoustic challenges in open offices are varied, and so are the solutions. There isn’t a one size fits all method. Employee’s productivity and wellness goals are simpler to achieve in workspaces with good acoustics. They will also be more relaxed, focused, and motivated to meet the set goals in a collaborative setting with a good acoustic balance.

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Keep It Local Week is BACK! 15TH-21ST May 2023

Following a successful inaugural year in 2022 Keep It Local Week returns in 2023 even bigger and better as we continue in our quest to transform the buying habits of a nation and make supporting local suppliers the number one factor when choosing where to buy from.

Is that ambitious? Of course it is. But we are going to keep driving home the message spurred on by the waves of enthusiasm since the launch of the campaign over two years ago. In that time we have witnessed countless letters to MPs asking questions about where government spend is going in relation to their commitment to supporting SMEs and calling upon government and MPs to use their position of authority to back their local businesses’ in their constituencies. The support is out there, but it is not enough yet and that will be a drum we will be beating louder and faster throughout this year – Keep It Local.

Make A Difference

Last year we introduced the 7-Day Challenge, can you imagine the impact if we could get millions of people up and down the country participating? If we all just, even for one day, paused before placing an order on Amazon and instead googled a local supplier, or popped down to our local high street. The reality is that huge numbers of us would actually enjoy the experience more, appreciating the feel-good factor that goes with knowing that you have helped a business that employs people from your community, providing an income to those that are more likely to spend their money within the local economy, boosting the wealth and welfare of your area. With that warm feeling, many of us will continue to choose to buy from a local source rather than the large multi-national stores. Because it makes a difference.

Get Out & About

That is just one step down the road to change. What if we all from time-to-time chose not to jump into our fuel guzzling cars to drive to an out of town supermarket chain, but instead visited the local town or village to buy meat from the butchers, bread from the bakers, fruit and vegetables from the greengrocer and all of our additional odds and sods from the local convenience store and hardware shops. Of course initially it may not seems as convenient, but it is society taking the easy (lazy) option that has led us to a global climate crisis and ripped the heart out of so many of our communities.

A trip down the high street will improve your well-being, meeting new folk, seeing familiar faces, stopping for a coffee (ideally the local independent shop) and boosting the environment you live in. Making our towns healthier and wealthier. Isn’t that worth a little bit of inconvenience?

Better Quality & Wider Choice

Here’s one you might not have considered before, but, the chances are you are buying better quality goods when you order from a local supplier. Or at least the risk of buying sub-standard goods is minimised. Who is going to sell you sub-standard products if they know they are delivering just around the corner and an unhappy customer could easily turn up at the doorstep to complain or make a scene? Nobody. A local business will pride itself on providing quality goods and services, over and above mass distribution.

Though large retailers and big-box companies offer a wide selection; the variety is decided by small groups of corporate buyers. When you think about it, real choice actually comes from dozens of independent businesses tailoring their goods and services to their unique community needs. Buying local and supporting local, keeps these options viable.

Keep It Local Week begins on Monday 15th May, but the message begins NOW. Together we can make a difference. Together we can Keep It Local. To find out more about how you can get involved in our campaign, contact us today.

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The four minute explainer you need to decode climate action

Climate conversations can be filled with technical language. This is important in some situations, but we need to break through jargon to help the broader community better understand climate change and empower everyone to act.

There are so many ways individuals, organizations, companies and governments can contribute, but to do so, we all need to be on the same page. Unfortunately, that page is often full of jargon – words sustainability professionals use every day without a second thought, but which are not always intuitive or are simply confusing to those beginning to dip their toes in climate talk. And we need everyone on board, not just the ‘experts.’

I had the chance to sit down with the Vox Explainer team to help demystify some of these terms and share examples of the kind of work our Nestlé teams are engaged in to help fight climate change. The best way to engage in something as immense as climate change is through simple steps. First, work to understand. Second, take action. And most importantly, do it together.

Three definitions to help understand climate action:

1. Net Zero

Reaching net zero emissions around the world is essential for fighting climate change. To get there, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as thoroughly and quickly as possible – and balance any remaining emissions entering the atmosphere with the amount being removed. Carbon can be removed through the growth of forests and other natural processes. Setting science-based targets help companies and other organizations make progress towards achieving net zero.

2. Scope 3 Emissions

Companies may emit greenhouse gases directly through their own activities – like manufacturing – and through the way in which their raw materials are produced. These indirect emissions are often referred to as ‘scope 3’. For Nestlé, our ingredients begin on farms around the world, so a big focus of our net zero roadmap is addressing our ‘scope 3’ emissions coming from agriculture and land use. It’s critical that climate plans include scope 3, as this is often where the biggest impact sits.

3. Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is an approach to farming that aims to improve soil health – as well as protect water resources and biodiversity. By implementing it, we can capture more carbon AND foster healthier soils that are more resilient. By 2030, we aim to source half our ingredients through regenerative agriculture. We’re getting hands-on via Nestlé agronomists who partner and support farmers to transition their growing methods, and we reward farmers for sustainable and socially responsible practices.

It takes a serious amount of work to drive progress on emissions across our company, but early results show we’re on a positive path. We’ve past the peak of our carbon emissions, meaning we’re lowering the emissions we contribute to even as we grow and produce more food.

Owen Bethell – Environmental Impact Lead Global Public Affairs

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Secret Diary of a Stationery Lover

This month marks a special birthday for me as I hit the half century in years, or as I like to call it 20 plus 30 years. Twenty years of growing up followed by thirty years in charge of the stationery cupboard at the various companies I have worked at, ensuring the smooth operation of business. In charge of the engine room.

You would not believe the changes I have seen over those years. I remember the arguments I used to have with Mary-Jane, the CEO’s secretary in my first job. Honestly, it felt like every week she was asking me to order in more Tipp-Ex typewriter correction sheets, which are basically little sheets of paper that you put over the mistake you have made when typing and then retype the letter and it puts a white mark over it so that you can go back and type over it again.

Yes, it really is as slow and painful as it sounds. If you were smart you could get a lot of corrections out of one sheet as long as you used the space carefully, a bit like cutting out shapes in your pastry, don’t leave gaps between cuts, it’s just wasted pastry! Mary-Jane didn’t like me pointing that out. “Well maybe you should look to get a job that you are good at then” I bit back. The next day it was me who was looking for a new job.

It didn’t take long, there are always companies looking for a stationery expert, someone who knows their full strip stapler from a half strip, an HB from a 2B pencil or a paper on board D-Ring lever arch file from a polypropylene 2-ring. Managing the stationery cupboard is more than just a job it is a passion that you are either born with or you are not. It is a serious business, but contrary to popular belief it does not make me boring. OK with age I have got a little more grumpy and intolerant, but that is not to say I have not had my days as the office joker.

In fact, my favourite story involves Tipp-Ex again, this is when we have moved on from the old typewriter version and it was in fact quite dangerous. The organic solvent trichloroethane was originally used as a thinner in the bottle which is readily absorbed by the lungs via inhalation. It passes readily through the blood–brain barrier and may be lethal following acute exposure. Trichloroethane is also an ozone depleter…sorry, I’m getting distracted telling you things that everyone already knows. As you know, this all changed at the end of the 1990’s when it was replaced by aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Anyway, you know the other thing about liquid Tipp-Ex? It looks like bird poop.

Well, we used to have a really horrible Salesman at one company, Sid was his name, a real bully and a bit of a shirker. Sid the Shirker I used to call him. Every 30 minutes he would be outside the office, on the front lawn, underneath the oak tree puffing on a cigarette (a disgusting habit, I did take a puff once at a party when I was just 18, I was nearly sick and had to get my Mum to come and pick me up). One day when Sid had been particularly rude to me (some people ARE interested in the difference between self-seal and peel & seal envelopes) I decided to get my revenge.

When he came back from one of his cigarettes breaks I dropped a bit of Tipp-ex on the back of his jacket. All afternoon people were laughing behind his back thinking a bird had pooped on him. Everyone thought I was the office joker, I had never been so popular. I carried on the prank for several weeks, picking on different smokers…until one day I picked on the bosses daughter, and I lost my job.
As I reach the big fifty I have less desire to be sociable or be Mr. Popular. Just the other day at lunch one of the new secretaries tried to make conversation, I’m sure she was only trying to be nice as she asked me what I like to do – “Eat my lunch in peace” was my rather curt reply.

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Your IT & Security FAQs Answered…

From understanding what exactly a VPN is and how to react in a Cyber Security emergency, to the importance of IT roadmaps and understanding your GDPR obligations, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked IT and Security questions.

How worried should I be about Cyber Security?
Cyber Threats should be at the top of your agenda and factored into any IT strategy. Hiscox report that a small business is successfully hacked every 19 seconds in the UK, to protect your organisation’s information, we recommend implementing a multi-layered cyber security strategy. Falling victim to an attack could have a significant impact on business downtime, reputation and revenue.

What is a VPN?
VPN = Virtual Private Network. A VPN allows your teams to access their office data from wherever they’re working. We recommend this way of working – as long as your VPN is configured correctly, your data will be secure.

Why do I need to upgrade/update my systems?
It’s essential to keep up to date with the latest software updates. These updates are known as patches and the protect you from potential vulnerabilities in software that hackers exploit.
Upgrading your systems will often mean enhanced security, but the biggest and most expensive systems aren’t necessarily the best option for your organisation, so it’s important that your IT partner properly understands your business and its needs.
When products become end of life and issues are no longer being issues, it’s crucial that you make the switch to an upgraded system.

What’s the most common cyber threat?
Phishing emails tend to be the most common, mainly because they work. People frequently fall for phishing attempts as they can often be almost indistinguishable from legitimate email.
The key to keeping your organisation secure is implementing robust cyber security solutions and focusing on end-user education.

Why is end-user education and internal training so important?
People within an organisation are generally the weakest link when it comes to cyber security. Research by Datto found that a lack of cyber security training was one of the most common causes of a ransomware breach. Training your team on what to look out for can help bridge the cyber security gap in your organisation.

I’m concerned about my IT team’s capacity…
If you’re concerned that your IT team is short on capacity due to your organisation expanding or difficulties recruiting, you can look to outsource some or all of your IT to a Managed Support Provider (MSP).

What GDPR obligations does my organisation have regarding Cyber Security?
The GDPR legally requires organisations to have robust measures in place to prevent personal data from being leaked, stolen, disclosed or inappropriately accessed.
When this does occur, you’d be in breach of the GDPR and can suffer significant reputational and financial damages. All businesses have a responsibility to protect both internal, employee data and external client or prospect data. That’s why we suggest implementing a robust cyber security plan.

How should we respond in a cyber security emergency?
Do you have a disaster recovery plan? This is a document that you can refer to should the worst case scenario occur which gives you clear steps to follow in an emergency, helping to limit downtime and get your organisation back up and running.

What’s the best way to protect my accounts?
The first step is always to create strong passwords – 15+ characters with a complex combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using things personal to you such as family member’s or pet’s names.
The next step is to enable 2FA (two-factor authentication) on all of your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security on top of your passwords, usually you’ll receive an email or text message with a code before you can login. So, even if your password did get stolen, the hacker would struggle to get past the 2FA.

How do we know where our data is and if it’s safe?
Keeping track of company data can be difficult if you don’t have the appropriate controls in place. In the event of a breach, it can be almost impossible to know what data was stored where and therefore what data has been compromised.
To help mitigate this threat, pick a couple of locations to store your data (such as SharePoint and OneDrive) and make a formal record of what exactly is stored in those locations.
• Have an Information Asset Register which details which details where your data is stored and what security is applied to it.
• A legal requirement under GDPR is to have a Record of Data Processing. This details what data you have in each location and all of the other legal requirements of Article 30 of the GDPR.

IT Services from Sharp
With a team of friendly, consultative technical experts, we will help you achieve your organisation or business goals now and in the future.
Whether you are looking to make changes to your IT to allow for remote working, or need a scalable solution to allow for your growth plans, we understand that IT can be a big investment. It is critical that you can trust and rely on your IT Partner, which is why we get to know you and your teams and become an extension of your organisation.
Contact us today to find out more.

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