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Article: Top Ten Home Office Hacks

My best pal Lifehacker has posted a great list of Home Office Hacks (hack being their word for modify, improve, or change…in case anyone didn’t know) that has some pretty great tidbits. This article is a bit older, but was recently referenced again and I was reminded to pass it on.

Highlights from the list include tips like getting a good whiteboard, cleaning up your filing cabinet, increasing natural light and so on. Definitely worth a look-see.

Big Box Watch: Plummeting Stock Roundup

Seems like all is not well in the land of the big-box retailer. According to a few articles passed my way this week, looks like almost everyone is in trouble.

First up is Staples, most recently seen violating overtime laws, which according to reported a record 33% drop in stock price from last year, despite claims of increasing sales. Like everyone, they are quick to cite the failing economy, and I will not deny them that. However, they also cite a lowering of demand for office supplies, which anyone who is in the industry can tell you simply isn’t true. No matter how many people you lay off, you still need enough pens for everyone who is left.

Also on the chopping block is Office Depot, which stock market blog Seeking Alpha lists as a stock to dump if you’re still holding on to any. Though it has recovered from its “economic crisis” plunge, OD stock is nowhere near where it used to be. And with long-term prospects not looking good and intense competition from online retailers, analysts are thinking this is as good as it’s going to get for the big-box chain. A last, dying gasp? Maybe.

All in all, it’s not a good time to be clinging to old business tactics. There’s a reason companies like this are called “dinosaurs”, and it’s not just because they’re old. They’re also lumbering, not too bright in many areas, and tend to get killed off by change.

Article: Porsche Consulting Debuts the “Lean Office”

In an interesting article from The Financial, they talk about Porsche Consulting (yes, that Porsche), who have developed an innovative strategy for, of all things, dealing with office management and workflow. Using design tricks they learned from the automotive assembly line, they’ve come up with some interesting solutions:

In order to make their office “lean” the consultants turned to the same methods that they also use for external customers in order to optimize their own workflows. The Porsche Consulting employees first analyzed the amount of time they spend walking around the office, the capacity of meeting rooms and the use of individual workstations. Then the optimization process began.

So, several small instead of a few large meeting rooms were set up. This arrangement allows work groups to implement their respective projects faster because the waiting times for available meeting rooms have been reduced and it is easier to call meetings on short notice. Through modular shelving systems and lockers with an integrated post box, work-related walking distances have been shortened and space saved. Just as on the Porsche production line the availability of office materials is controlled by a “just-in-time” system. This ensures that the most important office tools are available at all times at each workstation.

It’s one of those articles that makes you want to slap your forehead and say “duh.” Why has it taken so long for us to realize this? More meeting rooms means less wait time. Modular, mix-and-match furniture means the office can be quickly reconfigured to optimize workspace and flow. Simple concepts, elegantly implemented. I guess there’s a reason this is coming from Porsche.

Big Box News: Staples nailed for breaking overtime law

Business Management Daily has a breaking story on big-box office supply retailer Staples, citing a recent court decision in which the business was found in violation of overtime laws:

A federal jury in Newark has awarded $2.5 million in damages to 343 sales managers employed by office superstore Staples.

The court determined the retailer misclassified the managers as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when they were not.  As a result, the managers were not paid overtime.

Staples maintained it carefully examined the situation to comply with the FLSA, but the jury disagreed. It ruled Staples willfully violated the overtime labor law.

The court has not yet decided whether it will exercise its option to double the damages, as it can in cases involving willful violation of the law.

In a world full of stories of the big-box guys cheating their customers, I hadn’t thought I’d find one where they also cheated their employees. Just another reason why online retailers are a viable alternative. We work all over the world, at all times, and are treated well for our services. Why? Because people are making the switch, and we don’t need to cut corners like the big boys.

Article: Organize More Efficiently By Staying Put

My favorite go-to blog for organizing and streamlining my life, Lifehacker, has a great article up right now about organizing your space.

While the article is geared toward general organizing, I find the tips within to be pretty much in line with my own philosophy about cleaning up my home office.

Basically, the article (which quotes from another favorite organization blog, Apartment Therapy), says the main trick to making sure you do the job you set out to do is to stay in the room you’re doing it in:

When you’re in the sorting process (the crucial first step) of organizing a specific room, STAY in the room for the organizing session. (Prepare for the session by having trash bags on hand for trash, recycling, donations.) Invariably you’ll find objects that actually do have a home in another room or on another floor. Most of our clients, if left to their own devices, are inclined to leave the room immediately every time they come across an object like this to return it to its home. And in the process, it’s REALLY easy to get distracted and to not return to organizing.

I find this to be immensely true. I’ve never had a huge house to fan out and get lost in, but even during apartment living I’ve found that the second I leave the room I’m tidying, I lost the motivation to re-enter it. Seems like the farther you get from the job at hand, the easier it is to not go back. Solve the problem by staying put.

The best office redesign I’ve ever had came when I purchased some plastic organizers of the bucket and bin variety, set up some new shelves, and sat down in the office and went to town. Remember, you have to make a mess to clean one, sometimes, so don’t be afraid to tear your office down before re-building it. Just don’t walk away after step 1 and never come back for step 2.

State Department joins DHS in Office Supply Consolidation

Just a little update to the article I posted previously about President Obama saying he would help cut the budget, in part, by consolidating the purchase of office supplies by some governmental agencies.

The first article mentioned the Department of Homeland Security being where the idea originate, but according to Federal Computer Week, the State Department is on board, as well:

For example, the Homeland Security Department plans to consolidate its purchase of office supplies and computer software across the organization, qualifying the department for larger bulk discounts. DHS officials expect to save up to $59 million during the next five years. The State Department is taking similar measures.

Obviously this comes as part of a larger budget-reduction package that includes lots of cuts that don’t really apply to us here, at an office supplies blog. Still, for some reason this little quote has legs; pundits from all over have chided or lauded Obama’s “office supply cutbacks” line as something either indicative of a forward-thinking president who isn’t ashamed to make those sort of “it was right in front of us all along” sort of decisions, or as something indicating he’s out of touch if he thinks buying office supplies differently can save our budget.

Personally, I’m inclined to think he’s on the right path. A couple of simple changes here and there are how you tend to make real progress. And if the President is looking for a good company to snag those Sharpies* from, he can get in touch with me.

*Note: I doubt the government really needs Tropical Color Mini Sharpies. But if they do, that’s awesome.

Big Box Watch: Office Depot Closing Japan Stores

According to MarketWatch, Office Depot has closed 8 stores in Japan already, with the other 20 reported to be closing by the end of the year.

Office Depot was cited as saying the closures will cost about $13 million.
Office Depot Japan Ltd. opened its first store in 1997. The subsidiary will reportedly continue its mail-order and online sales and soon sell other private-brand goods now marketed overseas.
I really can’t figure out Office Depot. They seem to be having trouble at home and abroad. They face stiff competition from independent online retailers. They’re accused of impropriety across the board, and their stocks are sinking. Yet they tell everyone that they’re doing great, and that profits are up and any minute now they’re gonna surprise everyone. Well, I’m not going to hold my breath.