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A Simple Guide to Reopening Your Office

Reopening an office can present business owners and managers with a long list of difficult issues to deal with under most circumstances, especially if the closure was long term. Getting an office safely up to speed after a virus quarantine, like with the coronavirus, is even more of a challenge. This simple guide to reopening your office offers clear steps, tips and a list of important supplies needed to open your workplace responsibly. Get your staff back on the job while keeping them safe in your newly opened workspace using the right advice and products.

Setting Up Your Office Space for Reopening

Different states will have different guidelines about how to manage and reopen an office after their COVID-19 lockdown measures are eased. Regardless of your state’s specific guidelines, there are some basic steps you can take to make your workplace safer for staff and any customers or contractors who visit your office on-site.

  • Space out workstations, desks and cubicles. Keep employees six feet (around two meters) apart. You can install plexiglass or plastic dividers between desks in open-office settings or settings where floor space is limited.
  • Change the orientation of desks and monitors to increase the distance between people (especially their mouths and noses). This will help keep the spread of airborne germs at bay.
  • Provide a staging station at the entrance of your office for workers and guests where they sanitize their hands. Also, post rules and recommendations for safely entering the office space outside the entrance.
  • It’s also a good idea to post additional information signs outside of your office entrance about what to expect in this post-COVID environment. The information should be obvious and clear to read, detailing the new rules everyone is expected to follow.

Provide Posit-COVID Rules and Workplace Protocol Training

In addition to posting signs about what employees should expect when reopening an office after (and during) the coronavirus epidemic, you should provide training about what staff should anticipate concerning changes to how your physical office space will now operate. Ideally, the bulk of this training and information should be provided online or by email for accessibility and to avoid the necessity of gathering in large groups. Here are some key social-distancing protocols to consider:

  • Instruct employees to wash their hands often. Teach them how to properly use hand sanitizers and hand sanitizer stations.
  • Limit the number of people who use breakrooms at one time. You may have to change breakroom etiquette and add extra supplies. For example, stagger scheduled breaks, increase the availability of cleaning materials and switch to disposable cups, plates and utensils to avoid accidentally sharing a coffee mug.
  • Instruct and remind workers about maintaining social distancing. Once they’re face-to-face, people often tend to forget about recommended safe distances and fall into old habits.
  • Put up signs to instruct and remind workers about how to cough safely.
  • Post notices throughout the office about sanitizing your hands after coughing.
  • After work, at least for now, skip after-work drinks or meals with colleagues. This will help maintain social distancing and reduce the risk of spreading a virus.

Add Extra Sanitation Measures Office-Wide

In keeping with the new COVID workplace environment, here are some extra sanitization measures you should consider providing in and around the office (in case your office is adjacent to or part of a warehouse or workshop):

  • Masks and gloves to use in tight spaces, or when moving from one location to another. Make sure to set up multiple locations/stations where employees can pick up their disposable protective gear.
  • Hand sanitizing dispensers, sanitizer stock and sanitizing stations throughout the office.
  • Signs and notices mounted around the office reminding everyone to wash their hands often, as well as instructions on how to cough and minimize the spread of disease.
  • Notices reminding people not to shake hands, essentially welcoming them to the new business norm.
  • Cleaning supplies readily available for wiping down and disinfecting keyboards, doorknobs and other shared surfaces in the modern workplace multiple times during the day.
  • Ensure office ventilation systems are functioning properly to keep the air as clean and germ-free as possible.
  • Never share cups, plates or utensils when in the breakroom. Use disposable products or bring your own from home.

Getting Workers Safely Back into the Office

It’s understandable that workers might be apprehensive, eager or a combination of both when returning to the office. In addition to the steps we’ve already outlined, employees can return in waves (only a few at a time) over several days or weeks to reduce the stress of requiring everyone to return on the same day. Staggered shifts can also be implemented, when possible, to reduce the number of people on-location at any given time.

Employers can offer COVID testing at the office (if available), eliminate or reduce in-person meetings and use video conferencing tools too. Wear masks or even protective goggles if and when people need to meet in closer proximity than currently recommended.

Business owners and managers have a lot to think about when reopening an office, from new safety training and sanitization measures to creating a comfortable environment where employees, if they feel sick, can head home immediately. The world has changed with COVID-19, but with a little patience and preparation, safely reopening an office is a fairly straightforward and manageable task.

What to look for in day planners & appointment calendars.

what-to-look-for-in-day-planners-appointment-calendars

It’s amazing how much you can get accomplished when you go in with a plan. Good time management is the key to success in any project. Nothing helps you stay on task better than an old fashioned day planner. The approach of the new year is good time to pick one up. You’ll find lots of deals on 2011 calenders and planners at OnTimeSupplies.com.

Day planners are available in daily planner, weekly planner and monthly planner styles and fall under two main categories. Office Ink shows you which style of day planner will best meet your needs.

Appointment calendar

Day planners with an appointment calendar, or appointment books,  help you organize your work day.  Whether you manage a salon or an executive’s schedule as an assistant, you want your appointment book to have the same features as a regular day planner, with the added benefit of an an hourly appointment calendar.

Planning calendar

Day planners with planning calendars  come in a range of styles and go by a lot of names – student planners, personal organizers, etc. – but they are all designed to help you track your task lists, manage your time, and plan short and long term projects. Whether you choose a style with daily, weekly or monthly planner pages, your new day planner should have:

  • space for jotting down notes and reminders. If your day planner doesn’t have adequate space for notes, it will become filled with short, cryptic scribblings and cramped, illegible handwriting. With ample note taking space, you’ll be able to actually read your notes instead of trying to divine their meaning.
  • a section for telephone numbers and addresses. You haven’t memorized anyone’s telephone number since you bought your cell phone ten years ago – not your boss’, not your best client’s, not your kid’s. Use your day planner to back up important contact info in your day planner.
  • large calendar pages for at a glance viewing. Your day planner should be convenient to use and consult, otherwise you won’t use it.
  • relevant calendar, i.e. public school calendar or other academic calendar, fiscal calendar, etc. Whatever your business demands.

AT-A-GLANCE, Day Runner, DayMinder, Day-Timer, and FranklinCovey all make great 2011 day planners and appointment books that will help you stay organized all year long. Order now at OnTimeSupplies.com to get same day shipping, and to get a jump start on an organized new year.

Cut Printing Costs in One Easy Step

Cost-cutting is always a business priority. Smart business have adopted a number of cost cutting measures during this recession, from common sense approaches such as making sure all the office computers and lights are shut off at the end of the day, to more elaborate approaches, including equipment upgrades and green initiatives. We’ve been tightening our belts at home too, as all of us, business owners and consumers, weather this recession.

Printing costs are a significant and recurring expense at home and in the office.  You may have already started thinking before you print and using duplex printers that print on both sides of a page. Yesterday, the Associated Press offered another practical, money saving solution you can adopt at home and at work. To save money on printer ink, the AP recommends changing your font. I didn’t know this, but some fonts use more ink to print. According to the AP, Century Gothic and Times New Roman use the least amount of ink to print.  In fact, Century Gothic uses 30% less ink than Arial. Depending on how large your organization is, making the switch could save you thousands of dollars a year. Furthermore, Serif fonts use less ink than Sans Serif fonts because the lines of the characters are usually thinner.

The AP article provides a few more ink and money saving solutions any office can adopt, including printing in draft mode whenever possible. Of course, best, greenest way to cut your printing costs is to print less. After all, we do live in a technological age. Use email.

Use Office Politics to Help Your Career!

If you thought your left the cliques and drama behind when you graduated from high school, the reality of the work world must have come as a surprise. Anytime you take the same group of people and lock them into a building together eight hours a day, five days a week, things will get a little hairy, especially when you add the competition and hierarchies of the work place. Failing to successfully navigate the social scene in high school just means you don’t get to sit at the cool kids lunch table. If you don’t get a handle on the politics in your workplace it can cost you your career in the form of lost promotions and poor working relationships.

Officepolitics.com, a great site that features an advice column offering solutions to workplace dilemmas, recently featured a reader letter in which a woman said she felt psychologically scarred by the backbiting and gossip in her office. The phrase “office politics” leaves a poor taste in everyone’s mouth, but the reality is, most of us have to participate to get ahead and get noticed at work. Successful office politicians aren’t rumor-mongers or back stabbers; they’re people who understand that actively pursuing power and prestige is just one of the steps to a successful career.

So how do you become a successful office politician? Louellen Essex, co-author of “Manager’s Desktop Consultant: Just-in-Time Solutions to the Top People Problems That Keep You Up at Night,” says one the first things you have to do is  emulate the movers and shakers. “Think of playing office politics as a game of strategy through which you are able to get the resources and influence you need to accomplish your goals. Most often those who are diplomatic, respectful and build coalitions with effective people win,” she says at CNN.com. Essex offers more great advice, including: don’t get sucked into one faction or another and don’t hesitate to talk about your own successes in the work place. A word of caution — tooting your own horn as Essex recommends is great. Bashing your co-workers is not. Office politics is for advancing your own career, not hindering someone else. If you are constantly running down you colleagues, you look unprofessional and you create a miserable work environment. Don’t be that person! Office politics also turns nasty when it turns personal. For that reason, the folks over at Suite101.com recommend drawing a bright red line between your work life and your private life. In the modern office, that includes not friending your co-workers on Facebook. That’s what the relatively staid LinkedIn is for.

The best way to be an office politics winner? Be a good employee. Take initiative, do your work well and talk about your successes. Those are the best ways to separate yourself from the pack.

Avery Dennison and Stamps.com Debut Complete Internet Mailing and Shipping Solution

PRNewsWire uploaded an announcement that Stamps.com will be teaming up with Avery Dennison, makers of the popular Avery line of labels, to provide an all-in-one internet-based mailing and shipping enterprise. From the press release:

Avery Dennison Office Products and Stamps.com unveiled the Desktop Postal Center as part of Avery’s Mailing Center service, a comprehensive set of tools and services for mailing and shipping needs. Together the Avery Dennison and Stamps.com alliance provides the most convenient and cost-effective postage solution for small businesses and home office professionals, helping them accomplish all their day-to-day shipping and mailing projects. By transforming a computer/printer into a shipping machine, the Desktop Postal Center can save time and resources by accurately calculating exact postage with a postal scale, automatically verifying addresses through Stamps.com, tracking packages via e-mail notifications and eliminating the need to ever go to the post office again.

So basically, Stamps.com provides the postage, Avery provides special labels. Simply add money to an account, print out shipping labels, and leave the packages for your postal carrier. All in all, a cool idea brought to you by a trusted brand. I might be taking it for a test-drive shortly; I’ll let you know how it works!

Work Smarter, Not Harder (At Home)

Over at readingeagle.com, there’s an interesting article on how to make sure your home-based business is running smart and lean. There’s no reason to work yourself too hard; that’s what not-from-home jobs are for! Check out some of their handy hints:

Rational use of time

Since we can’t control time, we can use our time more efficiently by first, reducing the activities that require the use of time. Second, we can learn to do things in less time. The next time you are experiencing time pressure, ask yourself two questions: 1. Should I be doing this activity, is this a waste of my time, is it really important? 2. If it must be done, how can I do it more efficiently?

Other hints on the list involve tips for clarifying intent, organizing, and solving problems. I must say the only thing I find fault with is there example of sending someone out to buy paper and not telling them what kind (leading to confusion and lost time). You know, I have an idea how you might be able to make sure you’ve always got the supplies you need. Try a reliable, low-priced, quick-shipping online retailer! See how much time that saved? That one’s for free, Reading Eagle.

OnTimeSupplies.com Selected to Prestigious Inc. 500 List

So cool to see us in the news! Over at PRNewsWire, there’s a press release about our parent company, OnTimeSupplies.com.  Now normally I try to downplay that relationship and stay focused on the latest in office supply news, but this is a pretty big deal. Plus, it came through my inbox from one of my various news aggregators! This is news, people! Below, the release in its entirety:

Atlanta-based OnTimeSupplies.com credits its customer service and competitive pricing for being recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing privately owned companies.

(PRNewsChannel) / October 23, 2009 / Atlanta, Ga. / As the country tries to pull itself out of one of the deepest recessions of the last century, it’s hard enough for business owners to keep their companies afloat. OnTimeSupplies.com, based in Atlanta, has done more than that, however; culminating a fantastic fiscal year with a selection to the distinguished Inc. 500 list and recognition as one of the country’s fastest-growing companies, the company announced today.

Working with everything from small and large businesses to charitable organizations and government state agencies (GSAs), OnTimeSupplies has serviced more than 70,000 customers nationwide in a little more than four years in business. According to Miles Young, president of OnTimeSupplies.com, the secret to his company’s remarkable growth has been its pledge to “make every customer a reference customer.”

“We thrive on referrals and that all starts with our customer service,” says Young. “We’re not satisfied with just making our customers ‘happy.’ We want them to be so excited that they will tell other people about our business. We’re driven by our customer service and it’s really paid dividends for us.”

In fact, the online office supplies outlet has built upon that customer philosophy to enjoy its most successful fiscal year in company history. OnTimeSupplies grew by more than 830% and saw its revenue increase by more than $2.3 million to earn a spot on the prestigious Inc. 500 list.

“We’re excited to be recognized,” says Young. “It’s a tremendous validation of the consistent hard work that we put in to ensure the best possible experience for our customers.”

Young and his company were officially recognized as one of the country’s 500 fastest-growing privately held companies by Inc. magazine at the Inc. 500|5000 Conference and Awards Ceremony held in National Harbor, Md., in September.

About OntimeSupplies.com: Founded in 2004, OnTimeSupplies.com is a full-service office supply store that prides itself on its customer service and fast, reliable delivery. The company offers everything from GSA office supplies to office furniture and even offers creative pricing options on bulk office supplies and discontinued clearance items to help in this tough economy. OnTimeSuppiles.com has serviced more than 70,000 customers and experienced remarkable growth in 2008.

Contact:
Email:
marketing@ontimesupplies.com
Phone:  (866) 501-6055
Web:
www.OntimeSupplies.com

Just an fyi, getting selected for the INC 500 is no small deal. This is just one of those things that makes me happy to work for a reputable, reliable company that takes care of its customers: you guys take care of us, too. Thanks for the support, and look for more exciting changes in the near future!

EXPO Spotlights “America’s Most Inspiring Teacher”

How about some good news for once? Just posted on Reuters, EXPO® (perhaps best known for their dry erase products, and falling under the same Rubbermaid corporate umbrella as Sharpie®, Rolodex® and more) announced that Peter Torres of Davie, Fla., was the grand prize winner of the EXPO Extraordinary Educator Award.

What makes me so happy about this story is they picked a teacher who works to instill grammar basics (which I find awesome!) and break “text speak” such as using “u” for “you” and so on (which I find infuriating!) in a class full of seventh-graders.

According to Torres, there is a time and a place for “text speak” – using a
shorthand “u” for “you,” for instance – in today’s cell phone-wielding world.
But in the classroom, he says students’ increasing use of text messaging to
communicate has taken on even greater concern as it may also stunt their
academic growth. He adds that many students are putting “text language” in
their written materials and presentations.

“Kids these days do not know how to speak in front of people,” said Torres.
“They can express themselves in a social setting outside of school, but they
have trouble communicating in writing or when asked a question by an adult.”

Torres, who DJs professionally on the side, uses his entertainment skills to
keep language arts units dynamic, engaging and focused on the fundamentals.
His lesson plans include everything from challenging students to correct the
grammar used in rap lyrics to using well-known wizardly novels to get them to
unlock the hidden meanings of select prose.

The article goes on to say that Torres was chosen from hundreds of teachers nominated by students and parents nationwide. He will receive $5,000 in cash, a year’s supply of EXPO products for his school, a $900 mimio® Interactive Plus Capture kit and a “field trip” for two to Los Angeles or New York to attend the taping of an NBC Late Night Talk Show.

Teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on school supplies – an average of $523 and $465, respectively, in large and medium school systems, according to a 2001 study by the National Education Association. The EXPO Extraordinary Educator Award is EXPO’s way of helping teachers defray some of those costs, and we salute them.

Business Survival Often Takes Small Changes

business-survival-often-takes-small-changes

The Post-Crescent has an interesting blog detailing how some smaller or local businesses are dealing with the economic downturn. In addition to companies laying off employees, instituting rotating periods of time off, and reducing office space, they’re also re-imagining how they manage office supplies (a subject near and dear to my heart):

For a national distributor, it was a matter of getting back to basics. First, they centralized office supplies into a single location to eliminate all the “private stock” of supplies that cost extra and resulted in more of some supplies (e.g. staples and paper clips) than would be used in a lifetime.

This highlights an interesting example of how some companies handle their office supply budget. When you have a lot of small offices, people seem to think it makes sense to have each office buy their own supplies, often from a local brick-and-mortar store. But if you found a company that shipped fast, nationwide, and offered bulk discounts, why not just use them exclusively?

Each office could tap into the corporate account and receive exactly what they need, when they need it. No need for little pockets of extra materiel, no need for a centralized office hub. Or rather, the company would be the hub, and do all the work for you. Sounds nice, eh?

How to make telecommuting a win for employers & workers

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has an interesting article up about teleworking at the potential benefits to employers.

In it, they showcase the Virginia Department of Taxation, who recently made a move to digitize their offices by sending certain employees home kitted out for telework.

The move saved them over $130,000 annually in rent, utilities, and other costs, though it is not without its up-front caveats:

There is an initial outlay of money. Your company will have to outfit teleworkers with whatever is needed to perform their job at home, for example:

A personal computer, a laptop and docking station, a business phone line, shredder, fax, printer, copier, Internet service and office supplies. Also, it has to assure that its computer system has “layer after layer” of security and the ability to apply patches to protect from viruses, Bowen said.

I’ve always been a huge advocate of the work-from home model, and it’s nice to see companies embracing it as well. I feel that with the right gear, there’s nothing you can’t do from home that you could do in an office.

Obviously it’s not the ideal solution for every company, but in these tough economic times, it seems like a move more should consider before resorting to layoffs (or, heaven forbid, buying fewer office supplies.)