How has your office changed since you started your career?

It’s thirty years since I first set foot in an office and it’s incredible how much has changed in that time. British Gas have created an infographic of the evolution of the office since 1700, and I’m sure a time traveller from 1700 wouldn’t even recognise our offices today. One interesting fact is that the typewriter was invented in 1867 – did you know they’d been around that long? I didn’t.

My first experience of an office was when I had two weeks of work experience as a 15-year-old in the late eighties. One of my GCSEs was in office technology – all of which would be laughably obsolete now! – so I spent two weeks as an administrator in the sales department of an engineering company. At that time staff could smoke at their desks, which would seem very strange today, not to mention it being illegal! The most obvious difference was the technology, though. There was no Internet or email, so a large part of the administrator’s role was typing up letters and memos, then circulating them.

The only electronic communication we had was a telex, used mainly for international messages. I had to type up my message on a computer, save it to a very large floppy disk, then walk down two floors to the only computer which was attached to the telex line. This was fairly cutting edge because until that time telexes had essentially been typewriters connected to a phone line. As far as I know there was no fax machine in the building.

By the time I was temping during my university holidays, around five years later, there was a PC on each admin person’s desk, running Windows, and we had a fax machine. As far as I can remember the PCs were used as little more than advanced typewriters. Files were printed on paper and kept in ring binders. I don’t remember any server where you could save files that could be accessed by other members of staff.

Working from home was unusual at that time, partly because it wasn’t part of the culture of most workplaces but also because the technology didn’t exist to make it feasible. If all the files you needed to do your job were on a shelf in the office, then you needed to be there too.

Fast forward to my first proper desk job in 1995 and we finally had email. But only one computer in the department was connected to the server, so you had to use that computer every time you wanted to send an email. Most internal communication was on paper and to contact someone outside the organisation we used the phone or post.  I had my first peek at the Internet in 1995. I thought it was interesting but I couldn’t really understand what I’d use it for other than as a kind of encyclopaedia. How things have changed!

As you can see from the infographic, the Internet has created a revolution in the way we work. The Internet exploded in the 1990s, going from 500,000 users in 1989 to 248 million in 1999.  But it’s not just the availability and the connectivity of the tech that’s made things possible, it’s the cost of the equipment.

By 1998 I’d changed jobs. I had a computer on my desk with email and internet access, which was a huge step forward. But I travelled a lot for work and the small business that employed me couldn’t justify a laptop for me as they were about £2000 each at the time. And that laptop would have been much less powerful than the smartphone an average teenager owns today! By 2001 I was a freelance software trainer and had to buy my own laptop, a mid-range one for £1000 which was still a lot of money at the time.

As the 21st century moved on, Internet speeds became faster, devices became cheaper and mobile technology progressed at a rapid pace. All of this has enabled me to work from home when I had two young children in a way that wouldn’t have been possible ten years before. For us self-employed mums our offices can be anywhere from the kitchen table once the kids are in bed to a soft-play centre in the school holidays. I feel incredibly lucky that that this era in home working and technology happened to fall at the time when I had a young family as it’s given me an ‘office’ and a business that I could only have dreamt of at the start of my career.

How has your office changed since you started your career?

 

Why video is the best way to sell in 2019

When running a business, especially with many other responsibilities to consider as well, you could be easily excused for wondering how exactly you are supposed to spend your marketing money. After all, you might have exhausted many of the obvious options already.

How can you stand out in a marketplace where many other businesses are striving to do the same? Surprisingly or not, shooting some video footage could be the answer.

You could provide some instructional, “how to” videos

Often, people turn to YouTube in search of such videos, as Econsultancy points out. Many of us are eager to improve ourselves in one way or another – but, sometimes, we need a face-to-face teacher rather than blocks of soulless text in a book. This is where video can make a crucial difference…

Consider the example of the women’s workout apparel retailer Sweaty Betty, which has uploaded various helpful videos, replicating its in-store exercises classes, to its YouTube channel.

Target obscure, easy-to-overlook markets

Many of us love the idea of tucking into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. However, for the lactose-intolerant among us, eating anything from such a tub might, at first, seem like a big no-no. Fortunately, perhaps to your surprise, Ben & Jerry’s does offer non-dairy options.

Cleverly, the brand itself has highlighted this in a YouTube video which people could come across when using Google to look for lactose-free food – and it helps that the video adopts a comedic tone.

You can avoid overly sales-driven pitches

How ironic that you can more easily sell to people when, well, you aren’t so open about your attempts to sell to them. The luxury clothing brand Ted Baker obviously took note of this, hence its video series ‘Keeping Up With The Bakers’, which is closer to an ongoing drama than a blatant ad.

On film, we see the Baker family on their entry into a new suburban house – and, with a 360-degree video, viewers can click on featured Ted Baker items to add them to their basket.

You can give… well, just some general life advice

You might like the thought of putting together a video series, but how can you be confident that viewers will keep returning for new instalments? You could take inspiration from the organisational app Evernote, which has launched a video series titled ‘The Ever Better Challenge’.

Each video includes tips which viewers can act on simply to improve their lives – though, of course, if you stick around long enough, you might opt to buy one of Evernote’s premium plans…

You can provide immediacy with a live video

Thanks to the rise of video-streaming platforms like Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope, live video has really taken off as a medium. Social Media Examiner offers a few tips for spicing up your own live video, like offering exclusive discounts and pitching your products through live demonstrations.

Alternatively, the influencer marketing agency Socially Powerful could help you find an expert capable of doing this legwork on your behalf.

Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels

Organizing a Special Event? Improve the Customer Experience by Implementing These 5 Tips

If you’re planning a special event, it’s important to make sure your customers have a good experience. Not planning ahead, or scheduling your event when other events in the industry are going on can affect your turnout as well and the customer’s experience at the event. We’ve provided a few tips for making sure your customers have a good experience at your special event.

Make a list of details.

This includes everything from lighting to refreshments and public transportation. The most important thing you can do when organizing a special event is to make sure you cover all the details. For example, if your guests will be coming in from out of town for the event, how will they get to the event from the airport or bus terminal? You may want to consider partnering with a charter bus company in Houston, or a limousine service, to provide comfortable transportation to your guests who are coming in from out of town.

Have a plan for what to do if things go wrong.

Having a contingency plan in place will help things go smoother in the event things don’t go as planned.

Be careful that you don’t schedule your event when other industry events are happening.

If there are other industry events going on at the same time, you may end up with a small turnout at your event. Check the calendar to make sure you don’t schedule your event at the same time as another industry event, or close to a holiday.

Know how you’re going to pay for the event and estimate how much everything is going to cost.

Many events are paid for with sponsorships, ticket sales, or internet marketing, or a combination of all three. When you create your budget, estimate how much you can realistically raise with these sources. Before you book the place you want to hold the event or sign a contract, make sure you have sponsors first, and start selling tickets to get an idea of how much interest there is in your event.

Spread the word about the event by getting local bloggers involved.

One great way to spread the word about your event is to send information to local bloggers about it so they can write a blog post about the event and mention it on social media. Consider going even further and inviting them to the event so they can experience it and write a review about it later. If you held the same event last year and invited bloggers, let them know about it again so they can provide some publicity for you.

These are just a few things you can do to make sure your attendees have a good experience at your event. Make sure you have enough money raised, spread the word, make sure you schedule it at a time when people will want to attend, and make sure you cover details like how to get your out of town attendees to the event, and your event will go smoothly.

Image by bridgesward from Pixabay

What Does The 21st Century Office Look Like?

It suffices for the mind to read 21st century along with any other word to assume that it’s going to be a futuristic take on our architectural surroundings. Perhaps it’s our desire to match up the innovative solutions we’ve all watched in the Jetsons, or perhaps we hope to hear one day from our future self. But the fact is that the 21st century is now, and if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that there is no flying robot outside our home.

However, that shouldn’t mean that our workplaces should be stuck in the traditions of the past. True, we don’t have yet sufficient robotic intelligence to replace us in the office, but it should be the most important reason to improve the workplace. Creating an office environment that meets the requirements of modern life is a necessity only a few companies choose to address. Here’s precisely what you should find in a 21st century office:

Photo credit: The Smalls

It breaks the boundaries of office cubicles

The typical understanding of individual office space includes a desk, a chair and a screen. Old-fashioned settings are in the process of removing cubicle partitions to embrace open-space arrangements, which conveys a small office a much-needed sense of space. However, even though the cubicle walls are down, their presence can still be felt. It’s as if the little cage in which employees used to sit had shaped their surroundings. The chair and the desk mark the spot where the partitions belong. Mentally, employees can’t break free from a cubicle culture just because the physical walls are gone. You need to introduce some freedom to show that the office has moved away from the caged worker approach. Modern workplaces have therefore chosen to present new options, from bean bags to sophisticated standing desk. By introducing individual solutions that match each employee’s needs, you can inject some personality into your decor.

It puts the emphasis on new work strategies

Today’s office understands how to support employees’ work life balance. It’s not as much a matter of decor, but more a matter of virtual resources. Indeed, over 4 million employees work from home at least once a week. By 2020, the UK estimates that 50% of the working population will settle in a position. It makes no doubt that if your business wants a forward-looking office, it has to be virtual. Admittedly creating the structure for remote work success requires the professional expertise from an IT company to set up your cloud system and maintain secure accessibility for the entire team. Simultaneously, companies have to learn to let go of the traditional opening hours. Remote workers don’t want to stay prisoners of the 9 to 5 routine.

It embraces healthy eating habits

What does food have to do with the office? A lot more than you think! Indeed, most offices have a dedicated kitchen area with a variety of food and drink options, including coffee machines, vending machines and a public snack cupboard. The problem is that more and more individuals are becoming aware of their health habits. Maintaining a nutritious diet is a fundamental factor in the lives of young generations. Turning the office kitchen into a place that encourages healthy decisions can be a life-changing experience for your employees. Fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries can turn the typical crisps bag into a fresh apple!

It connects you to nature

The rise of indoor air quality risks has not gone unnoticed. For employees, the first symptoms could headaches, difficulties to concentrate or fatigue. But in the long term, the health consequences could become much more severe. Unfortunately, offices struggle to keep their indoor air feeling clean and healthy, despite the addition of ventilation systems. Tech and science experts, such as NASA, have been working with plants for years as a way of purifying the air and improving their physical and mental health. Using houseplants in the workplace creates a relaxing thinking space.

It is family-friendly

Last but not least, modern workplaces need to support their employees’ work life balance. In companies where remote work is not an option, it can be difficult for parents or even pet owners to maintain their career while spending time with their family. An office that offers on-site nursery services, for instance, makes the transition back to work smoother for parents after the birth of their children. Additionally, a pet-friendly office enables companies to create closer bonds with the team. Bringing your dog to work is a way for pet owners to make sure their dog doesn’t stay alone all day. Besides, the presence of pets is relaxing in a hectic workplace.

The 21st century office is not built around robots and futuristic technology. It is built for people and designed to improve their work experience by keeping them healthy, happy, and cared for.

The Tasty Delight: 8 Refreshments No Office Should Be Without

Company refreshments are a sure fire way to impress potential employees, important guests and even your own staff. Therefore creating the ultimate cache of goods can help set your company up for success.

Most firms seem content with the office coffee machine, and while that’s a vital appliance in office break rooms, it’s really only the beginning. Following you’ll find the eight snacks or refreshments no office should be without.

POPCORN

While yes, it can be a bit odiferous when someone burns it, the benefits outweigh the smell. It’s a snack that is not only filling, but is full of fiber. A good office manager will stock both the buttery flavors and the 100 calorie bags for people trying to eat healthy.

NUTS

From almonds and cashews to the good old standard peanuts, nuts are healthy, providing essential fats to our bodies. Additionally, they’re a nutritional jackpot with protein, fiber and Omega-3 acids. Easy to pick up between meetings or calls, they’re also neat, causing no real mess.

FRESH FRUIT

Fresh fruit has a number of beneficial elements, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke or improving bone strength. A healthy, sweet treat, fresh fruit can be delivered to the office or picked up on a daily basis. Remember, there are more fruits than the usual apples, oranges and bananas. Pick up a few pears, grapes and cold watermelon to bring a smile to your office place.

PROTEIN BARS, ETC

The etc signifies how many different types of bars available in the marketplace today. From the Cliff Bars and KIND bars to breakfast bars and granola bars, an ample supply should be kept on hand in both the break room or in one’s desk. They’re small, easy to display and simple to grab on the go.

CHIPS AND CRACKERS

We’re going to lump these together due to the crunch factor. No, they’re not necessarily a healthy snack, although in moderation, there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. Add some peanut butter to the mix and you have a great pick-me-up for down days. The peanut butter adds some protein to the mix and tastes great, too. When looking at chips, consider Sun Chips and baked varieties for a bit more of a healthy go-to.

DRINKS

Again, like the coffee maker, it’s easy to put in a vending machine and let the workers pick what they will. However, it’s an awesome boss who’ll provide drinks for the crew. Consider the typical Coke/Pepsi/Sprite/Diet Coke varieties, but also think outside the vending machine. Providing juice, sparkling and flavored waters are an excellent idea, and a water cooler is also great for those who want their H2O straight up. A water cooler is a better option than bottled water for the environment alone!

YOGURT

What a great alternative, especially if you have to grab lunch on the go. Provide a number of different flavors and even a couple of Greek yogurts, as well. When looking at selection, also consider purchasing a few of the low-fat variety as well as those were fat and calorie are not a consideration.

TRAIL MIX

Trail mix is not just for hiking anymore. Instead, it’s a fantastic snack to keep one going during the day. Mixed with almonds, peanuts and dried fruits, trail mix is liked by a large part of the population. Keep in mind, it’s not always a healthy choice, but it can be. Perhaps you should provide the versions both with and without the M&Ms.

By providing your workers with both healthy and fun alternatives to the local convenience store, you keep your employees and visitors happy and appreciated.

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

Protecting Your Family’s Finances When Starting a Business

Starting a business is usually at least a bit of a financial risk. Even if you are financially secure, and you’ve had a good income up until this point, things are about to change. If you are leaving employment to start up on your own, you are losing a steady and secure income, as well as other financial perks like holiday pay and sick pay. Even with no debt and savings, you’re taking a risk, and many of us don’t have the kind of savings that we would like.

But, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it. Starting your own business can be a fantastic thing. Long-term, it gives you the chance to earn a lot of money, for yourself, doing what you love. It’s also something to leave your family. Long after your own life has ended, your business might be going from strength to strength and providing a legacy and financial security for future generations of your family. It’s certainly worthwhile, but it’s also worth taking steps to protect your family’s finances in the early days.

Wait for the Right Time

There’s never a perfect time to start a business. You’ll always have doubts and insecurities. They’ll still be better times, and waiting for the perfect time to do anything usually guarantees a lifetime of waiting. But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a wrong time. If you want to buy a house within the next year or so, having a new startup could severely affect your ability to get a mortgage. If you are expecting a baby or planning a wedding, you might want to wait until your home life is a little more settled. There’s no perfect time, but ask yourself if there might be a better time?

Save as Much as You Can

If you are seriously thinking of starting your own business, you might already know how much you need to get started, but do you know where it is going to come from? If you need large amounts, you might need a bank loan or investors. If you can manage it on your own, using your savings is often the easiest long-term solution. Saving more, in a separate account, and only having to borrow a little from the family savings pot is even better.

Keep Saving

The passing of launch day doesn’t mean that you can start to take it easy. Keep saving as much as you can, as often as you can. Even if you never need to use your personal finances for your business, having savings can help to cover holidays and sickness.

Keep an Eye on the Future

Unfortunately, none of us know what the future is going to bring. You don’t know when your family might need more money, or what might happen to you and your loved ones. If for some reason you couldn’t work, or worse, would any loans you’ve taken out need immediately repaying by your family? Make sure you get business loan protection to avoid this.  

Only Take Educated Risks

Yes, there is always a risk. But, you can minimise risks, especially with your money, by reading up, researching, and educating yourself. Learn everything that you can before throwing money around, and your risks are much more likely to pay off.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash