Summer Reads Can Sharpen Your Mind

Some industries find summer to be the busiest time of year, while others experience a summer slowdown. If you’re working for a business that tends to hit a lull during June, July and August, consider creating a summer reading list. This seemingly simple activity can do wonders to keep your mind active and assist in recharging your professional batteries. Here are three surprising ways that summer reading sharpens your mind.

1. Reading Keeps Your Brain in Shape

Reading keeps you healthy. It’s like a workout for your brain, helping to keep your mind sharp and giving you a fresh new perspective to take back to the office when things start ramping up again.

What should you read? Anything and everything. Perhaps you’d enjoy a simple escapist beach read or you’re a small business owner interested in a self-help title to get you to your professional goals. Whatever it is, reading is a brain-stimulating activity that may even preserve your memory as you age.

2. Reading Impacts Communication Skills

Many literacy studies show that reading helps people process information verbally and visually. It improves every aspect of communication, and this is important for business leaders and employees who work closely with others each day, interacting with them in a variety of ways. Improving communication skills can boost your work performance and help you stay productive during crunch times.

3. Reading Can Improve Connectivity Between Brain Circuits

It sounds like a lot of scientific jargon, but reading can help you think about other work-related situations in new, creative ways. The book you pick up on your weekend getaway can help you perform better at work and be more successful at problem-solving.

So while you’re planning an upcoming summer trip, don’t forget to pack something to read. It may have more impact on your work performance than you realize.

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Smart Vacation Habits For Employees

If you’re like most business professionals, you wait all year for some much-deserved time off from your usual work routine. According to the 2018 STAPLES Workplace Employee Survey, 75 percent of employees find it easy to disconnect while on vacation. And those who are stuck at the office during the traditional summer slowdown find they can focus on work tasks while the office is quieter.

To maximize your opportunity to recharge your professional batteries, you’ll find there are a variety of smart vacation habits you can adopt.

Keep Up Your Fitness Routine

Some people tend to let exercise habits go by the wayside when they’re on vacation, but instead, you should continue engaging in your daily walk or run. Exercise builds stamina and increases your energy levels for the rest of the day. Even if you’re lounging at the beach, you can stay awake for a chapter or two of your favourite summer read.

Acknowledge the Experience

“Live in the moment” really applies here — take in all the sights, sounds and smells of your vacation, and try to commit them to memory. Occasionally, while you’re enjoying a quiet moment, clear your mind of everything and focus on appreciating how you feel. You’ll find that pleasant memory easier to recall when you return to the office refreshed.

Completely Disconnect

The STAPLES Workplace Employee Survey found that employees have no problems with disconnecting from the office during a much-needed vacation. Consider these stats from the survey results:

  • 43 percent set up an out-of-office email message
  • 39 percent don’t respond to emails or phone calls if they’re contacted
  • 25 percent don’t bring their computers with them when they travel for leisure
  • 17 percent schedule important deadlines around their vacation schedule

When you disconnect from the office, you ensure your vacation is restful, relaxing and truly allows you to recharge so you can return with a fresh perspective.

Eat Well

For many people, vacation is a time of indulgence, and that includes food. Allow yourself the frozen treats, buffets and drinks, but be sure to mix in some fresh fruits and vegetables so you don’t steer yourself too far off the rails. Opting for incomplete meals or fast food might provide small bursts of energy, but they’ll leave you feeling groggy and grouchy later. Pack healthy power snacks, and be sure to stay hydrated, especially in warmer climates.

Use these four smart vacation habits, and you’ll return to the office with a fresh perspective, feeling energized and ready to take on new work-related challenges.

Health & Safety at Work

Everyone has the right to enjoy a safe and healthy work environment. Whether you want to make sure you have all the basics covered or you want to delve deeper into a certain health and safety area, check out our four workplace safety tips to improve the health and overall well-being of your workforce.

1. Know the Hazards

The easiest way to reduce the risk of workplace-related injury or illness is to be aware of the potential hazards your company faces. Staples Business Advantage asked its Canadian employees through a workplace survey about their opinions on various topics, including health and safety at work and what they deem to be important. Results from surveys like these can help you figure out what to focus on in a health and safety program.

2. Look for Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

In the Staples Workplace Employee Survey, 72 percent of employees say that stress depletes work health and vitality, and 60 percent believe that experiencing stress at work inhibits learning and growth. Research supports these findings: Job stress has been linked to health problems, higher health care costs and increased risk of workplace accidents.

Try these strategies to help reduce workplace stress:

  • Encourage movement: Taking frequent walks can make a difference in employee productivity.
  • Foster positive relationships among coworkers.
  • Make it easy for employees to eat nutritious foods throughout the day.
  • Provide a wellness room.
  • Support taking mental health days and vacations when employees need a break and are stretched too thin.

3. Create a Wellness Room

A wellness room can be a great way to combat work-related stress and help workers recharge. Here are some examples of what might be included in a wellness room:

  • Comfortable seating
  • General privacy
  • A refrigerator and sink

A wellness room is also useful for breastfeeding mothers or employees who need to self-administer medication.

4. Recognize the Employers’ Responsibility in Health and Safety

A big takeaway from the Workplace Employee Survey is that 81 percent of employees expect their employers to take measures to keep them mentally and physically well. While employees certainly have to take some responsibility, employers can make positive changes to ensure their employees’ health and wellness needs are met.

Health Benefits of a Standing Desk

Did you know that someone with a desk job can spend more hours sitting than they do sleeping, 7-10 hours a day. The standing desk became popular about a decade ago as a way to break this sedentary pattern. How well has that solution stood up, so to speak, over time? Here we review some of the key health benefits of a standing desk.

Standing Lowers Your Obesity Risk

Sitting too much increases all sorts of health risks, including the risk of obesity, and exercise alone can’t compensate for its effects. Standing every so often while you work can burn enough extra calories to offset some of that risk. It’s true even if your job is otherwise stationary.

A More Active Workstation Improves Your Circulation

One of the bigger drawbacks of sitting too much is increased chance of cardiovascular disease because of the way chairs can interfere with your circulation. Standing and moving provide you with better circulation and more energy during the workday.

More Energy, Better Mood

One of the best-known benefits of exercise is that it provides higher energy levels and an elevated mood. This is true even if all you do is choose standing over sitting. Having more energy and being more productive makes for a better working day all around.

Other Factors to Think About

Though there are obvious benefits to a standing desk, it’s not an instant cure-all. Any office solution that radically changes your lifestyle needs an informed approach.

  • Standing too much can carry its own health risks, especially if your body isn’t prepared. You may need to ease yourself into a standing-desk lifestyle.
  • It’s important to ensure a standing desk is set up properly. If the ergonomics are wrong, or the required accessories like cushioning to avoid foot pain are absent, it can create problems.
  • You may want to alternate between standing and sitting. If you can’t commit to seven or eight hours of standing in a day, you might try a sit-stand desk that lets you split the difference.

With those caveats in mind, standing desks are clearly still an interesting option for better office health.

Creating a Healthy Work Atmosphere

As open concept offices become the norm, more workers are finding the occasional need to escape the stresses of these busy and public environments. Some employers have responded by providing dedicated wellness rooms that can be used for purposes such as rest, relaxation  or taking medication.

Such employers, however, are in a minority. According to the 2018 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Employee Survey, only 19% of Canadian office workers reported that their workplace has such a facility, and that in most cases, these rooms lack general privacy, and basic amenities such as toiletries, cleaning supplies, a sink, or a nap pod or bed.

Employee expectations of their employers in this regard, however, are high. 81% expect their employers to take measures to keep them mentally and physically healthy. Furthermore, 72% believe that stress at work has a negative impact on their health and vitality.

Other results in the survey underline these concerns. 24% of respondents placed ergonometric furniture in their top three wish list for their office environment, 23% included a fitness center, and 20% included a private place to rest.

the other hand, many employees cope with stress by staying out of the office. More than one-third (36%) say that they have taken a mental health day, officially or unofficially, on at least one occasion, and most of those who work remotely (57%) say that they sometimes make this choice in order to avoid the distractions of the office.

Today’s offices are collaborative environments that are at times chaotic and stressful. Wellness rooms and other amenities can provide a safety valve for employees who need the occasional escape. If workers are avoiding the office for health and wellness reasons, it may be time for their employers to consider how an improved office environment could address their concerns.

Entrepreneurs Can Create a Great Corporate Culture from the Start

From the smallest businesses to the largest worldwide corporations, a productive corporate culture is key to financial success. Creating a corporate culture that fosters creativity, nurtures cooperation and teamwork and punishes negativity is no easy task, but the benefits of such a culture are enormous.

Entrepreneurs face their own unique challenges when establishing their corporate culture, from building a solid team to setting up clear lines of communication and responsibility. Here are some ways entrepreneurs and business owners can build a successful corporate culture from day one.

  • Create an attractive work environment. No one wants to work in a dingy office or spend time on a dirty factory floor, so spend some time sprucing things up and making the workplace as attractive and pleasant as possible.
  • Foster cooperation and teamwork. It is easy for teamwork so suffer in a competitive startup environment, so look for ways to foster cooperation and build great teams.
  • Use your mission statement to define the ideal corporate culture. Think about the perfect company and the best possible corporate culture, then work hard to recreate that ideal in your brand new company.
  • Be selective when building your team. For good or bad, the team you build initially will play a vital role in establishing the corporate culture. Even if you are eager for the hiring process, take your time and do it right.
  • Create a dress code based on company needs and employee preferences. The dress code is a big part of the corporate culture, and there are many factors to consider. The ideal dress code encompasses the needs of a diverse workforce without sacrificing the professionalism of the workplace.
  • Provide constructive feedback. If you want your corporate culture to be open and productive, you need to let the team know how they are doing. Providing constructive feedback and honest advice is a great way to create a corporate culture those values creativity and cooperation.
  • Evaluate the daily routine. The daily activities of your workforce can have a positive, or a negative, impact on the corporate culture, so take a close look at the schedule and look for ways to improve things. If your management team is buried in early morning and late afternoon meetings, smoothing out the schedule could make everyone more productive — and happier too.
  • Incorporate team building activities into the workplace. Whether they take place inside the office or in the great outdoors, team building exercises can help you create a winning corporate culture.

Creating a great corporate culture from the start is much better, and far easier, than repairing a destructive corporate culture down the line. The tips listed above can help you create a solid corporate culture, one that values input, sparks creativity and fosters productivity.

Debating the Remote Work Option

The trend of allowing office employees to work remotely is lagging employee expectations, according to the 2018 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Employee Survey. 40% of office workers surveyed claimed that this is a key factor for them in selecting a new employer, yet only 35% of companies allow the option.

Many have cited inadequate investment in technology, lack of trust in workers, and resistance to change as factors holding back the trend. The fact that the tech sector has the highest adoption rate (52%) seems to support these observations, as these companies tend to have progressive management policies and superior technology.

Divided opinions on the issue shows how complex the issue is. 43% of employees claim they are more focused in the office, yet 57% sometimes work remotely because it removes the distractions of the office. Furthermore, the quality of the office environment is very important to workers – 41% will not accept a job offer without first seeing the work environment.

Managers, concequently, need to look beyond the trends when considering the remote work option. If people are working at home to avoid distraction, maybe this is a sign that the office environment needs to be improved. Furthermore, the option is about the team as well as the individual. For example, if employee X is allowed to work remotely, could this employee’s absence harm the productive of other employees?

Work patterns are evolving, but office work is ultimately about people working together in a productive manner. Regardless of workplace trends, this is a fundamental that’s not going to go away.