Archives for the month of: March, 2015

While putting your coworker’s stapler in Jell-O seems hilarious, it’s not appropriate for every office environment. Here are some ideas for playful and harmless April Fool’s Day fun:

Put a note on the coffee maker, microwave or toaster that says “Voice Activated”. Listen to your coworkers try to make toast by talking to inanimate objects.

Have problems with a lunch thief? How about pranking them by disguising your lunch as a moldy sandwich? Of course, the sandwich isn’t moldy, but looks like it through these fun lunch bags:

They will never steal your sandwich again.

If a coworker leaves his computer unlocked and unattended, change his favorite desktop image or screensaver. This works especially well if your coworker is a Detroit Lions fan and you change his desktop to Green Bay Packers….not that I’ve done this one before.

Convince everyone in the office to call one member by the wrong name or a funny name. Your boss, Ben, will have no idea why everyone is calling him Captain America.

And the best prank of all? Nothing! If you’re a frequent prankster, sit back and watch your coworkers squirm as they try to figure out what you’ve done (even though you’ve done nothing). For extra points, smirk and say things like “how’s your coffee this morning?”

Disclaimer: have fun, but avoid pranks that are harmful to others or cause damage to another’s property, and avoid wasting a lot of time. And definitely don’t switch the coffee from decaf to regular or vice versa without warning.

What are some of your favorite office pranks?

We love our Abound® Workstations for many reasons. Abound is quick to install, easy to reconfigure to fit any workspace, and supports a wide range of material options for a stunning aesthetic (just to name a few). But, beyond how it works, we also love the story behind how Abound is made.

The beautiful Abound Plains tiles, like the ones you see below, are created just down the street from HON HQ by one of only 4 remaining button manufacturers in the United States. Family-owned McKee Button Company was started back in 1895 when Muscatine, IA was considered to be the Pearl Button Capital of the World. Today, they continue to produce buttons and specialize in custom solid surface materials that can be used for almost any application from home to commercial to retail.

HON Abound Plains Tiles

A few HON members had the privilege of touring the McKee Button Company and were amazed by the unique, labor-intensive process behind the creation of a Plains tile. They wanted to share a few pictures to show you just how unique it is!

McKee Button Company in Muscatine, IA

The process starts with a liquid resin which is colored and then mixed with a hardening agent.

McKee3

The resulting mixture is poured into a spinning drum until it reaches the perfect consistency.

McKee4

When ready, the hardened sheet is peeled out of the spinning drum and cured between heated platens.

McKee5

The final product is a beautiful Plains tile!

McKee6

Have you ever thought about how your office furniture is made? If you don’t work in this industry, you probably haven’t! We all know what it’s like to get so caught up with work that we take for granted the tools that help support us throughout the workday. So, next time you stop to admire your workspace, remember that behind every beautiful HON product is a beautiful story.

Thank Yous

Personally, I am a huge proponent of thank you cards. Not only do they come in many different adorable patterns, themes and colors but they are also one of the most sincere ways to say thank you.  Nothing expresses gratitude better than a hand written note. Thank you cards can be used for a variety of occasions or reasons but incorporating them into your work routine can be a small but powerful way to get noticed.

A hand written thank you is possibly one of the best follow-ups to an interview. It not only shows your future boss that you are serious about the opportunity but it also demonstrates that you are both respectful and courteous. Sending a thank you card can make you stand out above other candidates you are competing against and could possibly be the deciding factor on whether you get the position over someone else.

Another great opportunity to send a thank you is when a co-worker goes above and beyond. Did someone really help you out in a bind? Did someone step up to ensure a project deadline was met? A thank you card can be an unexpected and unique way to communicate how grateful you are for their efforts.

No matter the reason, a thank you card is always appreciated. I constantly see thank you cards displayed proudly on my co-workers desks as they are kept as mementos of appreciation. When you get ready to write your next thank you, make sure you keep these helpful hints in mind:

Be timely – Ideally, a thank you should be sent or presented to the recipient within a week of the thank-provoking action. However, don’t let this discourage you if you somehow get caught up, the old saying applies ‘better late than never.’

Be specific – The perfect thank you directly acknowledges the reason for the card. Make sure you tell the recipient exactly why you are so grateful.

Be polished – To be most effective, make sure you dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s by checking that your spelling and grammar are correct. A sloppy thank you can mask its true purpose and quickly be disregarded.

Be you – Any card that is aligned with your personal brand and can remind your recipient that you sent them this sweet note is a plus. It will be an everyday reminder of your graciousness.

Be prepared – Always have a variety of thank you cards at your desk. This allows you to be prepared and able to write a quick thank you when the opportunity presents itself.  Having multiple styles of thank you cards also lets you personalize your thank you for the individual recipient. This makes it feel heartfelt and not generic in nature.

So, who will you be sending your next thank you to?

The HON Company is one of 12 operating companies under HNI Corporation, a leading global office furniture manufacturer. As a leading manufacturer, HON depends on its engineers to design and produce world-class, high-quality furniture for our Sales and Marketing teams to sell!

…But what is engineering?! We went straight to the sources to find out. Read below to hear how some of our HON members describe engineering!

engineering

Jim, Manufacturing Engineer: “Being able to take something apart, understand it, and put it back together.”

Joe, Manufacturing Engineer: “Solving the world’s problems.”

Nick, Manufacturing Engineer: “Innovation.”

Trevor, Manufacturing Engineer: “Development of new products and processes and improvement of previous products and processes.”

Brett, Manufacturing Engineer: “Solving problems.”

Shawn, Manufacturing Engineer: “Pure awesomeness.”

Russ, Engineering Manager: “The application of science and materials to manufacture products that will meet the needs of a person.”

Katie, Industrial Engineer: “Looking at a problem from various perspectives and being able to determine the best solution.”

Paul, Manufacturing Engineer: “Teamwork – working together.”

Shane, Product Engineer: “Quickly finding solutions to problems without disrupting the flow of product.”

Oisin, Manufacturing Engineer: Improving the world around you. It doesn’t have to be math- or science-related; it just has to be a problem solved for the better!”

TJ, Quality Engineer: “Designing and building solutions to complex problems using technology.”

Jonathan, Quality Engineer: A systematic approach to problem solving using quantitative information to determine the solution.”

So there you have it! Engineering means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The HON Company leverages all of these perspectives in our processes to meet customer expectations.

Are you an engineer? Do you work with engineers? What does “engineering” mean to you?

As you know, customers are the most valuable asset to your business, so it is important to invest in keeping them happy. Did you know that each unhappy customer will tell an average of ten potential customers about their dissatisfaction? That’s a staggering thought. There’s a lot more at stake than you may realize when a customer becomes upset. You have to consider the potential loss of their future business in addition to the cost of potential new customers. On average, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain satisfied customers. Now, that’s not to say we don’t need new customers. But what if we balance the satisfaction of our current customers in addition to acquiring new ones?

Next time you are faced with an opportunity, here are 6 steps that will help demonstrate your commitment to the customer:

1 – Listen. Especially in Customer Support, it’s in our nature to want to solve the problem right away. But by listening first, you might hear something differently than you first assumed. Be an active listener. Take notes and summarize what you heard to ensure you completely understand the matter at hand.

2 – Remain calm. Emotions can run high, especially in the heat of the moment. Remind yourself that you are here to help, and remove your emotions from the situation.

3 – Don’t take it personally. When an individual is frustrated, it may feel like it is being directed at you.  Remind yourself that it he or she is frustrated with the situation and not you personally.

4 – Provide regular updates. Nothing is worse than the waiting game. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, keep the customer updated on the steps you’re taking to resolve the issue so they will understand it is important to you and to the company.

5 – Pick up the phone.  In today’s email and social networking world, a message can be interpreted many different ways. To avoid miscommunication, pick up the phone and have a conversation.

6 – Find a solution and follow-up. Most importantly, provide a resolution and follow up with the customer to close the loop and ensure they feel the situation has been resolved.

HON’s Customer Support members live by these steps. We understand the opportunity to not only help our customers, but to also demonstrate our loyalty and commitment to them.  What additional best practices do you follow?

Communication is important in any environment, and is especially important in the workplace.  Miscommunication can result in low employee morale and motivation, decreased productivity, and increased employee conflicts.  As simple as communication may seem, it is not always easy to communicate at work. It is important to choose your words wisely, listen intently, and verify that you are understood.

Here are a few simple tips you can use to be a more effective communicator:

1. Don’t just hear—Listen.  This includes paying attention to body language if you are speaking to someone in person.  When a coworker approaches your desk, make sure you fully focus your attention on him or her.  If you do not have the time to do so, offer to schedule time to meet with the person later.

2. Be comfortable with resolving conflict.  No matter how well employees get along, there is always a chance that people will disagree. If you are a manager or leader in your office, help create an environment that allows your employees or teammates to discuss potential issues, and find a way to resolve them. Be sure that any conflict resolution focuses on the problem and not the personalities involved.

3. Be open to constructive criticism or feedback and be prepared to give it in return. Be appreciative of feedback that you receive, and make necessary changes to drive improved performance.

4. Use language that is easily understood to avoid confusion and misinterpretation.  Make sure you are aware of any cultural communication differences.

5. Follow correct grammatical guidelines and use spell check.  This is key, especially if you are communicating with customers or people outside of your business.

6. If you are conversing over email and have questions, speak to the customer or fellow employee in person or give them a call.  Although emails are a quick and easy way to communicate, they can also be misunderstood at times. Never be afraid to verify!

7. Always be aware of your audience and setting.  Make sure you consider what is appropriate to discuss in a workplace environment, with your coworkers outside of work, or on social media.

Remember, effective communication is key to the continued success of any company. Set clear guidelines around workplace communication, and ensure all of your employees or teammates understand them. This will only improve the overall effectiveness of the company or department.

Are you always asking yourself why there aren’t more hours in the day?  Take a look at the top 5 apps I recommend for being more productive at work.

App #1:  Evernote

Kill the clutter with this organizational note-taking tool.

What It Does:  Evernote is an app you can use to not only take notes and sync them between multiple devices, but also archive those notes and share them with colleagues and friends.  Evernote has become my new pen and paper.  Instead of using an average of one notebook per month to collect all my notes from meetings and to do lists, I use Evernote to record and organize my thoughts.  You won’t find me rifling through piles of paper anymore and with Evernote I never have to worry about running out of ink!

App #2:  Focus Lock

When everything is a distraction and you just need to focus.

What It Does:  Focus Lock (only available on Android) is an app that allows you to put all the buzzes, lights, rings and dings of your phone on hold in 25 minute increments.  This allows you just enough time to get into your work flow and then provides a 5 minute break so you can reconnect and sync up with some things you may have missed so you don’t fall behind on what’s happening in your work world.

App #3:  ETA – travel app

Trying to beat the rush?  Know your ETA with ETA.

What It Does:  I’d say Google maps is the second best thing since sliced bread, the first being the ETA app.  We’ve all been in those situations where it’s an unfamiliar city and you’re trying to find the location of your next appointment.  The trickiest part?  Navigating traffic. ETA takes out some of that stress and you are able to be more productive by not over or under estimating the amount of time you need to get to your next destination.  ETA will keep you on point.

App #4:  Pandora

With soothing sounds of the ocean or classic rock this app will help you get into your work flow.

What It Does:  When you need to put the constant chatter of your colleagues on mute while you get that report finished, use Pandora.  Blast your favorite Rolling Stones tunes or have the soothing sounds of Mozart lull you into your productive sweet spot.   My personal pick when I need to get things done?  Smooth jazz.  It’s a station I recommend you try at least once.

App #5:  Fitness Pal

Because what you eat and what you do does matter.

What It Does:  Fitness Pal tracks your calories, exercise, nutrient and water intake. It also connects you to friends and support communities, AND makes you eat breakfast in the morning.  Okay, maybe not that last part – that’d be too good to be true – but all the other things yes.  Fitness pal is one way I track what I eat to see what’s giving me the most bang for my buck.  Do you have pasta for lunch and then feel a mid-afternoon slump creeping up on you?  Maybe a salad is a better option for suppressing hunger and avoiding the drop in blood sugars.  Nothing can ruin productivity more than fatigue or hunger.

Try implementing these apps into your daily work routine and let me know what they do for your productivity!

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