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National recycle week – purchasing with Office Depot to protect the planet

The careful treatment of our finite resources is not just a trend but a necessity. National Recycle Week, which begins in the UK on 21st September is a chance for everyone to play their role. The theme, ”Together, We Recycle“, applauds the continuing recycling effort during the disruption of COVID whilst highlighting the broad range of things to be recycled and waste to be reduced.

Two focus areas are electronics and food waste. Most households have about a hundred electrical products, some of which are gathering dust in drawers. Too often, these devices are just thrown out during a cleaning binge. These products often still contain valuable raw materials that are lost when they aren‘t properly recycled. Food usage awareness means paying attention to your actual food needs and ensures that nothing edible or drinkable spoils in your house or is thrown out.

At Office Depot, we want to support National Recycle Week in our communications and by deploying our core competencies to help eliminate consumer waste.

Contributing to a circular economy everyday

Our long-term commitment to the environment shows in the four ideas at the centre of our company: be green, buy green, sell green, tell green - act sustainably, buy sustainably, sell sustainably, communicate sustainability. When we do this, our customers can lessen their environmental impact whilst focussing on their businesses. For example, through carbon offsets, deliveries reach customer’s quickly and in a climate-neutral way, we use sustainable packaging and packaging reduction schemes and we have over 2,000 sustainable products in our selection to choose from.

As a seller of many electronic devices, we would like to take responsibility for contributing to awareness about electronics recycling. Electronic devices, lighting and batteries simply do not belong to regular waste. We must normalise putting electrical appliances in the correct waste bin or take them to a shop or recycling centre.

Office Depot’s environmental strategy:

Our commitment to sustainability doesn’t end with Recycling Week. We are not only passionate about what we do but also about how we do it. But what does such a sustainability strategy actually entail?

Here are just three examples of the building blocks in our sustainability strategy:

  • Bundle orders to reduce CO2 emissions
  • Our customers regularly ask how they can better consolidate their purchasing processes. We sit down with them to review their purchasing and identify opportunities to consolidate orders. This reduces the number of deliveries and the associated CO2 emissions. These bulk consolidations are easy to do because we can meet the full demand for office supplies, electronic devices, furniture, printing and cleaning, and hygiene products.

  • Waste-free ink and toner return system
  • We’re proud of the customised recycling system we’ve developed for our in-house brand of ink cartridges. All empty inkjet or toner cartridges sent for recycling are reconditioned or disposed of so that no waste is generated. In addition, the toner cartridge packaging boxes are 100% recyclable. This minimises the consumption of natural resources such as oil and new materials.

  • Buy green
  • Of course, there’s more to sustainability than merely the purchasing process. There are the products themselves! In our Sustainable product catalogue, you can find more than 2,000 sustainably certified products to help you create a greener office.

A better world starts here.

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How can you keep your workspace flu-free this Autumn?

We’re back into the months with an “r” in them, which means flu season is officially open, so what can you do at your workspace, whether in the office or at home, to keep the flu away? Here are some essential tips:

Tip 1: Get your own keyboard and mouse
The first tip is short but powerful. Do you regularly work a couple of days in the office? Then make sure that you have your own keyboard and mouse, as opposed to sharing when hot desking. Several studies have shown that the keyboard and mouse are the biggest sources of bacteria in the entire office. Even the doorknob and toilet have fewer bacteria.

Tip 2: Talk to colleagues who show up sick
Before corona, colleagues who came to work with a cold may have been judged as delivering in the face of adversity. In reality, people who show up sick for work, especially now, will not be thanked for it. If one of your colleagues comes into the office with a cough or a cold, take the situation into your own hands and ask them to rest or work from home for the sake of everybody else.

Tip 3: Make sure you have fresh air circulating, especially when working from home
Offices tend to be built with ventilation in mind, but now that so many of us are working from home, the air quality in our houses has become much more important. Maintain good ventilation in your house by opening the windows. This will allow for the circulation of fresh air and prevents your home from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Colds and flu aren’t caused by low temperatures but by bacteria. But, you may be thinking, if that were true, why are colds and cases of the flu so much more common during the winter? It’s because we spend so much more time sitting together indoors during the colder months, which makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to pass from one person to another. A badly ventilated space allows them to spread much faster. That’s why ventilation is as important at home as it is in the office.

Tip 4: Be sure to get (and use) good cleaning products
It’s important to bring home good cleaning products. They need to kill bacteria and not just spread a nice scent. Check out our flu awareness mini catalogue here.

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How remanufacturing can breathe new life into old office furniture

For many companies, sustainability was one of the key business priorities prior to lockdown. While it seems to have understandably fallen down the pecking order, there is still a chance for companies to make sustainable changes to the office, while saving money.

As more people start to return to office life, there are a number of changes facing employers to ensure a safe working environment is in place. One of these changes is to furniture, with many pieces worn or no longer fit for purpose. However, replacing furniture is often an expensive process, especially when you consider the cost of removing items from buildings.

So, then, can anything be done to bring old office furniture back to life to meet modern requirements? The answer is yes, thanks to remanufacturing services.

Re-structuring the office

Companies are continuing to adapt the way that they run the office to cater to recent changes. While some businesses have made a complete transition to working remotely, others are phasing a full return to the office. Either way, it’s safe to say the office environment is not what it was at the beginning of the year.

A restructure of the way employees work inevitably means a restructure in the way that they are set-up. The biggest change that office managers will be exploring is with their furniture arrangements. Adding in screen protectors, and ensuring desks are appropriately distanced is a key priority, but it often comes at a high cost to the business.

How, then, can facilities managers implement a new, safer office environment without inflicting significant cost?

Re-manufactured goods

Remanufacturing is one solution which helps to keep both costs and carbon footprint to a minimum. With many offices undergoing a facelift to meet the guidelines, one question for many managers is what to do with the old furniture to make space for social distancing?

Office Depot has formed a partnership with The Senator Group to provide customers the option of an environmental programme centred around remanufacturing. Simply put, remanufacturing involves putting existing items of furniture back through the manufacturing processes. Broken or worn components are replaced or upgraded, and any parts which do not need replacing are reused. Desks, chairs, screens and storage units can all be remanufactured, meaning essential office equipment can be transformed without the need to buy completely new furniture.

Remanufacturing gives facilities managers a chance to make used furniture feel like new, while meeting sustainability goals. The shape of desktops, for example, can be altered to adhere to new guidelines to ensure the office is socially distanced.

A major bonus when remanufacturing furniture is that there are significant savings to be made. Typical savings of 35-55% are possible, depending on the furniture style, type and condition.

When considering the costs, it is important to also think about the cost of disposing of furniture. Removing unwanted office products creates additional costs that can be avoided when choosing the remanufacturing route. This cost is often overlooked as it is likely to be financed from a separate budget. However, with businesses keeping an increasingly close eye on the money they spend, it is important to save where possible.

Remaining local

Remanufacturing also encourages British manufacturing, again reducing the carbon footprint associated with overseas imports. Turning to local suppliers will be part of many companies’ CSR and purchasing policies, and it also counts towards Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certificates for buildings/projects.

Facilities managers are facing one of the biggest challenges of a lifetime: ensuring that office environments are safe without incurring expensive costs. Considering remanufacturing not only reduces costs, but it also ensures that sustainability goals that were in place before lockdown are still met.

To find out more information, get in touch with a member of our furniture team today.

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Office Depot Europe supports vulnerable children during lockdown

Vulnerable nursery children who have been unable to access school resources during the Covid-19 lockdown have received special art activity packs thanks to Office Depot Europe.

Packs of pens, crayons, chalk, glue and paper were distributed to 1,000 children across Manchester, UK, over the last few weeks.

The packs will ensure that the learning and development needs of vulnerable two-year-olds, who are entitled to 15 hours nursery provision, are supported across the city.

Proud to help

Robert Baldrey, Office Depot Europe’s UK & Ireland Country Manager, said: “We are extremely proud to be able to help vulnerable families and to know that our activity packs have given families valuable resources to support home learning. We take our corporate social responsibility very seriously so it is great when are able to help in this way.”

The packs were donated from our distribution centre in Ashton-under-Lyne through Manchester City Council’s Sure Start programme.

A Sure Start Manchester spokesperson said: “The resources will help us promote early years key skills in the prime areas of communication and language and literacy, development of characteristics of effective learning, supporting positive wellbeing and mental health for two-year-olds.

“Many of the families have experienced financial difficulties more so than ever due to the pandemic. It’s been great that we have been able to gift activity resources that many may not have had or be able to afford to buy.”

What the parents said

One single parent, who has a two- and a four-year-old, said: “Thank you so much for the activity pack. It has kept me and my children entertained during lock down and has lots of educational benefits too.

Another parent, with five children, said: “The resources we received are great. We’ve been very creative as a family using them. I don’t know what I would have done without it for all these weeks in lockdown, Thank you so very much!”

Discover more about Office Depot Europe’s approach to CSR here.

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Are these sustainable desks the future of home working?

Sustainable pop-up desks helping NHS save money and work from home

Office Depot Europe is using an innovative ‘green’ solution to help NHS staff in the UK work from home with new pop-up workspaces.

We are supplying pop-up cardboard desks to London NHS homeworkers as a sustainable and inexpensive solution to effective home working.

The desks are made of robust cardboard which unfold in seconds to create a working desk and which can fold down for easy storage.

Pete D’Amery, Sales Director Corporate and Public Sector, said: “The pop-up workspaces are a fantastic, innovative initiative. It shows people what is possible and demonstrates our ongoing support to help the NHS save money as well as reducing our impact on the environment as part of our CSR strategy.”

The home working kit has been created by Julie James, a Key Account Manager Public Sector NHS, and Amreet Rai, a buyer in filing and solutions.

The desks are completely recyclable and can take up to 50kg load capacity. They take less than 20 seconds to assemble and fold down to a depth of 10cm.

CSR is a key pillar of our VISION 2025 business strategy. Find out more here.

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How to prepare your office in a post-lockdown world

As the UK prepares to ease lockdown restrictions, more businesses will contemplate a return to the office. While working from home for most of the country has exceeded 100 days, some people will welcome the office back with open arms. However, others may be a bit more hesitant about a return and will look towards businesses for reassurances that all bases are covered for a safe return.

Here are some tips to keep your employees protected as you get ready for a safe return to the office.

Social distancing signage

The first consideration for any office should be the use of signage to highlight social distancing requirements. While social distancing has now been instilled in everybody’s minds, it can be difficult to translate that into the office.

Social distancing floor graphics – as seen in a number of the UK’s leading shops and supermarkets – can also be designed and printed for any office to include company branding. Office Depot has a range of digital and print signage to provide clear instructions to ensure social distancing is maintained while at the office.

Having clear signage will also ease the minds of those employees worried about the return to the office. Posters, floor markers and banners can also be implemented to ensure the messaging is clear.

Cleanliness reminders

Hygiene has also been another key message, which has been synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses must ensure that they are doing everything they can to remind employees to wash their hands and wipe surfaces. While it may seem obvious, putting up reminders ensures that these messages remain front of mind for all colleagues.

A range of cleaning products should be available for all employees, including antibacterial handwash and desk wipes. Given that people spend almost all of their working day at their desk, it is imperative that this space is safe, clean and suitably distanced. Keeping desks protected through sanitisation along with physical divisions will help ensure users have their own clean and defined space.

Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring colleagues stay hydrated is also important for desk-based teams. If you are unsure about what options are available to keep your employees safe, speak to the team at Office Depot to find out more.

Thermographic screening

For large businesses, thermographic screening can help detect early signs of fever and can make employees feel more at ease with a return to the office. Whether it’s a handheld thermographic system or a contactless thermometer, checking the temperature of employees, customers and guests could become ‘the new normal’ as we look for more ways to prevent the spread of illness.

Enabling the flexibility to work from home

Not all employees will be comfortable about the prospect of returning to the office and these concerns should not be ignored. If your business is yet to finalise a return plan, consider surveying staff to find out what they prefer with the possibility of making home working a more permanent option.

We have already produced tips detailing how to set up a home office, but employers may want to consider implementing a long-term working from home strategy if they haven’t already. Considering posture, ergonomic furniture and a supply of office essentials – such as notepads and pens – can help workers make a smooth transition to a permanent way of working.

Protecting employees, customers and visitors

At the beginning of the year, it is safe to say that the majority of suggestions in this article would not have been a number one priority. However, as we continue to experience the impact of the pandemic, it is clear that office life will not be the same. There are ways to safely reintroduce a return to the office that will support colleagues making the transition from working at home.

All of the solutions detailed in this article can be found in our ‘Back to Work’ guide, which is available to download. Get in touch with the team today for any enquiries on how to prepare your office and your colleagues for a return to work.

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5 Things Schools Need to Know when Selecting Furniture

Given the rise of increasingly innovative teaching styles, the design of the classroom is evolving.


The deeper understanding of the different ways in which individuals learn has led to an increasingly varied approach to the techniques used within places of education, whether this incorporates layouts which encourage creative learning or better flexibility in the way the space can be used. The recent pandemic has also had a knock-on effect on the way classrooms will be organised in the future, placing greater emphasis on easy-clean surfaces and furniture that can be manoeuvred to adhere to social distancing.


When investing in furniture, it is essential that it is tailored to the environment within which it will be placed. With this in mind, Terry Helmore, Business Development Manager at Office Depot explains the five main considerations for school equipment.


1. Safety


The top priority when searching for the best chairs, tables, shelves or similar items is safety. This is why it is important to look for products that adhere to British Standards, to have reassurance that they have been approved and are a responsible choice.

There are a number of choices available to help ensure the safety of pupils, including anti-tip chairs and soft-close doors. Putting a stop to students tilting back in their seats and the risk of doors slamming, saves the teacher giving out warnings on the matter and allows them to concentrate on teaching instead. Investing in anti-bacterial chairs and easy clean surfaces is another great way to protect students, reducing risks of illnesses.


2. Ergonomics


With children spending around 4.5 hours a day sat down in classes, it is essential the way they sit is not only comfortable but also good for their posture. Taking this into consideration, those responsible for selecting seating and desks should pick out ranges that encourage pupils to sit correctly, to reduce risk of musculoskeletal issues developing.

This is why it is essential ranges pass the British Standards for quality and size requirements (FIRA). Young people grow and develop at different rates so the choice of seating available must cater for this to make sure each individual is comfortable, avoiding the one size fits all approach.


3. Flexibility


More and more schools are providing innovative environments for young people to learn in, as a result of greater knowledge surrounding the benefits of creative spaces. The concern over COVID-19 has further emphasised the need for furniture that can be easily adapted to suit the needs of the class.

Having rooms set-up that cater to multiple needs allows teaching staff to run different activities within the same areas. For example, the availability of soft seating, storage units and varying table designs means that students can be taught classes in the same setting that they can also enjoy having some downtime during breaks in. Flexible seating options also allow students to be spread out to reduce the spread of bacteria.


4. Value


When purchasing supplies where multiple items are required, those responsible want to know that this will be a good investment. So, school facilities managers should keep an eye out for suppliers who meet the British Standards for quality. This reassures buyers that the products are up to standard and durable, making them good value for money.

To give customers the opportunity to test out the merchandise, Office Depot offers a sample service on school furniture for those who are interested in trialling the items in person first. In addition to this, the company provides warranties for its stock to give people that extra peace of mind.


5. Reliable Supplier


Establishments which tend to bulk buy, will need to look for suppliers that are reliable and stock ranges for long periods of time. This applies to schools which look to provide for a large group of users so require multiple sets of the same item. Stock being continuously available enables customers to come back and buy more of the same range in the future, keeping the theme consistent throughout the premises.

Some suppliers, like Office Depot, have steps in place if a product line is ending to get in touch with customers who have bought from the range previously, to let them know about any changes. These conversations mean that those wanting to re-purchase stock have the chance to do so.

To find out further information about what school furniture ranges Office Depot has, get in touch with a member of the team.

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Office Depot UKIE recognised for reducing our carbon footprint

Carbon-footprint

Our operations in the UK & Ireland have been recognised for the ninth consecutive year for reducing our impact on the environment.

We have achieved ISO14064, an international standard which recognises businesses who accurately and transparently measure, monitor and report on greenhouse gas emissions.

It comes just weeks after we also achieved carbon-neutrality in the DACH region of our business for the sixth consecutive year.

Reducing our emissions and improving the impact we have on the environment is an important part of our CSR strategy and a key pillar of our business strategy.


Supporting our customers to be green

Because of our high standard of data, we were able to demonstrate to an independent assessor that Office Depot reduced its carbon emissions by 2,387 tonnes between 2018 and 2019.

Measuring carbon emissions in this way means we can support customers to reduce their own environmental impact through consolidated orders and increased average order values which reduce the number of deliveries required.

Jackie Buckwell, Corporate Compliance Manager for UK & Ireland, said: “The ISO 14064 certification gives Office Depot and our customers confidence in our greenhouse gas / carbon footprint calculation and allows us to be transparent.

“It also allows us to see the causes of our largest volume of emissions and target initiatives effectively. Knowing the amount of carbon associated with deliveries has allowed us to purchase offsets and offer customers carbon neutral delivery.”


Offsetting carbon and supporting others

The certification, first achieved in 2011, was awarded following an independent analysis of our work to reduce our environmental impact by SGS, a world-leading verification and certification company.

The calculations also mean we can accurately purchase carbon offsets for our delivery emissions and are therefore able to offer carbon-neutral delivery through ClimatePartner.

Our carbon offsetting projects in 2020 include a wind energy project in Tamil Nadu, India; forest protection with sustainable Brazil nut cultivation in the Amazon and cook stoves providing families in Eastern Zambia access to efficient cooking methods.

Find out more about CSR at Office Depot Europe here.

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How to ensure staff safety post-lockdown

The Government has encouraged those who cannot work from home to begin returning to work. There are guidelines on how employers can keep staff safe when they start welcoming people back. This phased re-opening of workplaces may cause concern for some, with many staff worrying about whether they will be adequately protected once back in the office.

It is important that businesses only invite staff back onto the premises if it is safe to do so. Therefore, it is essential that steps are taken to create a safe-environment for workers to return to. Here is a short guide to the key steps to consider when evaluating re-opening after lockdown.


Adapting to working from home


Those who can work from home are encouraged to continue to do so. However, not all employees will be correctly set-up or have prior experience of working at home. If businesses do start to offer more flexibility and allow colleagues to work remotely, then it is vital that employees are supported with the right equipment.

Keeping this in mind, it is worth seeking advice on how to set up a home office effectively to maximise productivity, while protecting employee wellbeing.


Introducing new ways of working


The professionals returning to the office will find that work practices have changed in order to align with proposed social distancing measures. A two-metre space between colleagues must be observed where possible and this can be easily outlined with the use of signage and stickers. As consumers, we have become used to seeing social distancing signs and presenting similar messages in the office will help to re-emphasise its importance.

What about desks? How can offices continue to utilise existing equipment while remaining safe? For health and safety purposes, if desks cannot be moved further apart, then employees should avoid directly facing one another.

In addition to this, each worker should have their own space and equipment. Organisations are advised by the Government to avoid job and location rotation as well as minimising equipment sharing. This means hot-desking must be avoided to prevent the spread of germs.


Providing personal protection


The importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) cannot be overlooked when it comes to keeping work teams protected. Employers can help to keep colleagues returning to work safe by providing PPE to those who come into the office environment. Equipment such as face masks, respirators, disposable protective wear, gloves and screens will help to reduce the transfer of germs.

Keeping the environment in mind, Office Depot offers reusable face masks. These are made using nano silver technology which has antibacterial properties. The silver inhibits oxygen exchange in bacteria and kills it, while the nano silver technology prolongs and enhances this effect. The masks can be washed up to 30 times after use for companies keen to be eco-friendly.


Encouraging hygienic practices


Offices can further prevent the spread of bacteria by implementing personal hygiene solutions for those going back to work. Stocking up on antibacterial hand soap and correct drying equipment in the bathroom reduces the spread of illnesses. Placing bottles of antibacterial gel around the office will further increase the sanitary levels.

For those conscious of shared surfaces, Office Depot offers a foot-operated free-standing sanitiser dispenser. The foot-operated mechanism allows for a completely hands-free operation to minimise transference of germs.


Keeping the environment clean


To ensure workplace safety, the cleanliness of the spaces employees work at need to be considered. Safety procedures should be increased, such as having surfaces wiped down on an increased and regular basis. Placing cleaning equipment, such as disinfectant wipes, surface sprays and floor solutions in accessible areas around the workplace should also be considered as this provides extra peace of mind for those concerned about not being able to wipe down areas themselves.

The Government has advised companies to hold meetings in well-ventilated rooms wherever possible, to create a safe working environment. For businesses that may struggle to adhere to this advice, air purifiers can be used to improve air quality. Office Depot offers a range of purifiers and humidifiers for those looking to protect customers, visitors and colleagues.

These are just a few ways that businesses can adhere to Government guidelines to keep staff safe following lockdown measures.

To find out more information, contact a member of the team.

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Raising hope in Dublin community

Raising-Hope

Irish colleagues are inspiring disadvantaged students with career-boosting training as part of a special programme.

Our 13-person team in Dublin is working with more than 20 students from Blakestown Community School as part of Business In The Community Ireland, which champions the role businesses can play in supporting communities. It is also part of our CSR approach.

Bryan Samuels, our Learning & Development Business Partner, supported the programme by helping students with self-esteem, emotional intelligence and used VR tools to help boost their presentation skills and confidence.

We are also supporting young people to create great CVs and teaching interview skills so they are prepared to go for the jobs they want.

'We make a massive difference'
Paula Ronald, Sr Sales Manager Ireland, co-ordinates Office Depot Europe’s involvement with Business in the Community Ireland. She said: “The kids we work with are just fantastic. They bring loads of ideas, share their dreams and their participation is incredible. I go home feeling that Ireland has a great future with kids like this.”

“They really got into team building exercises which we ran and loved learning about their personality insights, emotional intelligence and goal-setting. If we could do this everywhere, we could make a massive difference. It really is sensational to see the impact it has on the kids.”

It is the second consecutive year that we’ve worked with the school. Over the next couple of months, the students will interview staff about their day jobs; have mock job interviews to prepare them for the real world of work and we will invite students to deliver presentations on the things they’ve learned.

Giving back to inspire the next generation
Cliona Fitzsimons, Regional Co-Ordinator for Business in the Community Ireland, said: “It is wonderful to watch the students engaging so well with the Office Depot team. They are getting comfortable visiting the offices now and are learning about the world of work in such a very positive manner. Kudos to Paula and her very welcoming team.”

Robert Baldrey, country manager for the UK & Ireland, said: “I truly believe that companies like us should be giving back to our communities in some way. This is an amazing example of us sharing invaluable experience, skills and knowledge to help inspire the next generation – and it’s terrific team building for our team in Dublin. Well done to everyone involved.”

Find out more about CSR at Office Depot Europe here.

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How should you set up your home office?

Go to downloads

Many office workers are now facing the reality of having to work from home for an indefinite amount of time. Maintaining ‘business as usual’ during these unprecedented times is difficult, but many employees are now able to keep things moving thanks to the latest technology.

Working from home brings new challenges. Whether it’s setting up online conference calls, keeping work and home life separate, or even increasing the number of tea rounds needed each day, the adjustment can take some time to get used to. Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your home office.

1. Create a dedicated space

It has always been important to separate your work and home life. Working from home is no exception, so colleagues new to this environment should look to create a space separate from where they relax. Whether it’s in the hallway or a spare room, creating a dedicated office space can help boost productivity and morale.

As with normal office spaces, natural light and ventilation is important. If space is tight, and there is little room to make an office, segmenting another part of the house to create a well-lit working space is recommended.

2. Desk set-up

Most businesses that can implement a home working strategy will have a number of employees in desk-based roles. Dining tables are acceptable for short-term disruption but if businesses want to prepare for a more permanent solution, they should be encouraging teams to introduce safer working spaces.

It is vital that employees keep moving throughout the day. If space allows, introducing a sit-stand desk will encourage people to move more and limit the amount of time wasted trying to get comfortable.

3. Sitting comfortably

Any job that requires sitting for long periods of time requires a good quality chair. Lack of height adjustment is a common problem for people when working at dining tables, where chairs and tables are usually fixed.

Recent research suggests 81% of us spend between four and nine hours seated at a desk each day, emphasising the need for appropriate furniture. Ergonomic office chairs are highly recommended to support the body throughout the day, particularly when working in less-than-ideal conditions. They will stave off common strains and injuries.

4. Exercise is key

Sitting at a desk all day can have a significant impact on your posture and physical health. It’s important to encourage colleagues to take plenty of breaks throughout the day and signpost office exercises that help keep people fit and focused while working from home.

There are many self-exercise videos available online. Yoga, pilates or quick exercise routines that can fit in around the working day are a great way to mix things up and mitigate the effects of sitting down for long periods.

5. Private phone calls

Working from home means more calls are likely to be made. Having your hands free while on the phone will not only support the neck but also allow colleagues to take more accurate notes. Speaker phones can support this but if there are other people at home and you need privacy, this option is limited. Headsets can help workers complete other tasks while on the phone, supporting posture and reducing strain, while also maintaining privacy.

6. Group messaging

One of the toughest aspects of working from home is how to maintain clear communication with other team members. Office email remains a staple for any business. However, if this is a new situation, it’s imperative that new communication lines are set up within the team. Using group messaging services, like WhatsApp, can be a really effective way to retain the office banter, as well as manage work tasks, which can be sorely missed when at home.

7. Retaining GDPR compliance

As more employees work remotely, businesses must put provisions in place to remain compliant with GDPR. Employees accessing sensitive data at home may be at risk of breaking rules, especially when paper data is involved.

Make sure those handling confidential information are aware of their requirements under the GDPR. If data needs to be destroyed, consider compact shredders, while archive boxes can be used if physical documents need storing.

8. Household rota

Working from home puts a much greater strain on internet connection. As online conference calls become a daily reality, households with more than one worker can see their speeds grind to a halt. Having a household rota, and jotting down family conference calls may seem overkill, but it can help avoid costly downtime.

Working from home effectively

Offering guidance, best practice and retaining social interaction is essential for continuity of service. Not all homes will have the most appropriate set-up but even following two or three tips will help maintain colleague’s health and wellbeing during an unusually difficult time.

Office Depot remains committed to supporting businesses and is offering home delivery options for all office essentials. For more information, get in touch with a member of our team.

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Big-hearted staff donate more than £75,000 to UK charities

Big-hearted

Generous staff at Office Depot Europe in the UK and Ireland have donated a massive £75,328 to a range of charities after a year of fundraising.

Hundreds of staff at the workplace solutions business - which has bases in Leicester, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Dartford and Dublin - baked, donated wages, dressed up, dressed down, sold hampers and ate cakes to amass a grand total of £18,850 for the company’s chosen charity Alzheimer’s Society UK.

In addition, staff raised £1,478 and donated surplus stock worth £55,000 to various charities and disadvantaged communities around the globe.

Fundraising is a key part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach.

Robert Baldrey, Country Manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “We are proud to be able to donate much-needed funds to worthwhile causes.

“Fundraising is one of several things we do as a business to support people and places and as we develop a new approach to CSR, we will look to do even more in future.”

Cash was raised in a variety of ways, from Christmas jumpers and cake sales to collection boxes and everything in between.

Find out more about CSR at Office Depot Europe here.

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Ancient wisdom enlightens leaders at Office Depot

Ancient-Wisdom

The Bhudda once said: “It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles”.

This proverb is influencing Office Depot Europe's approach to management training material and courses across the continent.

Louise Cunningham, one of the company's Learning & Development Officers, has combined her knowledge of ancient philosophy, modern psychology and quantum physics to create cutting edge training for employees.

Her credentials couldn’t be better. Louise spent a year living with Buddhist monks in a Thai monastery where she learned advanced meditation techniques.

Her training approach centres on the concept of self-reflection and how understanding how your mind works opens you up to new ways of thinking and learning.

“My approach focuses on root causes,” said Louise. “Rather than fixing a problem, we look at the reason for feeling a certain way or reacting a certain way. Once people understand the root cause, they can understand how to fix it.”

A great example is conflict resolution training where delegates are invited to begin a session with deep self-reflection to understand what they feel about conflict and why.

“What I took from Buddhism and meditation is, at its heart, it’s about controlling the mind,” said Louise.

“When you are in control of the mind, you can control emotions, which means you can control your behaviour.”

“This way of thinking and working fits directly into the corporate world. Everything we do in our roles is going to have some sort of positive or negative impact and we have the power to control ourselves and, therefore, the impact we have.”

She has embedded self-reflection into online and offline learning. One of the first things delegates are asked to participate in during emotional intelligence courses is to fill in a self-reflection questionnaire which Louise has developed.

“The self-assessment worksheet generates a report which shows you your strengths and weaknesses from an emotional intelligence point of view,” she said.

“On our leadership course, the first thing I ask people to do is to understand emotional intelligence, what triggers their emotions and why they feel the way they do. That leads to understanding of how they can prevent those emotions from affecting their productivity and therefore the company’s profit!”

“It’s about putting people in the position of empowerment.”

The success of Louise’s system has made her courses extremely popular at Office Depot Europe.

Richard Young, Manager Digital Experience (Europe) at Office Depot, said: “I cannot recommend Louise highly enough, she is a fantastic corporate trainer and coach. I’ve participated in several learning and development sessions run by Louise, including conflict management, emotional intelligence, mind-mapping and personal branding. They have all been thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial to me and the wider group.”

“The continued high attendance at such sessions proves the high quality of them. Several of my peers, at varying levels in the business have commented on how great the design, preparation, content and delivery of Louise’s courses has been.”

As well as conflict management and leadership, Louise also focuses on goal-setting which is about tackling anxiety, stress and depression.

Louise said: “It’s about looking at the root cause of why we think we don’t achieve. I set people to identify their personal mission statement – without a mission statement we don’t know what we’re here to do.”

“If you’re living the wrong life, then it will not work. We all have talents. When you tap into that and make that the foundation of your life, it brings you into a state of balance. It removes your personal conflict. It’s about understanding yourself.”

Louise said she believes the future of her approach can help create more collaborative cultures where people look at what brings them together, rather than what divides them.

She said: “It’s about getting people to realise they have more control over their lives and being more proactive in creating the life they will love to live.”

“There is definitely a shift to a more reflective way of thinking in the corporate world. It’s not there yet, but we’re much further ahead than, say, five years ago and it’s definitely having a positive impact on colleagues at Office Depot.”

The courses that Louise has delivered in the UK are I-lead, Management Essentials, Accelerated Coaching, Conflict Management, Personal Branding, Mind Mapping, Change Management, Emotional Intelligence level 1&2, Influencing With Impact, Resilience Training, Setting and Achieving Effective Goals (video workshop).

As well as time in Thailand, Louise spent years living and breathing the practice of yoga, meditation, holistic therapies and natural remedies, searching for root causes and cures to many of life’s challenges.

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How to look after employee mental health

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How prepared are businesses to discuss and support employee mental health?

Supporting employees in the workplace has gone beyond considering health and safety. As people continue to grow their awareness and understanding of the impact of mental health problems following numerous reports, employers are now expected to provide mental health and wellbeing support.

The Mental Health Foundation found evidence to suggest that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health issues in the workplace. If employers took active steps to provide better mental health training and support to reduce stress levels, it could save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.

It is therefore essential that companies assess what steps they can take towards offering an improved mental health support system. As well as staff being supported businesses will benefit from implementing a strategy, as less days would be lost due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety.

Why is mental health important?
Mental health continues to be a serious talking point when it comes to what employers should be offering staff in terms of support. Businesses need to ensure they have an adequate system in place to help look after the mental wellbeing of individuals working for the organisation.

Research undertaken in this area revealed that, in Britain, 602,000 workers reported suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This resulted in a staggering 12.8 million working days lost. This highlights the need for businesses to implement a strategy and adopt a business culture to tackle stress and poor mental health in the workplace.

Encouraging a more open dialogue about mental health in the workplace and having a culture where employees can find support when struggling, can help reduce the impact of mental health on the workplace. With one in seven employed people experiencing mental health issues, it is clear how essential workplace wellbeing support is.

How to improve mental health in the workplace
Given the shocking statistics associated with those suffering from poor mental health in the workplace, businesses need to take on the responsibility of supporting employees. To do this, there are some simple yet effective changes that can be made.

One way to improve wellbeing is to consider the office environment itself and see if the set-up is helpful or harmful to employees. A glaringly obvious issue is that office workers spend 75% of their waking hours sitting down. This contributes towards poor mental health as sitting too much has been linked to a rise in depression and anxiety. Therefore, businesses should consider ways to reduce the time employees spend sat down.

Encouraging individuals to become more active while in work can be as simple as placing bins further away from desks to create a need to get up more. Alternatively, exploring different types of furniture can lead to staff sitting less, such as the implementation of sit-stand desks. These desks are designed to allow users to switch between sitting and standing when completing work to help improve blood flow.

Another easy solution when considering how to take better care of the wellbeing of colleagues is to ensure the correct hygienic practices are carried out. This is due to studies that have revealed that when suffering from a common cold or the flu, the physical sickness caused by the body’s response to these illnesses significantly overlaps with depressive symptoms.

Providing employees with anti-bacterial soap and facial tissues should be the norm for businesses but not all do this. These provisions reduce the chance for germs to spread and decrease the likelihood of colleagues becoming ill, which also lessens the number of staff suffering from symptoms of depression often linked to the common cold. Improving hygiene practices should result in employers seeing a reduction in days lost due to workplace stress and illnesses.

There are a number of changes employees need to make and perhaps the most important is a shift in company culture. So, then, what steps can companies take to implement these changes?

How to equip employees to nurture mental health
There are action plans that can be put in place that provide a network of support for members of staff so they know where to turn to if in need of someone to listen or talk to. This could involve running training sessions on how to notice signs a colleague is struggling with poor mental health or how to start a conversation with them about it. It is also important to actively incorporate schemes that are designed to improve wellbeing in the workplace in general and encourage discussions surrounding the topic.

Many companies have specially trained members of staff, known as mental health first aiders, that have been on training courses to learn the best way to support fellow colleagues struggling with their mental health. Mental health first aiders should have the same business priority as traditional first aiders, especially as research suggests employee mental health issues have just as serious an impact on their ability to work productively as any physical health issues.

It is possible to arrange for specialists to visit the business to carry out mental health training. Office Depot offers mental health in the workplace training to allow both management and employees to develop an understanding of common mental health conditions and give them the ability to support mental welfare within the organisation.

It is essential that organisations do not overlook the importance of workplace mental health. They must take responsibility of supporting positive mental health within the workplace by equipping managers and employees with skills needed to achieve operational wellbeing.

Similarly, employers should assess if the layout of the office and the hygienic practices they have in place require updating to further nurture wellbeing of staff members, keeping businesses running as efficiently and economically as possible.

Office Depot offers a free space planning audit as well as a free cleaning and hygiene audit that businesses can take advantage of to get trusted advice on maximising the productivity of the workforce.

To find out more, please visit: www.whyofficedepot.co.uk

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Offices must clean up their act to avoid flu outbreaks

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Companies are being urged to ensure offices are prepared this winter, on the back of reports that GP consultations for flu-like illness were up by a quarter in the UK.

With medical advice including the use of tissues to trap germs, washing hands often with warm water and soap and binning used tissues, Office Depot is warning UK businesses to ensure they are also prepared to prevent an outbreak within the office.

A recent survey by Office Depot found that 83% of people admit going to work despite having a cold, with 81% believing they have picked up an illness from a work colleague. Heightening the risk of bacteria growing in the workplace, the survey of 500 UK office workers found that an astonishing 30% of businesses fail to supply anti-bacterial handwash or soap.

George Hand, Head of Cleaning, Hygiene and Catering at Office Depot, said: “The recent news that flu-like illnesses are on the increase should be a concern for UK businesses. While children are one of the main causes of flu being spread, it leaves parents at risk of carrying the illness. As such, offices should ensure they have all of the right equipment in place to prevent the spread among colleagues.

“Our research found that businesses can and should do more to prevent the potential spread of illnesses, including providing the right handwash and hand dryers. People are likely to continue working despite being unwell, as found in our research, and so office managers must ensure that best practice is undertaken where possible.”

One of the main reasons employees may continue to go into work despite being unwell could be because they fear there is inadequate support and work will not be completed in their absence. Indeed, 88% of respondents said that they would have to pick up at least some of their work following an absence, with 38% believing they’d have to pick up all of their work upon their return.

Each office has different considerations, and news of flu-like illnesses on the rise could prompt a knee-jerk reaction and purchasing unnecessary products at heightened prices. To avoid panic purchasing, businesses concerned about their own provision of cleaning and hygiene products can take advantage of a free cleaning and hygiene audit from Office Depot.

To find out more information, visit www.whyofficedepot.co.uk/workplacewipeout.

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How to prepare your office for winter

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As the cold weather continues, businesses across the UK will increasingly find that they are unprepared for wintery conditions and the safety hazards they present. Unsafe pathways, treacherous car parks and broken-down heating can all lead to organisations falling victim to hidden workplace hazards and reduced productivity levels.

There are steps businesses can take to ensure that they are prepared for the winter weather and minimise the impact of the colder temperatures on the workforce. There are three main concerns when it comes to offices during winter: the maintenance of external surroundings, safety protection of individuals and the level of comfort within the office. Let’s take a look in more detail.

1. How to maintain workplace safety during winter weather
During the cold winter months when fallen leaves, frost, snow and ice appears, the risk of a workplace accident soars. While the majority of these may only result in minor injuries, these accidents still contribute to the 30.7 million working days lost each year due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. The economic knock-on effect of this lost productivity is significant, costing employers £500 million and the NHS £133 million each year.

How then, can companies ensure employee safety and avoid these workplace hazards? Rock salt offers a straightforward and relatively inexpensive way of keeping these accidents at bay. It’s widely used by businesses and local authorities to restrict the formation of ice and offers both cars and pedestrians much-needed grip on slippery surfaces. Despite its common use, rock salt is often used incorrectly, limiting the effectiveness.

Rock salt works by lowering the freezing point of surface moisture and is therefore most effective when applied to paths and thoroughfares before ice and snow begins to appear. However, it is still important to apply grit when ice has already formed as it provides traction and an indication of where to tread carefully. In the winter season, black ice is especially dangerous in car parks as it can lurk here before the sun has fully risen.

It’s therefore important to time the spreading of rock salt correctly. This is because if it is applied too early it will be displaced by vehicles. Instead, it should be applied before rush hours on a damp surface. This will help ensure it stays in place to reduce this hazard and risk to staff’s personal safety.

The way we spread rock salt is also important and companies must have the correct tools and clothing. Rock salt should be stored in grit bins close to where it’s applied, with spreaders and shovels used to properly disperse the material. These products will prevent excess grit being pushed into flower beds and other green spaces. This is particularly important for businesses with landscaped gardens as a consistently high soil salinity will starve roots of water and eventually kill foliage.

Liquid ice melts are an alternative to rock salt. Originally designed for airport runways, these products are effective when ice has yet to form. They will also stick to roads better than salt and require less labour to apply. When ice has already set, however, liquid melts will take longer to work. Ultimately both products will protect against snow and ice when used correctly, though liquid melts will work best when used in a preventative capacity.

2. Consider personal safety
Provision of safe clothing and equipment is covered under Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. As such, employers must ensure staff who work outside during winter are appropriately equipped for extreme weather and physical hazards. This can also apply to office workers. Hi vis workwear is mandatory when working around traffic in low light. To overcome this, high visibility jackets help to ensure the safety and security of personnel on a winter day. Work gloves should also be offered to those working in particularly harsh conditions, including the winter snow.

On a more practical, level safety gloves will also prevent employees from putting their hands in pockets, giving them a chance to stabilise or cushion their landing should they fall. These safety precautions reduce the likelihood of requiring first aid at work. Safety signs should also be used alongside safety workwear to reduce the risk of the various types of hazard heavy snow poses.

3. Control the office temperature
While winter poses less of a threat indoors there are still seasonal issues that businesses need to consider, including safety supplies and indoor temperatures. While for the most part offices may feel that they are adequately equipped for the winter season, surprises like the beast from the east can sneak up and produce a winter storm with no warning signs, playing havoc with winter preparation.

Office temperature has long been debated in workplaces across the country and consensus is rarely reached on what’s best. Research also does little to clarify the problem with one recent study finding women performing better at cognitive tasks in a warmer office and men when it’s cooler. What constitutes a comfortable temperature will seemingly remain subjective but most would agree that when the mercury dips too low, it’s difficult to be productive.

Fortunately, Health and Safety Executive offers some clarity. Approved code of practice published in 1992 suggests that minimum workplace temperatures should be at least 16°C. If work requires rigorous physical effort the temperature should be at least 13°C. These figures are not, as HSE points out, absolute legal requirements but they do give some idea of what’s reasonable. Despite this, at 16°C many people will be reaching for the thermostat or a portable radiator. While most buildings now have a modern central heating system, sudden intense use after summer can put even new boilers under strain. Mechanical failure during severe weather would pose a serious issue, as without appropriate heating, offices can easily dip well below the 16°C benchmark. As such, it’s advisable to keep a contingency of different portable heaters on hand in the event of boiler failure.

There are multiple benefits to having a portable heater, for example they provide a level of flexibility. Due to the ability to place them in a variety of locations, the heaters can create warmth in areas of the office that the heat from fixed wall radiators may not be able to effectively reach. In addition to this, they allow the same office to contain zones of different temperatures, which is handy if there is a difference in opinion of what the temperature should be. This ensures employees are able to work as productively as possible in a temperature ideal to them. Similarly, if an unexpected meeting occurs, it’s useful to have a way to heat any room needed in a hurry.

Protect productivity levels
Following this simple guidance can help to make the working environment a safe and comfortable place to be. By ensuring employees are safe and comfortable, businesses are less likely to suffer from loss of productivity in the form of absenteeism due to illnesses or work-related injuries.

It is essential to look at the workplace setting when considering ways to increase the level of efficiency at which a workforce is operating. These minor differences can have a major impact, saving businesses time and money in the winter months.

Businesses wanting to improve attendance and productivity during winter should download Office Depot’s free guide on preparing for wintery conditions.

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Should your business invest in branded water bottles?

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Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you’ll be well aware that the world’s plastic consumption has been under the microscope for the last 12 months. A number of companies across the UK have already started to make pledges to reduce plastic consumption.

Sainsbury’s has announced it will introduce refillable packaging to cut plastic waste. PepsiCo plans to reduce the use of virgin plastic across its portfolio by 35%. More than 26 million single-use plastics have been removed by Tui Group airlines since 2018. The list goes on.

For many companies, sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets are growing in importance. It can form part of company credentials when tendering for new business or simply keep stakeholders happy that everything is being done to reduce waste. There is a plethora of reasons to reduce single-use plastic but how can companies just like yours make small but impactful changes?

Branded reusable water bottles One viable solution businesses can make is to introduce reusable branded water bottles for staff to use. As well as reducing the levels of single-use plastic across the business, they have other qualities including improving staff morale and encouraging hydration.

Another single-use plastic which has seen a crackdown in the last year or so is the disposable takeaway cup, typically found in high street coffee chains. As they are manufactured with a thin layer of plastic to maintain heat and ensure leaks are avoided, they are particularly difficult to recycle.

As a result, consumers are looking for ways to reduce their individual impact and find sustainable solutions which can be re-used. Branded bottles can be used for both cold and hot beverages, and there are a number of benefits that they bring. Let’s explore in more detail.

Benefits of branded water bottles
One of the key benefits of offering staff branded water bottles is maintaining hydration levels. Keeping employees hydrated is essential to ensuring productivity levels are maintained. However, busy workloads sometimes mean staff don’t refuel as much as they need to.

You might think that hydration is an issue reserved for the warmer, summer months, however there is similar risk of dehydration in the winter. As sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold and dry air, the risk remains even when temperatures drop. This is because people may be less likely to drink water voluntarily in cooler temperatures. Providing refillable water bottles can therefore motivate employees to drink more water.

Other benefits of branded water bottles include an overall reduction in single-use plastics across the business. Encouraging staff to ditch their plastic water bottles and re-fill can help companies meet sustainability targets. What’s more, branded bottles can be purchased to aid both cold and hot beverages. Stainless steel bottles can be branded, meaning staff can reduce their intake of coffee cups, as well as water bottles.

But how can the benefits of refillable bottles be measured?
Measuring the impact that the introduction of water bottles can have on the business is achievable. The first step is to conduct a simple survey asking employees to share their average weekly consumption of plastic bottles and reusable coffee cups. The results can then be used to launch the internal communications campaign when introducing the bottles to staff. Once the bottles have been introduced, launching the survey again will help see how and if attitudes have changed.

From these results, companies can realistically measure the impact the campaign has had on staff consumption of single-use plastic bottles.

Three ways to utilise reusable branded water bottles
In addition to introducing branded water bottles to staff, there are a number of marketing opportunities available.

1. Exhibition giveaways
Exhibitions remain popular for businesses to showcase expertise and experience to the marketplace. Visitors at exhibitions can often be bombarded with a number of freebies which simply go to waste or aren’t useful. Branded water bottles provide a good opportunity to increase brand awareness and are likely to be well received by attendees.

2. Events
A growing theme in the events space is making them more sustainable. Some companies have started to utilise plastic water bottles and provide them to delegates as part of a welcome package. Not only does this encourage delegates to refrain from using single-use plastic bottles, but it also provides them with a keep-sake from their event.

3. Client gifts
When supplying gifts for clients, many companies revert to classic chocolates or food hampers. Gifting branded water bottles does not only encourage sustainability, but also positions you as a forward-thinking company providing gifts which are not the norm.

Which water bottle options are available to businesses?
There is a range of bottles available to businesses which can help achieve aims to reduce single-use plastic consumption. These can all be branded or supplied as plain bottles.

  • 650ml Base Bottle: This classic range comes with a single wall and a twist lid. Made from recyclable PET material, the bottles have dome or flip lids.
  • Tritan Bottle: The popular Tritan range has a folding mouth piece which connects to a straw within the bottle. They are available in 650ml and 800ml sizes.
  • Stainless Steel Bottle: These bottles maintain temperature levels of drinks, hot and cold, and are available in 600ml and 750ml.
  • Double Walled Bottle: With a screw lid, this option is popular when keeping drinks hot and cold.

Office Depot can supply a range of branded water bottles, thanks to its print marketing service, Vital Communications. For more information, call 0161 301 8516.

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Office Depot scoops health award

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Crack open the the mineral water and feast on fruit – it’s time to celebrate after Office Depot was hailed as one of the healthiest companies in the UK.

We came second in the Most Improved Workplace (medium-sized) category in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Awards 2019, run by the Financial Times newspaper.

The rankings are based on healthy employee scores, compiled by gathering data on risk factors such as smoking habits, nutrition and physical activity.

Clare Porciani, Sr Manager HR Services in the UK & Ireland, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be recognised in this way. It is a terrific reflection of how hard we’ve been working as a company to support the health and wellbeing of our people.

“We’ve achieved this through a number of initiatives from healthy eating and stop smoking days to mental health first aid training.

“We still have much more to do, but well-being is extremely high on our agenda and we’re moving in the right direction. Well done to everybody who has organised or participated in our initiatives.”

Office Depot was pipped to the top spot by Argos Financial Services.

The full story can be found here.

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Office Depot scoops award for innovation

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Office Depot has won an award for Innovation Delivery from Virgin Money, one of the fastest growing banks in the UK.

The banking and finance team in UK & Ireland Contract, walked away with the innovation award for proactively suggesting sustainable products to help the bank reduce its environmental footprint.

Their award-winning proposals included a pitch to provide branded, reusable water bottles for every member of staff eliminating the need for single use plastic cups and the supply notebooks made from apple peel.

They received their award at a special Virgin Money event attended by more than 100 of its suppliers in Newcastle yesterday (November 5, 2019).

New ideas and customer insight a winning combination

Account Director Amanda Cherry, who leads the Virgin Money account, said: "It was a complete surprise to win it as we didn't even know we'd been nominated. It's a great feeling.

"The reason we won is because we are proactive and suggest innovative ways to help them achieve what they want to achieve. So this year so far, our innovation and creative pitches to Virgin Money have secured us over £84k worth of one-off orders but I believe our overall attitude and approach to constantly providing new ideas won us the award.

"There were only 14 awards in total so to win one of them was fantastic and great kudos for us."

Award win opens the door for new opportunities

Amanda added: "They have a newly launched programme called Procurement Spotlight where they invite certain suppliers to present their business to show how they can add value. I've already contacted them about that so this win has created some great opportunities for us".

"Virgin Money think we are a really innovative partner because we put suggestions forward that other vendors may not think of. We know that Virgin is very focused on zero waste, low emissions and sustainability so we've used that to our advantage. We've gone in with something we knew would make an impact."

Robert Baldrey, Chief Sales Officer for Contract EU7, said: "What a fantastic achievement. Well done to the team. We're seeing some excellent results and momentum in the Contract space at the moment – let's keep going!"

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How your office can beat the winter flus

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Winter is fast approaching and office-based businesses need to put preparations in place to avoid the workforce suffering from illnesses common during these months.

Employees take the most sick days during the winter months, according to a report published by the Office for National Statistics. The report also found that the main causes for these sick days were common illnesses, including coughs and colds.

It is essential for businesses to keep the number of employees suffering from common winter illnesses to a minimum to prevent productivity levels from dropping. There are a number of ways businesses can help to reduce the risk of staff becoming ill, including improving and re-stocking cleaning supplies.

Office Depot recently found a staggering 83 per cent of full-time office employees still go into work even if they have a cold, following a survey of 1,000 office workers. It is no surprise, then, that 81 per cent of colleagues believe they have picked up an illness from another member of staff.

These findings emphasise the importance of hygienic practices within the workplace to minimise the spread of such illnesses. How, then, can offices avoid workplace illnesses?

4 ways offices can improve hygiene levels

1. Anti-bacterial handwash
It may come as a surprise that not all staff have the same hygiene practices when it comes to using the toilet. Office Depot’s survey found that 45 per cent of workers noticed their co-workers failed to wash their hands after going to the toilet. The first step to make is ensuring hand wash is available. While this may seem like an obvious amenity to provide, Office Depot’s survey found a shocking 30 per cent of businesses do not supply handwash or soap for employees.

It is a legal requirement for offices to provide soap and those not doing so are in violation of the Health and Safety Act. Ensuring bathrooms are stocked with antibacterial handwash is therefore a necessity.

2. Offering facial tissues
What happens when your colleagues sneeze at their desk? Unless they have their own supply of desk tissues, the likelihood is either running to the toilet or sniffing regularly. The saying, ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ only works if tissues have been provided for employees to use.

Only eight per cent of office workers surveyed by Office Depot could say that they had facial tissues available within the office. Presenting issues in terms of preventing the spread of illnesses throughout the company. This simple yet effective commodity can help businesses avoid staff shortages during the winter months as it will reduce the amount of airborne bacteria.

3. Encouraging staff to eat lunch away from their desks
It is not uncommon for office workers to eat lunch at their desks, especially during particularly busy periods. However, this increases the likelihood of bacteria breeding on desks. When you add the increased likelihood of people not washing their hands before handling food, the risk of bacteria growth increases.

The majority of those asked (79%) reported working with people who eat lunch at their desk. Businesses should provide a designated area for staff to be able to go to eat lunch and encourage them to utilise this space. If this is not a viable option, cleaning solutions such as desk wipes would support the efforts to reduce bacteria present in the office environment.

4. Removing dirty crockery from desks
As a result of employees eating at their desks, dirty plates and cups are often left to become a breeding ground for bacteria. This unhygienic practice needs to be addressed as it is an easy issue to fix. Companies should first make sure that workers are clearing up after themselves and utilising cleaning equipment supplies.

Over half (58%) of those surveyed admitted that they have witnessed other members of staff leaving unclean crockery in their work area. Making an effort to therefore discourage office workers from doing this, would help create a more hygienic working space.

How can offices protect productivity?
If employees are ill, the workplace is less productive. By making sure your office takes on board these important yet simple steps for preparing for flu season, the risk of illnesses spreading reduces.

The research Office Depot carried out shows a clear need for UK businesses to improve their hygienic practices. This is especially important during the colder months when immune systems are weaker due to the colder weather and lack of Vitamin D.

By providing offices with the appropriate cleaning and hygiene products, businesses could reduce the number of employees falling ill and being unable to make it into work. In addition to this, encouraging initiatives such as eating away from desks and immediately clearing up spillages also helps to promote a cleaner environment.

Businesses concerned about their own provision of cleaning and hygiene products can take advantage of a free cleaning and hygiene audit from Office Depot. To arrange an on-site audit, visit https://whyofficedepot.co.uk/Products-pages/furniture.php.

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3 ways your office can combat Sick Building Syndrome

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Office workers often spend the majority of their day sat at a desk in an office environment. Spending this much time in the same building can increase the risk of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

A recent study by business technology specialists, Remark Group, has found that SBS could be making a comeback. In a survey of 1,000 UK office workers, it found that 86 per cent suffer from headaches at work and 57 per cent believe the air quality is affecting their mental or physical health. These shocking statistics show that businesses need to take action immediately.

The way an office is laid out is crucial. Whether it’s the positioning of desks or access to natural light, the way workers are impacted is becoming apparent. So-called SBS can reduce productivity levels within the workforce.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick Building Syndrome is the term used for those who only suffer from the relevant symptoms while in a specific building, often an office. These symptoms get worse the longer an individual spends in these surroundings, and better after they leave.

The related symptoms of SBS may include:

  • Headaches
  • Blocked nose
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Rashes
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Each of these symptoms have a negative impact on staff in the workplace, preventing them from being able to work as productively as possible.

Sitting at a desk for a long period of time where there is bad ventilation or poorly maintained air conditioning systems can contribute towards causing SBS. Similarly, bright or flickering lights may cause headaches, dry eyes and prevent concentration. On top of this, staff may experience a blocked nose if there is dust, smoke, fumes or fabric fibres in the air. All of these symptoms contribute towards office workers feeling ill and consequently has a knock-on effect on productivity levels.

So, how can businesses avoid this phenomenon reaching the office?

Three ways to combat Sick Building Syndrome
There are a number of steps that office or facilities managers can take to improve the working environment to reduce the effects of feeling unwell in the office. Here are some top tips on what can be done:

1. Reduce workplace stress
The NHS suggest lowering levels of work related stress in order to reduce the likelihood of staff members experiencing SBS. One of the ways this can be achieved is encouraging employees to be more active throughout the day. For example, placing resources including printers and scanners a short walk away from desks can get office workers to move about more during day-to-day activities.

Another way to combat stress in the office is to provide mental health training to encourage staff to deal with situations in a healthier way and consider their wellbeing at work. This helps teams to identify, engage and support individuals impacted by mental health. The training allows organisations to better manage the impact that SBS may have within the workplace and protect productivity.

2. Consider office design
There are a number of factors to consider when creating the ideal office plan. In order to prevent employees feeling the effects of SBS, certain precautions can be implemented to improve occupational health.

Placing desks near windows encourages wellness and productivity, as Remark found a considerable drop in staff’s efficiency levels when windows were closed. Therefore, placing office workers near windows that let in fresh air and natural light will have a positive impact on productivity within the business.

Furthermore, Remark found that 56 per cent of staff are worried about the air quality in the area they work, so would appreciate the ability to enjoy some fresh air. Placing desks near windows to allow staff to take advantage of ventilation helps to counteract the symptoms associated with SBS, improving workplace wellbeing.

3. Increase engagement levels
Ensuring meetings encourage productivity is vital. Remark found that a staggering 90 per cent of office workers attend up to 10 meetings per week. Worryingly, 34 per cent of the meeting rooms hosting these sessions didn’t have windows. This causes symptoms linked to SBS, such as tiredness and the inability to concentrate, as a result of the lack of natural light.

To combat dipping concentration levels, office or facilities managers can organise for spaces designated for meetings to be ones that receive plenty of daylight. Employee work spaces should also be located where there are multiple windows to allow natural light in.

With 91 per cent of office workers reporting that they suffer from tiredness or lethargy at work, in Remark’s study, creating meeting rooms that will get employees moving about more will help to counteract this. To do this, office or facilities managers could create break out rooms from meetings, as a different space for individuals to visit for a quick break to boost concentration levels.

Similarly, another solution that could be implemented is the inclusion of sit-stand desks that allow office workers to alternate their position to get their blood flowing and reduce feelings of tiredness. These desks are available in different materials, dimensions and with optional add-ons, such as a digital control unit.

Recent research should be an eye-opener for office managers and business owners and show that an office’s layout can have a serious impact on staff’s wellbeing. Therefore, to keep employees working efficiently, aspects such as natural lighting and air quality should be taken into consideration.

Businesses wanting to improve their office layout and furniture for the wellbeing of their employees should arrange a free space planning audit from Office Depot.

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Office Depot Europe launches new campaign to improve environment

Office Depot Europe has launched a new campaign to improve its environmental credentials.

As one of the leading workplace solutions providers, Office Depot Europe is on a mission to reduce its carbon footprint, improve its sustainability and work in its communities to support local people through volunteering and fundraising.

Check out our ‘CSR book’ for more details.

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Companies urged to prepare for winter weather

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Companies across the UK and Ireland are being urged to secure staff safety this winter, by proactively stocking up with essential equipment to prevent workplace accidents and productivity loss.

According to University College London, the UK is set to face freezing Arctic conditions and the lowest temperatures in decades. To support businesses through this expected cold snap, Office Depot has launched a guide which explains how to fully prepare for the winter weather and ensure staff are safe, both in the office and on the road.

Insurance broker, Towergate, recently released research suggesting as many as 66 per cent of SMEs have lost revenue due to bad weather in the last five years. Office Depot’s guide, Office Snow-How, breaks down the challenges businesses regularly face, while also explaining the available solutions which can be implemented immediately.

Split into two sections, the guide covers office-based risks, such as slips and heating failure, as well as company car protection. With as many as 890,000 company cars in use in the UK, according to recent figures from HMRC, businesses are being asked to check whether each individual has car safety kits in the event of hazardous weather.

George Hand, Head of Catering, Cleaning and Hygiene at Office Depot, said: “Every year, we receive last minute requests for a number of our winter essentials because businesses are ill-prepared when icy or snowy conditions arrive. When we receive these requests, many businesses often find it’s too late to avoid potential accidents.”

“It’s not unusual for the UK to experience sudden changes in temperature, so it’s vital that UK businesses are prepared to cope. Our guide has been created to serve as a helpful reminder of why preparation is vital, while also offering advice on the different solutions available.”

To support businesses further, Office Depot has a direct line and a dedicated team of advisors ready to help those looking to purchase their winter essentials. From grits, rock salts and shovels to prevent slips, to temporary heating in case of a heating failure, there are a number of solutions available which can be ordered, and delivered, potentially next day (depending on when the order is placed and availability).

As shifts in the weather patterns can be sudden, Office Depot is ready to help businesses prepare the winter essentials, as George Hand explains:

“Ensuring staff safety should be the number one priority for any business, but it can be difficult to understand exactly what is required. Office Depot is here to help clear any confusion and ensure businesses across the UK and Ireland are secure this winter.”

Two direct line numbers are available, one for the UK and one for Ireland, to ensure businesses are prepared. Companies in the UK can call 0161 301 8516 and those in Ireland can dial 01 815 0770 to discuss the different options available.

To find out more about the risks faced and available options, you can download the Office Depot guide at www.whyofficedepot.co.uk/winter-solutions.

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Why transparency is key for international procurement

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The challenges when operating an international business can sometimes feel never-ending. For procurement and purchasing teams, there is a plethora of considerations, especially when thinking about specific country requirements.

When it comes to managing your business, adopting an international approach with country expertise is vital to aid smooth operation and achieve the best deals. Keeping track of the different suppliers and hitting individual country KPIs is certainly a challenge and, when combined with targets to reduce expenditure, negotiating the best possible value from suppliers can be a full-time job in itself.

So, how can this be avoided and the process simplified?
By having a single-source international procurement solution for all office supplies, businesses can adopt a standard central reporting system which outlines individual activities from across each country the business is situated. Let’s take a closer look at how this can benefit an international business and deliver significant savings.

How can your office purchases be streamlined?
The first thing to understand is how your office purchasing can be made more efficient. Realising the potential to combine the outsourcing of printing, furniture and office supplies can help international companies make significant savings, while saving significant time for procurement and purchasers.

For example, all Office Depot services can be implemented across international offices and adapted to the specific requirements of each country. Whether that’s marketing and print solutions or even furniture, the possibilities for streamlined purchases, which can be echoed across multiple international offices, are high. The primary benefit for international businesses is that one supplier means a single overarching contract augmented with local country level expertise and points of contact, providing consistency, transparency and regular reporting. A single supplier can use this local expertise to understand the specific needs of each individual country, and help businesses towards cost savings through efficiency improvements, consolidation and product selections, also impacting green and CSR measures such as carbon footprint reductions through optimised deliveries.

The additional benefit of an e-procurement software, which incorporates all of the services, further adds to the benefits of a streamlined service.

Simplified account management
Local account management is key to any supplier relationship. International businesses require an absolute understanding of what is going on in each local market and their respective challenges. Procurement managers need to be able to rely on a lead account manager in the country in which they are based and this is the approach undertaken by Office Depot.

One of the key benefits of a central account management team is that they take control of all the countries that require support, simplifying the processes. Office Depot’s network provide services in 32 European markets (over 50 markets globally) to numerous international businesses, and its team of account managers have the expertise and skills to give direction on the opportunities available in each market.

A simplified account management structure can also help companies to clearly understand the total cost of ownership. Working directly with procurement teams to determine direct and indirect costs, a simplified account management structure can help businesses identify areas where savings can be realised.

Transparency and regular reporting
Another key challenge facing procurement managers is pulling together a full report of all of the costs from each office. Reaching out to each office and combining these results can often be a time-consuming task and one that requires commitment from someone located in each country. The task at hand is heightened with the requirement to deliver all results within a specific timeframe.

Using an international supplier provides complete transparency when it comes to costs, trade and how it is meeting the business’s KPIs. Office Depot can help consolidate reporting, and provide complete awareness and understanding of the outgoings in the business.

In addition, reporting can be flexible to the individual requirements of a business. A standard central reporting system can help drive CSR or environmental goals, such as reduced carbon footprint, and highlight trends across allof the individual countries. Customer requirements are actively sought to help create a reporting process bespoke to individual needs and targets.

Significant international savings
As we have already identified, streamlining processes is an effective way to save businesses money. Whether it is rationalising selections to achieve savings from a core list of items or optimising delivery frequency, to consolidating or working directly with other existing suppliers, having an international partnership offers a multitude of opportunities, including consolidation of invoices and deliveries.

If using a single-source supplier, purchasing can be consolidated across multiple product and services categories. This can even see orders being limited to one invoice and one delivery, if required. Additional benefits include helping businesses to rationalise selections to achieve savings, as well as optimising delivery frequency.

Want to streamline your international procurement?
Utilising a single-source supplier can help international businesses consolidate purchasing across multiple product and services categories. With the option of simplifying orders and minimising invoices and delivery, businesses can take advantage of significant cost savings across all of the countries in which they operate. Remember, moving to international procurement doesn’t mean you lose out on the local flexibility for logistics and distribution.

Office Depot is a leading supplier for all office requirements, including general supplies, cleaning, hygiene and catering products, furniture and print and marketing solutions. Our e-procurement software is easy to use across all European countries, and our leading account management team works with international businesses to secure significant savings and simplified approaches.

To find out more information, please email Office Depot on international.development@officedepot.eu

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Four must-have office products every worker needs

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It is no secret that we love office stationery. The feeling of a new work book, the delivery of new pens and the re-stock of sticky notes is often an exciting occasion for office equipment enthusiasts. At Office Depot HQ, we have unearthed some of the best office accessories that can help revolutionise your office and take stationery to the next level.

1. Recycled pens
How can offices be more sustainable? This is a question we are regularly asked at Office Depot and there are many ways companies can be greener. However, one office product we are really excited about is a new range of pens which have been manufactured using recycled materials.

In a bid to help your office reduce its environmental impact, Pilot has pioneered a full range of recycled pens. Offering a full environmentally friendly range of pens, Pilot Begreen’s products are manufactured from recycled plastic water bottles.

According to City to Sea, 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year in the UK. This equates to an astounding 150 bottles per person every year. With many discarded and ultimately polluting the UK’s rivers and seas, many activists have called upon people to be more conscious of their plastic use.

Pilot is just one of the companies using innovative methods of recycling plastic bottles with a real benefit to the end user. B2P is the main product line from the Pilot Begreen range and is available as a gel rollerball and ballpoint pen. Since it launched, over 6.5 million plastic bottles have been recycled into pens.

Plastic bottles can go a long way. Each plastic bottle that Pilot gets its hands on can create either five B2P gel rollerball pens or two ballpoint pens.

2. Extreme Post-It® notes

Reminders are key for any business. Whether you’re taking a message for another colleague or you simply need to put a reminder in front of your screen to ensure you don’t forget some vital information, the humble sticky note is an office favourite. However, employees can be left frustrated when their notes don’t stick on textured surfaces.

3M has revolutionised its popular range of Post-It® notes with the launch of Extreme Notes. Suitable for areas where notes are traditionally difficult to stick onto, the Extreme Notes stick securely and remove cleanly without damaging the surface.

Whether your office has textured desk dividers, cinderblock, concrete or brick walls, or even a communal fridge, the Extreme Notes have been created to help change our thoughts on sticky notes. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, Extreme Notes maintain their adhesive qualities in both hot, steamy and cold environments, meaning they can be used in the fridge, by the kettle or even outside.

Water-resistant, the Extreme Notes are perfect for any working environment, including construction, education, catering and general offices. And while regular Post-It® notes are perfect for general office use, introducing Extreme Notes, means you can stick notes to places previously impossible.

3. A whiteboard for every wall
Brainstorms can be vital to help get your creative juices flowing. Whenever one is organised, a number of ideas are thrown into the hat, some inspired and others less so. For the ones that you want to disregard, traditionally you find yourself crossing them out, leaving an unclear and messy board.

Whiteboards are an alternative, but again this restricts you to just one office room for your brainstorms. How, then, can you transform any meeting room into a creative area?

The next product under our microscope is the Space-Up from Legamaster. Space-Up is a transferrable magnetic writing surface which can act as a blank canvas for creatives. It can be placed on any wall in the office, turning a standard meeting room into a creative space for thinking and learning.

Reusable, the product acts in the same way as a whiteboard, without it being permanently fixed onto a wall. Items can be rubbed out, while the user-friendly sheet is easy to roll away. For companies which thrive on creativity, the Space-Up can transform your offices without the need of splashing out on an expensive refurbishment.

4. Personalised water bottles
Desk accessories are very popular, especially those which are personalised. Since Love Island took over our lives, the hunt for personalised water bottles has gone through the roof. But did you know your company could also have its very own personalised bottles for staff?

The benefits of offering staff personalised or branded water bottles are as clear as water. As well as encouraging hydration in the office, introducing reusable bottles can help organisations significantly reduce single-use plastic waste. The WWF has calculated that the UK could produce an astonishing 6.3 million tonnes of plastic by 2030. To help cut back, more and more businesses are looking for ways to offset their plastic use, by sourcing alternatives to everyday items.

One example to look closely at is Virgin Money. In its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030, it is removing single use plastic from its facilities and driving a significant culture change. Office Depot has worked with Virgin Money, supplying 3,300 reusable water bottles to the company. This equates to one bottle per member of staff.

Companies have a number of options to introduce branded bottles for staff. From plastic bottles with a sip to those with a straw, organisations can also take advantage of metal bottles. The latter can be used for both hot and cold beverages, meaning companies can also wave goodbye to single-use coffee cups.

There are other benefits, too. Branded bottles offer simple company advertising and can play a role in boosting staff morale. Investing in drinking bottles means businesses will show they are taking their pledges to be more sustainable seriously. It also encourages staff to think about how they can also reduce their single-use plastic consumption whilst staying hydrated.

How to transform your office
Small changes to your office can really help your business achieve your goals. Office furniture can also play a key role in transforming your business, but stationery can be a simple way to make positive yet simple changes. Whether it’s reducing your use of plastic, or helping your colleagues’ creative juices to flow, these four products can help to boost your office.

All of the office products listed are available via your Office Depot account manager. If you are interested in finding new ways to transform your office, get in touch with us today.

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Five benefits of a Managed Print Service

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Believe it or not, the conventional use of typical office printers is causing UK businesses to lose thousands of pounds per year in revenue. From wasted paper and unnecessary colour printing to downtime of vital printing equipment, a number of issues can really hamper a business.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Managed Print Services offer a way to save money and time by giving a business more visibility and control of its printing. At the same time, a print management service will remove any need for the company to look after its own print devices and supplies. The net result is a reduction in paper, ink, and energy usage, not to mention a much better workflow.

Here are five benefits of print management to assist your business today.

1. Increased Savings
Implementing managed print services can boost a business’s bottom line by cutting down on the expenses that accompany standard office printers bought on the high street. Standard printers will generally print at a cost of 25-30 pence per page however switching to services provided by print management will save an average of 25-30%. It isn’t uncommon for those with a print management system in place to pay as little as three pence per page.

These revenue-friendly managed print service solutions are increased further by reducing the use of colour printing in businesses. Employees often opt for coloured paper printing on reports and presentations which can prove unnecessary. By working with a managed print company, you can slash this expense by limiting access to colour printing to a limited number of staff.

Another financial advantage of a managed print strategy is cutting the cost and time lost on waiting for printer repairs and sourcing consumables such as replacement toners. Fluctuations in the availability of parts see variations in market prices throughout the year, which can cause added expense.

2. Improved Time Management
Managed Print Service vendors also aid company time management, slashing any valuable time lost during printer breakdown. Indeed, the delays experienced whilst searching for costly toner replacements are harmful to business efficiency. This issue is compounded when we consider the shortage of parts available for dated printers, which naturally prove difficult to source.

It is also estimated that 25% of IT department calls relate to printing issues. These are known to stifle the speed of IT experts in tackling more relevant and urgent issues to their department.

Outsourced print management, or assigning printing responsibilities to a more suitable team will almost inevitably increase IT specialists’ availability and productivity. These delays and costs are prevented by frequent printer efficiency reports. A print management company will understand the requirements of print procurement and monitoring, which allows your company, its departments, and its printers to perform to their full potential.

3. Fruitful Reporting
The outdated office printing model often requires a member of staff to purchase printer and toner replacements as and when they need them. However, without sufficient help in calculating cost-effective procurement, sourcing these consumables often leads to over-expenditure, which is subject to unpredictable market prices.

Fortunately, print management solutions reintroduce successful business budgetary allocations through its detailed reporting. Managed print systems offer timely, regular printer updates ensuring full stocks of all printing necessities, such as ink, toner and paper. These, in turn, ensure greater availability of data to project expenditure, not to mention greater levels of output.

4. Sustainability Success
UK businesses have a mounting responsibility to act sustainably and this is just another benefit of print management. Dated desktop printers and their incessant demand for toner replacements are likely to contravene any business’s bid for green credentials. A better alternative is a network of printers capable of using power, toner, and energy much more efficiently.

But sustainability takes more than just a more efficient printer. A managed print service effectively enables a business to select black and white as the default setting and restrict colour printing to lessen unnecessary usage. At the same time, setting double-sided printing as a default option can further enhance sustainability credentials by limiting paper wastage.

In this situation, a greener company means a greener planet, and this can be achieved by a shift in printing habits. Simple adjustments such as stopping automatic printing, reducing paper weight and setting double sided printing to default, can aid this bid significantly, regardless of the number of devices.

5. Greater Privacy
With GDPR and data breaches dominating the headlines as of late, document security has also become an increased priority for UK businesses. Printing habits have a massive role to play in combating privacy risk.

Introducing a print management regime can counter these pressing security risks. Most managed print services will provide a form of personalised access control codes or ID cards to limit this risk. Their role is to prevent private content from printing until the printing job is ready to be physically released from the printer. The result is reduced chance of a colleague stumbling across sensitive information which could leave the business vulnerable.

It’s clear that managed print services provide a number of benefits. There are others, such as avoiding costly equipment downtime, which are also explored in our white paper Navigating your way through the office print maze. Businesses should take the opportunity to reap the rewards of future-proofing their printing systems by adopting a managed print service.

For more information on the benefits of a Managed Print Service, click here.

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Does GDPR apply to paper documents?

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How storing documents in an organised way helps to protect your business’s sensitive data and improve its efficiency

It goes without saying that the typical office will see a number of paper documents being passed from person to person on a daily basis, which can pose a degree of risk in light of GDPR. A clear management system is therefore needed to protect the information within these documents from being lost or stolen. So, what exactly should this management look like?

Why should we handle paper documents carefully?
The advances in technology and increased popularity of mobile devices has led to documents becoming increasingly electronic in form. However, paper-based documents still play a big role in the workplace. This raises the issue of whether the correct security measures have been put in place to store these documents in a secure and organised way. Doing so prevents them from being lost or stolen and makes sure that businesses are operating within General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) archiving requirements.

It is useful to note that the method used to destroy confidential waste is also important and should be in line with the GDPR shredding regulations. This ensures tight data security processes are carried out at every stage of data handling to avoid the risk of it being exposed to external parties.

Our survey highlights this potential issue as it revealed 69 per cent of businesses keep documents containing personal data. To comply with GDPR it is essential that these documents are carefully stored securely to protect consumers and to avoid the business receiving any fines for mishandling sensitive information.

High-risk paper filing
In the survey we carried out, a worrying 21 per cent admitted to keeping potentially sensitive documents in piles under their desks. This exposes businesses to the risk of a data breach if these documents end up in the wrong hands. Without a clearly organised filing system, it is difficult to tell if files have gone missing or have simply been misplaced. Additionally, businesses could incur fines for failing to protect consumers personal data under the data protection act 2018.

To make matters worse, a further 10 per cent confessed to using plastic wallets. It’s safe to say these are not GDPR compliant methods for keeping sensitive data safe or protecting data subjects.

Storing Data
So, what should you be using as a better way to store printed documents? Archival boxes are old but gold when it comes to storage. They offer a durable and secure way for documents to be held whilst remaining accessible.

These simple cardboard storage boxes are specifically designed for printed documents to be stowed away in. Easy to label, organise and access, archive boxes allow a business to easily access personal data. This is useful as a business may need to amend or destroy data at a later date to comply with the key requirements of GDPR.

They also provide a safe place to store documents where they won’t become worn or damaged, without incurring high costs. Currently less than half (45%) of businesses keep documents stored in archive boxes, suggesting there is a real opportunity to tidy up filing systems across the country.

Businesses seen to be looking after the data they collect will create more positive relationships between themselves and their consumers. More people are taking steps to protect their data to avoid being targeted by businesses they do not want to hear from. Therefore, it is essential that businesses that have been given consent to store information do not share it with others in order to protect the data subject and maintain goodwill.

We can provide you with all the necessary products your office needs to create a simple and efficient filing system, helping you to ensure you are complying to GDPR guidelines. Why not contact us so we can carry out a free audit to provide you with recommendations of office products that are most suitable for your business needs?

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Is your business data protected against visual hacking?

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There is an increase in the number of businesses at risk of visual hacking of their mobile devices. Could yours be one of them?

What is visual hacking?
While most people are familiar with the term ‘hacking’ and its meaning, visual hacking is less commonly known. It is classed as visual hacking when an individual’s screen is being physically looked at by someone who has not been given permission to do so – something which is happening more frequently given the increase in remote office working.

The rise of mobile devices has made access to, and processing of data, much easier on the move. As a result, data security measures are needed to protect the information stored about colleagues, clients, and customers, to avoid it being inadvertently shared with others.

Why is it an issue?
Businesses will lose consumer trust if the personal data they handle is lost or stolen due to poor management systems. A lack of trust will lead to poorer consumer relations which will, in turn, have a negative impact on businesses. Furthermore, the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) threatens a hefty fine to those businesses not demonstrating GDPR compliance. Businesses not complying with GDPR could face a fine of up €20 million or 4% of their annual global turnover.

There are a few different steps firms can take to avoid potentially having to pay fines due to poor management of data. Many businesses have a designated Data Protection Officer (DPO) who is in charge of making sure the business is operating according to GDPR requirements. However, if you do not have a DPO, we have put together some useful information on how to avoid many of the more likely data breaches – and visual hacking is certainly one of those.

Luckily, one relatively simple product is available to all but nullify the visual hacking risk for you.

How can visual hacking be prevented?
There is a quick and simple way for your business to protect collected data from prying eyes in order to remain GDPR compliant.

Privacy screens are a worthwhile investment to increase security levels, and a wide range of discreet privacy filters and screen protectors is available for devices ranging from desktop monitors and laptops, to smartphones and tablets. A privacy screen filter is a discreet plastic sheet that is fixed directly onto a device screen using frameless tab holders or double-sided tape. Crucially, the material a privacy screen is made from ensures the screen appears dark unless you are sat facing the screen directly– thus blocking unwanted side views of a screen without reducing the clarity for the user. Whether the user is working in a busy office or on the move, a privacy filter ultimately helps to ensure businesses can keep their data safe.

Who would benefit from a privacy filter?
Privacy screen filters are ideal for remote workers and those often handling personal or confidential data of any kind. They provide an extra level of computer security to help workers ensure they remain compliant with the data protection act. With filters available for virtually any screen type, users handling data can benefit whether they spend most of their time using a monitor, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

A privacy screen should be one of the first lines of defence in stopping external parties from viewing sensitive data on your screen. With today’s businesses being more mobile and agile than ever, visual privacy has become hugely important.

Are businesses already protecting their data against visual hackers?
At Office Depot, we saw a 124% increase in sales of privacy screen filters from 2017 to 2018. This told us that businesses are becoming much more adept at combating the risk of visual hacking. Despite this, in the survey we carried out 15% of the UK businesses we spoke to still have no members of staff using privacy filters on their computer screens. In fact, less than half (45%) were able to confirm that all of their remote workers have privacy filters installed. This leaves many businesses at risk of personal data being compromised both within the office and in remote locations.

Since the introduction of GDPR, data subjects have become much more aware of the issues surrounding privacy with regards to their personal information. It is important that the information a consumer provides is only available to those given consent to view it. Therefore, consumers will be keeping an eye on which firms are complying to regulations and keeping data safe. They will develop better relationships with those following the data protection act 2018 due to an increased level of trust.

To ensure you are complying to GDPR, why not try out our free audit to find out what products your business needs to invest in?

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How to keep staff hydrated in the office

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Employers spend lots of time and money looking for ways to maximise the efficiency of their workforce. One simple factor that is likely to be overlooked, despite playing a significant role in productivity, is ensuring employee hydration levels are maintained.

We all know how important hydration is, but busy workloads sometimes mean staff don’t refuel as much as they need to. Here are just some of the ways you can encourage staff to keep hydrated in the office.

How can employers keep staff hydrated?
While there is no set figure for how much water a person should drink each day, there are guidelines for the suggested number of glasses. These are based around a typical adult’s day but should be adjusted depending on factors such as physical activity, temperature and overall health. The NHS recommends that adults drink between six to eight glasses a day, which equates to at least 1.2 litres.

These stats are not new but can often be overlooked, especially when busy. This can result in a drop in productivity levels, while other factors, such as the weather and air conditioning units, can also enhance dehydration. There are a number of benefits for the body that come from drinking water, as it delivers oxygen around the body to increase alertness. Furthermore, it increases working memory as well as maintaining blood pressure.

What, then, can employers do to ensure staff remain hydrated throughout the day?

The first option is simple: installing a water bottle machine into the office. The quality of tap water can differ across the country, and some people simply don’t like it. Options, such as introducing 15 litre water bottle machines to the workplace, provide fresh, cold water for staff to enjoy. By making water more accessible, staff may also be more likely to fill up their glasses or water bottles throughout the day.

The temperature of the water can also play a somewhat surprising role in productivity. Cold drinks, especially water, are beneficial to the overall health of a person, compared to room temperature drinks. This is because the chill of the cold liquid stimulates adrenaline, keeping people alert and therefore more productive. Ensuring a continued supply of cold water therefore should be a priority of any office manager.

What are the benefits of free tea and coffee for staff?
Unfortunately, water is not to everyone’s taste and forcing employees to drink more water can become tiresome. There are alternative options available, however, which may help improve employee hydration levels.

Supplying team members with squash can help maintain hydration levels. Taking multiple trips to the supermarket to stock up on squash can be expensive, but employers can take advantage of suppliers, including Office Depot, to provide cost-effective deliveries of different options.

Tea and coffee can also be a good solution for employers to consider. Recent suggestions from the Eatwell Guide says we should drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day, which includes tea and coffee. Offering complimentary hot drinks to staff should therefore be looked into. Additionally, providing complimentary services can have a positive impact on morale and job satisfaction.

There are other options including fruit teas, flavoured waters and sugar-free soft drinks which also aid hydration. These can be made available via vending machines, providing businesses with a cost-effective solution which encourage team members to remain hydrated throughout the day.

What are the side effects of dehydration?
When your workforce becomes dehydrated, many problems can arise. Productivity can fall, as dehydration is associated with headaches and low energy levels, which hinders work progress. Similarly, it makes workers prone to mood shifts and dips in concentration levels, which businesses will want to avoid.

Ultimately, these side effects create a less focused and, consequently, a less efficient workforce. The negative impact of poor hydration can also impact mental health and wellbeing, showing why employee hydration should not be taken lightly.

Ways to Encourage Staff to Drink More
There are a few simple suggestions for how employers could prompt staff to keep up with their daily fluid intake throughout the working day. Branded water bottles, which track intake against the time of day, present a useful way of ensuring staff stay hydrated. Other simple steps, such as ensuring clean glasses are accessible to all team members, may seem obvious but can often be overlooked.

We all know the importance of hydration, but it is surprising how often businesses let their employees down by not providing adequate hydration stations throughout the office. Businesses should carefully consider workplace catering to prevent employees suffering from wavering productivity levels. Examples of ways employers could cater to these needs include the installation of water coolers, drinks vending machines and coffee machines.

To find out more about catering options and drinks machines get in touch with Office Depot for a free catering audit.

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Top marks for Office Depot in WWF timber scorecard 2019

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Office Depot has once again achieved the highest possible rating in the latest WWF Timber Scorecard report, earning the company recognition for its commitment to responsibly sourcing timber products.

The WWF Timber Scorecard 2019 is a three-part procedure which determines the dedication of businesses in acting in a more environmentally friendly manner with regards to timber products. Designed to assess the sourcing policies and performance of business’s timber products, the WWF assigns companies with a score in trees, with three trees being the highest achievement for those who are performing well against procurement policies.

Office Depot has maintained its high score, after first achieving ‘three trees’ back in 2017. A total of 122 businesses were involved in the report and only 43 achieved the highest rating. As one of the top-performing companies, Office Depot was praised for its ODE Wood Fibre Procurement Policy, as well as its assessment of the wood fibre it sources for its own-brand products and OEM copier paper.

As a result, Office Depot has greater transparency of its supply chain, allowing it to buy from verified legal and known sources. Consequently, it eliminates products that do not comply in order to help the company meet the due diligence obligations in respect of the EU Timber Regulations.

Jackie Buckwell, Corporate Compliance Manager UK and Ireland at Office Depot, said: “We strive to carry out operations in the most ethical and sustainable way to minimise our impact on the environment. It is great to have our commitment recognised along with other companies doing their part in working towards a more sustainable future.”

By recording and publishing individual business ratings for timber sourcing, the WWF is hoping to encourage further transparency, make consumers more aware and support the world’s efforts towards more sustainably sourced timber products.

For more information, visit whyofficedepot.co.uk.

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Which marketing materials need updating when your business relocates?

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One of the first considerations most businesses make when relocating is the layout of their new office space. The positioning of desks, breakout rooms and offices is an essential part of any move, but when so much emphasis is placed on furniture, marketing materials and branding are often overlooked. After all, a fresh start in a new office also creates an opportunity to breathe new life into tired marketing material.

In many ways, an office move should be treated in the same was a marketing campaign. Careful planning is required and a clear strategy implemented to ensure all relevant items are updated.

Here are three marketing essentials businesses must consider as part of their relocation:

1. Printed documents
One of the tasks that often feels daunting when relocating is updating printed marketing documents. There are a lot of materials that are required by sales teams and business leaders, and these must be updated with the new company address. This will make the transition to the new office seamless and avoids key members of the business being embarrassed by incorrect material.

Of course, a relocation provides an opportunity to transfer some printed documents into the digital age. However, there will still be a number of items that require printed materials. The first step for marketing managers is to therefore audit the existing materials that are in circulation. From this list you will be able to make an informed decision as to what needs to remain printed and what could be transferred to a digital format.

For most companies, business cards, notepads and branded merchandise, such as stationary, all need to be printed. With a relocation, these will therefore need to be updated to include the new address. Additional considerations include leaflets, labels, company envelopes and brochures, which may also have addresses that need to be updated.

If there are other materials which key stakeholders are likely to use, it is recommended that they are consulted to see what requires an update. It could be that a digital marketing solution could be offered if it is decided that printed options are no longer required.

2. Communications
A second consideration for marketing teams is the communication of the relocation. After all, what good is a plush new office if nobody knows where it is? This is particularly important for consumer-facing businesses, such as retailers. Whether it is banners diverting people to new spaces, a company message to vendors and suppliers, or employees that will be impacted, a communications strategy is essential.

Key messages need to be agreed with the wider business. Once these are in place, communication needs to be clear and offer as much notice as possible. For office-based businesses this is particularly important as it allows employees to ask questions. As an example, forums should be considered to explain the move if it is likely to have a big impact on commuters.

Social media and online marketing may also be required, depending on your audience. Consulting with a marketing communications specialist is crucial to ensure all of the right channels are considered and the messaging is as effective and clear as possible.

3. Digital displays
Once the move has happened, there are often new opportunities to showcase the business’s key messages around the building. The use of digital displays in new offices and workplaces is not new and many new office complexes are built with these screens in place as standard. However, it is fair to say that they are not always used in the most effective ways.

The biggest mistake that we often see is a company clogging up its screens with an endless run of company updates. Whether it’s policies, office regulations or event announcements, many companies are guilty of streaming too much information across what should be considered valuable marketing assets. With so much information being presented to the intended audience, none of the key messages are actually taken on board.

So what exactly should businesses do with their digital displays to ensure they are being used effectively? Organisations should use their digital displays to take their customers and employees on a journey through visual content. Rather than relying on online posters, static images and bland company messages, businesses should communicate strategically-placed marketing which inspires and informs the audience.

If placed in customer-facing rooms, use the screens to highlight service offering, case studies and key achievements. This can help build brand loyalty, while subtly raising brand awareness.

Is your business prepared for relocation?
Marketing teams should treat relocations like another one of their campaigns. They require careful planning and a communications strategy to ensure that all bases are covered when the big day finally arrives.

There is clearly a lot to consider and at Office Depot, we are able to offer marketing communications solutions through Vital Communications, our specialist print and communications team. Whether it’s production, control or creative services, Vital Communications offer a dedicated service for all marketing and communications projects.

If you have just moved offices and want to ensure that all of your channels are being used correctly, you can take advantage of Vital’s free print and marketing audit.

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How to support mental health

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Supporting mental health in the workplace is becoming a high priority for employers. A recent report published by the Health and Safety Executive showed the extent of the current problems faced by UK businesses. In 2017/18 alone, 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

It is no wonder then, that businesses are putting mental health at the top of their agendas. How to support employees more is proving to be the million-dollar question and the answer cannot be self-taught or included in an employee manual.

Understanding the seriousness of mental health and its impact on business performance is the first step companies must take. Once understood, businesses can then provide support that works for employees and focus on implementing a network that truly works.

How serious is mental health?
Mental health is not going to go away. Businesses need to take it seriously and make changes to the way they manage employees.

A recent survey by Office Depot found that as many as 83% of people still go to work despite being ill. Some of the reasons were down to difficult workloads:

  • 38% felt work would not be picked up if off sick; and
  • 88% said they will have to pick up at least some of their work when they return.

Being ill at work with a mounting to-do list can only lead to lower levels of productivity. This is a clear issue for businesses as their employees will not be working to their fullest ability.

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey show how bleak the current situation is. In 2017/18, workplace stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 57% of all working days lost due to ill health.

Having a better support network in the workplace is not only essential for those suffering. It can also have a positive impact on business performance. Collectively, having better support can save UK businesses up to £8 billion each year.

Improving mental health in the workplace
Undue pressures and demand lead to workplace stress, depression and anxiety. Trying to make the workplace more inclusive of mental health concerns is the first step most companies want to make. But it is not easy to implement.

Mental health affects 14% of people in full-time employment. For part-time workers, this figure rises to 16%. Businesses with 250 employees could have as many as 35 members of the team suffering with a mental health problem. These very alarming statistics should be an eye-opener for any business leader and show action is needed.

While employees may feel that the answer should lie with employing more people, it is not always possible. To understand the levels of employees experiencing mental health at work, companies are encouraged to undertake a risk assessment.

Providing better support is a no brainer. So what options are available? Flexible working arrangements can be introduced to support mental wellbeing. Reducing the need to travel to and from work, as well as being surrounded by home comforts, can help boost morale and can provide more control with family commitments. However, flexible working isn’t always possible as some organisations may have employees that simply cannot work from home.

Mental health awareness training courses
Introducing mental health initiatives for line managers can provide long-term support for employees struggling with mental health in the workplace.

Managers and employees need to be equipped with the skills required to achieve employee wellbeing. Managing mental health in the workplace is never easy, but not being readily equipped to support a member of staff makes it much harder. Recognising the symptoms of mental health problems may seem easy. Yet most are very difficult to spot at first glance. No person is the same, and people struggling with their mental health show different signs. From being clearly unhappy to noticeable changes to appetite or weight, training people to recognise the signs is highly important. Other indicators include:

  • Emotional outbursts of anger;
  • Expressing feelings of guilt;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Becoming socially withdrawn or quiet; and
  • Displaying worry or anxiousness.

There are a number of online mental health awareness training resources available, which are helpful to understand the breadth of problems. Sharing these with staff is useful but it is not going to help reduce mental health challenges in the workplace. To truly support employees, a workplace mental health programme should be considered.

Mental Health First Aid
While employees will want to support colleagues struggling with their mental health, many don’t know where to start. Training courses can help develop an understanding of common mental health conditions, which helps build the confidence for line managers.

Businesses should look to invest in Mental Health First Aid training from The Office Depot School of Excellence, which provides the tools needed to identify, engage and support those impacted by mental illness. Taking part in Mental Health First Aid can also help manage the impact that illnesses have within the workplace, increasing the awareness of symptoms and warning signs.

The one-day course offered by Office Depot helps people understand common mental health conditions and gain the confidence to advocate for mental health awareness.

Designed for people with limited mental health knowledge, information is provided in an easy to digest format. This allows for a more collective and constructive approach to addressing mental health issues within the organisation.

As well as spotting early signs of mental health problems, it also gives advice on how to actually apply the learnings. The Office Depot School of Excellence offers a range of training options for companies of all types of sizes.

By providing your line managers with support, it means they can then support their team members with stress management and workload. It is imperative that companies take action and implement a mental health support network that treats mental health in the same manner as physical health.

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4 common mistakes businesses make with their professional cleaning products

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Being well-stocked with cleaning products is imperative no matter the time of the year. However, businesses from all industries are failing to maintain supply and often purchase the wrong products.

In this article, we look at four common pitfalls businesses fall victim to, and explain why and how businesses can improve their current standards.

Does your business have enough professional cleaning products?

A recent Office Depot survey revealed UK offices are not adequately equipped with standard cleaning products and equipment. For example, a shocking 30% of businesses failed to offer antibacterial handwash or soap. This unacceptable low level of basic cleaning supplies leaves employees vulnerable to the likes of Salmonella, E. coli O157 and norovirus.

Additionally, the survey found that 22% of offices did not have an appropriate hand drying system in place. Given that employers must provide soap/handwash and towels/hand-dryers to comply with the Health and Safety Executive’s guidelines, research suggests that many businesses could be breaking these regulations and are at risk of punishment.

It is also worth noting that the survey does not specify whether the systems in place are hygienic. Simply put, some hand-dryers perform at a much better rate than others. Companies are encouraged to check their existing systems with regular performance testing, to ensure they meet UK standards.

An equally worrying stat is that almost 30% of UK office-based businesses fail to provide a toilet roll dispensing system. Clearly this should be a worry, given the number of bacteria found on cubicle floors. The results from the survey should act as a catalyst for office-based businesses to ensure standards are high and maintained.

Of course, not all business requirements are the same. However, there are a number of common mistakes that offices are making which should be eradicated. Here are four of the most prevalent we see when auditing businesses and their standard practices.

Mistake 1: Expecting one professional cleaning product to meet every need
One of the most common mistakes offices make is trying to consolidate all of their professional cleaning products into one solution. Washrooms, kitchens and desks all require different types of cleaner, yet we often see many businesses using one product for all tasks.

When cleaning a washroom, you require a combined cleaner and disinfectant which usually has stronger fragrances to eliminate bad odours. This is in stark contrast to kitchens, where the cleaning solution still needs to kill germs, but shouldn’t have any odour. That way, food and drinks aren’t tainted by the taste of the fragrance.

Desks, on the other hand, don’t require the level of chemicals used in either washrooms or kitchens, as bacteria isn’t as prominent. As each area has different requirements, offices simply cannot rely on using one cleaning product. One of the main reasons this is practiced is due to cost cutting, but we will come to that later.

Mistake 2: Assuming household cleaning products are as good as professional ones
Another common mistake we see is how businesses regularly stock cleaning products often found in supermarkets or corner shops. When we audit businesses, we regularly hear the common misconception that consumer products have the same qualities and performance as the professional cleaning products.

Off-the-shelf solutions may be cheaper but the chemical formula is not always strong enough to deal with the demands of the business environment. Consumer products are designed for lighter applications, where two or three people share the same household. As a result, the requirements of a cleaning spray are reduced, meaning a weaker solution works effectively.

In an office environment, the chance of bacteria spreading is heightened, especially when air conditioning is used. With more people using the facilities, a stronger solution is required, but these products often cannot be found in supermarkets and businesses therefore need to reach out to their cleaning product suppliers.

Mistake 3: Failing to record product safety warnings
The next misconception that we often see in businesses is the lack of awareness of the required safety warnings on cleaning products.

All businesses require health and safety data sheets for cleaning products, in the case that an employee or customer accidentally consumes it. If someone was to visit hospital after swallowing cleaning product, for example, employers can help medical professionals and save valuable time by providing doctors with the information about the product’s contents.

As they have much stronger solutions, industrial cleaning products have to provide safety data sheets, unlike those found off-the-shelf. At Office Depot, we can supply each business with a complete log of data sheets, meaning employers have access to all of the chemical information should it be required. In the absence of a log, or if it was mislaid, we do provide safety data sheets online to ensure they are available to download 24 hours per day.

Mistake 4: Losing track of mounting costs
The final mistake under the microscope is not keeping a log of the outgoing costs of cleaning products. As previously discussed, many people feel that supermarket solutions are both just as efficient and more cost-effective than professional products. We have already shown that the quality of the products isn’t as high and this is also the case for price.

While purchasing a few cleaning products – whether carpet washer, window cleaning or desk wipes – may feel cheaper, the costs build up over time. Switching to a single-source and trusted cleaning product supplier helps you keep track of these costs.

With budgeting under the microscope, businesses need to find as many ways as they can to save on the bottom line. Removing the attitude of only purchasing when required, as opposed to bulk ordering as an example, helps manage this spend, preventing petty cash from being overspent.

What action should businesses take?
Businesses should be looking to audit their current systems annually as best practice. Audits on janitorial products, washroom systems or cleaning equipment are vital to ensure everything is running to company and regulatory standards. Even if good hygiene practices are in place, companies should still seek an audit as it is very easy to let standards slip or for systems to become outdated.

Businesses must take control of their cleaning and hygiene supply and take action if they are guilty of letting standards slip. This can be achieved through having professional cleaning products, the correct data sheets and traceable budgets. Making these changes now can save businesses money and ensure they are meeting the expected standards.

If changes aren’t made, it could manifest into something more problematic. Poor hygiene standards in the workplace will impact productivity which, in turn, could lead to a rise in illnesses being spread from colleague to colleague. If sick employees come to work, offices need to be prepared to prevent the spread of illness, which can be achieved through selecting the right equipment and ensuring inventories are kept updated.

Businesses concerned about their existing standards can take advantage of a free cleaning and hygiene audit from Office Depot. Here, a cleaning and hygiene specialist will assess the current practices being undertaken and offer recommendations for businesses to implement.

All businesses have different challenges and utilising a tailored plan can help businesses ensure they have the best products while saving money at the same time.

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Is your office paperless or paper-lite?

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Why a managed print system could be much more practical than no printing at all
If there’s one thing which has characterised the evolution of the modern workplace over the last 30 years, it’s the way it has adopted digital devices. The gradual penetration of desktop PCs and laptops, followed by mobile phones and tablets, had many businesses questioning whether they could go completely paperless - minimising wastage and a plethora of costs in the process.

But is the paperless office really all that practical?
According to research by Brother UK, 63% of managers say they simply couldn’t function without paper documents, so it seems the concept may still be more of a pipedream than reality. If businesses do still need to rely on paper, yet are also striving to make cost reductions and minimise security risks, how do we empower organisations to do more with less?

The simplest solution could well be managed print services, which offer a way for businesses to outsource their printing provision to an organisation with the expertise to not only reduce their reliance on unnecessary printed documents, but also get the best from their office printing solutions.

Managed print services: the perfect partner for a paper-lite office
In simple terms, managed print services offer businesses the opportunity to work with a single supplier for the purchase of every aspect of their printing requirements, including equipment, toner, ink, and maintenance, resulting in one invoice and numerous cost savings.

When 58% of employees are stating that printing documents improves the quality of their work (Brother UK), implementing managed print services becomes increasingly important. Rather than aiming to become completely paperless, businesses need to explore ways they can be much more pragmatic with their use of printed documents - something a managed print services strategy will all but guarantee.

What are the main benefits of print management?

1. Save up to 30% per printed page
Cost savings always sit high on the corporate agenda and it can be surprising how much money can be saved through smarter printing processes, even for a small business.

Using standard printers, available in many high street stores, will usually deliver a cost of around 25-30p per page. However, a managed service can cost as little as 3p per page, providing savings of between 25 to 30% on average. And this is before we account for the cost of time spent searching for replacement toners, or waiting for an out-of-service printer to be fixed.

2. Avoid costly equipment downtime
When the printers aren’t working, it can have a big impact on businesses with high paper usage. Ensuring that printing equipment is regularly monitored, with toner and paper amply stocked, will mean less time is spent replacing equipment and more time can be spent working.

Through regular checks and detailed monitoring reports, companies can be alerted as and when printing devices are due for renewal, meaning the likelihood of a breakdown is reduced.

3. Remove the burden on IT departments
If there are issues with printers, the IT department is often the first point of call in many organisations. In fact, current estimates suggest that printer related issues represent around one quarter of all calls to the average IT department, causing daily disruption to workflow. Outsourcing this responsibility to a print management company ensures that IT departments can concentrate on performing the more important tasks that they are assigned to complete.

4. Get comprehensive reporting
If your business uses a transactional approach to printing, then finance teams can lose track of how much money the business is spending. It then becomes difficult to make accurate forecasts, as the spend can be made on an ad hoc basis with significant spikes in expenditure across the year.

A managed print service offers businesses a single supplier for all office printing requirements, including equipment, ink and toner replenishment. One of the main benefits to a finance department is that it provides comprehensive reporting, which uses real-time intelligence to deliver cost saving and service level updates.

5. Avoid printing colour when you don’t need to
Colour printing can be another costly expense for businesses, especially when misused and wasted. People are often guilty of wasting reams of coloured paper, when preparing for presentations, meetings or just proofreading work.

There are ways for coloured printing to be limited to only specific members of any given team or department, which managed print services can guarantee. Either way, businesses should at least set their default printing to black and white to avoid the costs of coloured printing from mounting.

6. Achieve sustainability goals
Sustainability continues to be a big focus for UK businesses and printing has become an area where greater efficiencies can be easily achieved. Whether it’s replacing old machines which use up lots of energy, ensuring that printing is set to double-sided by default, or reducing the paper weight, companies can reduce their impact on the environment without reinventing the wheel.

7. Control access to private printed documents
Security has been one of the biggest issues facing businesses over the last 18 months. Data breaches and the introduction of GDPR have resulted in changes to the ways in which data is stored and processed. Printers can play an important role in securing this data, and while some might say that the most obvious solution is to not print sensitive information in the first place, this isn’t always an option.

Adopting secure printing with personalised access control means content is not printed until the job is released at the device through a keycode or ID card. This provides the added safety that confidential material isn’t left by the printer for a passer-by to pick up.

Paperless or paper-lite?
Ultimately, if you’re one of the majority who need paper to do your job, rest assured that you’re not alone. The Brother UK Paper-lite report tells us that some 63% of managers say it would simply not be possible for their business to become paperless and still function. In this respect, outs

If you’re keen to take advantage of these benefits and many more besides, request a no obligation Managed Print Services audit today.

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Are you destroying your personal data correctly?

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How to make sure your office uses the correct security measures when destroying paper records
As a result of the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), business across the country have had to update their management systems to be in line with this new data protection act. While the archiving of sensitive or personal data may have been an area of focus for businesses under GDPR, there remains a risk that many are overlooking the importance of how data is destroyed after it has been used.

GDPR and Archived Data
The correct process of destroying data is vital in the efforts to prevent someone’s personal data being lost or stolen. Our study found that a distinct majority (69%) of businesses are still keeping paper documents that contain sensitive data. This shows that there is an alarmingly high possibility of a data breach if these printed documents end up in the wrong hands.

Keeping data safe by ensuring it is secure when in use and completely destroyed when no longer in service helps to nurture customers’ or clients’ trust in the organisation. Those who appear to be correctly looking after personal data will benefit from improved relationships between the two parties.

Who it applies to
The responsibility of following GDPR shredding requirements to destroy data lies with any organisations involved in the acquisition, storage or use of personal data. Both controllers and processors of the data are responsible for showing GDPR shredding compliance. Controllers are those involved in deciding how the data is used, whilst processors may be separate entities responsible for processing personal data for the controller.

How to destroy sensitive printed documents correctly
The results of our survey also looked as businesses’ use of paper documents and the processes in place for them. Our results found 69% of businesses keep physical copies of documents containing personal data, it is clear that there is a need for the correct destruction of paperwork.

We discovered that 12% of businesses just tear documents by hand, while a third (34%) use a strip shredder. A strip shredder only breaks down a document into either vertical or horizontal strips, which still leaves potential for data to be recovered against the owner’s will. There seems to be a common misconception that all shredders are equal in terms of their GDPR compliance, despite the fact that there is a set GDPR shredder security level that offices should be meeting to follow GDPR shredding regulations.

Only a cross cut shredder is seen as a secure way to destroy paper files, but rather alarmingly, less than a third of businesses (31%) are using this method, which leaves plenty vulnerable to the misuse of paper data. An additional 6% don’t have a process in place for securely destroying paper-based files, with another 6% admitting to being unsure. So, we can see that close to half of UK businesses are failing to meet the regulations that were set out to protect data subjects.

Why use a cross cut shredder?
A cross cut shredder is an electronic paper shredder which shreds paper horizontally and vertically into particles, rather than a strip cut where it’s cut into strips which could theoretically be reassembled by someone wanting to read a shredded document. A cross cut shredder will guarantee that documents are securely destroyed and therefore cannot be read again, demonstrating GDPR compliance.

Given the EU data protection regulations, all organisations must protect personal data from misuse and a cross cut shredder ensures personal data can be destroyed right away, if required. There are different sized shredders available to meet the needs of individual users, small offices or large commercial organisations.

We provide a range of shredders for businesses to choose the most suited to their needs when disposing of personal data. This in turn helps businesses to protect their relationships with consumers by maintaining the trust between them. If you would like us to assess what products and services would be beneficial for you, contact us to take advantage of our no obligation audit of your general office supplies and practices.

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How GDPR compliant is your office?

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Has your office taken the necessary steps to ensure it follows the guidelines set out by GDPR?
It has been a year since the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25th May 2018. Is your office continuing to handle personal data in the correct way to avoid the hefty fine that may come as a consequence of failing to do so?

With GDPR having so many political implications for so many areas of a business, here are five useful questions to find the answers to if you’re under any doubt as to whether your business may be compliant.

1. What is considered personal data?
Personal data is classed as any form of information which could lead to the ability to identify a person directly or indirectly. The definition purposefully allows for a wide range of personal identifiers to be considered as personal data to reflect the advances in technology and processes used to collect data.

2. Who does it affect?
Businesses were made aware of the importance of ensuring that the process used to collect sensitive information followed a strict set of regulations outlined in the GDPR archiving requirements. These regulations not only apply to businesses operating within the EU, but also those outside of it that monitor the data of EU data subjects.

The regulations outlined are to be followed by both processors and controllers, meaning ‘clouds’ are not immune from GDPR. These businesses will need to take action to avoid being fined under the data protection act 2018 by ensuring any paper documents or data transferred online is kept safe. In accordance with GDPR, paper data and online data should be treated with equal care.

3. How serious are the fines?
If a business is found to be failing to comply to GDPR guidelines it could be fined up to 4% of its annual turnover or up to €20 million. The penalties are tiered so fines are based on the severity of the data breach. However, businesses risk more than a fine if they are found to be sharing personal data as consumers will not look fondly on those who do not keep their data safe. Therefore, businesses not following the guidelines may also lose consumer trust.

4. Are you GDPR compliant?
It is up to the business to carry out a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) to assess how personal data is being collected, used and stored. Those not looking after data in the correct way are at risk of damaging consumer relationships.

Our own GDPR survey revealed that UK companies were organised in preparing for the introduction of GDPR with a third of them (33%) preparing three months beforehand. Only 8% of businesses left preparation until less than a month ahead of the deadline. However, an alarming 35% of businesses have admitted to not making any changes in the way they handle personal data in the last year.

If your office has not taken steps towards ensuring that they are GDPR compliant, you may want to consider what needs to be done to avoid any serious fines coming your way. Do you have an appointed Chief Information Officer (CIO) to monitor the way sensitive data is collected and processed? Is your office equipped with products to maximise the security of personal data being stored online and as paper-based copies?

5. Do you store data securely?
The majority of office workers carry out work on laptops as it is the easiest way to store and share information. However, this poses a risk to personal data stored on such devices in national archives. The compact nature of laptops allows them to be transported easily which also provides a chance for laptops to be lost or stolen.

Unfortunately, at least one third (34%) of businesses have experienced laptop theft, which shows the danger with mobile devices when it comes to letting data get into the wrong hands. To prevent this from happening it is worth investing in security measures such as laptop locks. Additionally, with many office workers using their laptops on the move visual hacking has become an issue. This is when someone is able to physically look at someone else’s laptop screen without their permission.

Office Depot saw a 124% increase in sales of privacy screen filters from 2017-2018, which shows that businesses are becoming more aware of the risk of visual hacking. Despite this, 15% of the UK businesses asked admitted to still having no members of staff using privacy filters. This leaves many businesses at risk of personal data being compromised both within the office and in remote locations. To protect the stored data on your devices ensure you have the correct equipment to prevent visual hacking happening to you.

Products that help protect data
We provide a range of privacy filters to suit your needs. In addition to this we also offer various products such as shredders and archive boxes that are useful in protecting your employees, customers and corporate reputations.

To find out the mistakes UK companies are making with their GDPR compliance, and how you can easily minimise risk, download our free report.

Alternatively, why not contact us and have us recommend the office products which can really make a difference to your business? Our no obligation audit of your general office supplies will allow you to gain a clear understanding of the quick wins you can take advantage of to protect your organisation.

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Is your workplace a secure data zone?

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The arrival of the General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR) in May is causing many businesses to carefully review the way they handle sensitive data. The new legislation concerns the handling of all personal information, and every business, regardless of size, will be affected and must make sure they are compliant in order to avoid punitive fines. This involves the whole workplace and while many organisations will be focussing on the handling of electronic data, the security risk posed by hard copy documents must not be forgotten.

The new legislation forms part of a Europe-wide push to harmonise data protection and security across member states, allowing individuals greater control over how their personal data is used and who it is shared with.

For businesses, particularly those which handle confidential customer data, the arrival of the GDPR heralds a period of greater scrutiny over data handling practices than ever seen before and acting now, well before the introduction in May is essential.

This is not just an issue for big business where there may be dedicated in-house legal departments. Businesses of all sizes can and should be undertaking an audit of the personal data they hold and how they manage it. This should include a review of the type of data processed – including any personally identifiable data – and ensuring that adequate systems and processes are in place to safeguard it sufficiently.

The levels of security which need to be in place depends entirely on the type of information being stored and the risk element attached to it. For instance, a breach of credit card and bank account details would be regarded as particularly serious by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Many business process credit card information from their customers, and most businesses will manage their employee’s bank account details for salary payment purposes.

Notification forms a key part of the new legislation and the onus will now be placed on individual businesses to proactively report breaches to the regulator. Failure to do so could result in a penalty, which would only increase in severity if the organisation’s processes are found to be non-compliant.

The penalties which can be imposed on organisations which suffer a data breach and are found to be non-compliant are one of the more significant areas of change under the new GDPR. Companies can be fined up to four percent of global turnover, or €20 million, whichever is highest and must also bear the burden of significant reputational damage.

Whilst it’s perhaps easy to be blinded by news of significant fines and urgent demands for change, businesses should take a step back and realise that the road to compliance is not so long, nor are the steps needed to achieve it too arduous.

The first port of call for any information relating to the GDPR and compliance in the UK should be the Information Commissioner’s Office website, which provides comprehensive guides to all aspects of the legislation, as well as insights into how it will affect different sectors.

Turning to the workplace itself, assigning a small group of employees responsibility for checking current internal processes and managing compliance to the legislation is a good idea. This assessment should take all departments into account. Starting to think of what personal data you collect as a business is important, it will often fall into categories of employee data, customer data and third party data. Next think about the lifecycle of this data. From first collection to storing, managing and processing to ultimate destruction of the data. It is then manageable to ensure that all handling procedures are compliant and secure.

Although much has been written recently about managing electronic data in the run up to the GDPR, it mustn’t be overlooked that many businesses still use hard copy documents; either out of habit or necessity. Consequently, document security is often identified as a risk area for many businesses.

Many day-to-day office tasks could be identified as risk areas including printing and filing. Outdated systems, which send files straight to print, open up the possibility for unauthorised personnel to view documents which may contain sensitive personal data, posing a security risk. Instead, businesses should look into implementing a more comprehensive managed print network, giving users greater control over when and by whom documents are printed.

Managed print services also operate on a cloud basis, which offers greater security than more traditional hard-drive based systems. For anyone looking to hack print data, removing the in-built hard drive on the device is a relatively simple task and the data held within could lead to a security breach if taken into the wrong hands. However, even with cloud-based solutions, security is still paramount and even with the best intentions in mind, a well-thought out system can fall down due to an unsecured network or lax security and access protocols.

With many workplaces operating a ‘clean desk’ policy, whether for compliance reasons or simply as a course of good habit, employees are beginning to think more carefully about leaving sensitive data around the office. A key pillar of the GDPR will involve being able to demonstrate that documents and records are held and stored in a secure manner. Options for tackling this include lockable filing cabinets and archive boxes, as well as offsite secure document storage.

If documents must be destroyed, it is essential for businesses to ensure that shredders meet the latest security recommendations. It is a common misconception that pieces of equipment in this area are created equal. Many ribbon-cut machines in fact pose a degree of security risk and it is still possible to reconstruct documents after their ‘destruction’. Instead, opting to use cross-cut shredders will drastically reduce the risk of any confidential documents falling into the wrong hands.

As the GDPR looms, businesses must start preparing, especially as the consequences for failing to do so could be severe. Handling personal information around the workplace must be approached in a new light and thought must be given to what the data is, who it concerns and how it is being used.

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Office Depot receives top industry accreditation

Office Depot’s work in the area of cleaning and hygiene has been recognised with a prestigious accreditation from a leading industry body.

The Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) represents major manufacturers and distributors in the cleaning and hygiene sectors and has included Office Depot in its newly-launched Accredited Distributor’s Scheme.

The scheme, governed by a panel of representatives and overseen by the Association’s council, was launched on 1 January 2017 and currently features 71 accredited members.

To be eligible for inclusion, Office Depot has undergone a number of thorough and precise audits. These ensure that the company only stocks and sells products either accredited by the CHSA, or which officially meet the high standards set by its Manufacturing Standards Accreditation Scheme.

Office Depot has continually proven itself to be a well-established presence in the cleaning and hygiene industry, maintaining a frequently high standard in its business conduct. A minimum of two successful audits will be required every year going forward, ensuring that customers can remain confident in the quality of goods from Office Depot, as well as its warrant for accreditation.

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Streamline your supply chain for 2018

As we head rapidly towards the New Year, many businesses will be preparing to take stock of the previous year’s supply chain activities. With this period of evaluation also comes the opportunity for improvement; for costs to be reduced, processes to be optimised and overall productivity to be increased.

In competitive markets, the sustainability and efficiency of an organisation’s supply chain can not only determine its profit margins, but can also have a significant impact on brand perception. Supply chain capabilities are developing year on year and keeping up to date with these improvements to transparency and efficiency is vital. Now is the time for businesses to ensure procurement processes are up to date and optimised, in preparation for any and all eventualities.

Some of the most fundamental advancements in this field over recent years have been technological. As with so many aspects of the modern business world, your supply chain should be taking advantage of all available opportunities to make it fully connective.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can be an invaluable aid, enabling real-time assessments of future business performance, which aid the management of procurement activities. However, a limitation of this technology is that it cannot take human factors affecting consumer demand into account. Buying behaviours, seasonal promotions and stock clearance all throw a spanner into the works and it is important that they are not entirely relied upon for supply chain forecasts.

One of the key challenges faced by business owners in past years has been the issue of supply chain visibility. In the event that products went missing or became delayed over the course of their journey, it would be incredibly difficult to determine exactly what had happened and where. However, the recent development of ‘track and trace’ technology has changed the game.

‘Track and trace’ solutions can provide businesses with purchase order numbers, container numbers and item counts, weight, status, delivery date and more. This means that every stage of the process is monitored and with the ability to integrate all of this into a business’ accounting systems, inventories can be kept up to date at all stages of a delivery.

Take-up of these solutions has increased rapidly in recent years. A wave of new software and developments in existing technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) allow disruption to business processes to be minimised, whilst keeping costs low and boosting brand perception.

However, while track and trace may add clarity, supply chain process can only truly become streamlined if they are properly consolidated. By choosing a single source of supply for a range of essential business products, organisations can save time and money as well as avoiding an administrative headache.

Procurement strategies which involve a large number of suppliers can be notoriously difficult to manage, leading to miscommunication and a lack of cohesion. By using just one provider for multiple processes and products, organisations reduce delivery numbers, minimise risk and help to unburden logistics managers. It also increases leverage for negotiating more favourable contracts with suppliers, given that a sense of trust, partnership and confidence is allowed to develop. A long-term relationship with a single supplier will help put an organisation in a position to prove their value and their loyalty, creating a mutually-beneficial partnership, the value of which cannot be underestimated considering potential turbulence and uncertainty.

Of course, the size of the delivery network and the number of regional depots should be taken into consideration when deciding upon any switch or consolidation of suppliers. However, it is generally the case that the higher the number of suppliers, the less visible the network becomes and therefore the more susceptible it is to breakdowns. Streamlining supply chains also helps logistics managers to reengage with the green agenda – the lower the number of separate orders and deliveries, the greater the environmental benefits.

By taking the time to evaluate existing procurement activities over the coming months, and continuing to optimise the process in any way possible, businesses can ensure that they reap the rewards of better visibility, faster connectivity and a simplified process in 2018.

Mike McCreesh, VP, supply chain, at Office Depot Europe.

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World Environment Day: sustainable supply chains have never been more important

June 5 marked World Environment Day, run by the United Nations each year to encourage global  awareness of the need to protect the environment. With an ever-growing number of consumers favouring companies that demonstrate a commitment to adopting an eco-friendly approach, businesses that take steps to reduce their environmental impact stand to gain significant reputational benefits.

Procurement and logistics operations often contribute significantly to a company’s environmental impact and businesses that make it a priority to ‘green up’ their supply chain can quickly improve their overall environmental credentials. From a more commercial perspective, sustainable supply chains can also have a positive effect on the bottom line - offering efficiency gains which ultimately result in increased revenue.

While it is down to procurement professionals to formulate a strategy for increasing supply chain sustainability, its successful implementation is dependent on the cooperation of suppliers. For this reason, businesses should have eco-friendly credentials at front of mind when beginning to build supplier relationships.

Actively seeking out companies which offer sustainable product choices and demonstrate a forward-thinking approach to deliveries offers supply chain managers a head-start in achieving their environmentally-friendly targets. These suppliers are also far more likely to be open to suggestions with regards to implementing green procurement practices. Sourcing products and services locally as best as possible also has the effect of minimising the number of miles an item travels  to the end customer, reducing harmful carbon emissions whilst driving valuable cost savings.

As well as assessing how goods are procured, buyers can also minimise their carbon footprint by giving careful thought to the number of suppliers used and looking, wherever possible, for opportunities to streamline the supply chain. By opting for vendors offering multiple products, businesses can cut down on the number of deliveries needed, as well as their associated shipping costs.

Choosing suppliers with the correct capacity and approach needed for an organisation to engage effectively with the green agenda is critical. However, this must be combined with a thorough audit and monitoring process if a business is to ensure compliance and react promptly to any potential risks. Once an overall sustainability strategy and objectives have been adopted, supply chain managers should ensure progress can be measured over time by setting KPIs. By aligning these with the findings of a comprehensive supply chain audit, weaknesses can be promptly identified with appropriate controls implemented to improve overall environmental impact.

Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of procurement and logistics activities should also consider the importance of building strong supplier relationships, with valued partners likely to be far more willing to help businesses achieve eco-friendly objectives. As well as maintaining constant communication with key suppliers, companies should not be afraid of challenging vendors about their current approach and asking them to seek an alternative. However, while it may be necessary to impose penalties on suppliers who fail to comply with sustainability targets, it is also worth bearing in mind that incentives can provide an effective source of motivation for suppliers to maintain service levels.

Sustainability is an increasingly important issue on the corporate agenda, and the UK Government’s recent publication of its draft Air Quality Plan was a powerful reminder of the responsibility individual businesses have to protect the environment for future generations. By choosing a small number of carefully-selected suppliers, nurturing relationships with vendors and monitoring procurement activities closely, organisations can gain a reputation for sustainability which sets them apart from competitors whilst reaping the rewards of increased efficiency.

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Fitness furniture: how to get staff moving on ‘Move for Health Day’

With ‘Move for Health Day’ – an initiative set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – fast approaching, it has never been a better time for employers to encourage staff to exercise whilst at work. In a bid to get more people exercising more often, this global event takes place on May 10 to promote the health benefits that physical activity can have in the prevention of non-communicable diseases.

Although the day is a good starting point for employers to encourage staff to exercise at work, achieving long-term behavioural change can be a little more challenging. Earlier this month, the British Heart Foundation warned that more than 20million people in the UK are so inactive that they could be shortening their own lives. However, due to the sedentary nature of many job roles – in which the average office worker will spend 75% of their day sitting down – asking staff to get up and start moving can be unrealistic. With the benefits of having a fit and healthy workforce directly linked to staff retention, efficient operations and a positive bottom line, it would be beneficial for businesses to start incorporating physical activity into the nine to five working day.

Whilst some high-profile businesses, such as tech firm Hootsuite, are attempting to capitalise on the benefits of fitter employees by installing free gyms on their premises, for many firms this won’t be an option. Not only could it be financially unviable but it could also prove to be a novelty that is rarely utilised by staff. Instead, businesses should seek alternative options, such as introducing office furniture that not only encourages physical activity, but can be used seamlessly throughout the working day. This will allow them to promote fitness on a budget, without introducing any short-lived gimmicks.

The workstation

There have been a number of research studies that link excessive time spent sitting to ill health, including a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. According to guidelines by Public Health England, office workers should spend two to four hours of their working day on their feet to avoid the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. With most office workers needing a computer screen to carry out their tasks, encouraging them to step away for four hours is impractical. By introducing height-adjustable desks, which can be adjusted between sitting and standing height, workers can stand for the recommended amount of time without jeopardising their workload. In addition to this, standing desks have also been shown to boost energy levels, increase engagement and lessen the aches and pains that can be caused from sitting down for long periods of time.

Whilst height-adjustable desks can be a clever way of encouraging staff to get on their feet more often, it will be managers’ responsibility to motivate employees to use them at first, to ensure that it becomes habit. Line managers and team leaders can do this in a number of ways, from leading by example, allocating time that a whole team should work standing and rewarding those that meet standing targets.  

In the boardroom

Meetings are an essential part of office life but many involve sitting down for far too long, adding to health problems as well as causing attention levels to drop. To encourage workers to take the recommended 30-minute meetings and promote physical activity, employers could swap the traditional boardroom table for standing benches or high tables, also known as poseur height. In a similar manner to standing desks, benches and tables provide an alternative to traditional seated settings, helping to aid circulation and boost energy. One benefit of introducing this kind of furniture within the boardroom is that it can be incorporated smoothly, minimising disruption. A combination of high tables, stools, benches and poseur height swivel chairs encourages employees to either stand or adjust their equipment to their own personal comfort as the meeting progresses. Additionally, by introducing such equipment into the meeting room setting, ensures that roll-out of equipment across individual workstations is much easier should it be required. As many employees will take part in meetings on a daily basis, it can be a simple and effective way to facilitate non-sedentary work without the need to prompt workers.

Breakout spaces

For informal meeting areas or breakout rooms, employers can provide exercise and stability balls to promote activity during downtime. Sitting on an exercise ball requires small, constant adjustments to postural, leg and abdominal muscles to maintain balance. This improves posture and minimises back pain, whilst also strengthening ab muscles through a low-key workout. By introducing them in breakout areas, businesses will only need to purchase a limited amount, allowing them to save on costs whilst still providing all staff the opportunity to reap the benefits.

Health and wellbeing initiatives needn’t be costly or difficult for employers to implement. By providing the furniture and means to create an active work environment, businesses can ensure that they will not only encourage staff to get moving on May 10, but they will also support long-term behavioural change, leading to productivity and financial gains.

Paula Marshall is head of furniture category sales at business solutions provider Office Depot.

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Why businesses should capitalise on the co-working trend

The co-working trend is revolutionising the traditional office environment. Typically used by start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers, co-working spaces are a communal place in which businesses can flexibly rent a desk whilst sharing facilities with their co-tenants – and their popularity is soaring.

By allowing businesses to make cost savings and provide a place to meet prospective clients, it is not surprising that these types of workplaces are set to rise from just under one million in 2016 to four million in 2020. However, the perks of such offices are not only achievable for small scale operations; organisations of all sizes and from any industry can replicate the best features of these spaces without making a move. By utilising furniture and space, consolidating supply chains and promoting a collaborative culture, businesses can capitalise on the co-working trend to help boost productivity, increase staff retention and enhance overall employee wellbeing.

Create a flexible workspace

Furniture is key to any office but as working practices that seek to prioritise a more flexible and collaborative workforce evolve, a business’ equipment and furnishings should also facilitate this. One of the biggest advantages of a co-working space is that it is agile enough to support all the different ways in which a team or an employee may wish to work. For example, these kind of offices normally have a large open plan layout to encourage teamwork, smaller offshoot rooms for when a worker seeks a quieter and more peaceful setting, and extra desks to serve freelancers.

Businesses can create a similar design by introducing movable walls and office partitions. By implementing a sophisticated office dividing system, managers can adjust the space to accommodate both large meeting areas and individual cubicles. This allows employees to change their working environment to meet the needs of a given task or suit their individual personality, ensuring that productivity levels remain at their highest.

When creating a flexible office layout, managers should also seek to introduce multipurpose furniture which can be quickly adapted to meet the purpose of a new space. This can include sofas which can be transformed into desks or storage boxes which can double up as chairs. By implementing furniture which has more than one purpose, businesses will be able to maximise their office space in a practical but cost-effective manner.   

Consolidate supply chains

Another significant perk of a co-working space is that it is an opportunity for different businesses to pool resources – from milk and coffee to whiteboards and TVs – providing access to business essentials whilst reducing costs. Whilst this is a very efficient strategy for organisations that work in the same building and on the same floor, it may not be as effective and realistic for businesses in different offices.

Instead, businesses should seek to draw inspiration from the procurement strategies of these collaborative companies by developing a streamlined supply chain. By reducing the supply pool and engaging with a single supplier, businesses can actively increase economies of scale and reduce the number of deliveries, helping to cut overall costs. Consolidation can also provide businesses with greater visibility and control across their network, reducing risks that can occur along the supply chain. In addition to the bottom line benefits, unifying procurement activities has environmental perks, helping businesses to reengage with the green agenda. 

Promote a collaborative culture

For many businesses that choose a co-working environment, it is much more than just renting a desk in an office – it is about being part of a community. Working on shared tables with professionals from different industries allows staff to share their experiences, connections and knowledge. More importantly, professional collaboration can provide an alternative way of thinking and a fresh perspective, sparking a cross-pollination of ideas.

A sense of community in the workplace need not be limited to communal environments though - all businesses should promote a collaborative culture. However, as many offices are arranged by departments, it can be challenging for management to foster relationships between different teams. A simple but effective way to do this is to ensure staff are stepping away from their desks and taking regular breaks. To promote this kind of behaviour, businesses should create a breakout area which is completely removed from the usual working space.

Whilst breakout areas can be seen as a place to eat lunch or relax with a cup of tea, they should also be viewed as sociable spaces. Not only will this offer staff an opportunity to interact with colleagues, but it will also help in improving overall wellbeing. To encourage this, management should ensure that the area is comfortable and relaxing. This can be created by introducing furniture such as sofas, beanbags and large coffee tables to discourage workers from taking a break alone.

For collaboration to be truly imbedded into an organisation’s culture however, it is imperative that management lead by example. Employees look to leadership to set the tone and so managers that shut themselves away in an office are not going to have a positive influence on integration. Instead, team leaders should be seen to be utilising sociable areas and interacting with staff, so that junior employees closely follow suit.

Allowing organisations to cut costs and generate creativity, it is no wonder that many businesses are seeking inspiration from co-working spaces. Whilst it may not be realistic for all corporate offices to create an open plan layout or introduce novel meeting areas, creating the right kind of work environment is essential if management want to increase productivity and enhance employee welfare. 

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Moving offices? What to consider when kitting out your new place

Creating a working environment that is inspiring, functional and ‘on brand’ is crucial for businesses. There has been much research that links a high-quality, scenic office to increased productivity and wellbeing amongst employees, which in turn can help to boost bottom lines. When it comes to furnishing a new workplace however, how can business leaders be sure that the equipment they pick will not only aid staff with their work but will also look stylish and stand the test of time? By asking themselves the following questions, organisations can be confident that they meet the criteria and therefore design a space that is practical but sophisticated and inspiring.

Is it suitable for the type of work and space?

Functionality should always be a top priority when selecting furniture for a new office – after all, staff are there to work. However, they can only do this if they have the correct equipment to support them. As most office workers only need a laptop and a good Wi-Fi connection to do their job nowadays, it could be worthwhile investing in modular furniture to meet the needs of a flexible workforce.

Modular desks are designed so that they can be used on their own or fitted together with other desks or breakout furniture. Because of this they can easily be adapted to suit individual work or large group projects, as well as accommodate informal meetings. This agility is not only beneficial for a current team, but it is also a cost-effective solution should a business need to adjust its staff numbers.

It is also imperative to consider other business needs, such as health and safety issues or private and confidential storage. If an organisation relies heavily on computers, printers and phones, more often than not there will be a lot of cables and peripherals. In this case, it is essential to purchase furniture that incorporates cable protectors and tidy units to safeguard against any accidents. Similarly, if a business needs to store confidential documents, then it must invest in secure storage systems to keep papers safe and private.  Likewise, private storage may also be required onsite, benefiting employees as well as keeping areas tidy and compliant with health and safety regulations.

When it comes to space, it is fundamental that businesses consider the building they are in, as it is important to remember that furniture will need to fit through doorways, halls, lifts and stairwells. This is where expert advice on measurements, floor plans and also the type of furniture can add value. If space is limited, multipurpose furniture, such as storage boxes that double up as chairs or stack to form room dividers, is a smart way of limiting the volume of furnishings needed.

Will it be comfortable for staff?

The average UK office employee will spend 75 per cent of their working day sitting down. Therefore, comfortable desks and chairs are paramount in looking after an individual’s welfare and ensuring they can work at their optimum. High-grade ergonomic chairs, as well as height-adjustable desks, are extremely helpful in this area as they are designed to support posture and prevent injury. However, if introducing this type of furniture company-wide will be financially unrealistic, there are affordable alternatives. Accessories, such as back supports and booster seats, are just as effective in supporting the coccyx and minimising slouching, and will ensure staff are sitting comfortably.  In addition to this, on-desk workstation risers enable businesses to convert standard desks to accommodate sit/stand working practices.

Does it mirror the image of the business?

Whilst practicality and functionality are important to the employee, office furniture should also reflect the brand and personality of a business. Although contemporary, vibrant and minimalistic pieces will suit trendy, creative agencies, they may look out of place in a more traditional and conservative setting. In addition to image, furniture should also reflect the values of an organisation. For example, if a business is promoting more eco-friendly practices, it could provide lockers to encourage staff to cycle or run to work, and office furnishings such as potted plants or living walls that can have oxygen-boosting properties.

Moving office is a big decision and businesses will want to make sure that everything is right, including the new furniture that is implemented into the space. By ensuring that any new pieces are comfortable, pragmatic and fit the image of a business, management will create a working environment that will motivate and ignite their staff.

Paula Marshall is head of furniture category sales at business solutions provider Office Depot.

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The top office design trends of 2018

2017 has proven to be a significant year for office design. An ever-increasing emphasis on the value of collaboration has been reflected in the continued rise of the co-working space, with traditional cubicle-dominated offices seeming more and more like a thing of the past. With employee health and wellbeing now a greater priority for businesses than ever before, architectural, furniture and design trends have become a key driver for office spaces.

Paula Marshall, head of furniture and category sales at Office Depot Europe, discusses why these influences are here to stay as well as outlining the changes set to revolutionise the way employees work in 2018.

The co-working phenomenon continues

London alone boasted over 1,000 co-working spaces at the start of 2017, with numbers continuing to climb steadily throughout the year. As well as recognising the positive impact that collaborative workspaces can have on employee interaction and creativity, employers are increasingly opting for the flexibility of shared, open office spaces in order to realise their expansion plans.

However, businesses looking to capitalise on the co-working trend in the New Year will also have to overcome the challenge of increased noise levels which often come with shared working spaces. With research suggesting the average worker can take up 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus after an interruption, it is essential that organisations complement areas for teamwork and brainstorming with a range of quiet spaces, for confidential or challenging tasks.

Developments in acoustic technology are also allowing organisations to manage noise levels without compromising on appearances. For example, as well as the recent availability of acoustic panels disguised as photography or wall art, allowing them to fit seamlessly with overall office design, temporary dividers allow businesses to adjust the working environment to an employee’s individual needs. Applying the ‘A, B, C’ of acoustic technology (absorb, block, cover), and incorporating softer materials such as carpet and fabric panels can also help to keep sound disruption to a minimum, ensuring staff remain focused and undisturbed.

The return to nature

Nature-inspired office design is set to dominate in 2018, as more and more companies seek to capitalise on the wellbeing and productivity benefits of bringing the outside world into the workplace. As well as opting for tones such as oatmeal and soft greys, choosing natural-looking materials such as stone and driftwood can help to instil the workforce with a sense of calm.

This rise in ‘biophilic’ design will also be seen in an increased adoption of living walls and other ways of incorporating plants into the office, which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also offer noise-reducing, oxygenating and wellbeing benefits. Where organisations wish to avoid taking on any additional maintenance requirements, artificial plants have the same impact on employee morale whilst only requiring an occasional dusting.

Digital developments

Over the last decade, innovations such as Wi-Fi have driven the domestication of the traditional workspace, allowing staff to work wirelessly via their tablet or laptop in any area of the office. More everyday business processes are now being digitalised than ever before, and throughout 2018 this is likely to be reflected through further adaptations in both office layout and furniture.

With practices such as flexible working making staff increasingly reliant on mobile phones and other devices in order to communicate with their colleagues, elements such as charging stations will become a more common sight around the workplace. This combined with furniture featuring in-built cable management will make it more convenient for employees to complete tasks in different areas of the office.

Whereas investment in ergonomic equipment continues to be a key consideration when it comes to safeguarding employee wellbeing, this is no longer enough. By adopting a holistic approach to boosting a workforce’s health and happiness, which incorporates effective office design, organisations can enhance employee engagement and retention levels whilst driving productivity in the New Year.

Paula Marshall is head of furniture category sales at Office Depot Europe.

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How to share your working space but not your germs

The nature of the workplace is changing where days of individual desks piled high with stacks of paper are on their way out. Working practices are becoming more fluid in nature and this is causing many companies to re-think the way they use their office space, often favouring more flexible layouts and co-working spaces. From a hygiene perspective, this can cause serious problem for employers, with continual movement around the office dramatically increasing the risk of germs spreading.

With poor hand hygiene one of the biggest causes of ill-health in the UK workplace, it is essential that employers take an active stance and are careful not to be misled by ill-conceived assumptions that spartan co-working spaces are winners in the fight against office germs.

There is a general misconception within businesses that less clutter means fewer germs. The nature of co-working spaces means that employees no longer have the chance to build up piles of paper and personal belongings; the desk must be clear for the next person who uses it. Recent studies have found that levels of bacteria were significantly higher in shared working spaces than on single occupancy desks, so businesses must not think that flexible spaces offer a more hygienic solution.

With hand hygiene, company-wide education is the starting point and the significant benefits of thorough washroom habits should be communicated to all employees. This can be achieved through appropriate signage in washroom environments and regular reminders sent out across company channels, particularly at the beginning of the notorious winter flu season. The meticulous approach taken by hospitals and healthcare facilities, where good hygiene levels are critical, can also be applied in the office setting.

Signage and good practice measures are a good first step, however these must be supported by suitable hand washing facilities, particularly if workers are moving between workstations.

Offices and facilities managers have a wealth of products available and the choice can often be daunting. Pairing the right products with the right office environment is highly important and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. In industrial environments, where workers may need to clean greasy and dirty hands, stronger soaps and barrier creams may be the best option, but these are likely to be excessive for office-based employees.

Take-up of alcohol-based sanitisers is low, especially in office environments, despite their effectiveness in hampering the spread of germs. Providing alcohol gel dispensers in washrooms and around the office can encourage good hand hygiene habits, which is especially beneficial when employees are moving between shared working areas. Businesses should remember however that many alcohol-based products work by removing the natural layer of oil on the skin, often leaving users with dry hands after repeated use. Providing hand creams and soaps with moisturising properties will ensure that nobody is discouraged from using alcohol gels due to any discomfort caused.

Providing the right products is key to minimising the spread of germs but this must be combined with good hygiene practices. Shared IT peripherals in the workplace pose high risks of contamination. If a keyboard and mouse are used by one person, the number of bacteria is restricted to that individual. As soon as these items are shared in co-working spaces, the risk of cross-contamination increases exponentially. Again, forming good habits is key here and a quick wipe down of keyboards, phones and mice with antibacterial wipes at the start and end of every work session will go a long way in stopping the spread of germs.

Co-working may be the future, but at a time where productivity and absenteeism are at the forefront of every employer’s mind, reducing the spread of office germs is critical. As ever, the saying ‘Wash your hands!’ is central to the task of controlling the spread of bacteria.

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Encouraging customer loyalty – maintaining cleaning standards in the independent sector

With a direct impact on employee sickness levels, it goes without saying that cleaning and hygiene should be a key focus for all businesses. However, the particular reliance that independent sector organisations such as hotels, bars and restaurants have on repeat business means that this should be a particular priority for the hospitality industry.

With hospitality and leisure businesses coming under constant public scrutiny, it is essential to establish a thorough cleaning routine, educate staff about the importance of hygiene and ensure stock levels of cleaning products are maintained in order to fulfil the high expectations of customers. By evaluating their cleaning supply chain and comparing it with changing business needs, businesses can also reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of procurement processes, allowing firms to improve their engagement with the green agenda.

Poor hand hygiene is one of the leading contributors to ill health in the workplace and is even more crucial within organisations such as bars and restaurants, where staff are regularly preparing food for members of the public. As well as making a continued investment in relevant educational resources, employers should go back to the basics of hand hygiene to identify practices that may be putting the workforce and customers at risk.

Whilst washing hands using soap and water is still the most effective approach, many people do not realise that 20 seconds is the minimum time needed to kill germs. Placing posters and signage in relevant areas such as washrooms and food preparation areas can be helpful in reminding staff about correct handwashing techniques as well as encouraging them to engage in regular hand sanitation. In order to avoid staff being tempted to carry out a ‘splash and dash’ approach, employers should choose moisturising soaps and sanitisers which are kind to skin rather than harsh soaps.

Hospitality businesses can help to ensure that high standards of cleaning are maintained by ensuring that stock levels of cleaning products are correctly aligned with usage changes, for example, the recruitment of extra staff or the expansion of restaurant kitchen areas. By choosing a cleaning products supplier which can provide a range of products, businesses can streamline their supply chain, allowing shipping costs to be reduced as fewer deliveries are required. Similarly, opting for more concentrated chemicals can help businesses reduce supply chain pressure through a need for less packaging and storage space. Dilution control, one method of which involves using dispensers to manage and regulate the amount of concentrate needed, can also help independent sector establishments to achieve cost reductions.

When looking for ways to cut costs within the cleaning supply chain, companies should not neglect their individual responsibility to engage with the green agenda and, wherever possible, establish sustainable procurement practices. In addition to the cost benefits of consolidating the supply chain, reducing the supplier pool allows businesses to minimise their carbon footprint, with purchased products travelling a smaller total distance.

With many different accreditations and certifications available, the hunt for sustainable cleaning products can often be a confusing one. To ensure businesses are able to make informed decisions, companies should ensure they are able to easily decode the marques and labels of available products – this should be front of mind when choosing a vendor. It is also worth organisations keeping abreast of the latest developments in the cleaning sector. For example, now available in disposable form, microfibre cloths allow businesses to use fewer chemicals and less water to achieve a similar cleaning standard, helping to meet cost and environmental targets. 

In order for hospitality proprietors to be truly successful in driving revenue and retaining customer loyalty, it is essential that the workforce is fully engaged with the organisation’s policies and procedures around cleaning and hygiene. As well as ensuring that employees are well-educated in areas such as personal hygiene, it is worth developing a company-wide appreciation of the important role that maintaining high standards plays in achieving overall business goals. With the full support of their staff, organisations in the hospitality industry can maintain a hygienic and attractive environment all year round, encouraging customers to return and spend their money again and again.

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Update your ordering pattern: why it pays to understand your facilities supplies usage

When ordering cleaning supplies for your company workspaces, it can be easy to get familiar with a particular product or brand and become reluctant to try anything new. However, familiarity should not be mistaken for efficacy. By continually reordering the same products, companies often fail to take advantage of opportunities to optimise their cost-efficiency as well as their hygiene.

These failings can often stem from a fear of not abiding properly to health and safety regulations, or simply from a lack of awareness surrounding the best products and methods to use in a specific environment. However, choosing the right products is crucial and there are significant business benefits to be gained from overhauling the cleaning supply ordering process.

As it stands, many companies are ordering far too vast a range of products, deeming this necessary where, in truth, a small selection of carefully selected products would be more suitable. In getting stuck in the mindset of simply reordering a list of supplies, companies often end up ordering a whole host of superfluous products, many of which are not well-suited to their situation and environment. This is simply not necessary and can be avoided by proactively engaging with the ordering process and consolidating the product range.

Many companies are failing to take advantage of economical industry solutions simply through lack of awareness. For example, selecting lighter, easier to store concentrate chemicals, as opposed to the pre-diluted cleaning fluid, can help organisations minimise costs and storage space. ‘Dilution Control’ systems for chemicals have come a long way in recent years, and are now available as fully plumbed in systems for high usage larger sites, easier to use portion control systems suitable for smaller sites, or as free-standing systems for sites with no access to a plumbed in system. Regardless of size these systems can provide a concentrated chemical which not only reduces storage, but also decreases waste from both packaging and unused solutions. The alternatives, ready to use bottles of product, or manually diluted versions, necessitate the storing of a large number of bottles where one container of concentrate could fit the bill.

Despite the variety of options to choose from, as well as a whole host of other cleaning and hygiene choices available to businesses, cleaning supplies are often ordered without much thought and the same vast range of supplies are bought year after year.

The types of products being procured are often not the right fit for both the way in which they’re being used and for the surfaces they’re being used on. Working with other companies with specialist cleaning and hygiene industry information could help to address this pitfall. Getting advice is key and partnering and communicating with an expert supplier would allow businesses to assess their requirements individually, rather than making their own judgements based on one-size-fits-all guidelines.

Companies will often assume that spending less on their cleaning supplies means they will be less effective, less hygienic and less likely to meet health and safety standards: this is generally a misconception. In fact, by misusing an often expensive and extensive range of supplies through lack of specific environmental or product awareness, companies can end up dealing with a whole host of health and safety nightmares, causing damage to company property and endangering staff through slips, trips and even fire hazards.

Some solutions to these potential difficulties and dangers are universal. For instance, clear and descriptive labelling can help signpost appropriate products and chemicals. However, in many cases choosing the right products depends entirely upon the setting. Chemicals and equipment all need to be compatible with the environment in which they are to be stored and used. For example, anti-bacterial hand wash is often perceived to be a ‘cure all’ for workplace hygiene. However, in truth, while it is a necessity in certain specific environments such as hospitals, in others it is not particularly relevant. As long as a proper handwashing regime is implemented, other, cheaper products can be just as effective, less harsh on the hands and produce less of a cost burden. Only with an assessment of each business in turn could optimisation of cleaning standards and costs be fully achieved.

Blindly reordering cleaning products simply because they’re what’s always been issued is never the best approach. Nor is making assumptions regarding the best products to promote cost-efficiency and hygiene. Seeking a suitable partner and supplier to help bridge the gap between the business and supplier will help businesses streamline their cleaning operations significantly. Tapping into the knowledge of industry specialists will help save time and money and will make sure to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of using the wrong product in the wrong place.

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A positive cycle: how businesses can encourage an eco-friendly commute

The publication of the UK's draft Air Quality plan earlier this month was a reminder that the reduction of carbon emissions currently sits high on Government’s agenda. However, in order for the UK to be truly successful in meeting its ambitious targets, it is essential that businesses recognise their individual responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint and promote an environmentally-friendly culture amongst staff.

As well as implementing an engaging company communications strategy around the benefits of employees cycling, walking or running to work, ensuring that adequate facilities are available for the storage of valuable equipment and post-exercise shower facilities can help to maximise the likelihood of staff opting for greener commuting methods.  

In addition to the important role they play in promoting a green workplace culture and enhancing staff wellbeing, businesses also have an obligation to maintain a safe and hygenic working environment for employees. As part of this, and in order to encourage workers to adopt carbon-neutral commuting methods, companies should ensure that adequate facilities are provided for individuals to wash and change on arrival at the office. When planning new washrooms and changing areas, employers should aim to strike a balance between complementing the look of the existing office space with facilities that are spacious, modern and meet the specific needs of their workforce. Choosing fittings and surfaces that are easy to clean and stocking up on high-quality cleaning products will also allow businesses to meet health and safety responsibilities by keeping facilities in a hygenic condition.  

Both as a pastime and commuting method, cycling continues to increase in popularity, with people spending ever greater amounts on kit, bikes and other equipment. With such items often amounting to a significant value, staff may be put off from cycling to work unless they have access to suitable storage amenities to keep equipment secure and in a good condition. As well as offering dry, lockable and spatious storage for bikes, employers may also wish to provide indoor lockers so employees can safely stow sports kit, whether cycling, running or walking is their preferred way to get to work.

While adequate access to washing, changing and storage facilities is important when encouraging staff to reduce their carbon emissions, the key to achieving effective take-up is company-wide employee engagement. By developing an internal communications strategy which clearly explains the advantages of reducing carbon emissions as well as emphasising the important role each employee plays, businesses can have a positive influence on staff participation whilst starting to instill green commuting choices within company culture. It should also be remembered that state-of-the-art facilities provide little benefit to an organisation if workers do not know they exist.

By adapting the workplace to the needs of the eco-friendly commuter and making sure they are aware of the facilities available to them, companies can encourage staff to adopt a greener lifestyle which also has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

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Health and safety: Don't break a sweat this summer

It goes without saying that companies should prioritise the health and safety of workers all year round. However, as temperatures continue to rise over the coming months and allergies prevail, summer is certain to bring a particular set of risks for health and safety professionals.

While it is common to joke about the unpredictable nature of British weather, patterns such as sudden heatwaves can have serious implications for businesses, leaving many employers unprepared for the extra dangers higher temperatures can bring. By taking the appropriate steps to assess heat-associated risks before heatwaves occur and creating a comfortable and safe working environment, companies can  safeguard staff wellbeing and minimise any negative impact on employee productivity over the warmer summer months. 

While UK legislation has stipulated a minimum workplace temperature for years, it does not state a maximum  temperature. However, under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Regulation 7 does provide employers with the following guidance: "During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable." 

In the event that 10 per cent of employees complain about workplace temperature, an employer has an obligation to undertake a thermal risk assessment. However, with the side-effects of overheating including low productivity and even illness, determining whether the workplace temperature is "reasonable" is not only an employer's legal responsibility, it is also in their best interests. In order to do this, employers must undertake a thermal risk assessment and then act on the findings of the assessment by implementing suitable controls. As well as providing sufficient thermometers, perhaps the most revealing way of doing this is by simply asking employees whether they are satisfied with the temperature of their working environment.  

When taking steps to combat overheating in the workplace, businesses should opt for temporary controls that can be removed or adjusted in the autumn as the weather changes and temperatures drop. Perhaps the most common way of maintaining a comfortable temperature for workers during the summer months is air conditioning or ventilation, which increases air movement in order to prevent workers from becoming uncomfortably hot.

As air conditioning units can range from small ones that solely lower air temperature to larger ones that also deal with humidity and air movement, businesses should give careful thought to choosing a solution that will effectively deal with the conditions of their specific workplace environment. To ensure that efforts to cool the office do not result in the opposite extreme, companies should avoid allowing draughts to blow directly onto employees. 

Air conditioning systems can also play an important role in managing the impact of allergies such as hayfever within the workplace. While it can be tempting during warm weather to open a window to let fresh air circulate, doing so can expose employees to pollen and other allergens that can lead to unpleasant symptoms for many workers. By choosing instead to recirculate and filter air, businesses can protect workers from external triggers, whilst still keeping the internal temperature at a comfortable level. 

When working outdoors, ensuring PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is suitable for use in warmer temperatures is essential, especially where workers are prone to generating heat through manual activity. By encouraging employees to layer-up and not wear a higher protection factor than necessary, health and safety professionals can prevent overheating by allowing workers to simply remove excess clothing as the temperature rises. In order to maximise employee comfort, businesses should opt for cooler designs and materials when choosing PPE, but also more generally be prepared to relax any uniform rules or dress code when appropriate. To maximise workers' protection against the sun, it is also important to promote the usage of sunhats and sunscreen (of an appropriate SPF) as well as good-quality sunglasses.  

Whether workers are based outdoors or within an office, a key priority during the warmer months should be ensuring that staff remain adequately hydrated. As well as providing employees with an easily-accessible source of cool water, encouraging staff to choose water over caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee will help them to avoid dehydration and avoid the onset of heat stress. However, it is worth bearing in mind that there is little use providing a water cooler if employees have no chance to access it. Companies can boost the amount workers are likely to drink by providing them with regular breaks, and where outdoor workers lack access to a running tap should provide water bottles which can be easily transported on site.

The increasingly busy schedules of health and safety professionals mean that it can be all too easy for issues associated with heatwaves to creep up on businesses, resulting in policies and procedures being implemented at the last minute. However by thinking carefully now about how to protect staff wellbeing during hot weather, companies can avoid being caught out and maintain productivity levels when the UK gets a rare burst of sunshine.

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