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TIP TUESDAY: Office Gift-Giving Dos & Don’ts

By Erika Napoletano at Staples online

giftsUse these quick tips to help you and others in the office find the perfect gift for one another, whether co-workers’ Secret Santa or a group gift for the boss.

Do Work Within Your Office Gift Policy

Know the rules before you shop and share them with others in your department or team to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If you’re unsure of the rules, a quick trip to human resources can help clarify anything that’s unclear.

Do Make Gifts for Groups of People Shareable or of the Same Value

If you’re asked to buy a gift for a group, you can’t go wrong with a gourmet food basket or tower that everyone can enjoy. If you decide to distribute gifts to individuals in a team, be sure that they’re of equal value, such as an assortment of gift cards of the same denomination.

Do Make Gifts Personal

When shopping for a gift for a specific team member or friend, get them something that matches their personality. Fresh stationery and tech gadgets appeal to a wide range of personalities.

If you’re tasked with purchasing gifts for employees you’re not familiar with, ask around and see what co-workers might recommend for a recipient you don’t know as well.

Do Make Your Gifts Functional

Gifts that the recipient can use regularly always go over big. Shopping for a road warrior? Try a travel accessory. Know a co-worker who’s environmentally conscious? Consider a customized, reusable tote or water bottle. Think about what a particular person on your list might use every day, and start your shopping there.

Don’t Forget About Dietary Restrictions

If you’re considering food gifts or baking at home, don’t forget that there might be people in your office with dietary restrictions. Consider picking up a vegetarian option to go with your homemade, meat-filled dish, or even a gluten-free dessert to complement your homemade delicacy.

Don’t Overspend

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of the perfect gift and get tempted to go over your budget, but sticking to a budget lets valuable team members know that they’re all valued equally.

Don’t Bow Out of the Gift Exchange

Gifts might not be your thing, but they can be someone else’s. An office-wide gift exchange, like a secret Santa or white elephant exchange, is about an entire team having fun. Encourage others to participate by reminding them it’s about the team getting together and having fun.

Don’t Be Tempted to Be Inappropriate

It’s still an office, and the office gift exchange isn’t the place to focus on that private joke you share with a trusted co-worker. Avoid the temptation to go the gag-gift route and focus on sincerity.

Don’t Forget to be Sensitive About the Feelings of People Not on Your List

While you might only be close enough with a few co-workers to exchange a gift with them, don’t forget the feelings of people who may be hurt they weren’t included on your list. When your list is short, consider giving gifts away from the office, such as at lunch or happy hour, to keep all spirits riding high.

Don’t Forget That Your Boss Is Your Boss

If you’re considering buying a gift for your boss, keep all the dos above in mind along with a special don’t: Don’t go overboard on your boss’s gift. The holiday gift exchange isn’t the place to jockey for a promotion or apologize for a missed deadline back in February. You can do something meaningful and special, but keep it on par with your other holiday gift budgets.

With these holiday tips, your office holiday gift-giving efforts are bound to be appreciated, and the experience will be a much smoother experience. With Christmas in less than two weeks, give yourself the time you need to select right gifts and avoid last-minute gifts that are more about the gift and less about the thought.

TIP TUESDAY: Employee Handbook Checklist

Employee handbooks are a living, changing resource that adapts when employment law or a company evolves. They:

  • Serve organizations in a variety of ways.
  • Provide mandatory and non-mandatory information to employees.
  • Are an asset to a company’s strategic goals.
  • Serve as the front line to the HR department.

Check out this checklist from BLR/Business & Legal Resources and let it guide you to developing or updating company’s employee handbook.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: How Americans Use Their Time

According to the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which used polling data to illustrate a day in the life for Americans by age, gender, and education. Here’s the information from one of the seven charts available in the survey report.

Hours Spent in an Average Work Day for Employed Adults Ages 25 to 54 with Children:

Working & related activities   8.6

Sleeping   7.6

Leisure & sports   2.6

Caring for others   1.2

Eating & drinking   1.1

Household activities   1.1

Other   1.8

{From an article in The Atlantic magazine online.}

TIP TUESDAY: Dressing for Success in the Summer

(excerpted from an article in Forbes magazine, written by staff member Jaquelyn Smith)

Now that warmer weather has moved in, many employees are beginning to sport skimpier, more casual summertime garb. And as the temperatures rise, it’ll get even worse.

Nicole Williams, a LinkedIn career expert and best-selling author, notes, “When the weather is warmer we toss on our spring brights and sandals,” she says. “I’ve seen flip-flops, short shorts and tiny tank tops at professional workplaces.” But, these are all office attire no-nos.

Every workplace has different dress code expectations and policies–but if you’re working in the corporate world or an office environment, there are general rules of thumb all employees should follow.

It is always important to look professional and appropriate in the workplace. Important meetings and outings can happen at the drop of a hat, and if an employee is dressed inappropriately, it can reflect very poorly on their company.

“Dressing for your career is very important no matter what the temperature is outside,” Williams adds. “You want to be taken seriously at all costs. You don’t want to be dismissed because your skirt is too short. Remember that you are dressing for the job, raise, and promotion. You’ll be seen as more of a thought leader in a professional suit versus a halter top.”

Peter Handal, chief executive of Dale Carnegie Training, says high skirt hemlines, revealing blouses, sheer fabrics, and bare legs are just some common wardrobe mistakes women tend to make during warmer months at work. “In relaxed offices, women can push boundaries as well–too-casual shoes such as sandals and flip flops, too short of shorts, and revealing dresses all seem to be more prevalent as the weather warms up.”

Williams agrees. She cites flip flops, shorts, spaghetti straps, halter tops, tube tops, and miniskirts as the biggest attire “mishaps” among women. “These all belong at the beach, bar, gym, or privacy of your home–not at the office,” she says. “Lose the sunglasses once you’re indoors – that’s a huge summer attire offense. Your Ray Bans shouldn’t be used as a head band. And make sure your bra straps are safely tucked away. This is a major distraction and makes you come off as messy and scattered.”

Men are guilty, too. While their summer garments aren’t necessarily “inappropriate,” they can be very unprofessional, says Handal.  “More casual blazers and pants frequent the office, as they are often made with lighter fabrics than some traditional suits, and can be looked at as not professional enough. In creative fields, men might push towards wearing shorts as opposed to pants, and even wear more casual shoes – perhaps loafers as opposed to dress shoes, and look unkempt.”

Williams says the biggest summer attire faux pas for men is untucked shirts, “or anything else that makes them look like they’re going to a bar.” Flip flops, shorts, and jerseys should be left for the weekend, too, she says.

To avoid any problems, Handal suggests that employers have a clear dress code in place.

“A good way of doing this is to include a list of examples of inappropriate garments within the policy,” he says. “While it may seem silly asking employees not to wear flip-flops or tank tops, it is not nearly as awkward as having to send someone home to change when he or she is dressed inappropriately. It may also be helpful for bosses to reiterate that ‘if you have to think about it, then it is probably not appropriate.”

Additional tips:

When in doubt, don’t. “If you think a piece of clothing could be inappropriate for the office, it probably is,” he says.

Strike a Balance: A comfortable, happy employee is a more productive employee. However, employers must also remember that sloppy or skimpy summer dress can be distracting to co-workers and can also affect productivity and customer service, Handal explains. “Employers need to balance the needs of their clients and corporate culture when determining appropriate dress codes for warmer weather.”

Be polished: No matter what the time of year, it’s important to make a good impression and present a professional image, he says. “Just because your company has a relaxed dress code does not mean you can be a slob. Make sure your clothes are clean and presentable.”

TIP TUESDAY (a day early): How to Display the Flag

Since we know many of you will be off tomorrow, the 4th, we wanted to be sure to Happy 4thwish you a safe and fun holiday, and offer these 8 tips on displaying the American flag.

So, eat, picnic and be merry as we celebrate our nation’s birthday!

1. Never let the flag touch the ground. When hanging or displaying your flag, the key is to not damage it – so don’t drop it or let it touch anything beneath it.

2. Never wear the flag as a costume. The U.S. Flag Code makes very clear that no part of the flag should be worn as sportswear or as a costume, or used to make drapery or bedding. For those who really want to show off their patriotism, opt for a patch or a lapel flag pin worn near your heart.

3. The flag should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset, unless it is lighted at night. This means, according to the American Legion,flag home U that other people should always be able to recognize the flag. If there’s bad weather, you must take the flag down unless you have an all-weather flag.

4. Never place the flag anywhere but at the peak of the staff, except when the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building. (The union is the blue field of stars.) When hanging the flag vertically, the union must always be at the top.

5. Never wad the flag, but rather fold it properly. The way you store your flag is important. The American Legion says to fold it into a triangle, similar to a three-corner hat, with the blue and stars showing.

6. Never raise the flag slowly: It should be raised briskly, but lowered slowly and ceremoniously.

7. Never carry the flag flat or horizontally. It should always be carried aloft and free.flags1

8. Never display the flag with the union down. Only in instances of extreme danger to life or property should the flag be displayed that way, as a distress signal.

For more information on how to display and dispose of your flag, go to http://www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html.