Top Five Halloween Office Pranks to Spook your Coworkers

Happy Halloween! As more and more offices participate in the fun and festivities of Halloween, employees are looking for fun ways to engage with the holiday. Dress up, eat candy, and if you work at a job that allows Halloween pranks, try your hand at one of these fun, spooky tricks. Your unsuspecting co-workers will get a spook and a good laugh!

What is your plan for Halloween today? Are you pulling any pranks?

  1. Add a candy bowl to the break room that reaches out and grabs your hand.
  2. Why not take a fake head or hand to work for lunch? It will be a great addition to the company fridge and won’t target simply one person.
  3. Decorate someone’s cubicle with a cobweb design.
  4. Play a computer prank on them. Make sure you clear it with your IT department first! A common prank is taking the ball out of the mouse or covering up the sensor with paper so that the mouse doesn’t work.
  5. Wear an inappropriate costume to work. (Please note, while this will spook your coworkers we do not recommend this! No one wants to see that at work.)

Pull the Perfect Prank without Losing your Job

Here are a few top tips when planning your prank. Remember, it may start out as fun and games, but it could be taken too far and that can result in dismissal or even a lawsuit. Don’t make that mistake.

      • Consider all outcomes of the prank before executing it.
      • Don’t use the prank to get back at someone. It should be merely just for fun.
      • Always consider the person you are pranking. Would they think it is funny?
      • Be cautious of pulling a prank on your boss.

Word of Warning and Required Legal Statement: Use your own judgment as to whether your co-worker or company would find these pranks funny and appropriate for your workplace. The ideas and statements expressed above are not legal guidance. You should regard this article as intended for entertainment purpose only.

(Photo Credits – Flickr Creative Commons: Wendy Perlson, Rachel Carter, Joe Goldberg, Ken Fager, BLMattfeld)

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Secrets to More Productive Meetings

It’s Friday at 3pm. The clock is ticking, employees are fidgeting, and everyone is glancing at the clock. Voices drone and no one’s listening…

Every businessperson knows the importance of meetings, but most companies don’t take advantage of the time they have with their employees. Long meetings with little productivity result in wasted money and time for the business. Here are three tips to help you maximize your time in the office.

  1. Keep your meeting to 15 minutes, max.

Have you ever been in a 2 hour meeting? Regardless of the topic — which may be crucial to a project’s success — the mere duration can drain your energy. The human brain is not designed to process information continuously for that long of a time span.

Carmine Gallo, a professional coach and personal trainer, recently released an article on “The Science Behind TED’s 18-Minute rule.” TED Talks, a popular webinar series, limit their speakers to a mere 18 minutes.

TED Talk curator Chris Anderson offers his reasoning behind the rule: “By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say.”

Did you know?

  • Most business people spend approximately 25 percent of their working hours in meeting.
  • Studies show 20 minutes is the average attention span before people lose focus.
  • Middle managers spend at least two days out of every week in meetings.

Don’t think you can hold a meeting for 15 minutes and get everything done? It takes planning and efficiency. These famous speeches of history only took about 15 – 20 minutes.

  1. Planning

To get your point across in a shortened amount of time, you must hyper-plan every moment of your meeting. If not, you company could lose money for the time that could be spent elsewhere.

For example, let’s say you have a meeting of 10 people and the meeting lasts over an hour. With 10 people in the room, that meeting is equivalent to over 10 hours of time utilized by the company. A 15 minute meeting, on the other hand, takes just over 2 hours total.

The first step to planning is to make sure you actually require a meeting. Keep the end goal in mind. Does the meeting require action items? You may find that you can accomplish the meeting goals with an email discussion or distributing the news in an email newsletter. Typically, reoccurring meetings are superfluous.

Globalization – If you are planning meetings that require meeting with people in different locations, consider using a conference table with smart technology to bring everyone together virtually. This eliminates travel costs and enables worldwide communication.

  1. Scheduling for Success

Never plan meetings for Monday or Friday. These two days are the most common for employees to take long weekends and and be the least focused on their work.

The online meeting scheduling service “When is Good” conducted a survey of 34,000 events and determined that Tuesday at 3 p.m. is the most “available” spot for a meeting.

Not only are more people typically in the office on Tuesdays at the standard office, but 3 p.m. is early enough not to impede with the average workday and late enough to be after meal times. Moral of the story? Always pick a time that works best for your team.

So, are Mondays and Fridays non-productive days in the office?

They are only non-productive if you allow it. Mondays and Fridays may not be good meeting days, but if you delegate deadlines and tasks for those days, employees will be motivated to get the job done.

Posted in Collaboration, Health in the Workplace, Office organization, Productivity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s called Macbook Pro Retina, but “Retina” or not, it could be hurting your eyes

In today’s world, technology is everywhere. One might even say that it runs our lives. From our computers, smart phones, tablets and gadgets, most people are around technology every waking moment. And, for children, classrooms are becoming outfitted with greater amounts of technology to support teaching curriculum and to serve as a new learning style. It is estimated that 40% of teachers use computers for instruction, and at least one computer is in 97% of all American classrooms.

In honor of Children’s Eye Health and Safety month, we wondered how much technology time children should have both in and out of the classroom.

Don’t Start too Young

Parents should slowly introduce their children to technology. Since 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity (2010) have recommended waiting until the child is at least preschool age, or over the age of two years old, to introduce the child to technology.

After the age of two years old, it is recommended that children have no more than one to two hours of total screen time per day, and this includes all the way up to teenagers. A two hour limit is unrealistic for teenagers, who require screen time for homework tasks, but younger children should prevent straining their eyes for as long as possible.

For youngest technology users (under five years), experts believe that they are not being given a chance to explore the world around them. This could result in a skewed reality and inability to differentiate between technology and the real world. For young children, the emphasis in research has been less about the health and safety risks, although those should be assessed, and more about the development of learning about the world around them.

Digital Eye Strain

According to a survey by the American Optometric Association, almost 1/3 of children use technology for a full hour before taking a visual break. Optometrists are concerned that blue light rays emitted from electronic devices could affect and age the eyes. When technology is used for extended periods of time, the individual could experience what is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

The American Optometric Association defines CVS as eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. The most common symptoms of CVS include:

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms are often caused by:

  • poor lighting
  • glare on the computer screen
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor seating posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • a combination of these factors

Combat Eye Strain

Here are a few ways to combat the negative effects of eye strain:

  1. 20-20-20

Children and adults alike are encouraged to practice the 20-20-20 rule to decrease the effects of eye strain. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.


  1. Practice good posture and viewing distance.

Whether in the classroom or in an office, you should have a comfortable working posture where your joints are aligned. Optimally, when working on a tablet or computer, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 to 5 inches) and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.

Smart phones — probably the singular piece of technology most frequently used with poor posture — should be held up at eye level and approximately 16 inches away from the face.

  1. Remember to blink!

This one seems obvious, but blinking can improve focus and reduce dry eyes. If you are suffering from dry eyes, drops can also help.

For some more eye health tips, check out this article from TIME.

Do you find that your back or neck hurts after using technology? How many hours do you spend watching TV, using your smartphone, or working on the computer?

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Workplace Productivity? Try Community + Engagement

Results from a 2013 Gallup study provided a surprising (and rather dismal) statistic: of 25 million workers polled, only 30% were actively engaged in their work, and the other 70% fell short of their productivity potential. According to the same study, employees who are engaged in their work are enthusiastic, committed participants in their company whose creativity generates new ideas, attracts customers, and contributes positively to their organization as a whole.

This chart from the Gallup poll shows that since 2000, employee engagement levels across the US have barely changed.


So, what is to be done?

Assuming that employee engagement levels are tied to feelings of (1) personal satisfaction, (2) balance, and (3) enthusiasm in their companies, it makes sense to examine how spatial design can improve these three aspects of their working lives.

(1) Personal Satisfaction

Easy-to-work-in office settings are crucial to a developing a sense of personal satisfaction among employees. The instant-gratification of younger office workers can see one another and easily interact, the same way they do with the instant technology-based communication that they use in their daily lives.

(2) Balance

Environments that foster interaction among employees — whether friendly or professional — are likely to improve company morale and willingness to work. A physically balanced space in the office can guide employees to a sense of psychological balance in their own lives. According to this blog post from WorkDesign magazine, breaking down walls in the office in favor of open architecture can drastically improve employee performance and productivity. Removing barriers between office also removes barriers between employees and enables them to connect on a personal level.

(3) Enthusiasm

Spatial design, coupled with charismatic leadership, boosts employee engagement tremendously. Settings that offer the possibility for both individual and group work, as well as welcoming meeting spaces, build community and camaraderie in the workplace. Flexible furniture offers the option to work individually or in groups – employees have control over their workspace, whether they’re problem solving on their own or as a team.

And not to be forgotten…company management / leaders also play a key role in defining workplace engagement (see this Huffpost blog).

Did you know? “Employee engagement” is such a hot topic right now that it has its own Wikipedia page. It also has increased significantly in relevance in Google’s search engines (based on a growing number of searches) according to the graphic below.


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Workplace Collaboration: Why You Need It and How to Achieve It

Collaboration in the workplace not only allows companies to provide their consumers with the best solutions, but it helps employees stay on task and stay motivated. When looking to start a new business or revamp an existing business, executives should consider adopting a collaborative model. As this article from TechRadar aptly expresses, the prevalence of social media, mobile technology, and an international information-based economy have developed, so too has a greater need for collaboration in the global marketplace.

Why you need it…

  1. Increased Innovation

Through collaboration, employees bring together expertise and experience to develop the best solutions  for customers. Working on a team employees utilize their own unique strengths and abilities that go beyond their job descriptions and allows for greater creative input. According to this Crain’s New York Business article, open offices even spur employees to set more ambitious goals in the workplace.

  1. Better Rapport

While a job may be a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. commitment, to truly encourage commitment and success within a company, the members of each team need to know each other. The standard cube-style office approach encourages employees to be closed off from one another. By encouraging a collaborative workspace, it allows employees to get to know each other on a deeper level. Employees can open up and feel at-ease when expressing new business ideas. Google is following (or perhaps even setting!) this trend with their new GoogleDocs features, and increased storage in the cloud, which allows collaborators to share and edit their work together even when they are a world apart from one another.

How to achieve it…

SmartDesks is currently running a limited time sweepstakes to win a set of 6 igroup tables to help businesses promote collaboration.


The iGroup is known as the “origami of interaction” because the tables are flexible in formation – you can create hexagon, pinwheel, star, wave, and abstract shapes among many other options. The iGroup is ideal for both the workplace and educational institutions.


  • The value of this prize is $5,000!
  • Entries will be accepted until 7/30/14, 12pm EST.
  • One entry per person, please.
  • The winner will be notified via email on 7/31/14.
  • If winner does not respond via email within 48 hours, a new winner will be notified. (Watch your email & check junk mail.)

For more information: Visit the official sweepstakes page.



Posted in Classroom Technology, Collaboration, Collaborative Learning, Productivity, Technology Integration | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment