Regular readers of my blog will probably have noticed that over the last few months I haven’t been very active in terms of publishing new content, well at least not as active as I’d like.
But there was a very good reason for this – I spent July, August and September moving into a new office which took A LOT of time and energy (plus mental anguish!). We all know how it is with a move, and this one was no different – nothing went to plan and every schedule quickly went out the window.
Some of you may remember that early this summer, after finishing work on the brand new version of Easy Auction Business, I promised myself that I would spend the rest of the summer with my family, just take some time off and recharge myself for the new season.
If only life was that easy! ☺
I’ve had plans to expand for some time already, particularly as my new handmade greeting cards company needed more space for assembly work stations, warehousing etc.
And early in July, I received an offer to rent a bigger office space not far from our previous location. The offer was so good that I couldn’t resist and signed-on and as the new place needed some renovation I spent most of July and August on that, plus of course the actual moving process itself.
But nothing to worry about now as luckily this has all be done and we’ve been settled in our new office for a few weeks now, continuing with work as usual.
So in today’s blog post I wanted to share a few things with you that I have implemented in my office to improve productivity and in general – make the whole office routine more enjoyable and easier to handle.
The first new thing I wanted to bring to our office was height-adjustable desks. Mainly for health reasons of course as we all know how bad it is for you to sit down in front of a computer all day long. Also, keeping in mind that the employees for my new greeting card company need to work on various machines, I really wanted to offer them the best in terms of workspace ergonomics.
Now some of you may never have heard of them before so might now be wondering what on earth these height-adjustable desks actually are? Well basically they are normal desks with one important distinction – you can alter the height with the push of a button.
They have a special motor underneath the desk which is powered from the mains and a small up and down button panel screwed beneath the desk surface.
When you have such a desk, you can quickly go from sitting mode to standing mode in less than 10 seconds. This is exactly what’s needed for a modern office worker so that you can work standing for at least a few hours a day and not be slumped in a chair 100% of the time.
After doing some initial research, I settled on the Flexus desks from AjProducts.co.uk Prices start from a little less than £400 (excl. VAT) and go up based on desk dimensions and configuration. Yes, this is not cheap BUT just so you know – a few years ago the cheapest electric desk you could find sold for no less than £1000 so £400 really isn’t that bad considering what you get in return.
So in the end I ordered five of these desks for our new office and I’m very happy with them! The build quality is superb and the speed of the motor is good (you can go from the lowest setting to the highest in about 10-15 seconds).
Maybe the only downside is the noise the desk makes when you run the motor. It’s not unbearable but it is noticeable of course. That doesn’t really bother me though as in general we have the radio on all day long in our office and it’s not like we work in a law firm or something like that where people have to be 100% engrossed and concentrated on what they’re doing all the time.
One warning – make sure to leave some free space around the edges of the desk and do not put anything underneath the moving mechanism. In the beginning, I stopped the desk a few times by blocking the moving mechanism with a bin. Nothing broken though so I guess they have constructed these with some safety margin in place! 🙂
To sum it up – height-adjustable desks are now more affordable and if you do spend all day in front of a computer, it’s a great investment to make! Not only does it improve your blood circulation when you’re in standing mode, it’s actually quite comfortable to work like that for at least a few hours a day.
My First iMac
Yes, I finally made the move and switched to a Mac for my main workstation.
As I already have several Apple products (iPads, iPhones, even a MacBook Air) I’ve been considering switching over completely for a few years now.
I really love the simplicity and ease of use with all of the Apple products I own so it wasn’t really too hard for me to make the decision to switch fully, which meant changing my workstation computer too.
And as my previous Windows PC was getting laggy (again) plus with the new office move, I thought – it’s the perfect time to go shopping for a new iMac!
The model choice was very easy for me. I really like working on big screens (my previous PC had a 24 inch screen) so I picked up the biggest available iMac version with a 27 inch screen. For what it’s worth, I think the screen size is excellent and it allows me to freely work with multiple tabs open at once.
Before the purchase, I had 2 fears:
- How easy will it be to switch from Windows to Mac OSX after spending my entire life with Windows based machines?
- What to do with software that is Windows-only?
The first issue turned out to be much smaller than I anticipated really. As I was already used to Apple products, even my laptop was a MacBook Air, it was actually very easy to start using OSX full time. Yes, it took about a week or two to get used to things, find all the settings etc. but it was still a very easy move, especially after I watched several videos on YouTube on how to go from a PC to a Mac.
I had to make one additional purchase though which kind of ruined my “empty desk look”. I’m talking about a wired keyboard. Originally iMac comes with a bluetooth keyboard which is all good and looks great as it means the only cable you have coming from your desk is the power cable from the back of the iMac.
Unfortunately, as good as that wireless keyboard is, it doesn’t have a numeric pad/block on the right side like a full-size keyboard. As I work with a lot of data, I really needed the number pad to stay productive with these tasks.
So I had to order the wired version of the same keyboard which comes with a full numeric keypad as well as bigger function keys (Ctrl, Alt, Shift etc.).
Yes, now I have ANOTHER wire on my desk which isn’t ideal so I do hope Apple come out with a bluetooth version for this keyboard very soon. I’ll be the first on the waiting list.
As for the second issue – what to do with the Windows-only programs that I need to use for my businesses?
Well the solution was also a very easy one but it did come with an added price tag. What I did was purchase a Windows 8 license as well as Parallels Desktop software for Mac.
I have already briefly talked about Parallels Desktop in my Turbo Lister Alternatives for Mac Users article but just so you know – this software allows you to run Windows simultaneously with OSX WITHOUT the need to restart your machine!
And it is dead easy to use!
All you have to do is click on any Windows program you have installed and the magic happens within a few seconds… your Windows application opens within OSX and you can switch between Windows applications and OSX applications just like you would if they were the same operating system. Amazing!
Up until now I haven’t found any bugs in this whatsoever – Turbo Lister and a few other Windows applications that I’ve tried have worked perfectly, just as they did before.
Also, the good news is that more and more software programs are now being made for both Windows and OSX, and for a reason of course!
While a decade ago only creative people, designers, writers and die-hard Mac fans used Apple computers, nowadays more and more people are making the switch and this creates pressure on software companies to release their products on both platforms.
I’m actually very surprised that eBay still haven’t created a Turbo Lister version for Mac. As in essence it’s a very simple program which shouldn’t be that difficult to “transform” for native Mac use. It’s probably a question of will and nothing more…
We still do have many Windows PCs in our office but in future I think we’ll switch over fully to Apple workstations to destroy any possible compatibility issues that we might face while working from both systems simultaneously.
With the purchase of iMac, I also ordered a 3TB Time Capsule – a product I wasn’t actually even aware of before I started looking into this. It’s more of a consumer product than business but in our small office it found a perfect place and function to carry out.
What is Apple Time Capsule?
It’s basically a wireless router with a built in hard disk drive. They come in two versions – 2TB and 3TB. It’s a very small, good looking (Apple?) device you can use for multiple tasks.
How can it help in your business?
First of all, it works as a wireless router, a GOOD wireless router. I’m simply amazed how good the signal is from such a small box. Our office is located on one floor and there are many rooms separated with concrete walls and STILL – even in the furthest corner of the office, the wireless signal is perfect!
I’m already planning on ordering this for my house as well, purely for the strength of the wireless signal it provides.
Next – as it has a built in HDD, you can use it for doing back-ups of your computer. If you have an Apple computer, it comes with special software for this built-in called Time Machine which is basically an automated back-up tool that will regularly back-up all of your data to your Time Capsule.
And I really like the extra thought Apple engineers have put into this. For example, it automatically offers to do back-ups at night, when you’re not using the computer, so that you don’t suffer from loss of performance while the back-up is taking place.
Also, the whole set-up/configuration process is super easy, not like with other back-up programs I’ve tried in the past.
Now, the other cool feature I like about this small box is that it can also act as a SERVER! You can connect every computer you have via the same wireless network (and it can be a windows computer too) and Time Capsule simply shows up as an external drive where you can store any files you want.
So if for example in your company several people have to use/access/work with the same files, you can just store them on Time Capsule and they will be available to everyone.
Last but not least, it also turns ANY printer into a network printer with ease! All you have to do is connect your printer to Time Capsule, install drivers and it instantly becomes available to all computers in the network. How cool is that? All wire free!
Besides that – there are additional USB connections you can use to add even more storage space – external hard disk drives to increase your storage capacity to dozens of terabytes, if you so wanted.
I hope you agree – for such a small, stylish looking white box – it does an awful lot! As with all Apple products, I have yet to face any errors or technical problems with it. It just works, 24/7 and hassle free.
Dymo Twin 450 Turbo
I have been a huge fan of Dymo products for several years now. I can’t even imagine running a business where shipping labels are involved without having at least one Dymo machine in action:
- They are super simple to use;
- They are super fast;
- They are super reliable!
Speaking of reliability – I still have a Dymo 400 running as new that I purchased 7 years ago! After tens of thousands of labels! For the price they cost, I think they’re amazing value for money.
I also have several Dymo 450s which are the updated version of the 400 model and they’re all perfect.
But now I have also invested in the flagship model, the Dymo Twin 450 Turbo. Turbo stands for extra speed but the most interesting thing about this machine is that it can take 2 label rolls simultaneously. This is very handy when you have to use different label sizes and don’t want to constantly have to switch the rolls around!
Dymo’s software automatically recognises which label size you have in each compartment so you don’t even have to manually select which side of the printer you want to use.
The only downside of it is that you CAN’T print both sides at the same time. Before purchasing the printer I thought you could do this but it turns out that’s not the case and you can only print one side at a time.
But this being a Turbo printer, it’s not a problem really as it prints SO QUICKLY! And it does not overheat even if you print several hundred labels in a row – just amazing.
Yes, when printing graphic rich labels, such as ones with barcodes, it slows down a bit but for plain address labels, it’s very, very fast (to say the least).
If you’re printing any kind of labels and still don’t have a Dymo machine, get one now! With compatible labels being so cheap nowadays, the running costs of such machines are almost non-existent but it adds so much to your business in terms of time and productivity.
Well, that’s it for today. I hope some of this was interesting to you!
If you have any questions or comments about anything mentioned in this post, be it electric height-adjustable desks, moving from PC to Mac, or about the move in general, then please feel free to leave your comments below and I will personally reply to each of them.
P.S. Did you know that Christmas is just 7 weeks away? Bummer!!!