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Watching Out for Your IT Security — Smartphone Edition


itsecurity smartphoneIn this day and age, our phones aren’t just for talking. We use them for just about everything — people work, collaborate, do banking, take photos, email and check social media all from their smartphones. Access to such technology has allowed people to access pretty much anything right from their fingertips.

It’s incredibly convenient, even with its drawbacks. It’s a technological advancement that’s here to stay.

With that in mind, however, you have to consider: how devastating would it be if you lost your phone today?

Nevermind the physical cost of the device and the hassle of replacing it. If you’ve kept sensitive information in your smartphone, whether that’s documents for work or personal login information (which could include bank accounts), you could be in a worse situation than you would’ve been in fifteen years ago.

Keeping Smartphone Security In Mind

There are varying degrees and measures of smartphone and IT security available out there. Just like you protect your computers with firewalls and antivirus software, you should take conscious steps to protect your smartphone from both physical and digital threats.

Always Have an Unlock Code

This is perhaps the easiest step. It’s a little inconvenient, but it’s better than giving a stranger unauthorized access to your device. Smartphones usually have several different options for unlock codes, such as PIN numbers, passwords and swipe patterns. Always have one of these basic security measures in place.

Have a Recovery App

Uh-oh. Can’t remember where you last saw your device? Both iOS and Android have recovery apps available in case you lose your phone. These can locate your device from a synced computer or other device via GPS. Whether simply lost or stolen, this is one of the best ways to turn your lost into found.

Be Smart About Carrying Your Device

How about something more physical? When thinking about holding a device, most people are just concerned about not dropping it and cracking the screen. There’s more to it than that. When carrying your device in public, particularly in crowded areas, it’s a good idea to keep it tucked in a purse or pocket rather than out in your hand except for emergencies. Be conscious of keeping your device out of reach and out of sight. They can’t steal it if they don’t know you have it.

Disable Auto-Login & Always Logout of Banking Apps

Fox Business reports that 62% of smartphone users don’t use any sort of security code or password on their devices and 32% of users have auto-login enabled on their banking apps. You could be handing your bank account to a stranger when you use your device. Disable auto-login to prevent giving thieves access to sensitive banking information and always log out of any app that you use to make payments (such as Paypal).

Just like IT security on your office computers, you have to be just as careful about your mobile devices. Some companies may even insist they have permission to wipe your phone remotely in case of loss — and having the ability to do that yourself may be the best option when your device is lost or stolen.

Smartphone security is serious and something that every device-owner should work to improve.

Do you have a plan in place if your smartphone is stolen or compromised? Share with us in the comments.

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Increase Productivity with Multiple Screens


increaseproductivity screensMaybe it’s Monday morning. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon. It can strike at any time — the temptation to open another tab, browse another news feed, check out that Facebook notification. Before you know it, you’re swimming in tab after tab and window after window. It leaves you frazzled and searching unproductively.

It doesn’t help that every time you buckle down to get some real work done, your e-mail tab racks up numbers with replies, requests and all-important business correspondence- things that often don't help your actual job performance.  

Today, we have everything at our fingertips. E-mail, social media, work, programs stacked on top of programs. It’s innovative and impressive, sure, but it’s also overwhelming. It leads to juggling this program and that task as a thousand things jockey for your attention.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to focus on one thing?

You can.

Using Multiple Screens to Increase Productivity

The term "multiple screens" can mean several things — it could refer to a single computer running across several monitors, displaying different programs and windows in each, or to the use of multiple devices, such as a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. While it seems like utilizing multiple screens could be dangerous to effectiveness, this method can actually boost your job performance.

It allows you to focus.

More screens can help you focus. How? When you designate one screen or device to one task, you can focus solely on that task. Leave e-mail to one place, social media to your smartphone, and dedicate another screen to what you’re actually working on. It’s like going back to paper documents — instead of being assaulted by a barrage of messages and tasks, you have one thing in front of you to focus on at a time, which is good news for efficient working.

The benefit of paper documents is the ability to spread them out and let your eyes roam. While you’re looking at more, you’re also able to survey everything and pick your priorities. With one thing on your screen at a time, it becomes more difficult to take stock of everything — making it easier for smaller tasks to slip through the cracks.

It helps you compartmentalize.

When you purposefully allow, say, your Twitter feed to live solely on your phone, you’ll be less tempted to open a new tab on your computer. With those specific designations, you won’t fall into distractions as easily. Set time limits as well as specific devices for activities like browsing social media.

It saves time.

How many times do you get frazzled by too many windows and tabs being open at the same time? It creates mental clutter and confusion to have so much on the screen at once, particularly if you’re having to refer to one application or document to do work somewhere else. With multiple screens, you can have both open and constantly visible, allowing you to move between the two without the stop-start of switching between tabs and programs.

As the prices of devices and technology decrease, it’s easier than ever to have multiple screens at your disposal. It may take some trial and error to see what method and combination of screens allows you to work most efficiently, but your job performance will thank you in the end.

Do you use multiple screens in the workplace? Share your experiences in the comments.

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image credit: Martin Terber

Encouraging Staff Productivity With Workplace Mobility


staffproductivity mobilityEvery business needs to look towards the future. No business can afford to ignore the truths of the world — and one of the most pertinent is the face of the workforce.

According to Forbes, 86 million millennials (in their 20s to early 30’s) will be in the workforce by 2020. That’s a solid 40% of the working population, and the biggest percentage to boot. What does that mean for businesses?

It means that they need to pay attention to the evolution of workplace demands — in particular, what millennials are looking for in their workplaces. Addressing these needs and desires is a sure way to bring in the best of millennial talent and encourage their productivity in the workplace.

So What Do Millennials Want?

As reported from Forbes and Intelligence Group studies:

  • 64% of millennials want making the world a better place to take priority.
  • 72% wish to be their own bosses.
  • 79% of those, if working under a boss, wish to be involved in coaching and mentoring.
  • 88% prefer a work culture that is collaborative rather than competitive.
  • 74% want flexibility in their work schedules.
  • 88% desire work/life integration — not a balance, but a blend.

For the sake of increasing staff productivity, particularly as it relates to millennial workers, the last two percentages are most pertinent.

The Future of Workplace Mobility

Technology has brought us to a place where the majority of the workforce is not tied to a desk, PC or fax machine. We have cloud storage, big data and unprecedented mobility that allows for instantaneous access to workspaces from virtually anywhere on earth. Remote collaboration is not only possible, but a viable business practice.

Effective workplace mobility, however, doesn’t happen by the virtue of possibility. Businesses need to plan for this method of working by equipping employees with tools and guidance to do efficient and meaningful work from remote locations on a variety of devices and timetables.

The power to control one’s work schedule is a valuable asset to millennials; for many the typical 9-to-5 won’t cut it. The integration of work and life means that the mind doesn’t shut down “work” at the end of the day. Millennials want to make real change more than they want to climb ladders.

As a business, nurture those desires. Variety and enthusiasm in the workplace keeps a business vibrant, growing and alive.

Whether it means looking to a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy for your company, having the services for video and remote collaboration in place or simply re-examining the cookie-cutter employee mold of yesteryear, the consideration of the up-and-coming millennial workforce is vital, particularly in terms of workforce mobility, and can only help staff productivity and company growth.

Are you taking the millennial workforce into consideration yet? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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BYOD and Employee Productivity in the Office


BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) comes under several names — whether its BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) or BYOPC (Bring Your Own Personal Computer) or another variation thereof, it’s a trend that businesses are increasingly having trouble avoiding.


BYOD allows employees to bring their devices, (which could be smartphones, tablets and laptops) into the office and use them for work — and to connect to privileged company applications and information.


BYOD has plenty of potential benefits for employee productivity and overall business. As of a 2013 study,  44% of employees in mature markets worldwide (including the United States) are using BYOD in their workplaces, lower than the 75% of employees in high-growth markets (such as Russia and Brazil).

54% of employees in mature markets believe that constant connectivity allows them to do their jobs better.

Only 38% of mature market employees, however, use a single device for both personal and work use.

When a business permits BYOD, it can present an image of flexibility (and mobility) for employees, which can be an attractive notion. Businesses can also save on having to purchase office-only hardware when employees are working from their own devices.

A problem of note, however is that a total of 46% of BYOD activity is unmanaged. Meaning that the IT departments of a business are not aware of BYOD activity or ignore it entirely.

Your Business Needs a BYOD Plan

BYOD might be happening whether or not you know it — particularly with the increase of cloud usage in the workplace where information and important documents can be accessed on multiple devices.

Whether or not you intend to implement BYOD in your office, you need to be properly prepared for the unique dangers and challenges the practice offers and decide for yourself if the potential increases in employee productivity is worth it.

Train Your Employees and Involve IT

BYOD can’t be a free-for-all. Make sure your employees know what they can and cannot do and access on your networks with their personal devices. Get your IT department involved to help put together guidelines regarding allowed devices and apps.

Have a Device Wipe Policy

In the case of lost or stolen devices, having workplace information can be a danger to your security. Obviously, you’ll want to give employees warning before you wipe their missing devices (should they want to back anything up) and have them sign waivers, but having a policy in place will help keep outsiders from getting their hands on sensitive business information.

Up Your Defenses

Your company’s IT support is important here. While BYOD can save your company in hardware costs, it isn’t free. Your IT support will need to up their game to offer support and helpdesks for different devices. You may need more infrastructure technologies in addition to support costs. On top it all, you’ll want multiple layers of defense to combat the myriad of mobile threats that crop up from time to time.

Steps to Take:

  1. Develop your BYOD policy.

  2. Communicate this policy to your employees and stick to it.

  3. Have employees sign a BYOD behavior agreement and/or relate it to any relevant clauses in their contracts.

How do you feel about BYOD in the office? Share with us in the comments.

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image credit: Michael Coghlan

Does My Company Need Professional IT Support?


itsupportitoutsourcingFor many young companies, IT is tackled in a do-it-yourself fashion. After all, start-ups and small businesses don’t always have the resources to hire full-time IT support. Even when these businesses continue to grow larger and gain the necessary resources, IT ends up on the backburner. It’s often an afterthought or even unnecessary to the growth of a business.

IT support is actually essential to the health of your business. 

Why Should I Get IT Support?

Maintain Productivity in the Office

When something breaks in the office, it needs to be fixed right away, especially when it comes to computers, networks and other systems your team needs every minute of the workday. Without professional IT support, you may wind up with your productivity coming to a screeching halt while someone in-house tries to figure it out. Whatever cost there is in hiring IT professional will be made up in the time you save recovering from delays.

Keeping Up With Tech Trends

Technology is constantly changing. Businesses often face problems when they don’t keep up with the rapidly changing technological curves. Professional IT support helps you streamline your systems — hardware, software, and newfangled innovations that can be difficult to understand when you’re not living and breathing technology. You can take advantage of IT professionals' expertise and immersion in the world of technology.


IT outsourcing can keep your company's sensitive data safe with preventative security measures. It’s difficult to keep up when there are innovative hackers and bots looking to find the Achilles’ heel in your security systems. With breaches like Heartbleed happening too often for comfort, having the support from professional IT will help keep your company secure. Your IT technicians are trained to stay on top of all possible scenarios, preventing you from having to worry about damage control after a technological catastrophe.

What to Look for When IT Outsourcing

Are they stable?

Make sure that the company you’re considering has a solid financial background. They should be making decisions to boost your bottom line, not worrying about going underwater themselves.

Is their turnover low?

The longer employees have been around, the better you can bet their know their IT. Be wary when an IT company has high turnover. Low turnover rates speak well of their methods and training. It also means that you’ll save time wasted when a newbie has to learn your system over and over again.

How long have they been in the biz?

While we often praise the new in the day and age, in IT, experience is everything. Well-established IT companies with good track records are the folks you want to work with. IT professionals who have been able to adapt and grow with new technology over time are more likely to manage your company's tech needs for the long haul. 

Are they training their staff constantly?

IT isn’t static. It is a dynamic and constantly evolving field. Any IT company worth their salt is investing regularly in training their staff for a changing environment. They should have current knowledge that will help you make the right upgrades and decisions regarding your IT.

While it may be tempting to keep coasting with DIY IT, hiring dedicated professionals is your best bet to increase productivity and keep your company secure and ahead of the information technology curve. Find an IT company with a passion for technology and for keeping your IT running smoothly.

Are you looking for IT support to meet your company's needs? 

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image credit: Intel Free Press

Office Design: Increase Productivity with Your Workspace


commercialinteriordesign“Unhappy, unhappy, very unhappy…”

No workspace should invoke the opening verse of “I Wanna Be a Producer” from The Producers.  Gone are the days where a massive, gray room with cookie-cutter cubicles and cold fluorescent lighting is considered a good workspace. Commercial interior design gets the spotlight when it comes to restaurants and retail stores, but office design seems largely overlooked, even in this day and age.

When we see office spaces celebrated, they’re usually the opulent offices of Google and Amazon, or some other trendy megacorporation. These offices often come with expensive amenities that aren’t feasible for smaller companies.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to sacrifice the design of your office space. You can use smart design to your company's advantage and increase productivity in the workplace.

The Qualities of a Productive Office

Unique Personality

Let your design shine. Your office needs to be the voice of your brand — colors, amenities and decor should be reflections of your business and its culture. Over time, the personality of your office can be altered to suit the evolution of the company. As your employees will spend most of their waking hours in the office, it’s important to have an environment that is comfortable and inspiring. A environment that your employees enjoy being in will help boost staff productivity.

Check out the Office Design Gallery for some looks at unique office design.

Good Temperature & Lighting

Nothing is worse that working in a space that’s too hot or too cold. Before settling on a space, check out who has control over the temperature. You may not be able to accommodate everyone’s temperature preferences, but having some level of control and keeping on top of temperature issues (whether it's drafty windows or a broken HVAC) will help keep employees comfortable. Uncomfortable temperatures can damage focus and productivity in the office.

For lighting, try to ensure that every employee works in a space that has access to natural light. At the very least, make sure the common areas have plenty of windows to let the sunshine in.

Flexible & Adaptable

The current trend in office spaces leans on the idea of collaboration. That means open spaces are big. Open spaces, however, only work effectively when individuals still have access to quiet, secluded places to concentrate when they need to. Similar to the collaborative spirit, multi-use and flexible office spaces are great for productivity. Wi-Fi has enabled work to take place everywhere and move effortlessly around.

Use conference rooms for more than conferences and let the lunchroom turn into a hub for brainstorming as much as socialization.

Comfortable & Ergonomic

Comfort is key to happy employees. Take advantage of research on the impact that things like desk height, keyboard trays and chairs have on people’s comfort and health. The design of office furniture is important! Pay attention to how your employees work. You could hire an expert to evaluate the ergonomic needs of your office, or, at the very least, consult employees on what they need to be more comfortable in their space. You’ll save hours lost in productivity to discomfort.


A good office design doesn’t do much good if your space is unorganized. Make sure to keep information in the same place and orderly so that everyone is kept on the same page. After all, if your staff don’t know where to find what they need, that frustration and clutter can lead to productivity pain and slow down the progress of vital tasks.

What kinds of office designs are essential to your productivity? Share with us in the comments.


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image credit: Heather Hopkins

Architectural Trends for the Future


architectural trendsEven though we’re well into 2014, we can still look forward to the future with the hopeful thoughts that toasted in the new year not that long ago. There are a lot of promising architectural trends to look forward to this year and in years to come, both in the residential and commercial sectors that offer plenty of room for great creativity and innovation in architectural design.

Emerging Architectural Design Trends

Passive Design

Though passive design has been on the rise in Europe for years, the concept has gotten global traction in 2014. The philosophy of passive design is to adapt for the surrounding climate to eliminate the need for external technology for heating and cooling. Passive design will be especially utilized in civic and public spaces. Passive design includes elements like positioning windows to take advantage of sunlight and heat, using overhangs to keep rooms cool during summers and utilizing energy-generating technology such as PV panels and solar hot water.

Further Integration of Technology

Technology is progressing at an ever-increasing rate. Look forward to the greater synergy of technology and overall architecture, particularly in terms of public spaces and security. There will be innovations like garbage cans that send text messages to their owners when full and street lamps that can detect street fights and alert the police. The inanimate is getting more intelligent and architects should take advantage of these unique opportunities.

Solutions for Low and Mid-Rise Housing

Low and mid-rise housing can have a negative reputation; however, in 2014 look for daring concepts to change the public conception of these multifamily dwellings with open spaces, light, warmth and community connections. The goal? Be sustainable, efficient, low-maintenance and low-cost for tenants.

Green Infrastructure

Greenspaces just continue to get better. More cities are looking to create green infrastructure, which offer opportunities for health and wellness as well as a multitude of ecological benefits. What to watch out for, however, is the use of a greenspace garnish as justification for oversized and badly placed buildings. Green infrastructure should be utilized for its own merits, not to encourage bad building habits. 

Multigenerational "Flex Rooms"

In the residential sector, the growing number of multigenerational homes has affected architectural trends. Expect to see “flex rooms” in housing. These are almost miniature apartments (usually a bedroom, bathroom and living area) that offer privacy and more of a sense of home to families of multiple generations, whether that includes senior citizens of college graduates suffering in the present economy.

What emerging architectural design trends inspire you? Tell us in the comments.

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Office Amenities — What Matters to Your Staff?


officeamenitiesTimes are changing. Back in the heyday of power suits and executive lunches (we’re looking at you, 1980s), white tablecloth restaurants and dry cleaners were the creme de la creme of office amenities. But this is a new century, times have changed, and with them, so has the atmosphere of the workplace. 

In many offices, men and women in business suits have been replaced with workers in business casual attire who are looking for a little more balance in their lives. So when it comes to providing good amenities and perks for your staff, what matters? You don’t want to end up providing something (and paying for something) that your employees don’t need and don’t use. How can you cut out the frills of age-old amenities and take a look into what really matters?

Office Amenities for the Modern Office

Now, not all offices can be Google. Don’t fly too close to the sun when thinking about the amenities you want to offer to your employees. First of all, be realistic as to what you can offer for the long term and prioritize what will help your employees love coming to work every day — not just a once-in-a-blue moon service.

Promote Fitness

Some offices have on-site gyms and exercise programs (LinkedIn has a gym, running trails, pilates…) and others help their employees out by offering free or discounted memberships to local gyms. If you can help your staff get healthy, do it! Can they bike to work? Provide a bike rack. Is there interest in a lunchtime walking group? Encourage your employees to take the lead on organizing it. 

Promote Innovation

While it may not seem like a traditional amenity, modern office design can go a long way to keeping your employees happy. If the standard layout of executive offices circling a sea of cubicles isn't suiting your company's needs, you could consider alternative designs, such as a mix of open, collaborative spaces and private, quiet work areas. Look at ergonomic evaluations and find out what desk and chair heights best serve the needs of your employees. Ask what would make them more comfortable in their workspaces. 

Promote Mental Health

Natural light is a big advantage in a workspace. If that’s not possible, try to grant access to a common room that has natural light or buy sunlight-simulating light bulbs for interior offices. Foster community and a collaborative atmosphere between your employees so that they have intellectual stimulation. Go beyond a break room with a fridge and a coffee pot — think about places where your staff can really take a break. Whether that’s a beanbag room, zen garden or room with massage chairs, do your best to keep your employees from suffering burnouts.

Provide Practical Things

Think of creative ways you can meet your employees' basic needs. For example, at an on-site cafe, employees can dine in and chat with each other instead of grabbing fast food and eating at their desks. Keep a coffee or espresso machine in a common area, and make sure there is a regular supply of coffee and tea for employees to grab their caffeine fix. Reliable on-site Wi-Fi is a must not just for modern office design, but also for promoting flexibility.

If you don’t know quite what your employees want in office amenities, conduct a survey to find out. Every office atmosphere has its own unique style, needs and considerations. Help your employees be the best they can be by picking well and keeping a listening ear on the grapevine.

What’s your favorite office amenity? Let us know in the comments.

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image credit: Phil Whitehouse

IT Management Isn’t Magic (But It Sometimes Feels Like It)


IT managementQuick, give us your knee-jerk reaction when you hear the word “information technology.”

...Hey, stop yawning! I’m trying to tell you something important.

Okay, so when you’re not in IT, the temptation is often to check out of that particular conversation and consider what you’re having for dinner tonight instead.

But IT management is important, especially in this day and age! Chances are, your company needs it. But when you’re outsourcing your IT support services, don’t you want to know what you’re paying those tech guys to do? Sometimes it seems like they are just tech wizards who magically fix a downed server or melted hard drive. But really, there’s a whole range of IT specialists — some you’ll need and some you won’t. So what are the different types of IT folks and how are they helping your business run like well-oiled machine?

IT Support Services

IT Management

To put it simply, an IT manager is responsible for the implementation, handling and overseeing of technology in a workplace. The means computers, servers, phone systems and software or hardware issues. Practically, that means they handle setting up servers, recovering from crashes, updating or replacing old hardware for better efficiency in the company and anything that has to do with computer networking.

IT Budgeting

Your IT Manager might have the grand task of monitoring and managing your company’s IT budget. New hardware and software doesn’t come free, after all! They can approve costs, monitor IT spending and review contracts. It might involve getting spending approvals from executives, too.

Software and Hardware Updates

Technology is constantly changing and companies have to stay ahead of the curve to keep up. Your IT expert researches new hardware and software to introduce to the office, whether it’s something new or an update to the old. He or she compares products, talks to companies, tests things out...all to make sure your tech is the best fit for your business.

Systems Management

Generally, this is what you think of when you imagine what goes into IT support services — it is, after all, considered the core function of IT management. These technicians monitor your computer systems, your infrastructure, software and hardware. It’s not enough to just call in IT when something goes wrong — an efficient system needs daily monitoring. This could involve tasks like setting up standards and recovery procedures, monitoring safety and compliance and making controlling computer security.

With the growing need for technology to stay on top in the business world, IT support services are far too vital to neglect. Here at THINQ, our IT professionals are equipped to handle everything you can throw at us!

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6 (Relatively) Useful Office Gift Ideas for the New Year


new years gifts coworkersIt’s New Year's Eve and the holidays are almost coming to a close. But before you get excited to kick off a new year, make sure you remembered to give those last Christmas cards and only slightly belated holiday gifts. We know, we know, you've been busy at the office and you didn't quite get to all your holiday shopping just yet (no one is judging!), but it's nice to show your coworkers you care with a small gift - no need to break the bank. And if you’re an employer? Don’t fret! If the gift you’re giving your employees is under $25, you won’t have to worry about those pesky taxes.

Recently, we covered office gadgets to increase your productivity. Those were for you, and now it’s time to look at some office gift ideas that either your employees or coworkers will actually use.

We’re going to help you find some great, fun gifts for coworkers as we wrap up this holiday season.

Thoughtful Gifts for Coworkers Under $25

1. USB Thermoelectric Cooler & Warmer — $20

Is your coworker is the type to painstakingly label his drinks and lunches so that no one swipes their foodstuff while he's working? Well, now he won’t have to worry about precisely one can of soda! This neat gift gadget looks like a tiny refrigerator. It can keep a drink as cool as 46° F or warm it up to 149° F. The USB cord is four feet long.

2. Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag — $16.25

How about a whimsical catch-all for the desk? This glass container looks just like a zipper bag. It would be great for candies, pens and miscellaneous office wares. The zipper bag would be a funky and fun addition to an artsy coworker's desk. 

3. Ooma Bowl — $25

For eating anywhere! The Ooma Bowl has two compartments that keep food separate (chips and dip, hummus and pita, so on and so forth) and is ergonomically design to be comfortably held in one hand (definitely for the mobile snacker or the coworker always on the move). Microwave safe and perfect for office lunches.

4. Beverage/Coffee Cup Warmer — $25

Okay, there’s really no gag to this gift. It’s similar to the Thermoelectric Cooler & Warmer above, just without the cooling. This is for the coworker who drinks coffee like it’s going out of style. Keep her well caffeineated and happy. It connects to a wall outlet instead of by USB and keeps any 3.5” mug nice and warm for optimal drinking pleasure.

5. Rocky Desk Butler Organizer — $19

You know that one guy who keeps needing to borrow your pens because he loses his like clockwork? Never again. This organizer holds up to five pens, has a magnetic mouth for paperclips and a small space for storage in the back. A fun way to get organized!

6. Face Mug — $18

No napkin? No problem! This mug holds cookies, donuts and other snacking confections in a compartment in its mouth. Great for keeping snacks together for serving. Maybe your coworker will love so much that he’ll share his stash of holiday goodies.

Navigating the waters of acceptable gifts for coworkers can be perilous indeed. Remember that no matter what you buy, keep it tasteful and, even better — useful! Do you have any last-minute gift ideas? Tell us in the comments.

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