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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.

Organized

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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New Year's Resolutions for the Office

 

new-years-resolutionsWell, 2014, you sure did sneak up on us. Some people great the new year with cheerful, bright-eyed hope and other see it as indifferently as the inevitable march of time. No matter how you feel about this year (or last year), it’s the prime time to make ever-popular but rarely-kept New Year’s resolutions. Some resolve to lose weight, others to get better about calling their parents and more still to simply “be a better person.”

How about some New Year’s resolutions for the office?  Don’t worry. You’ll actually want to keep these!

New Year’s Resolutions to Boost Work Efficiency

Remember to Delegate

It’s time to stop thinking that you need to do it all. When you’re running a business, it can be enormously easy to take on too much of the work yourself. It’s okay to let someone else handle some of your tasks. Remembering to let others bear the load will keep you from getting frazzled and burnt out.

Stop the Distractions

Facebook is a cruel mistress and Twitter is a close second. They’re great for downtime and keeping up with the people in your life (or those you wish were in your life) — but at work, you can get sucked into five rounds of Candy Crush before you realize it. Social media sites are the ultimate time wasters, and while checking for a minute or two every now and then seems harmless enough, those minutes add up over the course of the workday. Save checking in for your break and cut down on those workplace distractions to stay productive.

Refuse to Suffer Old Tech Habits

Do you have to kick the printer for it to work? Does your computer look like it belongs in the early 90’s? Do you still think of floppy disks when you swear you will back up your systems (but never seem to get around to it)? Enough is enough. Sometimes it’s good to “make it work,” but outdated or dysfunctional tech equipment or habits will just slow you and your work down. Find a smarter way to make IT work for you (hint: hiring an IT pro will make your life much easier!).

Hit Networking Hard

Networking may be considered a necessary evil of the business world, but try to develop a more positive attitude toward building and maintaining good relationships. You never know when a connection will be mutually beneficial . It’s time to look for new connections to make and spend some time making sure the old ones are still in good standing.

Do Better By Your Customers

It’s that simple. No matter what you do, you need your customers. If you do well by them, treat them with respect and go out of your way to please them, they’re going to keep coming back. Resolve now to make customer service and relations a priority, no matter what role you play in the office.

If It’s Not Working, Ditch It

Sometimes techniques, products and practices just don’t work anymore. If something in your company isn’t working anymore — not matter how well it worked in the beginning — go back to the drawing board and come up with something new. You aren’t doing yourself or your business any favors by holding on to anything that isn’t working.

What resolutions will you make this year to increase your work efficiency? Let us know in the comments.

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Mr. CEO — Supporting Your Staff and Employee Productivity

 

employeeproductivityYou’re running your business. Livin’ large, as they said in the 90’s — or so you think. It’s time for a little introspection, some self-analysis and a dash of good, old fashioned business advice to answer one question: Are you stifling your staff?

Employee productivity can be affected by a lot of what you do. It could be about your attitude, it could have to do with how things are being run or any number of other factors. Right now, though, this is about you. We’re going to give you a few points to chew on so you don’t make the mistake of stifling your staff and hindering employee productivity — whether that has to do with their ambition, creativity or feelings of value to your company.

Amp Up Employee Productivity

Be Self-Aware (And Other-Aware)

We’ll hit you with the hard one first. Self-awareness is not something to learn and then forget — it takes constant thought and effort. Take the time to get inside your own head and see how what you do and say affects those around you, particularly your employees. Find out how they function (there are plenty of personality tests out there specifically for the workplace) and consciously make the effort to use it in your employee/employer relationship. Don’t neglect needs for encouragement and learn how to recognize your own flaws (and the problems they may be causing) instead of placing the blame elsewhere.

Have Room and Grace for Failures

As with many things, fear is the enemy of the productive workplace. How do you treat failure? Is it grounds for pay cuts, firings and other forms of career execution? Part of management is making sure that there isn’t fear crippling your employees. Without room for failure and risk, there’s no room for creativity and innovation. If failure is a death sentence in your company, start changing that part of the culture. Treat the occasional failure as a learning process. See the merit in the attempt. While some errors are too big to overlook, most aren’t.

Criticize Constructively

Remember those failures? Don’t just chuck them out the window as you mutter to yourself about how terrible an idea it was (or worse, yell at them about how terrible of an idea it was). That serves only to discourage your employee from making genuine attempts to innovate. Instead of cutting their ideas down, see space to improve them. If they don’t work, they don’t work, but that news can always be framed with encouragement to try new approaches and generate new ideas. Outright rejection may be easiest, but it cuts your employees off from ever wanting to suggest anything — even things that do have merit and can shape your company for the better.

Forget Micromanaging

You hired these people to do a job. So let them do their job. It’s natural that new employees will need guidance in the first few months. That’s fine. Standing over their shoulder and constantly “double checking” that things were right a year or more in to work? Not so fine. Let your employees do their job, give them some trust and confidence. After all, you did hire them. Micromanaging and doing their jobs for them is a sure-fire way to get a heap of resentment and keep your employee productivity (and your own productivity) at an all time low.

Get Organized

Yes, you’re busy. Maybe you’re a little scatterbrained on top of it — but you can’t let that keep you from communicating clearly and effectively with your staff. Make sure they know schedules week-to-week, have tasks and expectations clearly defined and know what the company goals are. An employee without clear direction is not going to be productive. Your overall vision down to the nitty-gritty details should be communicated well. It’ll keep everyone out of a crisis.

While there are plenty of other steps to take to encourage innovation and keep your from unintentionally stifling employee productivity, we hope you’ll take this business advice to heart. Even if you’re doing a great job and the ideas are flowing like there’s no tomorrow, sometimes we all need a reminder to be the best that you — and your company — can be.


What do you do to encourage innovative thinking in the workplace? Let us know in the comments.

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image credit: herval


5 Innovative Office Gadgets for Your Holiday Wish List

 

office gadgetsDo you consider yourself the king or queen of office accessories? Of course you can decorate your workspace with the kitschy and quirky — it’s fun! But how about investing in some office gadgets that are fun and functional? Next time you’re thinking about splurging on something to spruce of your workspace, remember a few of these cool gadgets that will make you the coolest kid in school… erm, the office… and help increase your productivity. Put them on your holiday wish list!

Great Office Gadgets

1. Wacom Inkling — $99

We live in a digital age, artists. Be not mistaken, digital art is still art — but sometimes if you are a creative professional, you just need to put pen to paper and create away from the computer. Unfortunately, when you need your files in digital format, having your work on plain ol’ paper can be a hassle. That’s where Inkling comes in. Inkling records your strokes and even your layers electronically as you draw with a real ballpoint pen later to be imported as raster or vector files. It certainly makes the transition to digital easier!

2. Staple Free Stapler — $8

ThinkGeek’s awesome Staple Free Stapler is environmentally friendly and keeps you far away from unfortunately pointy, metal things. No more torn papers or fingers! The Staple Free Stapler works by cutting and folding paper together. It can staple up to five pages at a time.

3. Digital Protractor — $20
This is for you folks who do a lot of math (we’re looking at you, architects and engineers). ThinkGeek’s stainless steel Digital Protractor is pretty neat. Not only does it give you a precise angle calculation, it also lets you lock it at the angle of your choice. A cool gadget indeed (warning: if you have kids, they will likely try to sneak this away from you).

4. CableDrop — $10
You don’t have to be overwhelmed by wires to stay connected. Bluelounge’s CableDrops make sure that your wires stay put. They have adhesive bottom to stick to your desktop, keeping cables from falling off when you unplug them (and keeping them from getting tangled). The regular size comes in packs of six and the mini size comes in packs of nine - must-have office accessories to help you stay organized.

5. Arm Rested Mouse Pad — $40
After a while, keeping your wrist elevated and against the edge of your desk can be pretty painful. And really — no one wants carpal tunnel syndrome. This mousepad keeps your arm and wrist down on the armrest and is meant to ease tension in the arms and neck while using the computer for an extended period. Smart ergonomic design makes a difference when you spend hours in front of a screen.

There are plenty of office accessories on the market, from USB Mug Warmers to Rubber Band Gatling Guns. It’s important to keep your workspace personal, comfortable...and even whimsical. These office gadgets, we hope, will increase your productivity and make you feel cool at the same time.

What office accessories are must-haves for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Striking a Balance: Staff Productivity vs. Holiday Frivolity

 

staff productivityIt's that time of year again! Holiday music is playing, there are brightly colored decorations hanging from every available fixture, and there are enough cakes, pies, and candies to fuel the next few months of regret on the treadmill.

And that's just in the break room.

There are a lot of great things about this time of year, but it's safe to say that all that festivity in the air, replete with holiday parties and gift exchanges, can cause a dent in your office's productivity.

Before you label us as Who-hating Scrooges or assail us with chants of, "Take your humbug somewhere else, Grinch!" just hear us out (and get your holiday-themed insults straight, while you're at it). We happen to think you strike a nice balance of staff productivity and festivity with a little planning and discipline, and your Atlanta IT support experts are here to tell you how.

Let Your Employees Know What's Expected

Understand that with all the holiday hubbub, there's going to be a certain amount of disruption. And let your employees understand that you understand.

Emphasize what needs to be accomplished for the month of December. If it's feasible, individual meetings with each employee with their goals for the month outlined might not be a bad idea. If it's not feasible due to the size of your office, scheduling issues, etc. it's something you can do via email. The more that gets accomplished when there aren't holiday-related disruptions, the more fun everyone can have when there are!

Plan Your Partying

Let everyone know plenty of time in advance when any holiday parties, gift exchanges, etc. will be taking place. Emphasize the importance of getting any urgent work done before holiday gatherings, particularly on projects requiring a lot of collaboration.

You want the fun times to be fun, and it's decidedly not fun to be the only one working while everyone else is celebrating. If one or two people ending up having to take one for the team and work while everyone else is having a good time, they're not going to be happy. There's enough extra stress during the holidays without adding more -- more that could have been avoided had everyone done his or her part.

Prepare for Vacation Time

A disproportionate amount of vacation time is used during the holidays, which is perfectly understandable. There's a certain amount of productivity lag that's to be expected with diminished manpower, but that doesn't mean everything has to grind to a halt.

It should be made clear to employees how vital it is that they're caught up on group projects before they leave for the holidays. If there are regular responsibilities and/or processes for which they're typically responsible, they should leave detailed notes for whoever will be taking over in their absence. These notes should be completed well in advance of any scheduled time off in order to give their "pinch hitter" a chance to ask any questions about his/her responsibilities.

Do you have any other ideas to increase staff productivity during the holidays? Please share them with us in the comments!

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Image credit: Tom Godber

THINQ's List of Things to be Thankful For

 

things to be thankful forHappy Thanksgiving weekend from your favorite Atlanta IT support professionals, everyone! If you have been feasting with family and friends, we hope you have been able to kick back and relax after the turkey has been basted, the stuffing has been stuffed, the pies have been baked, and the cranberry sauce has been…cranberried. Sliced? Whatever. (I don't eat cranberry sauce; I always get five portions of it and ransom them to those who do -- for extra slices of pie.)

If you've managed to successfully avoid any stressful hosting duties, then we salute you! Enjoy gorging yourself on food that others have prepared in a house that you didn't have to clean! After you help with the dishes (C'mon…it's the least you can do), you can now unbutton your pants to give your distended belly some (literal) breathing room, and drift into a tryptophan-induced coma to the televisions's sweet sounds of very large men beating one other senseless over a football.

It's customary at this time of year to list things to be thankful for. We here at THINQ certainly don't have to limit ourselves to one day a year of thankfulness, as we're a company that's been blessed in so many ways. But since giving thanks is what this holiday is all about, so here we go!

We're thankful to be able to provide our customers with top-notch service in an industry we love.

While we're talking about customers…we're thankful for each and every one of them! Without our customers, we wouldn't have a business, a purpose, or a job. We are grateful for all three, and we don't take a single one of them lightly.

We're also thankful for our blog readers! Thanks so much to all of you who stop by to read our thoughts on technology, office culture, and…well, whatever we happen to feel like writing about on that particular day. The knowledge that there are people out there who enjoy reading this blog makes the writing of it (and especially the researching of it) worth it!

And last, but not least, we're thankful for the bevy of Thanksgiving-themed baked goods that the grocery stores will have on the "50% Off!" rack this Friday. Those pumpkin pies, cakes decorated with turkeys, and cookies iced in the shape of Pilgrims aren't going to eat themselves, now are they?

What are your "things to be thankful for"? Please share your answers in the comments!

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