Tips to Keep You Organized for the 2015 Tax Season

How to stay organized for the 2015 Tax Season.Was this year a little overwhelming when it came to preparing your taxes? Even if you hire a qualified tax accountant, trying to find all of the proper materials and documentations can be stressful for anyone. In fact, if you were overwhelmed, you are not alone. April 16th, the day right after tax day, was made Stress Awareness Day for a reason.

Even if this year may have been stressful, there are a few systems that you can implement to minimize said stress for the 2015 tax season.

Know what records you’ll need:

The best way to keep efficient records is to know what you need to be saving. There are various documents and receipts that you may need to have on hand, depending on what your occupation may be, whether or not you donate to charities and whether or not you have a mortgage for your home. Saving receipts for any business expense, such as office supplies and your business’s utility bills is important if you own your own business. Keeping a travel log and keeping records of child care arrangements might be appropriate for your situation as well. You may want to use a large accordion folder to keep everything in place. Having a file system in place is a tried and trusted way to keep all of your tax documents in order. There are also a few technological organizational solutions, including the program Neat. Still, having physical, paper records still may prove to be the best course of action.

Make sure your organization system is easy to use:

Whatever organizational method you select, make sure that it is simple. Staying organized is difficult enough without further complications. An easy to use system is essential because it will make it that much easier for you to stay on top of your efforts. If you have a clunky organizational system, it is doubtful that you will have the motivation to actually use it at all. Keep things labeled and orderly. Remember that while this organizational system is for you only, it should be simple and clear enough that anyone could hypothetically use it. Having an easy to use system is sure to make it possible to keep a more complete compilation of your records. This is great simply due to the fact that the IRS can audit individuals for up to six years. That is, in 2014 an individual could still be audited for 2008. Therefore, it may be advisable to have the documents for the past six years stored away in an organized fashion.

Keep it in sight and in mind:

You will want to set up some type of schedule for keeping your documents organized. Maybe you will file away the proper items after every work day or maybe waiting until the end of the work week will work better. Create a habit. Use alarms, reminders and scheduling to help with building this habit. It will also help to keep your organization method in sight. By keeping it in full view or something that you have to see/walk by every day, there is a better chance of you remembering to use it. If you make it a habit, it becomes almost second nature, making it an easy process.

With the proper tax preparation, there won’t have to be a mad dash to find everything you need in a cluttered and chaotic office. Instead, it can be a quick and painless process, meaning that you can get the proper documents easily and get your tax return back that much faster.

Brand Spotlight: OFM

The creation of OFM is a great story of what entrepreneurial spirit and hard work can accomplish. In 1995, after noticing a great need for faster furniture shipping, Abel Zalcberg started OFM with his wife Barbara in their home. The company soon began to build a reputation as a reliable and dependable business with fast delivery times. Today, the brand has expanded its reach and is known not only for it’s trustworthy and speedy delivery times, but also for its commitment to quality, innovation and economical prices.

OFM is now a thriving furniture distributor headquartered in Holly Springs, NC. They carry extensive product lines that cater to commercial offices, government buildings, healthcare facilities and academic settings. Even with substantial growth, the company is still family owned as Blake Zalcberg, Abel and Barbara Zalcberg’s son, currently serves as OFM’s chief executive officer.

At NBF, we are happy to carry many furniture products from the committed team at OFM. Here are some of our favorite OFM furniture collections:

The Net Series Collection 4-11_OFMoffice_chairs_tandem_seating

OFM constantly challenges the unfortunate idea that office furniture is boring. As you can see above, the Net Series Collection offers bright tandem seating options that are ideal for a hotel lobby or an office reception area. The bright colors can make a room come to life. The mesh material of the seat is durable and can withstand heavy use while providing a comfortable seating for any guests or visitors.

Outdoor OFM colorful seating

 

One of the coolest features of the Net Series Collection? You can take them outside! This collection, which includes both the chairs and tables pictured above, was designed to be used in both indoor and outdoor settings meaning that you can take your work outside to enjoy the great outdoors.

The Marque Collection

The Marque Collection from OFM

The Marque Collection is one of the most popular reception collections on NBF.com. OFM’s dedication to quality and economical prices truly shines through in this collection. We especially love the modern curved reception desk which can comfortably accommodate two receptionists and adds a pleasing, professional aesthetic to a waiting room or reception area.

The InterPlay Collection

The OFM InterPlay Collection

The best thing about this collection, which features a sofa with tablet arms and a chair with tablet arms, is the versatility it offers. This collection is appropriate for just about any setting, whether it is used as reception seating in a healthcare facility, as lounge seating for a university library or coffee shop or as guest seating in an office, as pictured above. With tablet arms that can be used for working, reading, using a tablet or simply left unused and folded down to the side, this collection offers a high level of flexibility depending on your needs. Work, play or lounge with the Interplay Collection.

How Companies Can Celebrate Earth Day

How companies can make Earth Day stand out for employees.

Earth Day was first introduced by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to encourage and strengthen environmental activism. Today, Earth Day is recognized nationwide as a day to take time out of our busy schedules to appreciate the power of nature and maybe even do some activism on our own.

Many will argue that Earth Day should be every day; that we should always be aware of our footprint on the earth and make efforts to continuously conserve what the planet offers.

At NBF, we agree that sustainable, earth-friendly business practices should be part of everyday life and everyday business practices. We think that, when done right, Earth Day stands as a reminder for how we should be continuously striving towards eco-friendly practices and goals. Here are a few ways your company can inspire and encourage all employees to do just that:

Teach a lesson: Host an environmentally-conscious speaker and participate in an educational forum. These forums are great for supplying a line of open communication, reliable advice and applicable information.

Start a green initiative: Just what initiative you start will depend on what type of services you are providing or products you are selling. The more related your initiative is to your actual day-to-day work, the better. It can even be a small initiative like pledging as a whole company to use less paper and conserve more energy. Whatever it may be, include everyone and encourage a high level of teamwork for all of your company’s sustainability goals.

Show recognition: Maybe your company already has a green initiative in place. If this is the case, Earth Day is a great time to show appreciation and to reward those who have worked hard and gone above and beyond when it comes to sustainability.

Volunteer cleanup events: Partner with another business or group and give your employees the option of volunteering for a few hours or for the whole work day. This is a great way to show your commitment while also rewarding employees with paid time to volunteer for a worthy cause.

Recycle and reuse drives: From books to clothes, encourage employees to bring in unused items for donation. Pick a cause for donations to go to. In exchange for donation, give a reward. This reward could fit with a program already in place at your office or fun rewards like a pizza lunch

Random acts of green: Encourage your employees to act on their own by sharing some information through a quick email about various green programs they can individually participate in. One million acts of green or random acts of green are two movements that are great to share and offer low pressure, quick ways to get involved.

Give out seeds: It is a classic gesture associated with Earth Day and one that most will still appreciate. It’s a great activity, whether for a family or for an individual, and still offers a way for us to celebrate Earth Day in an eco-friendly way.

Sickness in Collaborative, Open-Plan Offices

Being sick or ill may be more frequent in open-plan offices.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, open-plan workplaces are playing a pivotal role in the spread of illness at work.

Open-plan work environments are often touted as advantageous for all workplaces and the push for companies to redesign their workspaces with an open-plan layout in mind has been substantial. The theory is that open layouts encourage accountability and collaboration all across the board from each and every single team member. The disappearance of the privileged executive office with closed doors is replaced by common working areas, a symbol of team unity and equality.

While the level of collaboration actually inspired by open-plan offices may be questionable, as pointed out by an article in The New Yorker, other and more alarming research points out that open-plan offices may in fact be detrimental to the health of employees.

Individuals who work in open-plan offices are reportedly at high risk of becoming ill more frequently and with worse symptoms when compared to those in a more traditional work environment, like those that include private offices. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, “Those most likely to take a few days off from work were workers in open offices with 4 to 9 people per room and those in open offices with more than 24 people per room.”

There are a few ideas as to why this trend is occurring. Higher collaboration means more shared working spaces. Having such close quarters allows for the easy spread of germs, as there are more shared surfaces, including computer keyboards, phones, and desk surfaces.

Additionally, environmental stressors may share at least part of the blame. Open-plan offices are associated with unfiltered noise and unlimited distractions that are cited to cause stress for many workers. This stress is linked to lowering productivity and to having a negative impact on workers’ health.

Do you work in an open-plan office? Do you find yourself or your coworkers ill often?

If so, there may be a few ways to help relieve parts of the problem. While the spread of germs may be inevitable on some level, encouraging employees to sanitize shared working areas on a daily basis may prove to be helpful. Limiting stressors may be more easily done and can help to keep employees healthier and more productive. In many university libraries, there is often a separated area designated to quiet, private study. In this area, talking and other forms of noise are discouraged and privacy is offered in the form of screens or panels, allowing independent workers to thrive and concentrate fully on the task at hand. Open-plan offices can apply this strategy as well by setting up a similarly designated area. Although it may be difficult to totally block out noises or interruptions without soundproof, solid walls, having a designated area that is mostly quiet and mostly private can create a refuge for employees who find themselves irritated by the stress of constantly being surrounded by activity and distractions.

By offering both private areas and collaborative areas, employees can choose the atmosphere that best suits their working style or their current mood, which is sure to help them work with better results and output.

Email Etiquette: Best Practices for Emailing in the Workplace

Best email practices to help you avoid confusion or tension at work.

As we continue to use email for more and more correspondences, it is becoming more apparent that not everyone writes emails in the same fashion. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “The number of emails sent or received daily by the typical corporate employee is expected to rise to 136 by 2017 from 121 this year, based on projections released last November by the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., market-research firm.” The article also points out that as email use rises in the workplace, so does the opportunity for these emails to result in clashes between workers with different email/communication styles. This can lead to unnecessary tension between colleagues and between managers and employees.

So how do we fix the tension and other problems that email miscommunication can create? Here are some email best practices that can help to keep everyone on the same page:

Be direct:

In her recent book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg argues in favor of being direct and straightforward in your emails to colleagues, superiors, and other professionals. Being direct can help to save time and keep others from misinterpreting your meaning. This also means avoiding sarcasm, as the chances of your tone being conveyed in the way you intended are slim. Say what you mean in order to lessen the chance of confusion.

Avoid being short:

While being direct is certainly a good quality for an email to have, emails that are overly short can convey displeasure or irritation to the reader even if the sender didn’t mean for such a translation. The best course of action is to always include a greeting and write in complete sentences. While replying “Great.” is certainly shorter and less time consuming than “Hello Marie, I think that sounds great.”, the second option helps to clarify the tone and meaning of the email.

Avoid abbreviations that are now widely used:

Using ‘u’ instead of ‘you’, ‘r’ instead of ‘are’, and ‘lol’ to show your amusement has become common in part due to the desire to type or text a message as quickly as possible. Despite time-saving intentions, an email correspondence full of such abbreviations may strike certain readers as unprofessional or possibly even rude. It is best to leave the abbreviations and acronyms out of workplace communication.

Avoid colored and wacky fonts:

While it may be tempting to personalize your email settings, things like bright colors or swirly fonts can be very distracting for readers and may make your message very difficult to read. It can be a frustrating experience for the receiver if they must read the message over and over again or squint at the screen. Instead, use easy to read fonts and darker colors like the traditional 12pt. Arial or Times New Roman in black.

Have long discussions face to face whenever possible:

It still holds true that email is a great way to communicate for short, quick messages. Talking in person is a better option for those discussions that are longer and perhaps more up for debate. While it may be easier for emotions to escalate while behind a computer screen, being face to face during these kinds of discussions makes it easier to express or understand an opposing point of view and to reach a compromise.

Negotiating Series: How to Negotiate for a Raise

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Asking for a raise, no matter how needed or overdue it may be, can be quite intimidating. Even more intimidating — negotiating your salary for a brand new job.

Here are some ways to fine tune your negotiating skills so you can be fully prepared and hopefully successful when it comes time to walk into your boss’s office.

Have a reasonable, but desirable number/range:

Have a desired number and the minimum you’d be willing to take already worked out before you begin negotiations. Keep both amounts satisfactory and reasonable. Do research to find what other similar companies in the industry offer employees in your role. Some say it’s best to avoid specific number dropping. Instead, if pressured, it may be best to offer a range that you would be happy with.

Know why you deserve the raise:

It’s pretty safe to say that everyone, even those who know they haven’t been doing the quality work to deserve it, would be happy to receive a raise. Raises are nearly always desirable. When you want a raise, it’s time to evaluate why you deserve one. Think from your boss’s point of view. What have you accomplished? What successes have you contributed to? What have you brought to the company? Showing your accomplishments with numbers to back them up may be the best strategy, but may not always be applicable, depending upon your profession. It’s also best to keep personal reasons out of the conversation. Saying how the raise would really help your finances makes it less about the merit of your request and more about your personal need. Even if the need happens to be there, keep the discussion merit based.

Only negotiate in person:

It’s never a good idea to try to negotiate in an email or over the phone. Talking face to face is always the best way to go.

Consider timing:

Timing is going to be important when it comes to whether or not your negotiations are successful. If you just successfully completed a project or had a stellar performance review, this can only work in your favor as it will complement why you deserve the raise. Timing may also work against you if the company is taking a hit or your latest project wasn’t a successful venture.

Balance listening and speaking:

This definitely comes in play when you are actually negotiating. Don’t feel like you have to do all of the talking. Hear your boss out and listen to his or her concerns. Consider these issues carefully before responding, but make sure that you say what you both need and want to say. Just don’t be afraid to listen. That way, if there is resistance, listening and weighing what your boss is saying will make it much easier to find a compromise that works for everyone.

Be open to other options:

A raise is simply means more income—but there are other benefits that can be offered. These are things that you should consider and be open to when negotiating. Negotiating, when successfully done, is often about compromise so that both parties are better off. Sometimes additional vacation days, added bonuses, promotions or other perks may be offered. Be willing to discuss these additional benefits and consider what would be acceptable for you beforehand so you have some idea when negotiations are actually taking place.

Practice:

Negotiating is a skill that is best learned through practice. While practicing what you are going to say can be beneficial, it may also help to actually negotiate with another person beforehand, whether in a low pressure situation or just with a friend who is willing to help you with your preparations.

Regardless of the outcome, learn from the experience:

As stated before, the only way to get better at something is to have more practice and more experience—Negotiating is no different. Try to take something away from the experience, whether you get the raise you were looking for or not. In both success and failure, there is something to learn.

Quality Series: The Benefits of Faux Leather

brown faux leather chair

Faux leather, also known as polyurethane, is an alternative to genuine leather. The Morgan Executive Faux Leather Chair, offered at NBF.com, is pictured above and showcases the beauty of faux leather. Unlike harsh vinyls, faux leather is a more realistic imitation of genuine leather, as it is soft to the touch and has an appearance that is very similar to that of real leather. 

When looking to purchase office furniture, faux leather offers many benefits:

Breaking

Genuine leather “breaks” or wrinkles when stitched, gathered or tufted. Polyurethane, unlike other forms of upholstery including Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), does the same. This creates an overall appearance that looks remarkably like real leather.

Aging

For a variety of other seat materials, plasticizing oils are added in order to ensure softness. However, when these oils dry up over time, the upholstery often cracks or peels. No plasticizing oil is added to faux leather so there are rarely any issues with cracking or peeling. In fact, faux leather remains soft and supple for a long duration of time, much like genuine leather.

Comfort

Faux leather is much more lightweight than other seating materials. This makes it possible for it to easily adapt to and maintain an individual’s body temperature. This generally contributes to a more comfortable working experience as one does not encounter the initial shock of cold associated with many other types of upholstery when first sitting down.

Easy Care and Cleaning

Faux leather offers easier care and maintenance when compared to real leather. Dirt and stains only require a soft cloth, water and mild soap.

Economical Options

Faux leather is a more budget-friendly option when compared to genuine leather products.

Of course, there are benefits to purchasing real, genuine leather, as it is a more durable option, but faux leather provides many with a comparable and more affordable option.