Friday, January 31, 2014

The Smarter Notepad

Smartphones and tablet computers have quickly become a regular part of every facet of life. Many office supplies have responded in kind. New printer models are compatible with apps that allow wireless printing from a phone or tablet. The stylus that worked on older PDA devices but doesn't handle capacitive touchscreens has evolved into a legitimate alternative to poking and swiping with your finger- wonderful news in this weather.

The latest office supply to hop on the smartphone bandwagon? Would you believe the regular old notepad? For all the conveniences smartphones and tablets provide, it still hasn't replaced the classic pen and paper. There are always times when it's easier to jot something down on a Post-It or brainstorm ideas by hand. But what happens when you want to refer to those ideas? The Ampad Shot Note makes written words accessible again.

Most people still prefer to take notes by hand, especially in the classroom or in business meetings. The problem is accessing the notes afterwards. The Shot Note uses markings at each corner to frame the sheet for the phone or tablet to scan. This photo is loaded into an app on the phone and can be logged, searched or e-mailed any time. It's great for the office, perfect for the classroom and can even help around the house.

The Ampad Shot Note is also available as an easel pad, sketch pad or wirebound notebook. For a limited time, buy $35 purchase of Shot Note products and get a $10 Starbucks card!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tax Season's Greetings

There's an old notion of getting a visit from the tax man. As if today's income tax is some reverse Santa Claus taking a percentage of toys from boys and girls based on income level and number of dependents. We should be so lucky. There is no gentleman knocking on our doors and handing us a bill. It's up to each individual to recognize that it's that time of year. They have to do their own math to figure out what they owe (or pay someone to determine what to pay). Most importantly, everyone needs to have the pertinent information available in order to prepare their taxes.

For businesses, that means they not only need to have their own finances in order, they need to provide W2 forms for their employees. The sooner they're sent, the happier the employee.

For smaller businesses that don't outsource their payroll, Tops makes it easy to order and print their own essential tax forms. These W-2 forms are compatible with laser printers and can be printed directly from payroll software. Tops also provides envelopes to ensure security, along with 1099 forms and matching envelopes.

The real key to avoiding stress at tax time is to be prepared in advance. Throughout the year, keep all tax information in some sort of file. Track deductions throughout the year with a planner rather than try to go back through old receipts and figure out which purchases are applicable. This helps in the event of an audit as well, as that kind of documentation is hard to forge in hindsight when planners from the previous year go out of stock. If you're filling out the forms by hand, you'll also want a calculator, a reliable pen with anti-alteration features, and, let's not kid ourselves, correction tape.

Finally, with so much sensitive information out in the open, some of it may need to go away when the filing's done. Households and businesses alike will want to make sure their shredder is up for the task.

Friday, January 10, 2014

More For The HR Crowd

Last time, we tackled the task of simplifying the payroll process, making sure employees are credited for the exact number of hours they've worked and that someone doesn't have to spend all day adding those hours up. Now we come to the more human side of HR, where we look at identifying personnel, making it easy to tell if somebody isn't where they're supposed to be.

Whenever personnel are expected to wear identification, the first thing to determine is what kind they need. "Badges" might only be part of the answer. Simple adhesive "Hello My Name Is" style badges might work for one-day affairs like banquets and luncheons, but won't work for more than a day and are inappropriate for events requiring more security. PVC cards and  badges on card stock are far better, but make sure to buy the right holders (mind the size, orientation and hole position). Do you also want durable lanyards, less obtrusive (but also less visible) card reels, or cheaper neck cords that can be purchased with the holders?

Badges for any customer-facing position carries its own set of challenges. Those not only need to be clear and professional, but with a degree of comfort and class that goes beyond holders and lanyards. Before you head to the print shop, consider DIY options that let you print off labels on your own computer and embed them inside sleek magnetic badges at a fraction of the cost.

Printing for shorter events like conferences or conventions poses its own set of challenges. When badges need to be printed quickly, consider a Dymo label printer to generate names to be applied to premade badges quickly. Alternatively, visitors to a company can be given access badges that void themselves after a day, preventing the badge from being reused inappropriately.