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Keep It Local Week is BACK! 15TH-21ST May 2023

Following a successful inaugural year in 2022 Keep It Local Week returns in 2023 even bigger and better as we continue in our quest to transform the buying habits of a nation and make supporting local suppliers the number one factor when choosing where to buy from.

Is that ambitious? Of course it is. But we are going to keep driving home the message spurred on by the waves of enthusiasm since the launch of the campaign over two years ago. In that time we have witnessed countless letters to MPs asking questions about where government spend is going in relation to their commitment to supporting SMEs and calling upon government and MPs to use their position of authority to back their local businesses’ in their constituencies. The support is out there, but it is not enough yet and that will be a drum we will be beating louder and faster throughout this year – Keep It Local.

Make A Difference

Last year we introduced the 7-Day Challenge, can you imagine the impact if we could get millions of people up and down the country participating? If we all just, even for one day, paused before placing an order on Amazon and instead googled a local supplier, or popped down to our local high street. The reality is that huge numbers of us would actually enjoy the experience more, appreciating the feel-good factor that goes with knowing that you have helped a business that employs people from your community, providing an income to those that are more likely to spend their money within the local economy, boosting the wealth and welfare of your area. With that warm feeling, many of us will continue to choose to buy from a local source rather than the large multi-national stores. Because it makes a difference.

Get Out & About

That is just one step down the road to change. What if we all from time-to-time chose not to jump into our fuel guzzling cars to drive to an out of town supermarket chain, but instead visited the local town or village to buy meat from the butchers, bread from the bakers, fruit and vegetables from the greengrocer and all of our additional odds and sods from the local convenience store and hardware shops. Of course initially it may not seems as convenient, but it is society taking the easy (lazy) option that has led us to a global climate crisis and ripped the heart out of so many of our communities.

A trip down the high street will improve your well-being, meeting new folk, seeing familiar faces, stopping for a coffee (ideally the local independent shop) and boosting the environment you live in. Making our towns healthier and wealthier. Isn’t that worth a little bit of inconvenience?

Better Quality & Wider Choice

Here’s one you might not have considered before, but, the chances are you are buying better quality goods when you order from a local supplier. Or at least the risk of buying sub-standard goods is minimised. Who is going to sell you sub-standard products if they know they are delivering just around the corner and an unhappy customer could easily turn up at the doorstep to complain or make a scene? Nobody. A local business will pride itself on providing quality goods and services, over and above mass distribution.

Though large retailers and big-box companies offer a wide selection; the variety is decided by small groups of corporate buyers. When you think about it, real choice actually comes from dozens of independent businesses tailoring their goods and services to their unique community needs. Buying local and supporting local, keeps these options viable.

Keep It Local Week begins on Monday 15th May, but the message begins NOW. Together we can make a difference. Together we can Keep It Local. To find out more about how you can get involved in our campaign, contact us today.

Secret Diary of a Stationery Lover

This month marks a special birthday for me as I hit the half century in years, or as I like to call it 20 plus 30 years. Twenty years of growing up followed by thirty years in charge of the stationery cupboard at the various companies I have worked at, ensuring the smooth operation of business. In charge of the engine room.

You would not believe the changes I have seen over those years. I remember the arguments I used to have with Mary-Jane, the CEO’s secretary in my first job. Honestly, it felt like every week she was asking me to order in more Tipp-Ex typewriter correction sheets, which are basically little sheets of paper that you put over the mistake you have made when typing and then retype the letter and it puts a white mark over it so that you can go back and type over it again.

Yes, it really is as slow and painful as it sounds. If you were smart you could get a lot of corrections out of one sheet as long as you used the space carefully, a bit like cutting out shapes in your pastry, don’t leave gaps between cuts, it’s just wasted pastry! Mary-Jane didn’t like me pointing that out. “Well maybe you should look to get a job that you are good at then” I bit back. The next day it was me who was looking for a new job.

It didn’t take long, there are always companies looking for a stationery expert, someone who knows their full strip stapler from a half strip, an HB from a 2B pencil or a paper on board D-Ring lever arch file from a polypropylene 2-ring. Managing the stationery cupboard is more than just a job it is a passion that you are either born with or you are not. It is a serious business, but contrary to popular belief it does not make me boring. OK with age I have got a little more grumpy and intolerant, but that is not to say I have not had my days as the office joker.

In fact, my favourite story involves Tipp-Ex again, this is when we have moved on from the old typewriter version and it was in fact quite dangerous. The organic solvent trichloroethane was originally used as a thinner in the bottle which is readily absorbed by the lungs via inhalation. It passes readily through the blood–brain barrier and may be lethal following acute exposure. Trichloroethane is also an ozone depleter…sorry, I’m getting distracted telling you things that everyone already knows. As you know, this all changed at the end of the 1990’s when it was replaced by aliphatic hydrocarbons.

Anyway, you know the other thing about liquid Tipp-Ex? It looks like bird poop.

Well, we used to have a really horrible Salesman at one company, Sid was his name, a real bully and a bit of a shirker. Sid the Shirker I used to call him. Every 30 minutes he would be outside the office, on the front lawn, underneath the oak tree puffing on a cigarette (a disgusting habit, I did take a puff once at a party when I was just 18, I was nearly sick and had to get my Mum to come and pick me up). One day when Sid had been particularly rude to me (some people ARE interested in the difference between self-seal and peel & seal envelopes) I decided to get my revenge.

When he came back from one of his cigarettes breaks I dropped a bit of Tipp-ex on the back of his jacket. All afternoon people were laughing behind his back thinking a bird had pooped on him. Everyone thought I was the office joker, I had never been so popular. I carried on the prank for several weeks, picking on different smokers…until one day I picked on the bosses daughter, and I lost my job.
As I reach the big fifty I have less desire to be sociable or be Mr. Popular. Just the other day at lunch one of the new secretaries tried to make conversation, I’m sure she was only trying to be nice as she asked me what I like to do – “Eat my lunch in peace” was my rather curt reply.

Your IT & Security FAQs Answered…

From understanding what exactly a VPN is and how to react in a Cyber Security emergency, to the importance of IT roadmaps and understanding your GDPR obligations, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked IT and Security questions.

How worried should I be about Cyber Security?
Cyber Threats should be at the top of your agenda and factored into any IT strategy. Hiscox report that a small business is successfully hacked every 19 seconds in the UK, to protect your organisation’s information, we recommend implementing a multi-layered cyber security strategy. Falling victim to an attack could have a significant impact on business downtime, reputation and revenue.

What is a VPN?
VPN = Virtual Private Network. A VPN allows your teams to access their office data from wherever they’re working. We recommend this way of working – as long as your VPN is configured correctly, your data will be secure.

Why do I need to upgrade/update my systems?
It’s essential to keep up to date with the latest software updates. These updates are known as patches and the protect you from potential vulnerabilities in software that hackers exploit.
Upgrading your systems will often mean enhanced security, but the biggest and most expensive systems aren’t necessarily the best option for your organisation, so it’s important that your IT partner properly understands your business and its needs.
When products become end of life and issues are no longer being issues, it’s crucial that you make the switch to an upgraded system.

What’s the most common cyber threat?
Phishing emails tend to be the most common, mainly because they work. People frequently fall for phishing attempts as they can often be almost indistinguishable from legitimate email.
The key to keeping your organisation secure is implementing robust cyber security solutions and focusing on end-user education.

Why is end-user education and internal training so important?
People within an organisation are generally the weakest link when it comes to cyber security. Research by Datto found that a lack of cyber security training was one of the most common causes of a ransomware breach. Training your team on what to look out for can help bridge the cyber security gap in your organisation.

I’m concerned about my IT team’s capacity…
If you’re concerned that your IT team is short on capacity due to your organisation expanding or difficulties recruiting, you can look to outsource some or all of your IT to a Managed Support Provider (MSP).

What GDPR obligations does my organisation have regarding Cyber Security?
The GDPR legally requires organisations to have robust measures in place to prevent personal data from being leaked, stolen, disclosed or inappropriately accessed.
When this does occur, you’d be in breach of the GDPR and can suffer significant reputational and financial damages. All businesses have a responsibility to protect both internal, employee data and external client or prospect data. That’s why we suggest implementing a robust cyber security plan.

How should we respond in a cyber security emergency?
Do you have a disaster recovery plan? This is a document that you can refer to should the worst case scenario occur which gives you clear steps to follow in an emergency, helping to limit downtime and get your organisation back up and running.

What’s the best way to protect my accounts?
The first step is always to create strong passwords – 15+ characters with a complex combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using things personal to you such as family member’s or pet’s names.
The next step is to enable 2FA (two-factor authentication) on all of your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security on top of your passwords, usually you’ll receive an email or text message with a code before you can login. So, even if your password did get stolen, the hacker would struggle to get past the 2FA.

How do we know where our data is and if it’s safe?
Keeping track of company data can be difficult if you don’t have the appropriate controls in place. In the event of a breach, it can be almost impossible to know what data was stored where and therefore what data has been compromised.
To help mitigate this threat, pick a couple of locations to store your data (such as SharePoint and OneDrive) and make a formal record of what exactly is stored in those locations.
• Have an Information Asset Register which details which details where your data is stored and what security is applied to it.
• A legal requirement under GDPR is to have a Record of Data Processing. This details what data you have in each location and all of the other legal requirements of Article 30 of the GDPR.

IT Services from Sharp
With a team of friendly, consultative technical experts, we will help you achieve your organisation or business goals now and in the future.
Whether you are looking to make changes to your IT to allow for remote working, or need a scalable solution to allow for your growth plans, we understand that IT can be a big investment. It is critical that you can trust and rely on your IT Partner, which is why we get to know you and your teams and become an extension of your organisation.
Contact us today to find out more.

Could you save up to £350 on electric vehicle charge point installation?

What is the charge point grant?
The charge point grant was introduced by the government in 2020 to make it cheaper to switch to a low emission vehicle. When more people switch from petrol or diesel to an electric vehicle, this supports their target to decrease UK carbon emissions.
The charge point grant offers £350 towards the cost of installing a charger for an electric car.
Previously, you could access the grant if you were a homeowner with your own driveway, but this has changed. The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV, for short) recently updated who can and cannot access the grant. We’ll go into this in more detail in just a moment.
First, it’s worth quickly running through the different names this grant has gone by. It comes from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), so it’s been called the OZEV grant or the OLEV grant. More recently it was called the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), but from April 2022, it’s been named ‘EV chargepoint grant’.

Who can get the OZEV charge point grant?
A common question we hear is, am I eligible for the OZEV chargepoint grant? So let’s cover that now. The charge point grant can be accessed if you are a flat owner, live in rented accommodation, or if you’re a landlord.

Let’s take a closer look.
How to access the charge point grant if you’re a flat owner or live in rented accommodation
For flat owner-occupiers or people living in rented properties, this grant gives a 75% contribution to the cost of one electric vehicle charger and its installation. A cap is set at £350 (including VAT) per installation.
Some things have stayed the same with this grant. For example, your charge point and installer still need to be EVHS approved. However, some things have changed.
Previously you could claim up to 2 home chargers, but not any more. You can only claim for one charge point, even if you own a second electric vehicle. OZEV EVHS grants for households (not landlord properties) ended by the 31st of March this year. Homeowners who have their own dedicated driveway can no longer take advantage of this grant.

To qualify, you must:

What is the Workplace Charging Scheme?
The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is run by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and managed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
This voucher-based scheme covers up to 75% of the total costs of the purchase and installation of EV charge points (inclusive of VAT). This is capped at a maximum of £350 per socket, for 40 sockets across all sites per applicant. So, if you want to install at 40 sites, you’ll be eligible for one charge point at each site.
As with the other OZEV grants, it’s your approved installer who will claim the money on your behalf.

Who can access the Workplace Charging Scheme?
Any business, charity or public sector organisation that meets the government criteria can apply for the Workplace Charging Scheme.

Colorlok Technology

What is ColorLok®?
ColorLok Technology is the new standard for better print quality. Paper that’s qualified with the ColorLok logo is able to produce the best possible digital prints.
The ColorLok standard of performance is for plain-paper output with inkjet and laser printers, as well as common copy machines. As such, ColorLok papers will provide consistent and reliable printing regardless of which machine is used within an office environment.

ColorLok® Technology
The science behind ColorLok Technology results in more saturated colors, bolder blacks, and faster drying times.
During the paper-making process, a chemical additive is incorporated into the paper to “lock” pigments at the surface. Without this technology, paper acts more like a sponge, absorbing black and color pigments deep into the paper and away from the surface.

How Does it Work?
The ColorLok additive is incorporated into the paper during the paper-making process and produces a chemical interaction with the pigment in the ink. This helps to hold the colorant near the surface of the paper, while the water absorbs deep into the paper fibers. What results is a highly-absorptive and fast-drying product.
Pigment particles are the colorant used in many inkjet inks for home and office printers. Pigments are suspended in a colorless liquid, called the ink vehicle, which rapidly immobilizes pigments at the paper surface.

When ink touches the surface of ordinary paper, pigment particles are absorbed deep into the porous sheet, thereby reducing optical density.

With ColorLok Technology, the ink vehicle penetrates the surface of the paper without transporting the pigment particles into the paper.

Standard paper
When ink touches the surface of ordinary paper it spreads along the paper fibers causing a ‘feathering’ effect.


ColorLok paper
Color appears richer, more saturated and vibrant because the ink particles separate from the vehicle, before they are absorbed into the paper.

Standard paper
Black text appears grey because much of the ink has saturated deep into the paper fiber, leaving less intensity on the surface.


ColorLok paper
Black pigments are removed from the ink vehicle and remain concentrated on the paper surface, resulting in denser blacks with sharper edges.

What are your First Aid requirements?

The first thing you need to know is that every workplace should have appropriate first aid equipment.
The minimum standard for these first aid kits is HSE- compliant; the suggested standard is BS 8599-1:2019. Employers should ensure they buy kits that are labelled as complying with one of these two standards.
The second consideration is personnel. Many query how many trained first aiders are required. There are two types of personnel that are relevant here. An appointed person is not first-aid-trained but is responsible for looking after first aid equipment and calling emergency services when required.
Whereas larger or riskier workplaces will need a first aider with a nationally recognised and up-to-date first aid certificate. It is important that you are aware of your requirements and keep training up to date. Often businesses overlook this when first aid trained staff leave and they are not replaced by anyone suitably qualified.
What do you need to do to be compliant?
This varies, depending on businesses. All businesses should complete a first aid needs assessment. For more information, the HSE provides further detail and guidance. At this point it is important to consider that this assessment should also include an assessment of workplace stress.
What is the difference between HSE First Aid Kits and BS First Aid Kits?
HSE-compliant kits should contain the following as a minimum:
• A leaflet with general guidance on first aid (for example, HSE’s leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work)
• Individually wrapped sterile plasters of assorted sizes
• Sterile eye pads
• Individually wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile
• Safety pins
• Large and medium-sized sterile, individually wrapped, unmedicated wound dressings
• Disposable gloves
British Standard (BS or BS 8599-1:2019) is the recommended kit standard and provides a more comprehensive range of options, particularly with the addition of personal injury kits, critical injury kits and travel & motoring kits. If you are uncertain as to what is the right kit for you, contact us today.
A number of high-profile instances of defibrillators being readily available saving lives has led to an increased awareness of the benefits and businesses and sports clubs making sure they will be able to deal with such an emergency.
What’s the difference between a fully automatic and semi-automatic AED?
• Fully automatic models do not require the user to press any buttons to deliver a shock. If the AED determines that a shock is required, it will deliver the shock itself.
• Semi-automatic models will inform the user if the casualty requires defibrillation and, if so, will instruct the user to press a “shock” button.
• Both types of AED will only allow a shock to be delivered if one is required.
• All units also provide clear step-by-step guidance on how the defibrillator should be used, instructing the user through the process of preparing the casualty for defibrillation and applying the electrode pads.
Can anyone use a defibrilator?
Despite being a medical device, AEDs are designed for use by non- medical individuals in emergency situations. AED units are designed to only allow shocks to casualties who have a “shockable” heart rhythm, meaning that the use of an AED will not cause harm to a casualty.
As AEDs complete this analysis of a casualty’s heart rhythm and provide clear step-by-step guidance on how to use the defibrillator, they can be used by anyone without need for training.
Can I be sued if I use an AED incorrectly?
It is almost impossible to use an AED incorrectly, as they are designed to be used by laypeople and will only allow shocks where the heart rhythm is determined as “shockable”. There is no law in the UK specifically to protect non-medical rescuers, in the event that a case is brought against them by a casualty or casualty’s family. However, this is a very rare occurrence and, when it has happened, no such claims against a rescuer have ever been successful.

A workplace where people want to be

It has been over two years now since Covid forced employees out of the office and into their homes. Now the pandemic’s impact is steadily decreasing, businesses are actively trying to get employees to return to the office. But not everyone is equally eager to return. Getting workers to come into the office, even for a few days a week, may be difficult when work can be done from anywhere. Instead of being a location where employees must go, the workplace must now become a place where they want to be.
Visionary companies are crushing the office game and forging a reputation as an environment people would like to work at, by creating a space that is distinctive to their business. They are attempting to transform the workplace into a fascinating destination with a healthy, happy culture that fosters meaningful relationships amongst employees, teams, and management. The most successful businesses will alter their workplace strategy to focus on making it somewhere that people want to be, to not just get the best out of their employees, but also to retain and motivate the most talented workers.
Why do we need offices?
Just because we can cook all our meals at home, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need restaurants anymore. Just because we can enjoy a drink at home, that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to go to the pub for a couple of drinks (or more!). We cherish the experience of going out for meals or for a drink with family and friends. We connect there, we like to get out of the house and enjoy ourselves. So why do so many people not feel that way about the office?
We need to talk more about the experiences people want to have in the office. Because of the outdated assumption that all work had to occur in the office, they became increasingly generic. Employers now need to recognise that their office is in direct competition with other places where people can do work. The office has to be a stimulating place for collaboration, fun and socialising, even with people who are not in your immediate work group.
An environment where everyone can thrive
If businesses want to lure people back into the office, then they need to make it a place that’s not just for silently getting on with work that could be easily done at home. Providing social opportunities is key and the modern workplace needs to provide experiences that cannot be had at home, such as areas for collaborating, socialising and events. Social activities aside from traditional meetings should be high on the agenda, and the office needs to become the space to do it.
At the heart of it all, the office should provide a platform for culture to thrive, so at its very foundations, understanding what your people want from work should form the basis of your workplace strategy. Work environments that pay attention to people’s physical, cultural, and social demands will provide actual value to their lives while allowing them to produce their best work. It creates a comfortable working environment for employees, not necessarily full-time but actually embracing the concept of a flexible and hybrid workplace.
Create engaging experiences
Look at the armed forces as an example, they don’t do basic training by remote, and there’s a reason for that. Building a healthy culture requires real face time. The social experience of work matters, particularly when people are getting started. The first weeks are the best chance to foster a sense of connection with work colleagues and build relationships, while at the same time becoming accustomed to the company’s values, culture and processes. The same can be true for collaborative projects.
Employees who find meaning in their work are more likely to stay with their employers. People are increasingly looking for meaning and connection in their job, and the modern workplace needs to play a role in assisting individuals in finding meaning and developing relationships. No two employees are alike, yet our workplaces have historically failed to accommodate these variances. Employees and employers are urged to collaborate more than ever before to create a workplace that meets everyone’s requirements.
Workplace design
In this day and age, many employees find traditional workplaces to be unappealing. As a result, the urge has arisen to establish an enticing environment where people are ready to get to work. Some office design improvements are obvious, like making meeting rooms more Zoom-friendly, comfortable dining facilities with food and drinks, and multi-functional soft seating areas where people can recharge and enjoy some down-time, but it’s often not clear what exactly employees really want to see when they return to their desks.
Most workers have become accustomed to having dedicated spaces for focused work at home during the pandemic and they’re seeking the same in their corporate headquarters. Research has highlighted that the number one thing people struggle with is finding space for focused productivity. Someone has to know that if they commute in, they will see people they do know, they will have social time with people they don’t know, and if they need two hours to dig in and escape everyone, they can do that.
Salesforce, for example, recently reduced their desk space by 40% and embraced a floor plan that features more team-focused spaces that encourage a balance of individual and collaborative work, with flexible seating for when people need a break from their desks, and lounges for socialising. Creating a workspace that allows for different work zones needs to be meticulously planned, but it doesn’t need to be overly daunting.
Working with our manufacturing partner, Dams, specialist advice, expertise and resources are literally on the doorstep, with our extensive one-stop-shop product portfolio and customised support to work with you to create an office that employees want to come to.
The evolving workplace of the future
Some businesses are noticing that the great return to the office isn’t always that great. Although many employees look forward to getting back to their desks, others are hesitant to come back to the office. And simply forcing workers to return might lead to discontent, which can have a negative effect on employee morale and wellbeing.
With thousands returning in force, it’s crucial that each worker is treated as an individual and their needs are assessed, with a work environment that offers a feeling of community and flexibility, in addition to being a source of income. People are looking for conveniences or advantages that will make their commute to work a little bit more enjoyable. This generates a buzz around your company that may attract fresh talent, retain the best workers, persuade potential leavers to stay,
and boost productivity.

Creating the right learning environment

We are very proud to be able to supply schools, colleges and universities with a wide range of products to create the perfect learning environment for children and students of all ages.
Although there are specialist education suppliers around, increasingly schools are buying into the concept of supporting local suppliers who have more of an impact within the local community; fully aware that buying local is supporting the local economy in which many of the children’s parents will work (not to mention where the children themselves may one day be looking to work).
Our local proximity, ability to deliver at short notice and breadth of product make us a viable option to meet the needs of the modern education establishment. You are probably not surprised that we can supply pens, notebooks and stationery, but less people are aware that we work with some of the leading suppliers of educational furniture to enable our local establishments to build the required education environment.
Providing for education is very different to supplying an office. Whereas an office layout is often about productivity and removing distractions, this would seem a little too boring for a primary school child, they want a fun and colourful learning environment.
We also have to be realistic about the sturdiness and durability. You need to understand your customer, and we know that children have not always learned the value of other people’s property by the time they start school!
For our younger school children, we work with Herok, a company based in the UK, manufacturing an extensive range of educational and library furniture including: Library and school displays, Tortuga shelving, book trolleys and spinners for books, CDs, DVDs, videos, and audio cassettes. In addition, we can supply reading corners, carrels, workstations and listening stations for both adult and children’s libraries. With its exceptional quality, durability and 5-year manufacturer’s guarantee, our Herok furniture has become the industry standard.
School Staging
For schools without a built-in stage, our Ultralight staging system is the ideal choice. Lightweight, folding and modular this stage is easy to assemble and disassemble and then fold into a small space when not required. For music and drama, nativity and end of year plays, make sure your pupil’s performance doesn’t go unnoticed.
For this we partner with Gopak, a manufacturer of quality British made furniture producing the largest range of folding tables, stacking benches, classroom tables, furniture for school and university dining halls, furniture for village halls, community centre furniture and church furniture.

Grounds for Concern

When people ask us what exactly it is that we sell, our default answer is generally “everything for the workplace”. It used to be that we sold “office supplies”, but we very quickly realised that did not reflect the true message because a large percentage of what we supply is for warehouses, washrooms, education establishments and increasingly home workers.
In saying we do “everything” for the workplace we are often challenged by our customers. We believe it is because they genuinely require what they request and they are not just trying to catch us out, but we generally succeed.
One of the more recent areas we have evolved into is ground maintenance – “You don’t do shovels, shears, weedkiller and pest repellent do you?”, funny enough, yes, we do! It seems that as businesses have cut back on costs, moved premises and even helped employees convert outside buildings into workspaces, there is a lot more maintenance and gardening being carried out by employees rather than employing a gardener or maintenance person.
Whether this is overtime, part of their job or done voluntarily to improve the working environment is not really our place to ask, we just supply the tools for the job!
It doesn’t matter if your premises are large with landscaping and exterior employee & visitor areas, or more modest in stature, it’s important to ensure that the site and exterior grounds are maintained in an effective and efficient manner. Like all things, first impressions count, so ensure your car parking areas are weed free, any green areas or landscaping are kept tidy and keep vermin strictly under control.

Pest Control – Top Tips

  1. Pest control is an all year-round part of home and garden maintenance. Our range provides control whatever the problem
  2. Check seals around your window and door frames. The smallest of gaps can allow pests into your home.
  3. Large holes or cracks in external brickwork should be filled to prevent mice and rats getting in.
  4. Cover open pipes and vents with a grill or insect screen and fill any gaps around pipes.
  5. Shrubbery can look an appealing home for mice, so make sure all shrubbery is kept short.
  6. Store firewood away from the home and off the ground.
  7. Don’t leave pet food outside and remove bowls once food has been consumed.

The Secret Diary of A Stationery Lover 49¾

I’m not a happy bunny at the moment. Sorry to start on a negative, but I would rather be upfront with you before you read too much further.
Our company is “evolving”. Those are the words they used to explain the changes to me.
Evolving? What are they on about? Businesses grow, businesses struggle, or businesses decline, but evolve? Straight-away I knew I was going to be hit with some flim-flam and I knew I was not going to like it. Call me a dinosaur, but change is rarely good – you ask any dinosaur…well, you can’t can you because the dinosaurs evolved from a group of mostly dog and horse size creatures into the most enormous beasts that ever existed on land. And then what? Puff, they were gone!
So, we are evolving to a new hybrid way of working. Apparently it is all about well-being, improving life balance, reducing environmental impact, improving productivity and efficiency blah de blah. Great as that sounds, but at what point in this “evolution” did anyone give any consideration to me? I can tell you now, they didn’t. No, Mr Senior Stationery Supervisor is going to have to work out for himself how the all-important stationery essentials will be distributed amongst the hybrid working staff.
It used to be so easy. Employees would fill out a stationery request form which I would then decipher, change and make recommendations to before contacting our local supplier for the order. That might sound as though I am interfering, but honestly, a level of expertise is required to avoid us ending up with a pile of returns. For example, last week Anne in Accounts left me a message saying she needed a new shredder, can I sort it. Well of course I can sort it, but give me some more information, please!
Did she want small, medium, large? What security level? Strip cut, cross cut or micro cut? Is it just for her to use or for the whole department? After much deliberation and consultation I concluded that she qualified for a high end Rexel Auto+ 600X which shreds up to 600 sheets in one go with P-4 security, 4-digit PIN lockable paper chamber and a whopping 80L bin. Yes, 80 litres – that baby can hold the contents of FORTY 2-litre bottles of my favourite Diet Pepsi. Phenomenal. A Rolls Royce amongst shredders.
It is humbling to think that I have the power to make these decisions. OK, so I need to get anything over £25 signed off by the Accounts Department, but in this instance I had no issues with getting Anne to sign the Purchase Order. “No problem she said, just don’t tell Mr Chipperfield.” I’ve no idea why she did not want Mr Chipperfield, the company CEO to know, but I am not one to get involved with office politics.
As I was saying, life used to be easy, but now I have to manage dealing with requests and distributing stationery to employees that might spend half their time at home working. Hayley in Product Development even had the cheek to ask me if I could get her items delivered to her house – who does she think I am? “Of course, that is fine” I replied, “…as long as you don’t mind dropping the list of what you need around to my house?!”
The cheek of it. Although in truth, Hayley is rather lovely and I was kind of hoping she might say yes to that, at which point I would have asked her if she wanted to stay for dinner and I could have wooed her with my collection of Puntine Drawing pins which have been around for over a century. I have an impressive collection with perfectly preserved steel points in nickel-plated tempered steel, a treatment that gives hardness, brilliance and resistance to oxidation.
Faced with this dilemma – the need to supply our hybrid workers with stationery, not the one about having gone 27 years without a girlfriend – I contacted our office products supplier and I have to say they were absolutely brilliant. Being local we met up and devised a fantastic plan that means I can schedule in deliveries for when I know that certain employees will be in the office and leave it on their desk ready for them to collect.
The system works really well and our supplier has even put together special packs under one ordering code that I can use for ordering everyday items specifically suited for whether the person has a home office, works at a dining room table or is out and about nipping in to cafes and libraries to catch-up on a bit of admin.
I would like to say it was my idea, but in truth it was my local office products supplier that came up with all the ideas. The benefits of buying from a local supplier, we have a great relationship, and they even send me pictures anytime a new product comes out that they think I might like. In fact I am sitting here now looking at a picture of a Fellowes Stellar A3 Guillotine – Hayley has no idea what she is missing out on.