Tag Archives: personal

Professional Pets

May 3, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some of the names spoken about at the marketing firm Envoy might seem unorthodox: Adam, Steve, Stella … and Butter? These names don’t belong to people, but to a pair of Devon rex cats, a French bulldog/pug, and a mini goldendoodle. Dentists have kept tropical aquariums in their waiting rooms for generations, but expanding a workplace’s pet-tential is far more common than that.

Penny Hatchell and Kathy Broniecki have owned Envoy for 13 years, producing materials for clients as varied as Hiland Dairy, Boys Town, and Max I. Walker Cleaners. The decision to allow pets in the office came from the desire to create a flexible and welcoming work environment: “We love to come to work, and we want our employees to come to work,” Broniecki explains. The decision seems to be working for them: “There’s a much greater overall wellness to the office—our quality and productivity has improved, and it keeps things light.”

Kathy Broniecki’s French bulldog/pug, Stella, comes to the office daily.

The animals are great for keeping employees happy, or helping employees who have a bad day cheer up.

“This has been studied and we can see that animals have value in emotional therapy, or to be assistant animals in places like nursing homes,” says Teresa T. Freeman, a therapist in Omaha. “They have noticed a positive effect in studies pets have on people in isolated situations to help boost their mood, wellness, and even improve physiology—things like heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress responses.”

The cats were rescued and considered part of Envoy, while the dogs and a hedgehog are others’ personal pets.

Broniecki says the company is reasonable about how having pets around can affect productivity, too: “It’s natural to get distracted at work, and focusing too hard can just make things worse. Getting by distracted by the pets is a much more positive outlet than other options,” Broniecki says.

Perhaps the greatest boon to Envoy has been the camaraderie the animals’ presence has built. “One stormy day,” Broniecki says, “Adam the cat went missing. It became an all-hands-on- deck situation in that moment trying to find him.” Everyone keeps treats on their desks for them, and when the dogs arrive in the morning, they make sure to greet every employee first thing, desk by desk. Hatchell, who takes the cats home with her when the day is over, adds: “even over the holidays, I’ll get texts asking how they’re doing, and even requesting pics.”

That camaraderie is a common bond between employees and furry friends, and can be a way to connect with shyer clients or new staff members.

“It breaks down barriers,” Freeman says. “People may not be comfortable with where they’re at emotionally, or isolated.”

Envoy’s office cat Adam, is a rescue cat.

Envoy is not alone in enjoying the pet perks. At J.A. McCoy CPA (located off 90th and Maple streets) Julie McCoy, in partnership with her rescue dog JoJo, tackles that lightning rod of stressful situations—taxes. McCoy has kept a dog at work since day one of starting her firm. “We work a lot of long hours, and dealing with taxes and estates is often not a fun experience. But with JoJo here, people look forward to coming in,” she says. Like at Envoy, McCoy has seen the same positive influence in her office: “Clients love it–we get a lot of business by word of mouth because of JoJo.” And of course, employees are encouraged to have play time. “We’re doing stuff that requires a lot of concentration, so it’s good to have a break.”

Pam Wiese, V.P. of public relations for the Nebraska Humane Society, also believes that having pets in the office can do wonders to reduce stress. “Focusing on something that isn’t another person, like the nurturing qualities of animals, can help calm people down.” Pets, she says, provide an element of levity that certainly has value in defusing tense work scenarios. She brings her own dog to work every day, but cats, fish, and even critters can all contribute. “We once had a bearded dragon here in the office. He’d sit out on his rock and sunbathe while people came to visit him over their lunches,” Wiese says. Though the NHS has not made any concerted push to get animals into offices, they have had their share of interested parties looking to adopt. “We’re happy to work with people to find an animal for them,” she says, “as long as it’s an appropriate situation.”

There are certainly many factors to weigh before introducing a pet into your own office. “Animals need to be comfortable,” Weise says. If the conditions aren’t safe or comforting for the pet, that opens up the opportunity for additional problems, like becoming loud or aggressive. If you’re going to have a pet, they will need to have their own private space and occasionally training to cope with many active people surrounding them. There’s also the human factor to consider: not everyone is an animal lover. “You’ll need to be considerate of the phobias, allergies, and even prejudices of the people passing through your workplace.”

McCoy, Broniecki, and Hatchell were all able to speak to experiences with clients that turned sour because of their furry compatriots, but also noted that they were few and far between. “Only one client of ours didn’t want to come to the office because we had cats,” Hatchell explains. Similarly, McCoy shared that she did have clients with phobias: “We always try to be upfront and communicate ahead we’re a pet-friendly office. When a client comes in that has trouble with that, we make sure JoJo stays in her ‘office’ [and she does have an office, nameplate and all].”

Regardless, they were each in confident agreement: their pawed pals have been a big plus for their businesses.

Nora belongs to Amy Goldyn.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Office Furniture

February 24, 2017 by

A Survival Guide

Office furniture dealerships work with companies large and small to reshape their work environments. Here are some observations to keep in mind once the walls have come down.

Variety is key

Don’t just scrap the panels: Effective open-plan work areas need to offer a range of spaces. A “layered” approach may work best. Provide spaces for those people who really need quiet to focus, whether they just find it easier to work in quiet or they are more introverted. Successful spaces work when everyone in the company, regardless of personality or role, feels comfortable and confident in accomplishing their work.

Plan for the entire space, not just the corners

Create “enclaves” for collaborative working while making sure those spaces do not disrupt people sitting nearby. While it is important to provide areas for private/personal time, do not place them so far away that the trek to reach them is not worth it. Create “adjacencies,” spaces offering a phone booth or enclave where you are not walking more than 20 feet to reach them.

Design to meet your company goals

Your company needs to ask: What are our goals? “More collaboration” is a start, but “more collaboration between the product team and the sales team” is a goal that you can design your office around. Companies today often say they want to be more like Google. What is it about the workspaces at Google that you find appealing, and is that something your office’s culture can embrace? It may be more important to uncover how the company identity is expressed through physical space.

Establish Rules

It’s not enough to create spaces; you have to enforce boundaries. Open spaces create noise.  There’s just no getting around it.  Rules may be needed about how areas can be used. Certain spots for working in require a “no phone call” rule.  No exceptions!  It sounds very corporate and Big Brother to some people, but when you are working in an open space, protocols can be very important.

Get bosses out of offices

Sometimes managers may still need to function behind closed doors, but letting higher-ups spend their days inside old-fashioned private offices while employees work in the open sends a bad message. It also isolates them from the very benefits open plans promise. Once exposed to this new approach to the workplace, many executives say, “Wow, I’ve learned more about my own company in two weeks than I did in the past two years.”

While open-plan offices do not fit every company’s culture, they have come a long way from the “cubicle farms” of the past. More importantly, they are delivering an increasingly comfortable way to work.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

What are the 40 Developmental Assets?

September 24, 2013 by

In the past, a school’s sole purpose was to educate students in reading, writing, math, and other areas. Today, the focus of schools is on the entire development of the young person, including academic, personal, and social growth.

You may have seen the 40 Developmental Assets posted somewhere in your child’s school. But are you aware of what these really are and how they are utilized in your child’s education?

The 40 Developmental Assets were developed by Search Institute, a research-based organization that works to address important issues in education and youth development. The assets are the institute’s framework of strengths and supports believed to be critical in developing the child as a whole.

The assets are divided into halves. The first half examines external aspects of children’s lives, such as family support, safety, and a caring school climate, which are some of the main focuses of the school. The second half examines internal aspects of children’s lives, such as compassion, integrity, responsibility, and self-esteem. These traits are developed through guidance lessons in the schools, as well as by the learning atmosphere teachers create in their classrooms. By making a conscious effort to foster these assets in children, the schools are creating well-rounded students who are better prepared to learn and grow.

Several school districts use these assets to drive parts of their curriculum. Teachers can utilize the assets when delivering their daily lessons by relating ideas discussed in the classroom back to the assets. School principals can use the assets as a tool to develop a strong culture of learning and achievement among their student body. Lastly, parents can apply the assets to their parenting, which combines with the development provided by the teachers to create a good balance in the lives of their children.

A full list of the 40 Developmental Assets can be found at search-institute.org.

Time to Get LinkedIn

August 26, 2013 by

I like Facebook. I entered this social media space with a passion, thanks to the Creighton students I was teaching at the time. I have more than 1,000 friends, including my four teens, because I bought their computers and iPhones and because I want to embarrass them.

But my teens have actually moved on to Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, and I feel the need to move on myself, with a renewed passion, to LinkedIn. There are a few reasons I recommend you do the same.

The first is that it’s important as a professional to separate your personal and business lives. Facebook can make that a little dicey. The second reason is opportunity. LinkedIn is now the world’s largest professional network. It limped along for a time, being one of the world’s “older” social networks, but it’s cracked the code on changes in technology, target, and services for professionals that make LinkedIn the ideal place to connect.

With more than 225 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn gives you access to 2.7 million business pages, 1.5 million groups, and your share of 1 billion endorsements. How you leverage all this is up to you. My advice: Spend more than the average 17 minutes per day on the site to get your profile up to speed. Follow industry leaders, post so you get followed, and enjoy the ride! Here are some specifics to get you started:

  • Download the LinkedIn App for your mobile device (Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone).
  • Complete your profile. This helps LinkedIn connect you with people you used to work with and people in industries similar to yours.
  • Build your network. Import contacts from all your other channels. Invite people you know to connect with you. Add a personal note about how you know the individual and why you want to connect. Go further than the typical template invitation and make yourself memorable.
  • Join groups that interest you. Look for groups that you’re marketing to or that may help you move your business.
  • Consider forming a group. Lead the way and post. Refer to articles.
  • Build a Company Page, especially if you are an entrepreneur.
  • Check the Channels (business news topics) on LinkedIn Today, the site’s e-zine. LinkedIn will recommend Channels, but you should check in regularly to follow Channels that help you improve in your career.

Wendy Wiseman is Vice President & Creative Director of Zaiss & Company, a customer-based planning and communications firm in Omaha.

Fashion: Into the Woods

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Megan Hunt, 26, shows off her youthful, free-spirited, summer style with outfits from her local retail
business, Hello Holiday, on an outing to Fontenelle Forest with her daughter, Alice, 3.

Mary Wadja

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mary Wajda enjoys the hunt for fun fashions and accessories in unexpected places. Harbor Farm Chick Market, Voila! and House of J are some of her local go-to shops for whimsical, affordable pieces.

“I have an eclectic style,” says the 25-year veteran in advertising and media, now with Morningfire, Inc. “I’m fortunate that I work in an industry that allows me to express my personal style.”

“I love classic pieces—a great leather coat, a structured jacket, pearls—and mixing them with something feminine or unexpected—lace, sparkle, and anything girlie! And I love, love, love jeans! LA Idol is my favorite brand.”

“I have an eclectic style…I love classic pieces…And I love, love, love jeans!”

The mother of two teen girls, Wajda jokes, “I had my daughters late in life, so I try to dress so I look young and not like their grandma, yet age-appropriate. I don’t want to be a 51-year-old woman trying to look 25…I would take 45! And I refuse to wear old ladies’ shoes. I love my heels!”

A long-time cancer survivor, Wajda has always made caring for her health a priority. The former USVBA volleyball player (“My husband [Rich Wajda] and I met playing volleyball.”) used to be a dedicated runner, but has moved on to less-jarring cardio and weights. “I try to work out three to four times a week…I take Strike, strictly strength, spinning, and total conditioning classes at Lifetime Fitness whenever my schedule allows. Push-ups and sit-ups are a daily must, too,” she adds.

Wajda attributes her good health in part to drinking 100oz. of water daily, taking vitamins and supplements, and using skin products with retin A, sunscreen, and moisturizer. “I try to avoid the sun…and never sleep in my makeup.”

All your work has paid off, Mary Wajda. You look fabulous!