How to Help Your Employees Start Their Day Right

Look after your employees and they will look after your customers, your business and, of course, you. Being a boss is a hefty responsibility, but it doesn’t need to be as hard as you might think it is. Keeping employees happy is simply a matter of giving them a comfortable, happy, interesting working environment, and offering that perfect work/life balance that everyone craves. If you can get that right, you’ve got it made.

 

To begin with, your office needs to be somewhere that people want to go to; you want them to get out of bed in the morning and look forward to getting into work. It’s the first step to happy employees, so how can you help your employees start their day right?

 

Breakfast

Even though we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, around half of the British population skip it. The reasons behind missing out and getting to work hungry are numerous, ranging from lack of time to not finding an appetite until later on. Getting into the office and ploughing straight on with work without having any food is a bad idea – productivity will be lower, and people will need to take a break sooner due to hunger and fatigue.

 

So why not provide a breakfast for your employees? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but laying out a selection of cereals and pastries that they can help themselves to means better concentration levels and happier employees. If people are health conscious, then provide an array of milk (full-fat, semi-skimmed, coconut, almond, etc.) and have a large bag of porridge oats they can heat up in the kitchen microwave.

 

Coffee

Having a quality coffee machine in your office is something that employees will really appreciate. Make sure you include good coffee grounds too, so your staff can pour themselves a cup of delicious coffee whenever they feel the need. Free coffee is incredibly important, and is a great way for your employees to take a break while replenishing their mugs. There are even specific online shops such as office-coffee.co.uk that can help you work out exactly which machine is best.

 

Positivity

Teaching your employees positivity is an excellent idea. It’s about visualising how you want your day to go, and allowing that day to happen. It may sound a little ‘out there’, but it sets the tone for the day and puts everyone in a good mood, so it certainly won’t hurt. You could even do it in the form of a morning pep talk, letting your employees know that you’re proud of their work and that you expect good things from them. It’s amazing what a bit of positive thinking and praise can do.

 

Exercise

Exercising before work is a good thing to do. It wakes the body and mind, and it gets the ideas flowing ready for a productive day. The only problem is, who has time to go to the gym before the working day starts? Not many people, that’s for sure! So why not bring the gym to the office? Incentivise your staff to come in a little early (or allow for a more flexible working schedule) and arrange an exercise class first thing, if space permits it. It could be anything from boxercise to yoga. Even losing 45 minutes or so of the working day to exercising can actually mean that your employees’ productivity increases, so in the end, they get more work done in less time. Alternatively, if you don’t want exercise to eat into your working hours, then offering flexi-time so employees can come in earlier (or work later) and schedule work around exercise. By doing so, you can make a huge difference to your employee’s spirits and productivity.

Review: Colt Express

So I’m three games in to my Board Game Club membership and I’ve had three distinctly different games so far. CodeNames was fun, a sort of Guess Who/card game hybrid and Ticket to Ride Europe, which was great fun once we worked out what was going on. The third, Colt Express, is different again. As someone who’s spent 30+ years playing Risk, Monopoly and Scrabble, I’m a bit gobsmacked by the variety on offer!

The closest analogy I can think of for Colt Express is a turn based strategy video game like the famous Civilisation- I never thought I’d come across a board game that used the same mechanism. Okay, Risk is turned based but it’s not as complicated or nuanced as Colt Express because it’s basically about moving troops and invading places, Colt Express actually has a different game mechanic thanks to the 3D board. View Full Post

Review: Scalextric BTCC Touring Car Battle Racing Set

When I was offered a Scalextric set to put in front of the kids, my first thought was wow! I used to have a lot of Scalextric back in the 1980s; some of it inherited from my cousins from the 60s. We had some of the old cigar shaped F1 cars from the 60s but my favourite was probably the Ford Mirage we were given.

In the intervening 30 odd years Scalextric has changed in some ways and not in others. The tracks are still a bit fiddly to get together but thankfully the connections are much better, so when we used the Scalextric BTCC Touring Car Battle Racing Set there wasn’t a repeat of my dad at my age cursing softly under his breath as he ran a bit of wire wool over the track to ensure it completed a circuit. The pick ups that make contact either side of the slot are exactly as I remember them from my youth but thankfully they are much easier to replace. View Full Post

Review: Super Lucky Tales on Xbox One/Xbox One X

Coinciding with the launch of the Xbox One X this week, MS Studios have a new 3D platformer out called Super Lucky Tales. Super Lucky Tales sees you controlling a cute fox, navigating a lush colourful 3D world putting gollums back together and collecting 4 leafed clovers (there are 99 to collect in total and I’m well in to double figures now!).

The game is described as follows by Microsoft:

“Super Lucky’s Tale” is a delightful, playground platformer for all ages that follows Lucky, the ever-optimistic, energetic and lovable hero, on his quest to find his inner strength and help his sister rescue the Book of Ages from Jinx. Jinx is the scheming and mysterious villain trying to reshape the world, but for what reason?

Along the way, encounter a hilarious supporting cast of friends and adversaries. Lucky must confront the nefarious Kitty Litter, Jinx’s mischievous kids – self-taught villains who might not be getting Jinx’s plans quite right. Lucky meets friends and allies along the way too. He meets misplaced Yetis, Kooky Spookies, a village of farming worms and other colourful friends inhabiting of Ages.”

I played Super Lucky Tales at the Xbox Loft the other week and found the two level demo great fun. It looked lovely in 4K on the Xbox One X, but since I don’t have one of those (yet!), I played the review copy Microsoft kindly provided me with on my Xbox One S. The game still looks lovely, although obviously not as lovely as it does in 4K! View Full Post

Five Ways to Take Your Travel Videos to the Next Level

Travelling is perfect for everyone, because it helps them understand and empathize more. As a bonus, you also get to see the most stunning and gorgeous sights that this world has to offer. Who wouldn’t want to experience all that they can? You can only live for so long, and we have advanced and changed the face of the earth beyond recognition. Travel the world now because when you visit it next, it will likely be something entirely different.

 

Millennials especially know this, which is why their method of travel differs greatly than that of their parents’. Most millennials travel for the experiences that they can have, not the party or the shopping opportunities. One of the biggest differences is how millennials travel, however, is by creating multi-media memories. Many do this not so that they can create a better Facebook album for their friends, but instead so that they can market their travels and become an influencer in their field.

 

Social media influencers make money, and the biggest social media stars are from the millennial and younger generations. They turn their videos and photos into a marketable commodity that fans follow. Businesses then make partnerships with these influencers, who will then receive free items, accommodation, experiences, and even a paycheck. To take your videos to the next level, so that you, too, can become a travel influencer, follow these quick suggestions:

 

 

  • Film B Roll

 

Videos aren’t just about the key moments of your trip, they also need to be buffered out with much needed “B Roll”. This is the footage that acts as establishing shots for place and time, and filming both your main footage and B Roll will help you create better videos.

 

 

  • Find Your Editing Style

 

Just as photographers and other artists have their style, so too do videographers and editors. To truly stand out among your competition, you need to find your personal style in both shooting and editing your footage. The more unique, the better.

 

 

  • Amp Up Your YouTube Account

 

Make your account look professional, and you’ll be well on your way to increasing the views on your channel. Increase those views further by using a video thumbnail maker to entice more people to click on your videos.

 

 

  • Create an Online Persona

 

Your travel brand should have its own website, Instagram account, Twitter account, and Facebook page. This is how you’ll attract more fans, and how you’ll create a solid brand that people, and businesses, can trust.

 

 

  • Be Consistent

 

Put out content consistently, respond and engage with your community, and build your following organically. You want to be consistent in your behavior so that your followers and brands alike can expect and follow you.

 

Starting a travel brand is easy, but maintaining a consistent schedule and growing a fan base isn’t – which is why so few people are able to make money from it. Once you do make it, however, you have a world of opportunities awaiting you, and they all allow you to travel and visit more of the world than ever before.

 

Paddington 2: it’s a great family movie

It doesn’t seem like three years since we were all charmed by the first cinematic outing of a small bear called Paddington from darkest Peru and his adventures with the Brown family but it is and the sequel Paddington 2 is out next week to prove this.

Paddington managed to be charming, set in it’s own world, an England that doesn’t exist now and probably never really did. A good childrens film constructs it’s own world and then exists within it; an excellent childrens film constructs it’s own world and adheres to all the rules that it creates for itself, making something that could be absurd (the prison for example), seem perfectly plausible in the confines of the movie.

I’ll get this out of the way right now, Paddington 2 is a wonderful movie; you might have guessed from the title. I’m pleased to say that we (the kids and I) are not alone in thinking this as there are plenty of 5 star reviews from professional movie critics out there. But as a regular paying punter for the cinema, Paddington is definitely the sort of movie I would pay to take the kids to see. View Full Post

Looking at our finances now the economy is looking a bit dismal

Being an accountant by training, it’s sometimes second nature to look at ways to save money but since we’ve both been working as the kids have been a bit older, we’ve let things go a bit in the household budgeting front.

But as consumer confidence has suddenly taken a slide, and one of the larger car dealers has issued a profit warning, the signs are now showing that we’re about to hit a sticky patch. There are arguments about whether the mooted interest rate rise will have the right effect as we head into a period of stagflation– rising prices but falling growth. It’s all looking a bit tricky really, so we’ve taken our first step into reigning things back in again by looking at our finances.

Our bank, like most, allows you to download our bank account in .csv format. If you have access to Excel, you can open it in that, if not Libre Office is a free download, and has the same functionality. Once you’ve downloaded the transactions, you can analyse them into categories (regular bills, food shopping, etc) and then have a look to see what you can change.

From our analysis I could see spend somewhere between 15% and 20% of our take home pay on food. After the mortgage, this was our largest single expense category, spread across Sainsbury, Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons AND Asda. Rather than one large bill a week, there would be one fairly large, and two or three £50ish bills. What we were basically doing was haphazardly shopping for food, which meant we weren’t spending it to plan or efficiently. When it comes to saving on our household bills, this was obviously the area that was the most important as it was where we spent the most money

We never used to bother with menu planning when the kids were little as a lot of play dates and visits to friends happened adhoc- when wifey didn’t work a lot was scheduled on the hoof, so menu planning didn’t suit our lifestyle.

However it’s probably time to revisit this now that we both work, the kids are all at school, and thanks to after school clubs, work and everything, we pretty much know what’s going to be happening at least 5 nights a week. So we’ve bought an online delivery package from one of the supermarkets that means we pay a flat fee for all our deliveries for the year and set up a virtual trolley of staples on repeat order that we can vary as needs dictate. Getting on top of our largest variable expense is the biggest step we can easily take towards getting our expenses in order but we needed to know where all the money was going in the first place.

I have had a curiouso glance at whether we could save money on our mortgage and mitigate potential rate rises by switching to a fixed rate mortgage but to be honest, given we’re on a tracker that’s less than 1% above base rate, I don’t think we’ll do much better, which just leaves us the other utlities to look at!

McCain We are Family campaign and our busy life!

There are five of us in our household and as every one of the kids gets a bit older, their interests develop and they want to do their own thing more and more. We’re now at a stage where even meal times can be fragmented; be it through work, or after school activities. Monday’s are a good example really, the kids have swimming after school, and then there is a 30 minute window to get home, feed the eldest and get him to his drumming lesson. Both swimming and drumming times are immutable, and by the time I get back from drumming with him, the other two are in their PJ’s. It doesn’t get better as you can see from the video:

Thankfully we’re all around on a Friday evening though and we all eat together and catch a movie together. Dinner goes one of two ways, we either chuck something quick in the oven like chicken drumsticks and McCain oven chips or we make a thing out of cooking something nice together- like homemade chicken nuggets or battered fish and chips (McCain french fries are the preferred option). Both my wife and I were bought up on the Friday is Fry-day principle and it’s just something we’ve carried over, much like Sunday is the day for a nice roast at lunch time!

Making Friday meal time an event, with the war cry “We are family”, helps us put the hectic week to bed and prepare for some family time at the weekend. And yes, the weekends are equally busy for us!

McCain are celebrating all family types, after research suggested people feel as though they aren’t represented in popular culture. You can see the National Portrait Gallery hosting a 2-week pop up display of the photography that’s been captured which celebrates modern families through the lens of mealtime, which runs from 19th September.

Amazon Video: Comrade Detective

A real sense of mourning existed in our house on Sunday evening. We had finally finished watching all seven series of Parks & Recreation and we were at a loose end. My suggestion of re-watching it from the beginning was met with icy , so we had to look for something else. It took us around 3 months to work our way through the 125 episodes and it was a joy.

I happened to spot Nick Offerman’s name attached to another show, Comrade Detective, so thought we should give that a go. Nick Offerman played the rather awesome Ron Swanson in Parks & Recreation, a personal favourite of mine (and probably most blokes if I’m to be honest), so it was a no brainer to give this show with him in a go.

So yes, we went into Comrade Detective with no prior knowledge or understanding of the show!

Comrade Detective is a comedy show that spoofs/satirises propaganda TV. It’s set in 80’s communist era Romania, shot in Romanian, using Romanian actors, and then over dubbed (badly) by American voice actors. This gives it the genuine feel of an 80’s TV show, where subtitles were considered weird and dubbing ruled the roost.

The script is terrible, in a knowing sort of way, giving some really great laughs in the first couple of episodes. Some of the propaganda messages are so hamfisted, it’s hard to imagine that they’re pretty spot on until you remember watching Red Dawn or any of the other 80’s anti communist movies.

In case you’re worried whether this is a one joke premise, the series doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, weighing in at 6 episodes. The story follows maverick detective, Anghel, who flouts his chefs direct orders and attempts a drug bust in which his partner is killed. Unravelling the murder leads to a plot by the Americans to destabilise Romanian with capitalism and religion. In typical 80’s buddy cop fashion, he’s paired with a partner who he clashes with (and also looks a lot like Borat), leading to various scrapes and the like.

It’s good fun and at six episodes doesn’t outstay it’s welcome or let the joke run on too long. Reading about the genesis of the show, the producers toyed with the idea of re-dubbing an actual existing Romanian show but decided against it as securing the rights would have been too tricky. So yes, it was initially disappointing to see (or rather not to see) that my new hero Nick Offerman didn’t appear in the flesh but over all it’s a blooming good laugh and worth a watch.

Review: Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil

Codenames is a spy themed board game that the Board Game Club sent over for review. If I were pushed to describe it in one easy sentence, I’d say it’s a cross between Guess Who and something like Taboo, set in a world of spies and spymasters.

If that sounds intriguing, it is, and although initially it looked complicated to play, once we’d run through the rules once and had a dry run through of the game, it was actually really simple and, joy of joys, a game that you can play quickly, making it ideal for the quick game here and there when you’ve got a spare half an hour. The kids even enjoyed playing the 2 player version, which is co-operative, so there was no fighting over who “won”.

The game is designed to be played by 4 people as a minimum, so it’s something to pull out to play when you’ve got friends round (the 2 player version does work but it’s not as fun). You split into two teams, deal out 25 one word cards, nominate a spy master on each team, and set about trying to guess where your spies are.

 

How is this done? Well the spy master draws a card that shows a five by five grid, corresponding to the layout of the 25 cards that were put down. The cards that show where the agents are are rotatable, so you get 4 different layouts from each card, and a whole pack of them to boot, so you’re not really going to be able to memorise the layouts.

The spymaster gives out a one word clue, followed by a number, and his team have to guess which cards laid out in front of them correspond to the codenames of two agents. So for example, I might say, “Aquatic, 2”, intending to signal to my team that there are two words to do with the water. After conferring my team should answer “octopus and shark” for example. To make things more dramatic, there is an assassin card that if guessed by mistake automatically loses you the game.

And it’s great fun!

Having only one word clues makes it so much harder, and really gets team mates heatedly discussing possibilities. The game is short enough that you can rattle off a few consecutive rounds to really get the competitive juices flowing too.