MintStyle

MintStyle with Rachel Weingarten: Upgrade Your Office

messy desk

It wasn’t that long ago that an office environment consisted of not much more than a desk, a phone and a typewriter. Throw in a copy machine, some paperclips and a stapler and you were moving towards hyper-efficient mode. As offices segued from desk to desktop, technology became not only a necessary part of the workplace, but also a way to show off your business style.

Even the Luddites among us seem to recognize the value of investing in better tech and evolved office products that not only look sleek, but help make your workspace more efficient and can potentially improve your quality of life.

Like the most popular kitchen gadgets, some tech toys look great but aren’t worth the investment in the long run. The shiny and new don’t always compare to the tried and true. A great rule of thumb is to hold off purchasing anything 1.0 and wait until most of the bugs and necessary updates are ironed out.

A few incredibly helpful products to consider investing in:

Neat!

You’ve probably seen the commercials extolling the virtues of the NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System and wondered if it was worth the investment. Priced at just under $400.00, this small, but efficient, piece of office equipment can help tame the clutter monster both at home and at work. While earlier versions had some issues with paper sizing and filing, the latest model seems to have ironed out those kinks.

I’m a little obsessed with my NeatDesk and regularly rave about it to friends and family. I thought I’d use it exclusively for receipts and business documents, but find myself obsessively scanning in business cards, articles, and even travel documentation. Best of all, the IRS now accepts scanned documents, so you can shred the originals.

Once you set up the system and install the software, you can choose where to file your documents in your computer based on home and business with the option of setting up additional files. You can easily search your system by details including names, dates and phone numbers.

And as you regain control of the work clutter and pack up old CD ROMS and other clunkier information storage, the Dymo LabelManager 500TS can help you to ease the process. With a touch screen and complete ease of use, you can organize everything before storing, and print on fabric or plastic labels.

Feeling creative? Attach to your PC or Mac and you can further customize your fonts and even add graphics.

Back It Up, Baby

Before you shred anything, make sure that you’ve backed everything up. We all hear about the cloud in terms of online resources from most internet connected devices and especially as a virtual storage space for your digital data. But did you know that you can actually create your own storage cloud? For about an $80.00 investment, the CiragoLink+ allows you to turn any USB mass storage device into your own personal cloud accessible from your computer or smartphone.

So, if you’re too paranoid to trust your data to available data backup systems, or simply want another option, this is a pretty cool way to keep your information safe and backed up. If you want an idea of what remote storage systems are like, try the free options offered by Amazon and many other companies. Mozy and other storage systems offer affordable monthly cloud based backup starting at about $5.99.

After facing several computer crashes over the years, I’ve become somewhat rabid about keeping multiple backups of my hard drive around. At 9 mm thick, the Seagate GoFlex Slim Performance Drive doesn’t take up much space on your desk, attaches via USB cable and can save up to 500 GB of your files. You can configure it to back up regularly or simply drag and drop your files as you save them. Use it together with the Cirago and you can access even your data intensive music or video files while on the go.

Have A Stand Up Day

There have been countless, and sometimes scary, reports about the obesity epidemic. As more of us sit in front of our computers for extended periods of time, it isn’t only our waistlines that can suffer. Reports from the American Cancer Society list higher mortality rates from increased sitting/less movement along with increased instances of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Pretty sobering news for anyone spending much of their day staring at a computer screen.

Charleston-based wellness expert Ann Kulze, M.D. (Dr. Ann on her popular radio show) became alarmed after reading studies outlining the dangers of prolonged sitting. She’d realized that sitting at her desk for sometimes 8 hours a day was doing “horrible things to my body.” She grew sluggish, noticed changes in her shape and had incredible neck and back pain.

About 18 months ago she switched to a stand up desk and noticed almost immediate changes in the way that she felt both physiologically and biologically, and studied the results. “When standing you are directly engaging the biggest muscles in your body- the ones in your legs, which are the muscles that burn the most fat. It’s also great for bone health- even if you’re just standing, it’s weight bearing. Best of all, the more your muscles are engaged, the better your brain can focus and think.” And in case you think this is a brand new trend, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson and some other great thinkers were said to prefer standing desks.

I decided to give the standing desk a try, as well. I tried building my own version, which wasn’t terribly attractive or sturdy and mostly just added height to my existing desk. The folks at Ergotron were kind enough to send me a sit-stand desk to try out. After a pretty intensive Q&A session with a company expert about my home, my work style and computer preferences, we decided on the WorkFit-C mobile cart (a significant investment at about $800), which would work best with my laptop or extra monitor.

I’ll admit to being incredibly skeptical at first. After all, anyone who has ever worked in retail can attest to incredible back and foot pain felt at the end of a grueling day. When I asked Dr. Ann about the potential dangers to one’s feet after extended standing, she explained that most conditions, like edema, are a result of prolonged sitting, and when standing you tend to shift and move more, and actually have increased blood flow everywhere- including your feet.

Since this isn’t a health column, please don’t take anything I say to be anything other than purely entertainment-based, but in the few days I’ve been working at my sit-stand desk, I do notice that I have more energy. It’s easier to want to go out for a walk instead of feeling like I’m dragging my sorry bones out of my chair. I needed to invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse as well, but I found that when not doing intensive writing or strictly desk based activities, I felt more awake and engaged when standing. I also started noticing and really hating that slouchy feeling when sitting. I became more aware of random aches when sitting, as well. I’ll keep you posted on long term results and would love to hear about your own experiences with standing desks, cool new office tools and options for improving your work life.

Rachel Weingarten is slowly transitioning to using a stand up desk on a more regular basis. She is a style expert, marketing strategist & personal branding consultant for CEOs, politicians and celebrities and the creator of MintStyle. She is the award-winning author of Career and Corporate Cool and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s. Rachel writes for top media outlets including CNN, Fortune, Forbes Life, MSN, USA Today, Yahoo Finance and many others. She is a regularly featured expert on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Today Show. Visit her online at http://racheletc.com or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her with your burning style questions at mintstylerachel@gmail.com