10 Office-Friendly Exercises for the Everyday Desk Jockey

The following is a guest post by Amanda Greening – a member of Workbar since September, 2014.

The Bad and the Ugly

Science tells us regular, sustained sitting compromises the human body in myriad, potentially dangerous and likely uncomfortable ways. In a nutshell, your body forgets it’s capable of movement; muscles forget how to lengthen and shorten, heart and lungs forget how to pump blood and oxygen, organs go haywire, bones lose density, metabolism slows to a crawl, even brain function grows sluggish.

If you have a desk job, you’ve probably experienced: all-over stiffness, sore back (or hips, knees, shoulders, or neck), shortness of breath, lack of energy, extra pounds creeping on, disturbing blood work, and the general feeling that moving is much harder than staying still. Your body has accepted its new position in life.

The SAID Principle

Why is sitting so lousy for your body? Humans are incredibly efficient adaptation machines -adapting exactly to the stimuli you’re exposed to, but no further. This is called the SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. If you run, jump, bend, push, pull, reach and twist, SAID dictates your body will rise to the challenge – given time and progressive overload. If you sit all day, your body adapts no further, and throws on the brakes when you try to be more than furniture.

Here is a classic scenario: Desk jockey goes for a run after a day chained to her chair. Seems benign enough to get some movement and fresh air. But, sitting for the previous 8 hours has not prepared her body for a thousand single leg hops; repetitive torso rotation; flexion and extension at her hips, ankles, and knees with every step, or sustained heart rate elevation. Pain and injury ensue and her body gets weaker instead of stronger.
The exercise modality usually gets the blame, but  it’s the sitting that caused the injury – the exercise is only the canary in the coal mine.

Reversing the Curse

Now that we’re clear on the cause and effect relationship between sedentary lifestyle and loss of physical function, let’s talk rehab. Remember the SAID Principle – if you want your body to adapt for movement, you need to teach it, throughout the day, how to move. To this end, I’ve designed a workout of 10 targeted exercises, to be done at or near your workspace, that will get you fixed up faster than you can say “back spasms.”

In creating this workout, my focus was on reversing the specific, negative, muscular adaptations associated with sitting. When done regularly, these exercises will elevate your heart rate, increase hamstring flexibility and shoulder and hip mobility, incorporate rotation and lateral movement, and – perhaps most importantly – activate your glutes throughout. These aren’t the most aggressive movements on the block, because:

1) I want them to be safe for even the least mobile among us,
2) No one wants to break a serious sweat in their work clothes, and
3) I don’t believe you’ll really do them at work unless they’re low-profile.

That said, if you zero in on form and focus on engaging the right muscles, you will absolutely feel the burn and the benefit. Support this work by walking more, taking the stairs, and intermittently standing to work.

So, take off your heels, adjust your clothing if you need to, warn your cubicle neighbors, and get moving!

10 Anti-Sitting Exercises

(Perform in order. Repeat entire sequence twice in the morning and afternoon.)

Exercise #1 – Calf Stretch

Feet square to front. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight. Lean forward from hip, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. Hold for 30 seconds.

Feet square to front. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight. Lean forward from hip, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. Hold for 30 seconds.

Exercise #2 – Hamstring Stretch

desk exercises - 02

Feet square to front. Start with a low surface, elevate surface when proper form can be maintained. Keep back absolutely flat throughout, legs straight, butt out. Lean forward from hips, with flat back, to produce tension. Stop before pain. NOTE: If your back rounds or your pelvis tucks under, you are NOT doing this stretch correctly. Lower your leg until you can maintain form. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

Exercise #3 – Squat to Chair

Part 1: Keep back absolutely flat, heart high, chest wide. Feet can turn out slightly, press knees out so they are as wide as feet throughout.

3.1: Keep back absolutely flat, heart high, chest wide. Feet can turn out slightly, press knees out so they are as wide as feet throughout.

To initiate, stretch butt back, all weight in heels. Arms can move in front to counterbalance, but do not drop chest. Tap chair slightly with butt, don’t rest or rock at bottom. Check to make sure knees are as wide as feet, press knees out if necessary.

3.2: To initiate, stretch butt back, all weight in heels. Arms can move in front to counterbalance, but do not drop chest. Tap chair slightly with butt, don’t rest or rock at bottom. Check to make sure knees are as wide as feet, press knees out if necessary.

Immediately press knees out and squeeze glutes to stand, with heart high. Hold glute contraction for a second at top, with pelvis tucked under gently, before descending again. Lower squat surface as form can be maintained. Work up to 20 reps.they are as wide as feet throughout.

3.3: Immediately press knees out and squeeze glutes to stand, with heart high. Hold glute contraction for a second at top, with pelvis tucked under gently, before descending again. Lower squat surface as form can be maintained. Work up to 20 reps.

Exercise #4 – Stationary Lunge/Hip Stretch

4.1: Take long, split stance. Back heel stays up throughout. Use wall or desk for balance support if necessary. Feet, knees, and hips must stay square to front throughout. Keep heart high and chest wide.

4.1: Take long, split stance. Back heel stays up throughout. Use wall or desk for balance support if necessary. Feet, knees, and hips must stay square to front throughout. Keep heart high and chest wide.

4.2: Initiate by dropping back knee to tap the floor. Front knee cannot move past front ankle, keep weight balanced between feet. Legs should make right angles at bottom.

4.2: Initiate by dropping back knee to tap the floor. Front knee cannot move past front ankle, keep weight balanced between feet. Legs should make right angles at bottom.

4.3: Gently tap back knee, then rise up in split stance, keeping back heel off the floor. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 15 reps on each leg. NOTE: With front knee discomfort, take extra care to not let front knee travel forward of front ankle. With back knee discomfort, let back knee rest on floor for a few seconds with each rep.

4.3: Gently tap back knee, then rise up in split stance, keeping back heel off the floor. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 15 reps on each leg. NOTE: With front knee discomfort, take extra care to not let front knee travel forward of front ankle. With back knee discomfort, let back knee rest on floor for a few seconds with each rep.

Exercise #5 – Hip Hinge to Posterior Tap

Keep Back absolutely flat throughout, chest wide, feet flat. Assume wide stance with feet slightly turned out. Stand near wall to start.

5.1: Keep Back absolutely flat throughout, chest wide, feet flat. Assume wide stance with feet slightly turned out. Stand near wall to start.

5.2: Initiate by stretching hamstrings, reaching butt back to gently tap wall. Weight stays in flat feet, don’t rest weight against wall. After a few test reps, find distance from wall that makes tapping the wall with flat feet challenging but do-able. You can increase this distance as form can be maintained, without lifting up toes or letting weight transfer from feet to wall during the tap.

5.2: Initiate by stretching hamstrings, reaching butt back to gently tap wall. Weight stays in flat feet, don’t rest weight against wall. After a few test reps, find distance from wall that makes tapping the wall with flat feet challenging but do-able. You can increase this distance as form can be maintained, without lifting up toes or letting weight transfer from feet to wall during the tap.

5.3: Immediately squeeze glutes to stand, tuck pelvis under gently at top. Hold glute contraction for a second at top before reaching hips back again. Work up to 20 reps.

5.3: Immediately squeeze glutes to stand, tuck pelvis under gently at top. Hold glute contraction for a second at top before reaching hips back again. Work up to 20 reps.

Exercise #6 – Shoulder Wall Slides

6.1: Stand against a large wall surface, with feet slightly in front of your body. Elbows bent just below shoulders, with palms facing forward. You are in the correct start position when butt, ribcage, shoulders, arms, and hands are firmly touching the wall. These points must stay in contact with the wall throughout the movement. End motion when any point loses contact.

6.1: Stand against a large wall surface, with feet slightly in front of your body. Elbows bent just below shoulders, with palms facing forward. You are in the correct start position when butt, ribcage, shoulders, arms, and hands are firmly touching the wall. These points must stay in contact with the wall throughout the movement. End motion when any point loses contact.

6.2: Keep abs contracted and glutes tight. Breathe regularly as you slide arms slowly toward ceiling, without losing wall contact at any point. Be conscious of breath filling up back of ribs, to avoid arching spine on inhales. Try not to let shoulders shrug as arms travel overhead - think of putting shoulder blades gently in back pockets.

6.2: Keep abs contracted and glutes tight. Breathe regularly as you slide arms slowly toward ceiling, without losing wall contact at any point. Be conscious of breath filling up back of ribs, to avoid arching spine on inhales. Try not to let shoulders shrug as arms travel overhead – think of putting shoulder blades gently in back pockets.

6.3: End motion when any point loses contact, then reverse to start position. Work up to 20 reps without losing contact points.

6.3: End motion when any point loses contact, then reverse to start position. Work up to 20 reps without losing contact points.

Exercise #7 – Standing Diagonal Leg Abduction

7.1: Stand tall with supporting leg square to front, knee soft. Gently rest fingertips (not hands) on wall, with very slight forward lean. Moving leg will be slightly bent and turned out, so foot is just off the floor. Pelvis stays still throughout, do not arch lower back or push ribs forward to produce movement.

7.1: Stand tall with supporting leg square to front, knee soft. Gently rest fingertips (not hands) on wall, with very slight forward lean. Moving leg will be slightly bent and turned out, so foot is just off the floor. Pelvis stays still throughout, do not arch lower back or push ribs forward to produce movement.

7.2: Initiate by squeezing glute on moving side, and sweep leg back on a diagonal, as far as lower back can stay still - do not arch back or push ribs forward. Hold glute contraction for a second before returning leg to start. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 20 reps on each leg.

7.2: Initiate by squeezing glute on moving side, and sweep leg back on a diagonal, as far as lower back can stay still – do not arch back or push ribs forward. Hold glute contraction for a second before returning leg to start. Complete all reps on one side before switching. Work up to 20 reps on each leg.

Exercise #8 – Half-Kneeling Chop

8.1: Kneel with front knee exactly over front ankle, back knee under back hip, back foot flat or flexed (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.1: Kneel with front knee exactly over front ankle, back knee under back hip, back foot flat or flexed (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.2: Slowly and with control, “chop” hands up on diagonal, over front knee, and above shoulder. Keep hips and knees square to front, eyes and head following hands throughout. Keep weight balanced between foot and knee - so you are rotating around your center line, not leaning to either side.

8.2: Slowly and with control, “chop” hands up on diagonal, over front knee, and above shoulder. Keep hips and knees square to front, eyes and head following hands throughout. Keep weight balanced between foot and knee – so you are rotating around your center  line, not leaning to either side.

8.3: Return to start position with control. Use shortened range of movement if stability cannot be maintained. Switch legs to switch sides. Work up to 20 chops on each side (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

8.3: Return to start position with control. Use shortened range of movement if stability cannot be maintained. Switch legs to switch sides. Work up to 20 chops on each side (as comfortable). Hips, feet, and knees stay square to front throughout. Legs should make right angles. Use cushion under knee if necessary. Bring palms together with straight arms, rotated toward the floor. Hips and knees must stay square to front. Gaze and head follow hands throughout.

Exercise#9 – Single Leg Hinge to Anterior Tap

9.1: Stand in front of a medium high surface (start with a higher surface and lower as balance and form can be maintained). Stand on slightly bent right leg, with left leg slightly bent and off of the ground. Foot, hips, and shoulders stay square to front throughout. Back stays absolutely flat throughout. Imagine left knee to left shoulder as one piece, no breaking at the hip on the left side as you move.

9.1: Stand in front of a medium high surface (start with a higher surface and lower as balance and form can be maintained). Stand on slightly bent right leg, with left leg slightly bent and off of the ground. Foot, hips, and shoulders stay square to front throughout. Back stays absolutely flat throughout. Imagine left knee to left shoulder as one piece, no breaking at the hip on the left side as you move.

9.2: Initiate by lifting left leg behind you, letting chest respond by tipping forward the same amount, so you don’t break at your left hip. Simultaneously, hinge at your right hip, reaching butt behind you with flat back, stretching right hamstring. Tap gently with your left hand. Keep weight in right foot, and hips back - do not transfer weight to your hand as you tap.

9.2: Initiate by lifting left leg behind you, letting chest respond by tipping forward the same amount, so you don’t break at your left hip. Simultaneously, hinge at your right hip, reaching butt behind you with flat back, stretching right hamstring. Tap gently with your left hand. Keep weight in right foot, and hips back – do not transfer weight to your hand as you tap.

9.3: Squeeze right glute to reverse movement and stand. Stand tall, holding glute contraction for a second, before putting left foot down for stability. Complete all reps on one side before switching. If balance cannot be maintained, find higher surface to tap, lower tap as stability and flexibility grow. Work up to 15 reps on each leg.

9.3: Squeeze right glute to reverse movement and stand. Stand tall, holding glute contraction for a second, before putting left foot down for stability. Complete all reps on one side before switching. If balance cannot be maintained, find higher surface to tap, lower tap as stability and flexibility grow. Work up to 15 reps on each leg.

Exercise #10 – Windmill

10.1: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes straight ahead or slightly turned out, and knees soft. Adjust your stance width as you go, as is comfortable. Hold arms up, parallel to the ground, with palms forward or turned slightly upward - do not let palms turn toward the floor. Arms will stay stiff throughout.

10.1: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes straight ahead or slightly turned out, and knees soft. Adjust your stance width as you go, as is comfortable. Hold arms up, parallel to the ground, with palms forward or turned slightly upward – do not let palms turn toward the floor. Arms will stay stiff throughout.

10.2: Initiate by sticking butt out slightly with soft knees, then reach right arm toward left toe. Simultaneously reach left arm higher towards the ceiling, with both arms straight. Let gaze and face follow the movement - so you are looking to your left side, or even up at your left arm, as comfortable. Left palm should also face left.

10.2: Initiate by sticking butt out slightly with soft knees, then reach right arm toward left toe. Simultaneously reach left arm higher towards the ceiling, with both arms straight. Let gaze and face follow the movement – so you are looking to your left side, or even up at your left arm, as comfortable. Left palm should also face left.

10.3: To return to standing, keep knees soft and butt behind you, and squeeze glutes as you de-rotate. Try not to let spine round, but instead move in one piece. Keep glutes engaged until you have reached the start position again, with arms out.

10.3: To return to standing, keep knees soft and butt behind you, and squeeze glutes as you de-rotate. Try not to let spine round, but instead move in one piece. Keep glutes engaged until you have reached the start position again, with arms out.

10.4:  Repeat on the other side for one full repetition. Work up to 15 reps on each side.

10.4: Repeat on the other side for one full repetition. Work up to 15 reps on each side.

 

About the Author: Amanda Greening is a Master Level Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, Certified Holistic Health Coach, and blogger at The Health You Want. She sees training clients at her home studio in Watertown, and Health Coaching clients at Workbar Cambridge. Get to know her on Twitter @DaHealthYouWant and Instagram @TheHealthYouWant.

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

Working Remotely for Extroverts

The following is a guest post by Steph Yiu – a member of Workbar since 2012. 

stephworking

I got a DM from my friend Matt the other day.

“Yo!” he wrote. “I’m about to start working at a company that’s fully remote and thinking about joining you at Workbar a few days a week… I think commuting will be good for me to feel connected to the city / not go nuts.”

Matt and I are pretty similar in that we are both extroverts. We very randomly met at a Ruby on Rails workshop nearly three years ago and literally the next afternoon he and his girlfriend (now fiancee!) were at my house hanging out. When Matt told me he was thinking about working remotely, I realized that I had to write this blog post for him, because working remotely can be a tough adjustment for hyper-social weirdos like us. :)

Of course, there are a lot of structural things your company needs to do to help make a distributed workforce work. Things like not treating remote and non-remote workers differently, and having a really robust internal communication system.

However, as an extrovert, there are things you need to do to take care of yourself and make your new remote gig successful. Extroverts get energy from being around people, and working exclusively online can be exhausting. I’ve been a distributed worker at Automattic for a little over two years now. For Matt and any other distributed extroverts out there, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t move right away.

A mistake that people often make is that working remotely means you can immediately pick up and live anywhere. For an extrovert starting remote work, your existing support network is even more important than ever. Your new co-workers are hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away, so they’re not going to be the people joining for drinks after work, or random brunches on a Sunday morning. Your existing network of friends and old co-workers will continue to be your social support network, because a remote job can’t provide that for you.

2. Schedule your social life. 

When you work in an office, there are a lot of random interactions that we take for granted. It’s someone’s birthday so we gather around for cake. It’s the end of a project sprint and we celebrate with a team lunch. It’s a bizarrely cold Tuesday, so we all go out for drinks. For an extrovert like me, I love office culture stuff like this (to the point where I organized an Office Olympics at my old job).

When you work remotely, those sorts of unplanned social interactions don’t take place, so you have to be proactive in making sure they happen, because for extroverts these are little energy boosters that keep you going throughout the week. This means planning lunch with people who work close by, scheduling dinner or drinks with friends, or even planning 15-20 minutes a day to just putz around your co-working space and chitchat. Speaking of co-working spaces…

3. If possible, get a co-working space.

Choosing a co-working space that was within walking distance of my house was one of the best decisions I made in ensuring a happy work environment. On Twitter, Matt had asked me: “How do you like Workbar?” In my opinion, Workbar is the best co-working space in Cambridge. Here are two things I would look for in choosing a co-working space: The space caters to whatever work-style you need. The designers of Workbar Cambridge were extremely thoughtful in creating different types of workspaces, because everyone works differently. If you want to be around people, there’s a cafe space that mimics a coffee-shop. If you want to be heads-down, there’s a study space that has traditional desks. There’s also a variety of seating types: office chairs, standing desks, benches, bean bags, couches, picnic table (outside!), even a treadmill desk.

 

Enjoying the Cambridge skyline. Gotta love a coworking space with a deck. #100happydays A photo posted by Steph Yiu (@crushgear) on


Also, make sure the staff truly, genuinely cares about the co-working community. The Workbar team does lots of little things I appreciate, like making cold-brew coffee in the summer, having informal after-work happy hours, random karaoke parties, sometimes having a teddy bear do my work for me… They don’t have to do any of this stuff, but it’s all these small interactions that keep me going and make office life fun.

Just remember that with any community, you only get as much as much as you give. It wasn’t until I started going regularly and making an effort to attend Workbar events that I started seeing the value of the co-working space. Simply just dropping in once a week just wasn’t enough.

4. Get out of the house.

Without a commute or a mandatory office, my morning “get out of the house” routine is critical to maintaining my sanity. Every morning I take a full hour to eat breakfast, listen to podcasts, putz around the kitchen, and get dressed. And then Ihave to leave the house to work — whether it’s a walk to a coffee shop or to my co-working space.

I won’t open the laptop before I leave, otherwise I will get sucked in, and the next thing I know it will be 6 p.m. and I haven’t left my apartment or seen anyone else. Don’t get lazy about your “get out of the house” routine — it’s happened to me a few times and I absolutely hated it, and I was drained and bummed at the end of the day. And poor Emily, she had to come home to a stir-crazy roommate.

5. Go offline. I’m serious. 

Working remotely, you’ll quickly start to notice that your entire life will revolve around your laptop. Instead of chit chatting with your colleague at your desk, the conversation will be entirely through direct messages. Instead of brainstorming in a meeting room, it will be through video and text chat. Instead of watercooler chats in the hallway, there will be a Slack channel named watercooler.

The problem with all of this laptop-based communication is that you are quietly living in your head all day long. As an extrovert, not only does this drive me crazy, but it’s exhausting. Processing information over text is so much harder for me than processing a face-to-face conversation. So, in your off-hours, it’s super important to go offline, give your brain a break, and get out of your head. Put your phone away, go out to dinner, go see a show, go see a movie, go to a bar, go be social in an offline kind of way. It’s important for your sanity. And when you go on vacation, leave your laptop behind. Really.

 

Hiking trips are good for the soul. #summerbucketlist

A photo posted by Steph Yiu (@crushgear) on

6. Recognizing non-social cues of affirmation.

Social cues of affirmation are really important to an extrovert. Little things like a smile, nod, laughter, hug, a hello in the hallway, a random joke — all of these cues tell an extrovert that they are accepted into the community and are doing okay.

Those cues don’t exist in a distributed environment, and, depending on how much feedback your colleagues tend to give, there might not be a whole lot of “good job!” messages floating around your chat room. For a long time, I was convinced I was terrible at my job, until I realized that I wasn’t registering cues of affirmation, or positive feedback, because they were being expressed in a way I wasn’t used to. I know it sounds ridiculous, but someone saying “good job!” on text chat didn’t register in my brain as much as someone saying “good job!” to me in person.

Failing to internalize accomplishments can lead to something called “Imposter Syndrome,” a fear that you don’t deserve to be part of the group because you were hired or invited by accident. My colleague Allen blogged about this, and this sentence in his post really stood out to me:

quote

Feeling like you “belong” to an organization or a team of people while working remotely is exceedingly difficult. You don’t get peripheral, contextual workplace chatter that helps you settle in and get to know your co-workers – the hallway conversations, the chit chat about weather, the random “Nice haircut!” comment (online that becomes, “Nice new avatar!”). You also don’t get non-verbal cues of affirmation – eye-contact, a smile, a nod. This is tough for everyone, and it’s even harder if you’re an extrovert who requires that sort of communication to keep you going.

I don’t have an easy answer to this other than to make sure you recognize what you need to feel good about your job and your team, whether it’s more video calls, more travel to see your teammates, or training yourself to adjust to different types of affirmation. Either way, just be sure to keep an eye on how you’re feeling about work and why, because it will help you figure out ways to be successful at your job. That’s actually true for any job, extrovert or introvert, remote or not.

At the end of the day, I love working remotely because there’s an incredible amount of autonomy to tailor a work environment that works specifically for you. That’s a lot harder than simply adapting to a pre-existing office environment, and it requires a lot of trial and error (hey, it’s two years and I’m still working on it). But, in finding a solution that works for you, you’ll learn a ton about what makes you successful. Not only will your productivity skyrocket, but it will make your day-to-day work a heck of a lot more rewarding.

p.s. If you want even more excellent advice on working remotely, check out my colleague Sara’s post on “10 Lessons from 4 Years Working Remotely at Automattic.”

 

About the Author: Steph Yiu leads the support team for WordPress.com VIP. Read the original post and more by Steph at hoppycow.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @crushgear.

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

Local Gifting: Holiday Shopping Guide to Boston & Cambridge

Reality check: there are only 2 weeks left until Christmas, and only 5 days left until Hanukkah starts. If you’re like us, the whole holiday season really snuck up on you. One day we were gorging ourselves on turkey and stuffing, and the next day trees, lights, and trimming were suddenly everywhere. While the temptation to run out, buy everyone on your list a Target gift card and call it a day is real (and hard to resist), don’t give up just yet! There’s no reason you can’t find the perfect thoughtful gift for everyone on your list right here in Boston or Cambridge (supporting local business and innovation in the process!).

Zootility's Pocket Monkey

Zootility’s Pocket Monkey

  1. Zootility Tools- These MassChallenge graduates and current Workbar members make handy,lightweight “multi-tools” that can be carried with you anywhere. The Pocket Monkey has 12 functions all on one millimeter of stainless steel, and it’s TSA compliant to boot. They just released their newest tool, the Headgehog, which can be used as anything from a comb to a wrench to a chip clip. A great gift for the handy minimalist in your life.perfume to the people
  2. Perfume to the People- This Cambridge-based perfumer makes small, custom batch scents with each order, crafting beautiful perfumes and colognes that can’t be found in any store. Every bottle is redolent with a unique blend of florals and spices, and comes artfully presented.  Great for picky lads and ladies with a penchant for standing out in a crowd.

    refleece

    ReFleece iPad sleeves in multiple colors

  3. ReFleece- For those on your list with environmental concerns, an item from ReFleece can’t be beat. This company takes clothing and fabric scraps from partner brands like Patagonia and Woolrich and repurposes them to make iphone, ipad, and kindle cases, as well as zipping travel pouches. Fabric that might otherwise be shredded, melted, or thrown away is given new life, and the company uses sustainable manufacturing processes to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible. ReFleece is also a 2014 MassChallenge winner.

    Peter Pan Poster for sale at Litographs.com

    Peter Pan Poster for sale at Litographs.com

  4. Litographs- These Workbar members make t-shirts, totes, and posters with eye-catching graphics, but that isn’t quite what makes them special. What makes this company’s items unique is that each t-shirt or bag design is printed with text from your favorite classic books. With a wide array of titles like Moby Dick, Siddhartha, Pride & Prejudice, and even the Kama Sutra, you’re sure to find the right title for your literary leaning friends.

    Friendly Faces at Polcari's

    Friendly Faces at Polcari’s

  5. Foodie Frenzy- This suggestion doesn’t involve a specific store or company, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention all the culinary delights our city has to offer. For the foodie in your life, consider a pound or two of legendary coffee from the North End staple Polcari’s Coffee. You may also want to check out Follow the Honey, an all-honey boutique in Cambridge with a focus on fair trade “human rights” honey from around the world. They even have honey on tap, and a wide array of other products with a sweet golden twist.  Last but not least, Taza Chocolate, based out of Somerville, has stone-ground Mexican style chocolaty treats and offers tours of their factory.

If you’re just feeling generally overwhelmed by all the gifts you still have left to buy, take a deep breath, have a quick spiked eggnog, and head to this week’s Startup Stir at Workbar Cambridge. The theme is holiday shopping and eating local, and we’ll have vendors from all around the city gathered in our café to make your holiday shopping just a little easier. You can even (alert: shameless plug) pick up some Workbar gift cards and give your family and friends the gift of coffee and coworking.

Phew. Don’t you feel better now?

Devinsanta

About the Author: Ann Holland is a Space & Community Manager at Workbar. You may also address her as Potroast. Contact her on Twitter @SamuelEnderby and on Instagram at @SamuelEnderby

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

50 on Fire Finalists Bring Innovation to Workbar

50 on Fire – BostInno’s annual awards ceremony to honor and highlight Boston’s “inventors, disruptors, luminaries, and newsmakers” has nominated three Workbar members as finalists this year –  Babson’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, Panos Panay, Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, and Mavrck (formerly Splashscore).

50 on Fire logo

50 on Fire logo courtesy of BostInno

In the same way that each nominee has influenced Boston’s innovation ecosystem on a large scale, each has also helped create a unique program at Workbar, contributing to the evolution of what coworking can mean. Representing three Workbar locations (Boston, Cambridge, and the Workbar Network), we are proud to work with the following three 50 on Fire finalists.

The Babson WIN Lab

Babson WINners hard at work at Workbar Boston

Babson WINners hard at work at Workbar Boston

The Babson WIN Lab, a year-long residency program for Women Entrepreneurs out of Babson College, joined Workbar Boston in September, 2014 for its inaugural year. Led by Sharon Kan, Susan Duffy, and Heatherjean Macneil, along with a panel of strong experts and coaches, the program’s goal is to empower and and support women to build their own successful businesses. Since joining, the WIN Lab has held its weekly classes and hosted 8 events, including panels, lectures, a “speed dating” pitch session, and a culminating product launch demo day at Workbar Boston. The Lab’s 25 female entrepreneurs also have access to Workbar Boston beyond their classes and events, using it as a workspace and off-campus launchpad for their businesses. Some companies founded by the program’s participants (“WINners”) include DARTdrones, Meet Eugene, On the Dot Books, and al FreshCo. See a complete list of winners and their companies HERE.

Panos Panay & the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship

Panos Panay and the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship have also leveraged a relationship with Workbar to challenge traditional ideas of classroom education. Founded by Panos Panay, a Berklee alumnus and founder of Sonicbids, with the help of Ken Zolot, a senior lecturer at MIT’s school of engineering, BerkleeICE’s goals are are to “prepare Berklee graduates for careers as entrepreneurs in the new music business, to foster the creation of new products, services, and businesses driving the changes in the creative industries of tomorrow, and to inspire the advancement of disruptive ideas through the application of musical creativity and cross-discipline collaboration.” In an effort to connect Berklee students with working entrepreneurs and small businesses, the BerkleeICE hosts classes every Monday at Workbar Cambridge. Most classes include a lecture or presentation about creative entrepreneurship – particularly as it applies to the music industry. According to an interview with Panay in BostInno, Panay and Ken Zolot chose Workbar to bring entreprepreneurs within arms reach of their students, and to make the trip to class a little inconvenient – much like an entrepreneur’s journey.

Open to Workbar members and students alike, the institute has already brought several engaging speakers and presenters to Workbar, including the former Creative Director for Nike, the Director of GoogleX, and IDEO’s Managing Director. Though classes happen on Monday nights, the 18 students participating in the program regularly use Workbar as an off-campus workspace and resource for class projects and for building their entrepreneurial ideas throughout the week.

Mavrck

Mavrck (formerly Splashscore), was an original member company at Workbar Cambridge the summer of 2013. After growing, moving to the North End, completing Techstars in November, and rebranding, the influencer marketing startup returned to Workbar as a founding member of WUNDERBAR – Workbar’s Center of Excellence in Adtech hosted at Mullen.

Mavrck works alongside Reactor Media & Viral Gains at WUNDERBAR

Mavrck works alongside Reactor Media & Viral Gains at WUNDERBAR

Mavrck uses its software to identify and activate social media influencers for major brands. Founded by Sean Naegeli, Lyle Stevens, and Chris Wolfel, the company grew its user base 370 percent and increased revenue 1,300 percent in 2014, according to Bostinno. With a mission to challenge the future of the digital marketing industry and traditional display advertising, Mavrck plans to use its time at Mullen to learn from an industry leader, test its platform, and hone its product to better align with the needs of its clients. In the process, the company will help shape the future WUNDERBAR’s programming and Workbar’s Center of Excellence model.

 

The WIN Lab, BerkleeICE, and Mavrck are clear examples of innovators at Workbar who have brought disruptive ideas to leading industries in Boston. Workbar is excited for their inevitable success, and we wish them luck at the 50 on Fire awards on December 4th.

Curious about the other nominees for 50 on Fire? You can read a complete list of finalists on Bostinno’s website. Want to learn more about joining Workbar’s community? Schedule a tour at workbar.com.

 

About the Author: Alexa Lightner is the Director of Community Development at Workbar. Tweet her up at @AlexaLightner.

Subscribe to the Workbar blog for original content on entrepreneurship, the mobile work style and business topics such as management, productivity and team building.  Our goal is to encourage and educate you on how to be a better worker!  Follow Workbar on Twitter and check out our Facebook page.

Guest Post #4: Small Business, Big Brand by Sean McCarthy of Digital Marketing NOW

Small Business, BIG Brand!

By Sean McCarthy, Director of Client Strategy, Digital Marketing NOW

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a little tournament going on in Brazil this month and with it has come some of the most creative (and expensive) advertising on the planet. Whether you call it football, futbol, or soccer, global brands such as McDonald’s and Nike are sparing no expense to put their brands on your television, in the World Cup stadiums, and on billboards around the world. Even emerging brands like Beats by Dre are creating five-minute long mega-commercials with global stars of the sport to grab your attention.

If you’re the owner of a small business, what should be grabbing your attention is their branding. While I’m sure you don’t have the budget of a big brand, that doesn’t mean you can’t act BIG when it comes to the branding of your small business. If I say Nike, I bet a Swoosh just popped into your head. What emotion does Coca-Cola evoke? That’s easy, happiness. And if I asked what Budweiser’s slogan was, I’m sure you’d answer King of Beers. All this greatly influences what people buy, and it comes from years of successful branding.

Here are eight tips for how you can do BIG branding for your small business, just like a mega-brand.

  1. Define Your Brand – Who are you? Most small businesses try to explain too many things in their branding. Think of VISA, “It’s everywhere you want to be.” Simple and let’s people know VISA is reliable, accessible, and can be used anywhere. In fact, they just removed “It’s” from the slogan earlier this year, because it better represents the brand. Define the essence of your brand, as it should inform all of your marketing.
  1. Take a Stand – Consumers connect with brands they can understand and appreciate. If you try to be everything to everyone, your message can and will get lost. Let customers know what you’re great at or what you’re passionate about. For example, Budweiser: they are the King of Beers. Tom’s Shoes are passionate about helping the poor and underprivileged have footwear. Let potential customers know what your brand DNA is all about and let them connect with it.
  1. Be Bold – “Just do it.” In three words Nike connected with every aspect of your life by telling you to be bold and by being bold themselves. Don’t be afraid to make big statements in your branding. If your product can empower consumers, let them know. If your product can save consumers time, let them know. Don’t be afraid to be bold and aggressive in your brand messages.
  1. Pick a Color – Big brands have simple colors and they use them consistently. If I said the name Home Depot, Starbucks, IBM, or General Electric, I’m sure you could tell me their primary brand color. An accent color here and there is fine, but big brands want you to think of one color and identify with it always.
  1. Be Consistent – Whether it’s your brand slogan or the color of your logo, be consistent. The VISA campaign I mentioned earlier has been running since 1985! You can’t reinforce the character of your business if elements of your brand are constantly changing.
  1. Keep It Simple – Caterpillar is one of the largest heavy machinery companies in the world manufacturing massive, expensive, complex construction machines. If you go to their website though, you’re presented with four simple verticals and even a “Need a part” search feature. Big brands don’t overwhelm their customers; they help their customers meet a need. A startup called Buffer began in the bedroom of one of its founders with a simple product offering social media post scheduling and nothing else. Everything the company does has been focused on simplicity. Three years later Buffer had 700,000 monthly blog readers and over 1 million users! Keeping it simple works, whether you’re a large company or a solopreneur.
  1. Promote Your Expertise – Marketing is expensive. Marketing on the level of a global brand is astronomically expensive. However, you don’t need a billion dollar budget to set up a blog; all it takes is time. The software startup KISSmetrics built its blog religiously (without spending money) and took it from zero monthly blog visitors to 350,000 in just a few years! The blog now accounts for 70% of the company’s leads. Consistent blogging can serve multiple functions from sales to customer service resource all while establishing your brand as a thought leader in your industry or area. Whether it’s introducing a new product feature or giving your point of view on the latest industry news, consumers connect with stories and a blog is a great way to tell yours. And it’s free!
  1. Analyze This – Big data, small data, stats, information; whatever you want to call it, big brands spend a lot of time and money analyzing customer data. As a small business, you have neither the time nor the money. But fear not, there are free tools! First, Google Analytics is free and there are very simple reports that can be set up rather quickly to help you understand how customers are interacting with your website. This can help you identify pages with high bounce rates or low time-on-page to improve customer experience and better convey your brand message. Second, another free platform to track data is Sumall.com which allows you to integrate basically all of your web services into one analytics dashboard. From Twitter to AdWords to Ebay, you can see it all in one interface saving time and money while getting a big picture view of how your brand is performing.

Remember, big brands weren’t always that way. So while you can’t afford Ronaldo or Messi for a commercial right now, you can still use many of the same branding tactics these mega-brands use to make your small brand BIG!

To learn more about Digital Marketing NOW, visit http://DigitalMarketingNOW.com.