Holiday Season Office Gift Ideas

The holiday season is upon us and in all the hustle and bustle comes the challenge of what to get the CPA technologist in your office and in your life. While food and ugly sweaters are always appreciated, what the true technologist wants are items that make their work and lives easier. We have perused a multitude of sites to complete our Christmas shopping and are sharing our favorite tech ideas that will make your office a better place to be in 2017. So fire up that browser and pull out that credit card!

Google Pixel Phone: While there’s a significant number of accountants using Apple’s iPhone and the current 7 and 7 Plus are worthy of upgrading from your older unit, Apple’s technical advantages are not as distinct a choice as in the past. Before you pull the trigger on a getting a new iPhone, it’s worth doing a comparison with Google’s latest smartphone, the Pixel. Comparing the units side by side, you will see Pixel’s AMOLED 5” (1920x1080) screen is sharper than the iPhone 7’s 4.7” (1334x750) Retina Display. The Pixel also has a longer battery life and charges noticeably faster, which are some of shortfalls admitted to by iPhone owners. Pundits have also touted the Pixel’s camera to be the best ever built into any smartphone, outpacing all of Apple’s and Samsung’s phones. Google has also transitioned the Pixel to the USB Type-C charging port whereas the iPhone has pulled out the audio jack and replaced it with a lighting port in their latest model (which means buying more adapters). Google’s voice-activated Assistant is built upon Google’s artificial intelligence platform and already viewed as being more advanced than Apple’s Siri. To be fair to Apple owners, the iPhone 7 is 4% smaller and lighter, has an IP67 waterproof rating, and your iPhone users are already trained on using the operating system (instead of the Pixels Nougat OS) so the upgrade from one iPhone to another will usually be easier. (Apple iPhone 7-$649, Google Pixel-$649).

Bose Quiet Comfort 35: For the road warrior that spends too much time on airplanes, you may rely on a Bose Quiet Comfort noise cancelling headset to drown out aircraft engine noise and/or listen to movies/music. If you need serenity in your office, Bose’s latest QC35 model has a wireless Bluetooth option which allows you to move more freely around the office than their previous wired units. When you have to head out of the office for CPE, the QC35 folds up into a surprisingly small travel case. Bose headsets are also one of the most comfortable. The QC35 comes with a rechargeable battery rated at 20 hours. If you are looking for streamlined earbuds more suitable for sports (and a streamlined budget), the Pioneer SE-E721s come in a variety of colors and can hang on through the toughest workouts. (Bose QC35-$349, Pioneer SE-E721-$55).

Amazon Echo Speaker: Listen to music in your office? Amazon’s voice activated speaker is an “always on” personal assistant powered by their Alexa artificial intelligence that connects to their servers via WiFi. The Echo lets you not only listen to music (Amazon Music Unlimited-$4/month or Spotify) but you can ask it to add a task to a list, check weather, traffic, and create reminders before you head home for the day. If you have other smart devices (IoT light, display) you can also have Alexa turn them on and off with voice commands. And for those of you that already have a Bluetooth speaker, Amazon’s Dot version has all of Echo’s capabilities and can connect to your speaker for a fraction of the Echo’s cost. (Amazon Echo $179, Amazon Dot-$50).

Standing Desks: Studies done by the Mayo clinic have pointed out the long term health risks of sitting too much, which is an unfortunate reality for most CPAs in the office. However, these risks can be countered by standing up and moving for periods throughout the day which is where standing desks such as VariDesk and EvoDesk come in. VariDesk makes a variety of models that sit directly upon your existing desk and are spring-loaded so you can move to/from a standing position in a few seconds. VariDesk units come completely pre-assembled and the Pro Plus 48” model can easily hold dual oversize monitors, external speakers, a headset, and laptop or keyboard. If your firm is looking to replace existing desks, the electronic adjustable models from EvoDesk move to a pre-determined height with the touch of a button. (VariDesk Pro Plus 48-$349, EvoDesk-$599).

Piper Surveillance Camera: Ever want to monitor what goes on in your office or server room when you are away? The latest generation of surveillance cameras have motion and sound detection to notify you on your smartphone if there is any activity in the room. The camera can transmit full high definition 180 degree video that you can pan and tilt from your mobile device so you can see what is going on (even in the dark). IControl’s Piper camera also has two way communications so you can talk with the person and a 105dB siren if you use it as an alarm. If placed in your server room, the Piper can also track temperature and humidity, as well as local weather conditions which could eventually impact your network. For a more mobile video unit the Ring Stick Up is a wireless HD camera that you can setup outdoors as long as it’s within range of a Wifi signal. (iControl Networks Piper nv-$245, Ring Stick Up-$199).

Energy Pod: Power nappers unite! Studies have shown that taking a 20 minute power nap can improve your concentration by 34% which could help you get through those long busy season afternoons. If you have serious funds to splurge this holiday season then the ultimate nap machine is the MetroNap Energy Pod. This zero-gravity chair with privacy dome puts you in the perfect resting position with music and a pre-programmed alarm to optimize every second of your nap. Wake to a gentle vibration and slowly brightening light, so you are refreshed and ready to get back to those tax returns. For those of you on a budget, you can still catch 20 winks on your desk with the Usuno Ostrich Pillow. (MetroNap Energy Pod-$8,000, Usuno Ostrich Pillow $15).

The holiday season provides most CPAs with a brief repose before cranking up the gears for the upcoming busy season. Evaluating technology solutions to improve your productivity will give you a break from standard office tasks and can make for a better 2017 for everyone in the firm!

Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA, LSS BB is the Director of Consulting for Xcentric, LLC and works exclusively with CPA firms to implement today’s leading best practices and technologies incorporating Lean Six Sigma methodologies to optimize firm production workflows. Roman is also the author of the 2016 Edition of “Quantum of Paperless: A Partner’s Guide to Accounting Firm Optimization” which is available to PCPS members.