Clearing the air

If you’re a fan of Mad Men, it’s hard to imagine a midcentury interior without the cloud of cigarette smoke swirling above the heads of those seated on the very stylish furniture. In the 1950’s and 60’s cigarette smoking was considered glamorous and cool. Anybody who was anybody was a smoker. James Dean and Audrey Hepburn, to name just a few. Most everyone was smoking or aspiring to smoke – how many old movies have we seen where kids can’t wait to try smoking, just like their parents?

My parents were young smokers, but quit cold-turkey when my older brother was born and his little lungs had very little tolerance for cigarette smoke. As a child of the 60’s I don’t remember my parents ever smoking. I do, however, remember lots of family gatherings surrounded by a foggy haze of smoke from relatives.

Little by little, it has become clear that smoking is harmful to the body – both for the person smoking and the people around them. Contemporary research and information shows us how damaging and life-shortening cigarette smoking can be.

It’s for that reason that as of January 1, 2018, all Room & Board facilities will be tobacco-free. This will include cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The buildings have been smoke-free environments for years, but this policy will include outside areas, parking lots, alleys, etc.

Yes, it starts in 2018. As I write this it will be pretty much over a year from now that this policy activates. The understanding is that it can take a while to kick a habit that many have had for years, often working through several failed attempts before finding a treatment that sticks. Smoking can be a tenacious monkey on your back.

We also understand that being smoke free benefits not just the staff member but those that love and care about the staff member, at work and at home. It’s important to your quality of life. For this reason Room & Board is offering lots of support like telephonic tobacco cessation counseling, access to state-sponsored programs, doctor prescribed Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products at no cost through our company insurance, and even support for alternative treatments such as hypnosis or acupuncture if traditional treatments aren’t successful.

The good things in life endure – like classic, contemporary midcentury inspired furniture . . . ahem. And those things that we once thought were good and sexy and cool, but now know are harmful, well, those things have had their time. It’s time for a journey forward to a happier, healthier tomorrow.

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Voting, Pets and Other Life Essentials

Voting

Voting is an important civic duty and we encourage all staff members to exercise this right. Although we hope our staff members can find the time before and/or after work to vote, we certainly can make reasonable schedule accommodations for a staff member if they let us know of this scheduling need in advance. Should this be the case, the staff member should reach out to their leadership team.

This is one of the topics under Guidelines and Policies on our intercompany website. It’s listed along with such topics as Bereavement, Jury Duty, and even Relocation Guidelines and Social Media Guidelines.

In writing this blog, I was all set to talk about how ALL U.S. employers are required to allow an employee time to vote and that I appreciate how Room & Board very clearly states it as part of our policy. But with a little bit of Google research, it didn’t take me long to see that that’s not the case at all. A person’s right to take time from work to vote is really decided on a state-by-state basis. Depending on where you live, the answer may be: “of course!” “nope” or “well, it depends” – even during a presidential election.

There are currently 30 states with varying laws regarding employee voting rights and 20 other states with no laws at all. Of the 30 states with laws, 18 of those states have no penalties at all if your employer chooses to deny you time off to vote. Even with laws, some employers may choose to mark any time off needed for voting as unpaid.

With this new understanding, I’m even more thankful for our company policy, no matter what state in which you work. Room & Board believes that “each staff member is afforded the flexibility to balance his or her personal obligations with equal priority to the needs of the business.” Equal priority; I like that.

It’s a relationship that takes responsible commitment from both sides for it to work. Whether it be a sick child or a sick pet, car trouble or a long line at the polls – Room & Board works through each with trust and understanding and prefers to pay individuals for missed time and not reduce one’s pay or request the use of vacation time.

In the coming presidential election I don’t foresee needing to change my schedule in order to cast my very important vote, but if I did, I would trust that my leadership team and my company would be ok with it. It’s a thought that leaves me hopeful for the future – mine and my country’s.

Equality for All

“At Room & Board we believe in equality for all.” This was the leading sentence of a recent company announcement regarding our disappointment of the passage of HB2 in the North Carolina General Assembly. The HB2 law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination and it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. We shared our public statement on the issue with the Governor of North Carolina, the members of the General Assembly as well as our North Carolina upholstery partners, mill partners and others with which we do business. Our hope is that they formulate their own statement to support the repeal of HB2. Our company does that.

At the store level, we’ve also recently changed the designation of our 4th floor bathrooms so that both are gender neutral. Our customers deserve that.

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A few weekends ago, we celebrated Pride here in D.C. The annual Saturday Pride parade ends just two blocks from our store and we traditionally set up big tubs of bottled water on the front sidewalk to pass out cold water to passersby. You can’t imagine the goodwill created by giving a free bottle of cold water to someone on a usually hot and humid day. The sign on the table states: “Room & Board Shares Your PRIDE.” We want to be part of that.

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That same weekend, we also heard the news of the terrible shooting in Orlando. This senseless act deeply affected our staff for many days and continues to sit with us. As with other retailers on our street, we have kept the Pride flag in our window in memory of those killed and in solidarity with our local LGBTQ community. We want to do that.

I don’t think that all retailers would take these actions, but Room & Board does. And we do it proactively because we believe in “equality for all”. It’s not a marketing plan or a PR opportunity. It’s something that we believe in from our corporate office to our store locations and I’m very proud of that.

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Today . . .

Today, I met a man who was raised in Ireland and received his degree in architecture there, but has recently moved here to D.C. to get married. He’s in his late 50’s and has decided to start his own furniture company by utilizing skills he developed at University in fine woodworking and cabinet making.

Today, I talked with a woman who works around the corner. She’s the Development Manager for a local non-profit that helps certify teachers wanting to work in Washington D.C.’s school district. She invited me to their open house tomorrow.

Today, I met a woman who has a house in Palm Springs and wrote a book about her house and the architect that built it. At 91, he had a lot of input in the book.

Today, I worked with a man who is getting married to his partner in May. It’s a country wedding and he’s thinking of getting fake unicorn horns to strap to the horses in the field next to where the ceremony is being held – just to add a little more magic and whimsy to the occasion.

And all of this happened while working on the 4th floor of the showroom. You never know what a day at Room & Board will bring you . . . or what the next day holds.

Always a Kid at Heart

LegoEvent

As Brand Liaison, I’ve written other blogs about meaningful events here in our Washington DC Store. We are host to such a wide range of organizations and projects that there’s always something interesting to experience or learn.

For some reason, I’m usually scheduled off for our Kids events. It’s not that I don’t like kids – I taught elementary music for several years – but my schedule just never really coincided with the Kids events.

That all changed on a wintry Saturday morning in February…

That Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves was confirmed in the same week that Room & Board successfully hosted over 275 parents and kids for the Lego Man event is not happenstance; both are monumental moments in history.

On a snowy, windy, sunny and sometimes calm Saturday morning, Room & Board’s third floor was bustling with activity as multitudes of kids played in piles (and piles!) of Legos and parents sipped complimentary coffee and relaxed on the new 2016 collection pieces.

Many parents thought the event was purely a community outreach event because the service we provided parents that morning was so great. With a warm room, complimentary beverages, free engaging activities and comfortable seating it isn’t hard to understand why. One mom was even able to take a short nap on our Delia Chaise while waiting for her two boys to complete the group Lego project of a huge red heart. Some dads were even more engaged – and building bigger projects – than their kids.

Other parents used their thoroughly engaged kids as an opportunity to shop for furniture. Stating they rarely get this kind of time in a furniture store to shop, parents asked Room & Board staff many questions about product and availability.

It was a great event that spoke to Room & Board’s core belief that promotional events should be meaningful, engaging and echo the best of Room & Board.

Pallas Blog, Reblog

Pallas

As Brand Liaison I work with developers to create model units that showcase our product in their spaces (see my 05/15/15 post, A Model’s Life). It’s a very enjoyable part of my job in that every project is different, with different requirements.

We’ve recently installed two units at a development called Pallas in North Bethesda, MD. It’s a great location with an urban vibe in what’s usually considered a more suburban area near DC. As part of this installation, I was asked to write a blog about our design concepts and why we chose what we did for the units.

While this could seem daunting – to write a blog for publication on a well-visited website – I realized that my experience writing for the Room & Board Design Associate blog, this blog, has given me experience in doing just that…..writing blogs for publication on a well-visited website!

I think that’s the fun part about your experiences at Room & Board; you start by doing the things that interest you and often later find that they’ve given you experience and expertise in an area that you never really thought would be part of your job description. I think that’s a great way to grow professionally.

With Room & Board, I’ve now written over a dozen blogs and have a body of work that expresses my point of view and writing style. Pretty cool I think.

Now without further ado, here’s a link to my original blog for Pallas. As far as blogs go, I think it turned out well.

It’s All Part of the Process

So I moved recently.

“I love moving!” said no one ever. Moving pulls at all those comfort zones that you think you have down pat. Yes, you’re a neat and tidy person, but why are you keeping the twisty ties from every loaf of bread you’ve ever bought? Sure that book was a best seller, but if you can’t get through the first two chapters do you really need to keep it? And do you really need to keep that faded bloom from a special someone? I mean, it’s dusty and half the petals are falling off.

I once read that if you’re deciding to keep or not keep something, you should hold it in your hand and ask the question, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is “no,” it needs to go.

I’ve done a lot of this recently. There are things that, at one time, I thought were very important to me, but that I am now able to part with. There are other things that, when I look at them and hold them, I hear a resounding, “Keep Me!” in my head.

Through this process I’ve found that one of my favorite pieces is the Devin Media Cabinet. The Devin was one of the first pieces I purchased after I started with Room & Board. It’s in walnut with glass doors and its clean lines – well, they make me happy. They bring me joy. And although I’ve been in the home furnishings retail business for over a dozen years, it was one of the first new “good” pieces of furniture I’ve ever purchased. I want to take care of it. I even went so far as to tell the moving team that this was my favorite piece and to be extra careful with it.

That admiration for our furniture, my furniture in particular, gives me confidence to specify our product every day. I know that it’s well made and that, with care, will serve our customers well for many years. We hold ourselves and our vendors to high standards. Our ability to stand behind our furniture and all our products runs to the core of our business. It helps make us successful. It brings us satisfaction. You might even say it brings us joy.

Oh, and that faded bloom? I’m going to go ahead and keep it for now.