productivity

Manage Your Work Life Balance and Avoid Burnout

Internally at designDATA, we have been focused on staying connected and checking on each other.  Many times, we have heard staff say, “What day is it?” or “I feel like I work past 5 pm more often now than before.”  Are we showing greater loyalty by sending emails after 6 pm on a Friday because we work from home?  This is an interesting topic and can apply to most of us in this remote work environment.  The Harvard Business Review published some tips about this topic in the article, Avoid Burnout.  It’s important to manage your work-life balance, develop routines, and set boundaries.  It has been a challenge for all of us to some degree.

At designDATA, we share calendars to help with meeting scheduling and work management.  A new modification across the company is the use of unified colored categories in our Outlook calendars to categorize blocks of time.  As an example, block the time, “personal”(grey),  to remember to check on the kids who should be in Distance Learning, not playing FortNite.  Perhaps, you are scheduling team huddles or check-ins, use a specific color so at quick glance you could quantify how many reoccurring meetings you have for the week.  This tip should help avoid burnout and increase productivity with some planning and effort.  Plan your balance and set your boundaries.

4 Ways to Have a Better Home Office

When we started this work-at-home journey, we were in unchartered territory.  Each week finding more efficient ways to boost your work productivity while balancing everything else.  We imagine that many stationed their computer in a common area of their home that made sense at the time. However, like many of us at designDATA, it’s time to “Change Things Up”.  Perhaps you have realized you need a desk monitor instead of that smaller laptop screen or your kitchen chair isn’t as ergonomic as first thought. This article in Association Now, Better Home Office, may help to improve productiveness. For other tips and tricks to improve productivity please see past articles by designDATA. Below are 4 that many have said helped so far:

  1. Taking Meeting Notes in Microsoft Teams
  2. E-Sign Solutions
  3. Using your iPad as a second display for your PC.
  4. Teams on Your Phone or Tablet

Increase Productivity With macOS

Series One

Screen Sharing
Did you know that every Mac has a built-in screen-sharing function for Mac to Mac? It comes with the operating system. It’s a hidden feature so you will have to use Spotlight to find it.
Simply press Command + Space Bar to bring up the Spotlight search function.

It will look like this:

Select Screen Sharing and a box will come up that looks like this:

From here, you can put your AppleID, the person you’re trying to connect to’s AppleID or if you know the IP address, input the IP where it says Connect To.
And gets better: the Mac uses your iSight camera’s microphone to provide your audio to the recipient.
Picture-in-Picture
For those times that you need to work on that PowerPoint for that upcoming meeting but also need to watch the Webinar that’s starting in five minutes. Meet Picture-in-Picture!
Picture-in-Picture is a feature embedded in macOS that allows you to multitask with your work in one window while a floating, adjustable, sizable window appears to hover above your current work. And when you’re done, you just snap the window back in! It’s as simple as a click!

To activate, just double right-click over the video you want to pop-out. Select Picture-in-Picture.

As you can see here, the YouTube video has popped out and is now a floating adjustable window that hovers above while a Word document is in progress. To end the session, simply click the x in the corner.
Requirements: macOS Sierra and later

Top reasons for technology business reviews

Businesses need technology to be profitable and productive. But not all technologies are capable of delivering on their perceived benefits. To make sure your investments are worth keeping, you need to perform technology business reviews.

A technology business review reveals the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s IT framework. It’s often performed by a third-party IT consultant who will give an objective assessment of your technology and provide recommendations to help you meet your goals. If done properly, technology business reviews allow you to:

Save money

Every review starts with a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether an implemented solution is worth the continued investment. If there are technologies costing you a fortune in management and maintenance fees, consultants will advise you to cut them from your budget. The best ones will recommend cost-effective alternatives so you can do more with less.

Increase productivity

System-wide reviews of your IT infrastructure show you what processes are hindering business operations. This allows you to formulate solutions to increase productivity. For example, if employees are mainly sharing files via email, consultants might suggest cloud collaboration platforms, like Office 365 or G Suite, that store data in a centralized location for seamless file sharing.

Enhance security and compliance

Technology business reviews can also uncover security risks within your business. Consultants look for missed patches, poorly configured networks, and other software vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals.

They’ll then compile their findings to create a more robust cybersecurity strategy, usually, one that involves implementing advanced solutions like intrusion prevention systems (IPS), file access restrictions, and patch management software.

If you operate a business that’s subjected to data regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), consultants will also pinpoint IT practices and solutions that are noncompliant and customize a strategy that ensures the privacy, integrity, and availability of your data.

Implement technologies that fit

Considering that new technologies are released at a breakneck pace, it’s important to pick those that will help you achieve your business goals. Technology business reviews keep you up to date on the latest technology trends and gauge the impact of implementing them so that you can make informed decisions.

Whether your goal is to increase profits, productivity, security, or all of the above, technology business reviews can put you on the right track. Our seasoned IT consultants can conduct these reviews for you and develop a strategy that gives you an edge over the competition. Just give us a call.

4 ways to boost staff efficiency

Technology enables businesses to work remotely, collaborate more efficiently, and manage their time more effectively. But to achieve these benefits, you need to implement technologies that align with your business’s needs. Here are some things to consider.

Change office communication

To increase efficiency, set up instant messaging software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This allows employees to communicate anytime, anywhere instead of having to get up from their desks to see whether the person is available.

Of course, if you need to discuss big projects or issues, face-to-face communication is likely the best choice. But you can simply send a quick message for more trivial conversations, saving precious minutes and allowing you to get more work done.

Install video conferencing

Traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions takes time. Rather than commuting for hours outside your office, opt for a networked phone solution that offers video calls and conferencing. This way, you can hold a video conference to discuss business matters from the comfort and convenience of your office. You can also take things up a notch and equip the conference room with tools to pull up documents and have them displayed on a big screen so that everyone in the meeting can follow the conversation with ease.

Upgrade workstations

Outdated technologies and workstations limit your business’s progress and are a hindrance to developing clued-up, efficient employees. Aging systems and slow networks can frustrate your team and bring productivity to a standstill. That’s why it’s important to take the time to assess your current workstations, applications, hardware, and tools. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a set of entirely new workstations. But you should replace obsolete equipment with more up-to-date machines. In addition, make sure all software and applications are up-to-date to ensure maximum efficiency and employee satisfaction.

Implement ERP software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a business process management software that allows organizations to automate processes and centralize data in order for employees to collaborate more efficiently. ERP software provides employees with up-to-date business information that they can easily access and use. What’s more, ERP also eliminates redundant data entry and reduces the number of spreadsheets that are used to record critical business data, by storing information in a centralized database.

To get the maximum return on your technology investment, it’s also important to partner with a knowledgeable and reliable service provider. Get in touch with our tech experts today to find out how we can implement technology to help your employees become more efficient and productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Monitoring employees online: Is it right?

The choice to monitor your employees’ computers or not is a tricky one. While part of you may think it’s unethical, it could end up saving you hours of lost productivity or preventing a data breach. Here are some pros and cons of employee monitoring, and some tips to handle it fairly if you decide it’s right for your business.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices is a good idea. Doing so can help you:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm – because careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment-free workplace – because cyberharassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies – such as not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit – heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities using your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of who was involved.

The sad fact of the matter is that many business owners who begin monitoring their employees often end up discovering that their staff members aren’t focused solely on the company’s success.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:

  • Productivity loss – monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and you may see the distrust lead to productivity losses.
  • Lost privacy and lawsuits – you’ll likely learn personal details of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you decide to monitor your employees, ask yourself: Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees aren’t wasting time on social media? If your monitoring policies are too strict, you could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could face legal issues. By being transparent and open, you may actually see a boost in productivity by deterring employees from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools
You don’t need to know every little employee activity, so look for apps and software that alert you of the most relevant problems so you can focus on more important tasks.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Gear up your network equipment with UPS

During a power outage, responsible business owners use emergency power to keep desktop computers from unexpectedly shutting down. While that’s certainly a good strategy for keeping machines operational and preventing data loss, there’s something else you can do to ensure that your staff remains productive while weathering a storm: uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for networking equipment.

UPS for network equipment

UPS systems provide backup power in case of outages and protect against power surges, which don’t just damage computers but also make you lose unsaved work. Deploying them for Wi-Fi routers and modems allows you to stay connected to the internet in what is typically a chaotic time.

Moreover, it makes sense to not just keep your PCs powered up, but to also have internet access during a disaster. This strategy works relatively well if your staff are predominantly laptop users, as that means you only need to juice up your Wi-Fi gear.

Better than generators

Although generators are indispensable for certain businesses, they also require greater upkeep. Small- and mid-sized businesses may not have enough capacity to maintain them because they typically require a utility crew who can manage high-maintenance equipment.

What’s more, extreme mishaps when misused or mishandled could result in generator-related fatalities. On the other hand, misusing a UPS unit could result in the loss of a day’s work, but it’s unlikely to lead to anything as extreme.

Why internet access is important during a disaster

UPS-supported modems or routers help you stay online for as much as 90 minutes, which should be enough time to get your bearings before power finally runs out. Internet service providers are usually prepared for catastrophes and would normally have an emergency power source to stay operational. And if you can stay online via Wi-Fi during an emergency, you get the following benefits:

  • Internet speed that’s faster than cellular access
  • No extra telecom costs resulting from overreliance on cellular data
  • All devices stay online using a stable Wi-Fi connection
  • Devices don’t have to rely on cellular data-equipped phones for internet connection

Plug in your network gear now

Businesses that aren’t located in disaster-prone areas probably don’t give much thought to installing UPSs for their computers, let alone their modems. But accidents and emergencies are inevitable. And when they happen, you’ll find that having internet access is one of the most important things you need to ensure business continuity.

Think of an emergency power supply source like a UPS as an investment that not just protects your systems from data loss but also keeps your Wi-Fi equipment functioning in emergency scenarios. Call us today for productivity-saving tips and other hardware hacks for your business.