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Shifting Your Workplace – What have we learned so far?

In our latest series of blogs, we’ve talked about how the Covid-19 pandemic provided us with an ideal opportunity for shifting the workforce. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned! 

Back to work supplies 

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we run our businesses. There have been some advances that perhaps wouldn’t have happened for decades without it, if at all. IT equipment and software is the first thing that springs to mind when we think of advancements in the workspace. Thanks to the need for remote working, we’ve now got a whole host of collaborative conference room technology to help us in this new working world. Conference room webcams, interactive whiteboards, and noise-canceling headsets are all things that have developed in the last year or so. For businesses returning to the office or a hybrid working scenario, these items are now necessities. 

It’s not just technology that employers are considering. Many employees have relished the chance to work from home in comfort, so many employers are now attempting to mimic the home environment with soft furnishings, plants, and refreshments. Also, relaxing the dress codes is a great way to shift the workforce back to the office. After all, it’s likely that employees have been just as productive in their sweats and t-shirts. 

Overcoming workplace distractions 

Our second blog in the series focused on avoiding distractions in the workplace. Whether an employee works remotely, in the office, or a mixture of the two, they will likely experience many distractions. There are ways employers can prevent workplace distractions, and it’s a great idea to look at working environments. Are they clutter-free, organized, and quiet? If not, employers have lots of ways they can make them so. Providing employees with noise-canceling headsets is a good idea for both the office worker and the remote worker.  

Distractions online can also be a problem. There are many programs now that block these popular sites during working hours. However, one vital step is to ensure that there is mutual trust and respect with colleagues. Never underestimate the power of a strong working relationship. 

Workplace culture reboot 

The post-Covid-19 return to the office provides the ideal opportunity for employers to shift their workforce towards a culture reboot. It’s a great time to introduce new concepts and practices and engrain them into the day-to-day life of the business. Our third blog post in the series looked at what employers might consider about their company culture and the importance of creating a positive workspace. Some ideas included having a healthy snack bar, incorporating daily team huddles, investing in team building, and empowering the staff. 

Final thoughts 

While there have been so many negatives over the past months, having something positive to focus on, like shifting your workforce culture, can do wonders for your business and employees alike. We hope you try to make things more positive for everyone.  

We hope these tips are helping you run your office more efficiently. And, as always, if there is ever anything you need help with, contact us, and let’s discuss some solutions. We’re here to help. 

With the many changes that have occurred since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent crisis, employers are facing crucial decisions on how to shift their workforce into a new workplace culture reboot. This is the ideal time for looking at what we’ve learned over the past year. It’s an opportunity to focus on inclusion and diversity, and to create a positive workspace.

Creating a positive workspace with a cultural reboot

When talking about an organization, we often think of the company ‘culture’ as the ways in which things are done. The culture embodies the company’s values, vision, habits and norms that drive workers’ behaviour during their daily tasks. Lots of work habits have shifted since the first quarter of 2020. Some companies have now made a great workplace culture reboot. As we all move towards a new definition of what constitutes a workplace – office and home – it’s the perfect opportunity to look at what employees need to get their jobs done.

Workplace culture reboot element considerations

When you make the decision to reset your company culture, there are many things you can consider:

Organizational purpose and strategy – re-confirm your company’s vision and mission post-Covid-19. Is there anything that needs to change? Do the behaviours and values pre-pandemic still serve their purpose or do they need adjusting?

Behaviours and values – what do you want your working environment to look like? How will you measure and define it? Is there anything that needs to be changed in this new environment and time?

Core systems and processes – with remote working, how have your processes and operations changed? Are there any systems or structures that can be improved to help embrace the differences between employees? How could your financial, operational and HR procedures be adjusted to meet your employees’ needs better? Is there a need for greater flexibility in working hours or places?

Recognition and motivation – Have you learned anything about the motivation and needs of your employees since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic? How can employees’ needs be dealt with by managers and supervisors to open a relationship built on trust? 

Employee input and engagement – how can your employees provide input into your company operations? Are there adequate ways they can give feedback? Recently, The Grossman Group ran a survey that found almost half of people who are working from home want to continue doing so after the pandemic. Not all people enjoy remote working, though, and many seek a flexible working arrangement. Being flexible can help employees be more engaged and committed in their work.

Cultural resilience – when deciding on a reboot, think about how much resilience you can build into the team. A more resilient team will be able to adapt easily whenever changes arise. According to a report by Gallup, to be resilient when the going gets tough, businesses need to make sure their employees have everything they need to work as best they can. It’s also vital to show them how their work is part of the bigger picture.

Simple ways of creating a positive workplace

As well as looking at the wider organizational structures and processes, there are some really simple ways of creating a positive workplace for a cultural reboot. Here are some ideas:

Have a healthy snack bar – Many people have suffered from their eating habits during the Covid-19 pandemic and are keen to get back on track. Having a healthy snack bar will not only be appreciated by colleagues but will mean they are ready to tackle their work with adequate nutrition behind them.

Team huddles – having a short morning meeting that is no longer than 15 minutes is a great way of starting the day. It’s simple and repetitive and gets people motivated and on task ready to start their day.

Team building – when your teams have a great relationship, everything else will fall into place. Consider investing in team-building sessions to ensure there are positive working relationships with team members of all levels. When you get on with people and respect them, you’re more likely to work harder!

Staff empowerment – employees will work better with less micromanagement. Hand tasks and responsibilities over and see how they turn out! Another way to empower staff is to give them the opportunity to contribute. Creating an open forum for suggestions is a great way of ensuring employees feel heard. 

Use lunch & learns – these are perfect opportunities for voluntary, informal conversations and learning opportunities amongst employees. They bring people together in a casual, low-stakes way.

Company-wide games – don’t forget to have fun! Create a positive workplace by having regularly scheduled company-wide games or quizzes.

Whatever the reasons behind your cultural reboot, the post-Covid-19 pandemic return to work is the ideal opportunity to embrace new practices. If you have any questions about getting a workplace culture reboot, contact us today. We are here to help. 

We’ve all seen movies where a couple of thugs in trench coats walk into a store, take a look around and say something like, “Nice place you got here, shame if something were to happen to it.” Many people might think the days of extortion went away with the end of mob-run New York and Chicago, but it’s still alive and well on the internet — in the form of ransomware.

To make things worse, as the world has been buckling down with the COVID-19 pandemic, hackers have been working overtime to take advantage of lax cybersecurity. But before we get into how to protect your company from ransomware threats, let’s see how we got here.

 

Understanding the Problem

For those unaware, ransomware is a form of computer virus that allows a hacker to enter your system and lock you out of every file and program you use. Then, out of the goodness of their hearts, the hackers give you two options: pay them a set amount of money or lose access to everything forever.

Ransomware has been around for decades (and we’ve written many blogs on the topic) but it has proliferated exponentially in recent years. The main reason for this is because it works. Merely stealing your information and then selling it can make them money, but not nearly as much as ransoming that same information to its rightful owner.

Over the course of just a few months (Q4 of 2019 to Q1 of 2020), Forbes magazine stated that overall attacks rose by 25%. Why such a rise? Well, it could have something to do with payouts also rising by 33% within that same timeframe. With that kind of increase, it’s no wonder why hacking is a growing industry.

 

Ransomware in the Age of Covid-19

When the pandemic started, many people began working from home. For many of us, working from home presents no problems at all, but for others, it creates a whole list of issues that won’t be resolved until their whole department can be back in the office.

This has especially been the case with IT departments. While it’s true that they can do a lot of their work remotely, sometimes they just need to be in the server room to do their job. And don’t think for a minute that hackers don’t know that.

With so many fractured IT departments out there, businesses have been getting swarmed with attacks. For example, the city of Florence, Alabama was attacked just a few weeks ago and said that paying the $300,000 demand was better than having its citizen’s information exposed and for sale.

Even more recently, Honda was attacked by a cybercriminal that actually ended up shutting down production. Ransomware is getting more dangerous by the day.

 

The New Frontier

The recent pandemic has taught us that we don’t need as many people in the office or even at the factory as we thought we did. Work can be done via automation or with remote workers and keep the business running. That means that our businesses can become even more efficient than ever before. It also means that if a hacker were to get into your system, the damage can be even more devastating.

With the way businesses are depending more and more on technology, your entire business can grind to a halt from a single bad decision someone took when opening the wrong email.

 

Lighting Can Strike Twice

Imagine your company has been a victim of a ransomware attack and the crisis passes. Perhaps you paid the hacker or were able to gain access to your system again some other way. Now imagine that life has gone back to normal until one day the unthinkable happens: you get hacked again with a ransomware demand.

Sadly, this is not a one-off situation. In fact, not only can this happen to a single business, but it can happen to multiple parts of an organization. One of the most famous examples of this is when a single school is hacked, then multiple other schools in the same district get hit with the same ransomware, one by one.

The reason this is somewhat common in the tech world is that organizations can have similar (or identical!) safety protocols across the board. It’s a lot less work for a hacker to work this way than to go search out other targets every time they want a hit. However, we all know one of the biggest reasons we’re unprepared is because we all think it can’t happen to us. The harsh reality is that’s what all the businesses who were hit thought too.

 

What Can You Do?

While it’s true that hackers are getting more sophisticated every day, the majority of their attacks are opportunistic. Hackers take the path of least resistance, so if they can enter your system by Carol in accounting falling for a phishing scam, or if your IT department did not update their protocols after a previous attack, they’ll take that route.

That’s where we come into play. By dealing with a company to work on your behalf, you don’t need to worry every time someone logs into your system. And why should you waste all that time? Any effort you put into protecting your system is effort that could have been spent growing your business. By having us go over your current system and helping you implement a better one, you stand a much better chance when the internet goons come for your data.

The current state of business is morphing into something we haven’t seen before. New ideas and procedures are being created every day to keep businesses running and to address these new challenges.

A recent modern convenience is telemedicine. While it’s been around in a limited form for a while, current circumstances have given it a major boost in both interest and development. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how telemedicine works as well as the challenges it can bring to medical practices hoping to take advantage of this new frontier in medicine.

As a Managed Service Provider, we have seen that the current pandemic and quarantine have not only forced a lot of employees to work remotely, it has caused many businesses to meet with people remotely. We have been assisting all types of businesses turn this emergency situation into a better way of doing business.

A House Call Anywhere in the World

While it’s almost always best to see a physician in person, there are a large number of common conditions that generally can be diagnosed remotely. No, we’re not talking about an online symptom checker, but an actual living, breathing doctor who will see the patient via a video call.

These sorts of services would allow the physician to talk directly to the patient, and would then explain how they feel. If the symptoms don’t appear to be anything needing additional testing, the doctor could then make a diagnosis and begin a treatment plan, which might include sending prescriptions to a local pharmacy to be picked up by the patient. If the patient requires additional testing, a referral can be made.

Examples of conditions that are easily diagnosed via telemedicine include:

 

Benefits of Telemedicine

One of the biggest benefits of remote doctor visits is that the patient can get better without getting worse. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are, by their very nature, full of sick people. The more often we go to these places, the more likely we are to catch something, compared to staying at home, that is. Telemedicine is the definition of social distancing.

This particular benefit has become huge this year since many people hope to stay far away from groups of sick people due to fears of COVID-19 — and for a good reason! Not only is this true for patients, but for the people who work the offices, including the physicians. A recent article in The Guardian stated that around 20% of all COVID-19 patients got infected while in a hospital. With many people considering it unsafe to go into the office, it makes sense that they would much rather telecommute to talk to a doctor for the sniffles.

Additionally, everyone involved saves money. For the patient, they don’t have to worry about transportation or taking time off work. The physician doesn’t have to worry about having a large medical space with a large staff, which may result in them charging less for their services to the patient or insurance company. If the insurance company is charged less, they can (hopefully) keep their premiums at reasonable levels. It works out best in everyone’s favor.

 

Challenges of Telemedicine

Even though telemedicine tends to work out so well for everyone involved, it doesn’t mean the technology and processes needed to set up and maintain this service are automatic. For instance, not everyone owns a computer, especially for older or lower-income patients. Even for those who do have access to a computer, internet access can still be a challenge since telemedicine requires a highspeed internet connection in order to have stable communication.

Beyond the patient’s end, physician’s needs quite a bit of technology to make sure everything runs smoothly. Some might think this would just involve a doctor hopping on Skype or Zoom and having a chat with their patients. However, there are many factors to take into consideration. For example, will this be taking place in a medical office or home office? Will multiple physicians be working together at the same time or just one? Will this be something done for a few hours every week or will you be routinely communicating with your patients remotely? Do you need to share your screen to show test results or x-rays? How are you ensuring that HIPPA standards are being met?

Depending on how you answer these and other important questions, your hardware and software needs will be drastically different.

 

The Way to Success

Thankfully, if you’re planning on starting or improving a telemedicine operation, you won’t be the first. What most physicians have found is that it’s best to leave the technical aspect to the experts so they can focus on what’s most important: their patients.

One of the best ways to do this is to contact us right from the beginning. By doing this, there’s no guesswork as to what hardware and software are needed, plus any maintenance and upgrades are routinely cared for. Even the scary parts, like HIPPA compliance, are taken care of so your patients’ privacy is secure and you can sleep well at night.

If you currently have a telemedicine operation or are considering starting one, be sure to contact us sooner rather than later. We will go over your needs as well as give you multiple options to make sure the solution you choose is best for you. By bringing us in to do our job, we’ll give you lots of time for you to focus on your job. And right now, the world really needs you.

In last week’s blog, Can VoIP Help Your Business, we took a look at the pros, cons, and the ease of VoIP installation, and concluded that, yes, most likely it can help your business. Today we’ll do a deeper dive into the benefits you will see by switching to a VoIP Phone System.

We can’t, however, talk about the current popularity VoIP is having without bringing up COVID-19 and the restrictions it has caused across the country. Due to the pandemic’s quarantine, many employees from all kinds of businesses were directed to work from home, if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs, that is. This sudden crisis caused businesses to scramble and create new ways for those employees to communicate with their managers and clients. At first business owners were skeptical about this arrangement. Up until now, it has always been easy to monitor the work of employees, but how can we know what they’re doing if they are working remotely?

Suddenly webcams flew off the shelves and many suppliers ran out completely. Laptops were also being scooped up, and new cellular contracts were signed so employees would have ways to stay in touch with their office. It’s the cell phones that bother us. As you know all too well, the average cost of a cellular contract is between $40 and $80 dollars per month. More usually, with hidden fees and penalties if you use too much data. And who hasn’t done that?

On top of those costs, you have to buy the phone! Sure, sometimes they’ll throw in the phone, but, if not, you’re looking at $600 to $1,000 for each phone. Possibly more if you’re investing in something suitable for work. This is where a lot of businesses were hit hard in the pocketbooks. And, unnecessarily so, if you ask us. There’s got to be a better way!

And there is! Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons VoIP is such a hot topic right now:

Easy Installation

IP phones are virtually plug-and-play. There is no need to run separate phone lines – your VoIP phone connects to the same network cable your PC runs on. Or, for some applications, you can even use it through WIFI. The phones are easy to maintain and should last years with normal usage.

Telecommuting

VoIP technology is extremely portable, and it easily allows users to connect to your system from their office or at home. It’s even easy to connect if your employees travel abroad. Your employee’s dedicated phone number is linked to them wherever they choose to work.

Conferencing

With standard phone systems, you’ll often end up paying an additional service fee for hosting multiple callers when you set up a conference call. Those days are over when you switch to a VoIP system.

Scalability

VoIP systems allow you to add or delete lines as your pool of employees grows or shrinks. You only pay for what you use, and phones are easy to add, delete, or move. You can also use your desktop computer, your smartphone, or laptop to make and receive calls through your browser or a special app.

Additional Features

There are many features VoIP offers that can help small businesses, such as; customizable call forwarding options, customizable greetings, automatic call transfer, voicemail transcription to email, detailed usage reports to help control costs, and an updatable customer contact book. There are also instant messaging and video chat functions you can use, and you can even set-up an automatic phone recording that may help resolve customer issues in the future.

You’ll also get advanced call center functions. With state-of-the-art analytics, you can track the usage of your staff and calculate the amount of time they’re contacting your customers. Cloud-based phone systems are proven to be reliable and secure.

The Cost

The monthly and yearly cost of using a VoIP system is much less than using a conventional phone provider. Not only does daily use cost less, but long-distance calls are also cheaper when using VoIP phones. The typical savings over older phone systems is 40% or more. The reason for this is, with traditional phone systems, a call is made by switching the path through a series of physical exchanges until it reaches its destination. The more exchanges you need to complete the call the more it may cost. And those exchanges need a lot of upkeep.

With a VoIP system, your voice is turned into a data packet with an identifier, and sent through your existing network, through the cloud, and into the network of your destination.

To get set up you need to get your network checked, purchase the phones, and find the best monthly contract that fits your needs. And the good news is we can help you with all of that.

A very recent study just reported that, due to the COVID-19 quarantine, 15.2% of all small businesses that closed their doors will not re-open. We don’t need to tell you that the main reason most of them won’t re-open is because of a lack of funds. When it comes to running a business, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs. And, as you can see, VoIP phone systems are definitely cost savers. Watch your budget and don’t become a statistic.

Contact us today and find out if a VoIP phone system is the kind of technology you’ve been waiting for.