Are Rigidly-Structured Departments a Thing of the Past?

Are Rigidly-Structured Departments a Thing of the Past?

The many different types of departments within business, including sales, human resources, customer service, IT, accounting, and management, all have remained relatively compartmentalized throughout the years. While they might work together to fulfill various tasks, they operate (for the most part) independent of one another. How long will this remain the case, though? Let’s go about a thought experiment and look toward a future where departments are a thing of the past.

Change Your Mindset to Change Your Bad Habits

Change Your Mindset to Change Your Bad Habits

Isn’t it incredible how some people can build bad habits over the span of several years, then break them and replace them with better ones? It might look like it’s easy, but the reality of the matter is that building bad habits and replacing them is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process. The brain literally undergoes physical changes during this process, and it’s all thanks to a neuroscientific principle called neuroplasticity.

The Employee’s Guide to Working Remotely

Security Considerations Even though you aren’t in the office, you still need to follow the same security protocols and the processes you would need to follow if you were working in the office. In fact, these processes become even more important, as your home network is likely less secure than the one in the workplace. Here are some tips: Be Hygienic We aren’t telling you to brush your teeth or wash behind your ears, we are talking about practicing good security hygiene while you work remotely. Don’t reuse your passwords, use multi-factor (or two-factor) authentication to secure all accounts, and don’t share out information over email if you don’t know for certain who will read it. In other words, all the basics still apply. Be Mindful For similar reasons, you also need to be extra careful of online scams or phishing attacks while working remotely. Lost business data is lost business data, regardless of where you were when it was left vulnerable. Make sure you are up-to-speed in terms of identifying and mitigating breach attempts. Use a VPN Finally, because you will not be protected by the defenses on the company network, you need to implement a few extras, such as a virtual private network. A VPN uses encryption to conceal the contents of any data you transmit over the Internet, protecting the contents from virtually all attacks. Business Practices Again, as you aren’t in the office, your remote work needs to follow the same processes as it would if you were in-house, and you will need to be more deliberate about carrying them out. For instance: Use Communication and Collaboration Since you are not working alongside your colleagues and coworkers while you are working from home, you should be extra diligent about remaining in contact with them. Use your email, instant messaging, and phone capabilities to keep the rest of the team apprised as you progress with your tasks. Follow Processes As we don’t want anything falling through the cracks as we continue our operations, it is important that each team member sticks to procedures with every task they touch. This will help ensure that all the ‘i’s are dotted and each ‘t’ is crossed, and that things progress productively. Schedule Strategically While you should still work the amount of time you would be in the office, you may have a little more freedom and autonomy as far as your schedule is concerned. Don’t be afraid to arrange your tasks around any scheduling conflicts you may have, or shuffle your tasks to better fit your productivity levels throughout the day. Personal Wellness Finally, it is crucial that you are able to manage yourself and your time while not in the office environment. Here are a few tips to help you do so, that may be useful to keep in mind. Set Limits While the assumption surrounding remote work is that employees are prone to slacking off, it is also likely that you may be tempted to push yourself a little further than you should with your day to try and accomplish as much as possible. While this is an admirable goal, it isn’t effective if you overwork yourself one day and accomplish almost nothing the next as a result. Moderate yourself and stop when it’s time. Build Patterns Process […]

What You Need to Know to Manage a Remote Workforce

These statistics outline that by allowing employees to work from home, your company will see some very tangible benefits. Like any human resources strategy, however, you’ll need to keep a few considerations firmly in mind to get the most out of it. Treat It Like Business as Usual When you are working with your remote employees, it is important that you don’t focus exclusively on your in-house staff. Maintaining communication with every one of your staff is necessary for your operations to continue, so if anything, you need to encourage your in-house workers to regularly check in with your remote employees and involve them in their processes. You should also avoid the temptation to hold off on meetings. Again, don’t act like anything has changed as a result of your employees working from home. If you have regular meetings at a given time, continue them, and simply use the technology available today to include your remote staff members. Provide the Means to Communicate Speaking of which, it is also important that your remote team members have the tools that allow them to communicate with their contemporaries. If you haven’t already done so, consider switching your telephony to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solution. This will enable your remote staff members access to your business’ phone system, rather than using their own for professional purposes. Other useful collaboration tools include things like video conferencing, instant messaging, and (of course) business email. Give Them Access and Tools Your remote workers aren’t going to be capable of being productive if they don’t have access to the necessary resources and applications required to carry out their assigned tasks. Make sure they have this access, either by enabling remote access into their workstation or by providing them with a laptop that they can take with them. It is recommended that, if you elect to take the remote access option, this access is secured through the use of a virtual private network (or VPN). This tool ensures that whether your files and applications are stored on-site or in the cloud, that access to data is available from anywhere a connection can be established. Don’t Forget About Security It is critical for the health of your business that you uphold remote workers to a higher standard for data and network security. Remote work brings increased risk. Using the aforementioned VPN is just one of the many tools that will work to maintain the integrity of your business’ digital assets. Another important security measure is to be sure that your remote users are forced into using password best practices for authentication. Some Suggestions: Hosted VoIP for using phones from any device and anywhere. A VPN for secure connections to the office network. Remote access policies to ensure compliance and security. Remote terminal access to keep files and applications centralized. Email accessibility for internal and external communication. Conferencing and meeting applications to keep your team engaged. Messaging applications to facilitate easy coworking. G-Suite/Office 365 for document publishing and collaboration. Disaster Recovery solution to prevent productivity-loss issues. Our IT professionals are here to help you extend the reach of your business and do it to ensure that your assets are protected. Reach out to SRS Networks today to kickstart your remote workforce on a path to productivity. Call (831) […]

Tip of the Week: 3 Ways to Make Online Meetings More Productive

Identify an Agenda, and a Moderator to Enforce It The first step to having a productive meeting is to have a general idea of what will be discussed in the time allotted for it. Not only will this help to minimize tangents and other conversations that aren’t conducive to the meeting’s goal, sharing it ahead of time gives the participants a chance to organize their thoughts. Once the meeting is underway, you also need to make sure that it stays on the track that your agenda set for it. This means that it needs to be somebody’s responsibility to guide the meeting’s trajectory. Giving one of the participants the capability to mute and unmute other participants as needed is a useful option to consider, if need be, along with these responsibilities. Selecting the Solution There are a lot (repeat for emphasis) of collaboration and remote meeting options available right now, so you have plenty to consider implementing to support your operations. While we aren’t going to make any specific recommendations, we want to go over a few key considerations to keep in mind as you weigh your options: What functions and features will your remote meetings require? How many people does the conferencing platform need to support? Can your other tools and solutions play a role, either via integrations or concurrent use? With the answers to these questions in mind, you’ll be better able to select the option that fits your precise needs. Compare Notes Finally, when your meeting is over, it helps if everyone contributes to the meeting’s record. This helps prevent steps from being missed and can clarify everyone’s goals after the fact. By sending this summary to all involved once it is prepared you can ensure that your meeting has concluded with everyone (almost literally) on the same page. What have you done to make the most of your remote meetings? Share your tips in the comments!

Office 365 is Now Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 comes in three different delivery models: Home, Business, and Enterprise. The confusion comes from the fact that the company launched Microsoft 365 that provided Office 365 and a hosted Windows 10 with user controls to businesses of all sizes. Let’s briefly take a look at each offering to remove any confusion you may have. Microsoft 365 Home The home edition of Microsoft 365 comes in two packages and includes the following software: Word – Microsoft’s word processing application Excel – Microsoft’s spreadsheet application PowerPoint – Microsoft’s presentation building application OneNote – Microsoft’s note taking application Outlook – Microsoft’s email application On Windows 10 PCs users also get access to Publisher, a typesetting application. The subscription also includes OneDrive with 1 TB of cloud storage and access to Skype, Microsoft’s video conferencing application. The home edition of Microsoft 365 is available per user or in a family plan that provides up to six separate personal accounts.  Microsoft 365 Business The business edition of Microsoft 365 comes in three different packages and includes the Office package as well as access to the following applications: Teams – Microsoft’s collaboration application Exchange – Microsoft’s email, scheduling, and task management application SharePoint – Microsoft’s project management application The business edition of Microsoft 365 comes in Business Basic, Business Standard, and Business Premium. The basic edition only provides access to web-hosted applications, while the Premium package includes Microsoft’s Intune software and additional security features. Microsoft 365 Enterprise The enterprise edition of Microsoft 365 is a complete overhaul of a business’ productivity platform. It comes with everything from the Business Premium package and adds access to several other applications designed to help improve business management, productivity, and security. Some of the additional services include: Microsoft Bookings Microsoft Yammer Microsoft Stream Microsoft Sway Microsoft’s task management suite Advanced analytics Device management Identity management Threat protection Advanced compliance …and more. Microsoft 365 Enterprise is available in three service models: E3, E5, and F3.  If you would like to know more about Microsoft 365, call our team of IT professionals at (831) 758-3636 today.

Tip of the Week: Some Google Search Tips You May Not Have Known

Searching for an Exact Phrase If you happen to know that you are looking for an exact phrase, verbatim, Google search enables you to specify that in your search. As you type in your query, enclosing it in quotation marks will tell Google to look for that phrase, as it is written. For instance, let’s say you wanted to learn more about business backups. Typing in “data backup best practices” would only return results that included that specific phrase, those words in that order. Searching for Synonyms What if you aren’t sure what the best term would be to find what you need? Well, if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for but aren’t sure of the exact wording needed to find it, Google can help here, too. Try using a tilde (~) just before a search term. That tells Google to also search for that term’s synonyms. So, if you were to type in “~run,” your search would also include related terms like running, runner, and even things like marathon. Searching Specific Websites Google can also be instructed to zero in on a specific website as you’re conducting a search, whether that search is for something specific or not. This is possible by adding the name of the website and a colon to the front of your query. For instance, if you wanted to find a blue jacket on Amazon, you could do a quick Google search for amazon.com:blue jacket. Your results list will be a list of blue jackets for sale on Amazon. Excluding Results from Search Sometimes, however, you may wish to keep certain results out of your searches, as they are irrelevant to what you are seeking out. Adding terms that would direct the search to these irrelevant responses, and immediately preceding them with a dash, will omit them from inclusion. So, if you had interest in a certain model of car, but not in a 1984 film of the same name, you would search for gremlin car -movie. Searching Within a Range If you need to find something that falls within a set range of numbers, this capability is sure to be a big help. By separating two numbers with two periods, you can easily restrict your searches to that range. Returning to our Gremlin, let’s say you wanted to find one and were willing to spend between $500 and $1100 on it. By searching gremlin car $500..$1100, you could see if there were any available for that price. Searching for Multiple Queries Finally, Google can search for multiple keywords in tandem. This can be accomplished by separating each query in your search with a vertical bar. So, if you wanted to find a managed service provider who offered comprehensive services to businesses (and you didn’t think of SRS Networks, for some reason) you could simply search for managed services|backup|disaster recovery, and we’d likely be one of your results. Of course, since you’re already here, there’s no need to do a Google search for us now! To learn more about how we can assist your business with its critical IT solutions, reach out to us at (831) 758-3636.

Improve Your Email Management in Outlook

Block Sender  Of all the things that make managing email difficult, spam has to be at the top of the list. In fact, it can be downright dangerous. Spam can be reduced, but it’s very difficult to eliminate entirely, so it’s important to be diligent. Outlook’s spam filter is very well received, but a couple manual tweaks will improve it even more. The Block Sender option is pretty straightforward. You choose an email sent from an address that you identify as spam, you right-click on the email, choose junk from the dropdown menu, and click Block Sender. This will ensure that you don’t get any more email from that address.  Outlook’s Rules  Obviously, you want your email to work for you. Fortunately, Outlook’s rules are incredibly flexible, and dynamic. To make Outlook yours, you will want to spend some time and assess how to change these rules to fit your needs. Let’s try a simple change: Say you are working on a project and you want to direct all the emails that come in about that project into a custom folder in Outlook. You can make a rule that completes this function for you.  Just select the first email you want to move into a custom folder. Go to Home > Rules > Create Rule at which time you will be prompted with “When I get email with the selected conditions (Subject, From, Sent to) do the following”. After which you will enter the conditions that will set the filter allowing you to see the emails that you want.  Outlook is a solid tool that has a lot of features that can help you be more productive. Call SRS Networks today at (831) 758-3636 to talk to one of our IT professionals about working with Microsoft Office 365. 

Tip of the Week: Ensuring Smartphones are an Office Tool

Optimize Your Apps How many applications do you currently have installed on your phone? Of those, how many do you actually use? Chances are, there are a lot of apps that no longer serve you any purpose that are just sitting on your phone, cluttering your application drawer and drawing attention away from the tools you need. Our recommendation here is twofold: first, do some spring cleaning and delete some of the applications that you just don’t use any longer. They aren’t doing you any good, anyway, and they are only taking up valuable storage space on your device. Second, take the time to organize your device, arranging apps on different screens. This will help you to stay focused on the task and hand, without your social media accounts or the silly mobile game you downloaded drawing you away – there is nothing wrong with having them, as long as they don’t impact your work. Disable Certain Notifications Speaking of your social media (and of being drawn away from your responsibilities, for that matter), there is no need that you need to know that one guy you met at a mutual friend’s party has liked your status during work hours. The same goes for the silly mobile games. Who cares that your energy has recharged and that “your kingdom needs you?” You have real work to do! The notifications that these applications send us are meant to be disruptive, to put the task at hand to the side as you follow the application where it takes you. Turning off notifications takes a lot of power away from distracting applications simply by preventing temptation. Disconnect Depending on the task at hand, it may even be a good idea to disconnect your phone for a few moments’ peace. Of course, if you’re expecting important phone calls to be coming in, this is a bad strategy to try out. Otherwise, kill your phone’s Internet and wireless connections, and consider putting on some headphones to make your focused attention clear to anyone around you. Keep It Updated Of course, for your mobile device to be able to work productively, its software needs to be vetted and maintained. Make sure you actively apply updates and patches over time to ensure that your device remains in good working order. Your IT resource will be a useful ally to lean on where this is concerned. What has your experience been with smartphones in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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