Tip of the Week: How to Use Outlook’s Polling Feature

Using the Outlook Polling Feature To create a poll, pull up Outlook and start a New Email. Proceed as you would with any email, filling out your subject line and identifying who it should be sent to. You can then insert a poll by clicking into the Insert tab and selecting the Poll option, or by navigating to the Options tab of your message, clicking Use Voting Buttons, and selecting Poll. A window will appear that allows you to specify the question you want to ask your recipients, as well as the capability to customize your answers. You can add additional responses by clicking +Add option. Be warned, the poll has a character limit of 330, many of which are taken up by the poll structure itself, so keep your polls brief. To authorize multiple responses, you can toggle the Multiple answers button to green. Once your poll is completed, click Insert poll into email, and it can be shared. Reviewing Your Results Once you’ve created this poll, the results will appear to you in your version of it. So, if you keep it brief, Microsoft has provided a very useful way for its users to collect feedback. You can also review your results—as well as how the vote broke down amongst your users—by clicking on Review answers or the button labelled Open in Excel. A Few Caveats You should be aware that this feature is only available to those using a Microsoft 365 hosted email account, with a subscription to Microsoft 365. So, does this sound like something you could use? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Tip of the Week: Better Video Conferencing for Better Meetings

Establishing Your Space Whether in the office or working remotely, make sure that your webcam isn’t going to pick up something that you wouldn’t want broadcast. Trying to find a quieter area and requesting not to be disturbed until further notice can greatly reduce your chances of being interrupted mid-meeting. Beyond that, make sure that your background is tidy and that nothing is visible to the camera that is sensitive, embarrassing, or some combination of the two behind you. This, paired with the right lighting, will make you look all the better to your colleagues. Another way to look better to your colleagues is to do a bit of grooming so you really do look better to them. Sticking to the company dress code and cleaning yourself up a little can go a long way, especially now that so many are operating from the relative comfort of home. Stick to the Plan Anyone who has participated in a video conference knows that—despite the vastly different format—the same pitfalls that throw an in-person meeting off course can have just as much of an impact. For instance, tangential conversations and idle chit-chat can expend your available time and distract from your primary goals. One big way that you can mitigate some of this is to minimize the opportunity for drifting thoughts and lulls in the conversation. Preparing an agenda and gathering any reference materials needed beforehand creates an itinerary to follow. Sharing these materials with participants ahead of time allows them to have questions and suggestions prepared, as well as can help avoid any interruptions from someone having an issue opening a document. Of course, you need to be sure you are planning for a little bit of casual conversation. Good manners dictate that a brief check-in with the other participants be allowed, so act courteously and plan for your participants asking each other about their lives. Continue this Courtesy Of course, during a remote meeting, the rules of etiquette will need to adjust somewhat to match the meeting’s environment. For starters, in-person meetings don’t commonly feature microphones, but remote ones rely on them. Keep in mind that your mic is live, and that any noises in your home can be extremely distracting to your fellow team members. While it isn’t recommended that you remain muted all the time, make sure that you do so as needed. Your coworkers don’t need to be aware of what you hum to yourself on your bathroom breaks, after all. It is also important that you devote your full attention to the meeting at hand and focus on what is going on around you. Even if you aren’t currently involved with a project, there may be something mentioned that you need to hear. Don’t waste the time of the other people in the meeting by working on other things or checking your email. With these guidelines to start off from, your remote meetings (as well as your face-to-face ones) have a much better chance of success. SRS Networks can provide the technology and IT solutions you need to support your remote collaboration and video conferencing. Find out how we can help by calling (831) 758-3636.

When Working from Home, Your Conditions are Important

Defining Ergonomics There are a lot of different ways to approach productivity, ergonomics simply being the idea that a person in a comfortable position is more prepared to be productive than one being distracted by discomfort. In the office, this is somewhat easier to accomplish, believe it or not. Most offices are equipped with furniture and equipment intended for use in the workplace, which means that they are designed to better attend to these needs than what the average employee will have at their house. These pieces of furniture are designed to encourage a user to adopt a “neutral position” in order to minimize strain and stress, due to the amount of time that is anticipated to be spent in a given seat. An acceptably “neutral” posture is challenging to maintain in other environments. The typical office desk is built much differently than the typical dining room table, or typical card table, or typical lap as the employee lounges on the couch… the big difference being the position that the employee will be in as they do so. So, how does one go about maintaining the correct posture as they spend their work time at home? Understanding the Basics First, it is important to know exactly what a “neutral” posture looks like when positioned at the workstation. The hallmarks of a neutral posture include a straight neck, relaxed shoulders, wrists unbent, and limbs either held straight or bent at a 90-degree angle. When seated, it is recommended that you maintain a position where the thighs are parallel to the floor, with your seat providing plenty of back support. Your monitor should be at eye level, or slightly below it. While this is all well and good in the office, it isn’t as though your employees are likely to have the same setup available. Working with What They Have Fortunately, with a little improvisation, it is entirely possible for your employees to make these adjustments in their own home. Let’s say their monitors are too low. Raising them with books or small boxes would be perfectly acceptable for the short term. If they are working with a laptop, send them some peripherals, like a spare keyboard and mouse, for them to use with it. Use small pillows and cushions to adjust the height and support of the kitchen chair you are seated at, and if this makes your feet dangle in the air once again, use a step stool or other object to allow them a firm foundation. Make sure that you remind your employees to take care of their work resources, including their own bodies. After all, they aren’t going to be productive if their back is too sore for them to focus. We can help make sure their technology is up to the task, whether or not they’re working remotely. To learn more about the solutions available from SRS Networks to support your newly at-home operations, give us a call at (831) 758-3636.

Why a Routine Approach to Work is a Good Thing

What Are the Benefits of a Routine in the Workplace? Routines, processes, procedures, however you refer to them, can certainly provide a few boosts if set up correctly. They Encourage Consistent Results It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, whereas the definition of consistency (“conformity in the application of something”) is the practical application of the opposite. When it comes to the workplace, consistent results are the goal, so a consistent process makes sense. They Save Time As a process becomes more ingrained and develops into a pattern, it will inherently become more efficient to carry out. Resultantly, turning your responsibilities at work into a routine process will ultimately enable you to contribute greater productivity. They Make Things Easier and Less Stressful There is a reason that a routine can casually be referred to as a “groove”… they inherently simplify a given goal and put less pressure on the employee. This means that the employee in question can commit to the task at hand with a clear mind. All of these outcomes mutually benefit the employee that follows the routine pattern and the business’ overall success rates, so it makes sense to try and replicate these outcomes in your own business. To help you and your team out, we’ve assembled a quick guide to help you develop and establish beneficial routines to support your productivity. How to Build Up and Reinforce a Routine Here are a few suggested methods for you to put to use as you are building habitual workplace practices. Remember that the day starts before work does.  The way that you wake up and conduct yourself before work begins can have a significant impact on how the rest of the day goes. Get to sleep early enough to make sure you get enough rest, and make sure you are waking up at the same time each day. Make your bed first thing–that little victory alone can help add a little positivity to the day. Mentally prepare yourself for the day’s agenda and arrange your priorities ahead of time. Doing these kinds of things each day will gradually turn them into the things you just do. Dictate how your time is spent at work. Once you are in the office, you need to continue shifting your mindset. Instead of thinking of your schedule as a list of your obligations for the day, look at it as an asset that helps you to accomplish your goals efficiently and effectively. For instance, many people are inclined to postpone their challenging or frustrating tasks, but try doing the opposite and finish them off first thing. Bundle similar processes together to make it easier to transition between them while maintaining your focus. Restrict the time you spend doing semi-productive things, like checking your emails and messages. Disconnect to fully prepare for the next day. After you’ve filled your workday with productive activities, it’s time to leave and reset for the next. Take some time to review what you accomplished, highlighting three of the most positive events, and then disengage from workplace concerns as much as you can. Spend some time with a personal hobby–not just relaxing, but actively engaging in something that commands your attention–to really […]

Tip of the Week: Common PDF Tricks You Need to Know

Rotating Pages You’ve probably encountered this: You get a PDF and open it only to find that the document is upside down. It might not be a huge issue, but you’d really prefer that it was right-side-up. To fix this, many PDF viewing programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro offer options to rotate the document. If you’re using Acrobat Pro, the Rotate Pages option can be found under the Document menu. Once opened, you can select the pages that you want to be rotated, and how they should be rotated.  Some of the other PDF readers offer a quick button in the toolbar that allows you to rotate each page individually. Regardless of how you choose to get it done, rotating pages just makes reading them simpler. Signing PDFs These days, PDFs are routinely sent that need signatures, whether it’s to view the document, or because it is a contract of some type. For years, people would print out the document, sign it, and scan it back over to complete this task. Today, there is a solution that lets the recipient avoid the printer altogether.  It’s as simple as downloading some free software, such as Adobe Reader. Once you download it, signing documents is relatively simple. With the PDF open, click on the Fill & Sign button, then Sign, and finally, Add Signature. At this point, you’ll have three options: Type – You type your name to indicate that you have seen the document, and an electronic signature is rendered (which almost certainly will not resemble your actual signature). Draw – Using your mouse as you would a pen, you draw your signature in the space provided. Image – You use a scanned image of your actual signature that is then saved for future use. At that point, just make sure your signature is positioned where it needs to be, click apply, and save. These days, many line-of-business applications produce signable PDFs to make contracts move faster. Password Protection There are times when you want to control who can (and more aptly who can’t) see a particular PDF. Make sure that any password you set up for PDFs are distributed through secure channels to avoid the document from being breached. Microsoft Word allows you to turn a file into a PDF by using the “Save as” function. All you have to do is select “PDF” as the file type. Before you click Save, you will be able to find a More options button, which will open another window, where encrypt document with a password can be found under Options. Selecting this gives you the ability to set a password that anyone viewing your PDF after that point will have to provide in order to open it. Merging Files Once you distribute a PDF, it is easy to lose track of all the different versions. PDFs allow you to consolidate versions to keep track of all the information in one place. You can accomplish this with various paid or free software titles. Pass it by your IT department first, so it doesn’t cause any problems. Assuming you choose Adobe Acrobat, this process is exceedingly simple. All you have to do is access the Tools menu and click on Combine files. Then, after you have used Add Files… to assemble all the PDFs […]

Tip of the Week: Controlling Your Text in Microsoft Word

Before we begin, a word of warning: these tips feature some changes to settings. Make sure you check with your organization’s IT resource to confirm that these changes are okay to make, and for assistance in making them if necessary. First, let’s discuss Word’s tendency to reformat what you’ve typed, as it does with everything from websites (adding a hyperlink) to changing the kind of list you just typed as soon as you press Enter. This is caused by the AutoFormat As You Type setting. While some may be helpful, others are likely to trip you up. However, you can edit these options through a pretty simple process: Choose File > Options In the Proofing category, pick AutoCorrect Options Select the AutoFormat As You Type tab From there, you can deselect the options that you no longer want to take effect, and leave the ones that you still want in place. Secondly, there’s the tendency for Microsoft Word to automatically wrap text (which is a fancy term for simply moving down to the next line when space runs out). However, there are some phrases that it is better to keep on one line – like dates, names, telephone numbers, and hyphenated phrases. For example, typing in “All-you-can-eat” might end up putting the phrase on two lines, when you want it to always be stuck together and treated like a single word. The best way to fix these issues is to use non-breaking spaces/characters, rather than the typical ones. These are effectively the same, except that the non-breaking ones will connect the text, and if needed, move it all down as a group to the next line. Non-breaking space: Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar Non-breaking hyphen: Ctrl+Shift+Hyphen Hopefully, these tips will make your use of Word that much less frustrating. For more tips, subscribe to our blog!

Tip of the Week: Methods to Securing Your Smartphone

In order to get the most utility out of your smartphone, you need to be certain that it is protected from the influence of these threats. For this week’s tip, we’ve put together a list of standards that you (and anyone else associated with your business) should uphold. Protect Your Device by Locking It Let’s begin with a very basic security concept: a device that is locked (and requires a code to be reopened) is going to be inherently more secure than a device that doesn’t. While that should be common sense, many people still don’t use it to their advantage – despite the unlocking process becoming easier and easier for the authorized user, with options to use fingerprints and facial recognition as a means of accessing the device. Neglecting to do so means that you are leaving your device and the data on it at the mercy of whomever happens to walk by. Protect Your Device by Capping Wireless Connectivity  Your device has plenty of ways to connect to external devices and services… trouble is, that leaves plenty of connections that a hacker could use to infiltrate your device and data. Public Wi-Fi is notorious for being a breeding ground for threats, and Bluetooth and NFC communications can easily be used to steal data. Deactivate these capabilities when you aren’t actively using them. Limit the Access Your Applications Have We’ve all been there – trying to download an application from an approved and official source (such as Google Play), when the application suddenly puts up a request for access to far more data than it should need to function properly. What gives? Here’s the thing… while the app itself may not need all the information they ask for, the developers need it if they want to sell it to advertisers or share it with social media platforms. Does that silly match-four game you downloaded really need to know who your contacts are, or hear what you’re saying all the time? Probably not, so you can deny these apps from accessing this information in your settings. Alternatively, you could also go with the nuclear option and just delete them. Keep It Updated One of the primary reasons that updates are released for operating systems is to shore up any cybersecurity issues that have been resolved since the last time the device was used. While this really does sound simple enough to accomplish, many users neglect to update their device in a timely manner, leaving them vulnerable. Be Careful with Attachments and Spam in Messaging Applications Messaging applications are very common in today’s devices, which cybercriminals have certainly noticed. This is why they use attachments in these applications to deliver their payloads to their victims, and spam messages in a similar way. Keeping to the best practices you would normally use to protect your email can keep your use of your smartphone secure as well. Following these tips will help you to keep your smartphone secure against threats, and by extension, your business. For more means of securing your technology, reach out to the experts at SRS Networks. Give us a call at (831) 758-3636 to get started.

Tip of the Week: Download Videos from Social Media

As you are probably aware, there are no download button on these sites, so you have to utilize third-party software to facilitate this process. At first, it may seem a little more trouble than it’s worth, but there are web-based tools designed to make this process simpler. Let’s take a look at how to get this done with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Disclaimer: It is crucial that you know the copyright laws of your country before downloading videos from social media. The mere ability of a video to be downloaded doesn’t necessarily mean that it is legal to download it from the web.  Twitter To start the process of downloading from Twitter, first you have to click on the arrow in the left-hand corner of the video and select Copy link to Tweet. Go to the SaveTweetVid website where you can enter the copied URL in the textbox and your Twitter video download should start automatically. Alternatives on mobile come in app form including Video Downloader for Twitter. Facebook Facebook has a save video option, but that doesn’t download the file to your computer. You will want to click on the three-button menu on the top right of any video and select Copy link. Open Getfvid and paste the link in the text box. To use an app for this purpose check out Video Downloader for Facebook. Instagram As you’d imagine, Instagram works in a similar fashion. Go to the three dot menu on Instagram video you’d like to download, select Copy Link from the menu and enter it in DownloadGram. If you want to use an app on Android, download InstaSave from Google Play. For more great tips and tricks, visit our blog regularly.

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