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Business employee working on his laptop remotely from home

Advice For Your Employees While Working Remotely

More and more companies are working remotely due to the pandemic and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to stop anytime soon. Companies are offering more full-time remote positions, which gives employees more flexibility to their work-life balance. However, this shift isn’t always seamless for the company; managing technology and people is very different while the whole team is working remotely. Today we will cover some technology tips to tackle ASAP and advice to give your employees to help them work from home as efficiently as they can!

Technology tips

Providing the tools, platforms, and apps your employees need to work remotely is a must. Depending on the type of service you offer, a laptop will be the very minimum of what they need in order to digitally transform their home office. You may also need to provide things like a second monitor or external hard drives.

It will fall on the IT department to equip every computer with the communication and workflow systems necessary for your employees to work effectively from home, so you need to be ready to teach your employees how to use communication platforms. Tools like VoIP phone systems or chat room applications will help your team communicate just as you would in person. And unlike a traditional office phone set, these digital communication platforms can be easily installed for employees who are already working outside the office. Hosting meetings to teach your employees how to use the new applications will be a helpful start, then you can continuously share tips about system updates and user training so they stay up to date with the changing technology!

Once all of the heavy lifting from the IT department is complete, you can still blast out technology resources and help your employees work effectively from home. General computer help and cybersecurity will go far while people aren’t working in the office.

In light of COVID-19, online phishing and other scams have become more common. Provide your team with a comprehensive list of ways to avoid phishing scams, viruses, and other attacks on your devices that come via email. It’s important to have individuals stay aware and vigilant of these attacks, especially while working remotely. Other, general computer tips like restarting on a regular basis, backing up data to an external hard drive, and closing out of unused tabs can be helpful for people who aren’t technologically savvy! This advice will keep their computers running faster and will result in fewer headaches at home.

Workplace advice

HR is another department that will have a heavy hand in getting your team working remotely successfully. They will be the main communicators of company changes and the ones willing and ready to offer additional support to remote employees.

You may have to offer resources on home-office environments, mental health, and childcare services. Some employees may be looking to create a home office space or even preparing to sell their home now that they’re working remotely full-time. This is a great opportunity to share information about home equity loans. This large sum of money can be used to upgrade their home office or make other changes around the house if they’re planning to sell.

Telehealth services have seen a large increase in usage over the past 6 months due to the pandemic. This is a great time to share a telehealth service that can be used by your team and covered by your insurance provider. Proper mental health practices will help keep your employees productive and happy while working at home.

Finally, share local childcare services that are still available and open during COVID-19. Parents who work from home may appreciate the break in their day that they were used to having while working in an office setting or while their kids were at school. Employees will value the advice you have to share about local happenings that can positively impact their family and home environment!

There is plenty of information and resources available to you to pass along to your employees while they work remotely. From cybersecurity to childcare, your employees will value that you are researching and sharing ways to help them do their jobs effectively and keep a good work-life balance while at home.

 

Business employee works on his computer from home

The Impact of Remote Work: Is it Here to Stay?

When looking at the sudden popularity of remote work, it’s easy to assume that it was a result of the coronavirus and the lockdown that followed. However, that would be ignoring the existing trend of remote work that had been growing years prior.

Is Remote Work Temporary?

Remote work was growing in popularity long before the Coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. and forced businesses to shutter. Way back in March of 2019 research was already showing that 83 percent of U.S. businesses in the past 10 years introduced a flexible workspace or were planning to.

Another statistic that might surprise you is 16 percent of businesses hired remote workers exclusively.  When companies closed their doors in March of 2020, no one had any idea how long they would remain closed.

Some companies embraced remote work sooner than others. Companies like Facebook announced they would allow their employees to work remotely to the end of 2020. Others like Twitter stated publicly they would go remote indefinitely.

As we can see, remote work is nothing new. But it went from popular trend to basic necessity in almost no time at all.

So what is the future of remote work?

Where is this all headed?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that shows how different industries were impacted by COVID-19. While industries like Finance and Insurance managed to adapt pretty successfully, other industries like Tourism and Hospitality have suffered.

During the early periods of the COVID outbreak, 90 percent of employment decreases came from jobs that couldn’t be done remotely. This is according to a PEW Research Center analysis of the government’ data on labor.

It is true that barbers, waiters, tattoo artist and other contact dependent jobs were lost as a consequence, but another trend stated to arise as well.

There were other individuals—specifically individuals with college degrees—that could function remotely. Teachers, stock traders, financial advisors and accountants as we’ve seen before were able to adjust themselves to teleworking.

Nerds Support conducted its own poll asking how much the lock-down had affected their business. Of the 22 respondents that answered, 36.4 percent said they went fully remote and were considering a permanent remote option.

Nerds Support conducted a poll about the impact of remote work

Part Time vs. Full Time Remote Work

Will business owners and their employees learn to optimize their remote work capabilities? A survey by Salesforce and Tableau revealed that 69 percent of respondents agreed that the nature of work was going to change permanently due to pandemic.

A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. As organizations shift to more remote work operations, explore the critical competencies employees will need to collaborate digitally, and be prepared to adjust employee experience strategies. Consider whether and how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context.

Gartner research also shows the coronavirus pandemic will have a long term impact work.

More Remote Work

A poll conducted back in June showed that 48 percent of employees are likely to work remotely at least on a part-time basis. This was an increase from 30 percent before the pandemic began.

Offshore jobs

As mentioned before, there has been many job loses but many job opportunities created from the pandemic. Since telework has increased, so has the pool of candidates employers can choose from.

Initially, employers responded to the pandemic by furloughing or firing their employees to cut costs. However, as the months have gone by, a newer trend has revealed itself.

Employers are hiring more contingent workers to improve flexibility in their workplace.

Remote work for efficiency

55 percent of organizations redesigning their operations were more focused on streamlined positions. Doing so maximized efficiency but also created vulnerabilities in resilience. That means that they operate better at the cost of losing their ability to respond to disruptions.

Remote vs. Workplace

Since we’re going by the numbers, 57 percent of workers wanted to increase their remote work in the future. This number increases to 64 percent among those who are concerned about the coronavirus health risks. Even so, 80 percent of workers indicated that they would likely continue working from home partially. Those already working remotely full-time only 1 percent say they want to return exclusively to the office.

Workers who operate remotely are less likely to lose their job

Once again, job loss was associated with those who were unable to work remotely. From the months of Feburary to March, the unemployment in the U.S. decreased by 2.9 million. Employment among jobs that could transition remotely was virtually unchanged.  The number decreased by 0.5 percent.

Industries that are becoming more relevant

 Managed IT services companies are seeing an increase in popularity as more businesses transition to cloud based networks. The transition to the cloud indicates a concern for efficiency as we’ve discussed. Telecommunication is becoming more important as businesses learn to share and cooperate from longer distances. As a result, cloud infrastructures are needed  to accommodate for this change.

businessman working from home while connected to the cloud

How Remote Workers Benefit From The Cloud

Remote Work Is Here

Companies are increasingly relying on remote work. Remote work culture has become commonplace as these companies realize how important flexibility is for their operation.

Furthermore, this is happening across industries. From streaming services to banking and financial services, it’s clear that remote work is depending on the cloud.

The novel Coronavirus outbreak tested cloud infrastructures in ways previously unimagined. All at once workers were forced to depend on a cloud environment to access important data, documents, and connect with colleges.

And It’s not Going Anywhere…

In fact, according to a Techwire survey, 48 percent of technology companies believe that cloud services will increase as a result of the shut in. This suggests that Cloud adoption is seen as a long term strategy rather than a temporary fix.

This however, isn’t surprising when you consider 56 percent of the workforce already have jobs that are compatible with remote work.

Based on those facts we can conclude that remote work will only increase in frequency even after workers are allowed back into their offices.

We’re already seeing a rapid growth in the use of cloud-based video conferencing applications like Zoom and Microsoft teams.

Even Billionaire and financier  Warren Buffett weighed in on the shift to remote work in an interview with “The Real Deal” stating:

“The supply and demand for office space may change significantly,” Buffett said. “A lot of people have learned that they can work at home, or that there’s other methods of conducting their business than they might have thought from what they were doing a couple of years ago. When change happens in the world, you adjust to it.”

Benefits of Cloud Storage for Remote Workers

Now that we’ve established remote work is a more permanent change, we have to go into the key technology that enables remote work, the cloud.

If remote work is to succeed, you and your team, collaboration is essential. The best way to achieve this is to adopt a cloud storage system that can handle any project without slowing down or crashing.

Nightmare scenario:  Imagine that while you’re working remotely, collaborating with your team, someone edits or deletes important information and now you’re several steps behind schedule. The good news is that the cloud has file- recovery capabilities.

Nerds Support’s managed cloud services, for example, allows you recover a deleted file or return to your last save to avoid these kinds of blunders.

Cloud computing security for data storage

Disaster Recovery

Cloud also helps with disaster recovery situations as demonstrated by its reliability during the lock-down. Because of the absence of on-site IT professionals, businesses are relying on the cloud to monitor, check and maintain their storage and servers in data centers.

Enterprises are leveraging the cloud to create a suitable environment that caters to remote workers around the world. The lock-downs have proven the need for disaster recovery capabilities and strong security but also network resiliency.

Cloud Storage Promotes Remote Work

The Techwire survey also revealed that 34 percent of respondents reported increased spending on remote productivity. IT organizations are preparing to deliver remote capabilities to end- users as the demand for remote increases.

We’re already seeing this more permanent transition play out as companies like Nationwide announce plans to move towards a hybrid operation of mostly remote employees.

Having the ability to work from various locations is a strategic benefit of remote work but now it’ll be a necessity. Cloud storage can help remote workers stay productive from wherever they choose to work. Cloud- focused applications facilitate this experience because they permit users to synchronize mobile devices, tablets and computer together.

Productivity Increases

With remote work becoming the norm, we have to take a look at productivity levels to see how they’re affected. There’s no use in implementing remote work if it those working do less of it. One study in 2015 based in a Chinese travel agency found that call-center employees that shifted to working from home saw increased productivity by an average of 13 percent.

But will employees prefer remote work?  A Harvard study found more than 40 percent of people would do away with a portion of their salary if they were offered a remote work option.

Cloud computing enables remote work without interruption. Employees can easily access their work station at home just as though they were in the office. All important information centralized in a single cloud infrastructure easily retrievable for the employee.

Security & Cyber Protection

If everything in the cloud is so accessible for the employee what about someone else? Can a hacker break into the cloud servers and steal all your data? What measures does the cloud have to prevent a breach?

Not to worry, cloud computing protects you from both data breaches and hackers. With the cloud you’ll have an outsourced IT security team 24/7 constantly monitoring complex and changing threat environment.

That includes protection from social engineering scams and malware attacks.

The cloud also protects you and your business from data loss and hardware failure. Multiple redundancies are put in place so that everything is backed up should anything happen.

Another valuable feature is multi-factor authentication. Let’s say your company device was stolen or lost. Multifactor security features prevents access the device and files if user identity is not confirmed on a secondary device.

If a hackers attempts to log in, they’ll need access to your mobile device and log in again. If that confirmation doesn’t go through within a set time, access is denied.

Business employees joining a video conference call

How to Choose Your Video Conference Apps: Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Skype

The outbreak of Covid-19 has forced business to adapt to remote work quickly. An important aspect of working remotely is video conferencing.  Therefore, utilizing the best applications and services are essential for a smooth remote experience.

The three most popular Video Conference applications are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. Therefore, we’ll review them here to make sure you have all of the information you need to make the best decision.

Zoom

The Zoom conferencing application works on Mac, PC, Android and IOS. They offer a free plan that hosts no larger than 100 people. There is a paid option for medium and small businesses for $15 to $20 a month. For larger businesses, the application offers a $20 a month plan for a minimum of 50 people per Zoom call.

Zoom has HD video and audio, video recording capabilities, screen-sharing and co- annotation. Gmail, Outlook and iCal support Zoom meeting scheduling. You can set a meeting on your email service by integrating it with your calendar. Hosts can schedule meetings and send notification to attendees.

If you can’t use the microphone or camera, Zoom has a chat feature that allows you to communicate through text. This is useful during meetings or presentations where participants need to ask questions without interrupting the host.

You can sign up for Zoom free by creating an account with email or singing in with either Google or Facebook.

When using Zoom you must keep in mind their recent controversy and security issues. There have been concerns over the app’s privacy risks involving “zoombombing.” The education department in the US as well as several businesses have instructed employees to switch from Zoom to Microsoft Teams while the issues are resolved by the company.

However, you can still use the application if you take simple security measures to protect your meetings. You can use a meeting exclusive ID or enable Zoom’s wait feature “Waiting Room” that allows you to see who wants to join your meeting before giving access.

Microsoft Teams

If your company uses Microsoft Office 365, you already have access to Teams. The application offers the same features as any other conferencing platform like audio calls, video conferencing and chat. As a Microsoft platform it can integrate with other office applications like PowerPoint and excel for meeting that involve going over figures or presentations. It’s also compatible with other office apps like Word for file sharing.

On Teams you can video conference with 250 people at once. Also, you can live present with a maximum 10,000 people. You can talk to colleagues privately or over certain channels. You can even focus attention to a group or an individual with the mention feature.

Meetings can be scheduled through the Teams application itself or on Outlook.

It appears Microsoft Teams doesn’t share the same vulnerabilities Zoom does. It stated in a blog post that it doesn’t use your camera features to track participant attention, or use personal data to create ads. Microsoft Teams, it appears, is making a point to distinguish itself from Zoom in these ways.

Like Zoom you can download a free version but if you have Office 365 it comes included. In March of 2020, Microsoft made the free version accessible to businesses and schools for use without a subscription to Office 365. Microsoft is offering a six month free trial of its new Office 365 E1 for businesses that don’t already have Teams licenses. Moreover, there are business plans that have Teams included start at $5 a month per user.

Skype

Skype can sustain up to 50 people per video call which is good for business meetings. It can also record calls and caption if necessary. Skype integrates with mobile devices and tablets and functions like a VoIP phone service. It has caller ID, voicemail, file sharing, split screen and screen sharing.

Additionally, it has a chat for text communication. The benefit of Skype is these features are available for free upon downloading the application.

Hacker cracks into a business web meeting

Zoom: Tips and Tricks for Safe Video Conferencing

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, local and state governments in the U.S. have instituted shelter-in-place orders, quarantines and lockdowns. As a result, video chat programs have skyrocketed in popularity as people work from home and try to coordinate meetings digitally.

Zoom has become the most popular of the video chat apps. Unfortunately, Zoom’s security flaws like, “Zoombombing” and built in tracking features made it less than ideal for businesses and employees that want to keep themselves as safe as possible.

It has also been subject to a number of scandals and lawsuits due to these security issues and CEO Yaun has since stated Zoom will freeze features updates to address issues.

Data Issues & Privacy

Another big issue is Zoom was not end-to-end encrypted.  They are “transport encrypted, meaning data is accessible to Zoom. Furthermore, user emails, files and photos were being leaked

Here are some vulnerabilities to keep in mind while using video conference and a few things you can do to avoid them.

Zoom Bombing

As mentioned previously, zoombombing is one of the issues Zoom has with its video chat app. It’s when users of Zoom get their meetings highjacked by outside actors during a video conference. This is a type of cyber attack that’s proving increasingly more dangerous as schools, universities and private companies are jumping on platform to continue their work.

To protect yourself and your business from “Zoom bombing”, the FBI recommends the following safety measures:

  • • Ensure meetings are private. This is achieved by either requiring a password for entry or controlling guest access from a waiting room.
  • • Consider your security requirements when choosing a service. If you need end-to-end encryption, verify that the videoconference service has it.
  • • Ensure software is updated.  Using an older version of the app could leave you open to a security breach.

As you can see, this doesn’t only apply to Zoom alone. These tips are applicable to all video conference services. However, the two most used applications now are Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Use a Domain Based Approach

A domain based approach to security in video conferencing allows system administrators to assign different levels of permission to users. This is achieved either by the video conference service or in house IT. This means if a hacker attempts to video call someone in the company, the hacker will have to wait until someone with the relevant credentials signs on and grants him access.

Selling Your Data

Like Facebook, Zoom has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar when it comes to user data. According to an article by Vice motherboard, Zoom sends user data to Facebook regardless of the user having a Facebook account.

Zoom uses Facebook’s software development kit to employ features into their apps in an easier way.  However, this has the added result of sending data to Facebook. For Zoom users, that means Facebook knows whenever a user opened Zoom and from which device it was accessed. Moreover, if a user is using a phone it would tell Facebook what carrier they had, their location and their unique advertising identifier.

Motherboard reported Zoom would stop sending certain data to Facebook.

In this case, either use a different Video Conference app that guarantees end-to-end encryption. If you’re using Zoom, review your security setting and try minimizing permission to access as much as possible.

Put a Video Conference Policy In Place

A video conference policy lets you set expectations and limits when using a video conference app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Companies should outline specific protocols for using Video conferencing that address the following questions:

  1. Who gets permission to record a video conference from everyone on the call? Can recording be done?
  2.  Can personal mobile devices be used on a conference call? If so when and under what circumstances?
  3.  When can sensitive information be discussed and with whom?
  4.  When and how should the cameras be used?
  5.  When and how should microphones be used?
  6.  Who gets remote control access to cameras and who doesn’t?

When using Video Conferencing

Remember to address employees and co-workers cordially, keeping in mind safe practices and procedures as if you were in office. Video conferencing applications are a useful tool but they aren’t perfect and should be used with caution.

If you have any questions or concerns about remote work optimizationcyber security or cloud technology give us a call or visit our blog for more articles and content.