The Metric of Productivity With Remote Work

Online business briefing. Male African American employee speak on video call with diverse multiracial colleagues, on laptop screen diverse business people, meeting online, group brainstorm, remote work

For any business endeavor, productivity has to be at the very top of the hierarchy of metrics. Think about it, it doesn’t matter what field you work in or what market you cater to, if your business isn’t productive it is going to have a hard time being profitable. For almost a year, many businesses have relied on remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and regardless of what you think about remote work, metrics have shown a fairly surprising rate of productivity out of remote workers over this time. With 12 months of data in hand, we take a look at why productivity is still a king of metrics and how the ongoing pandemic has affected the workforce’s productivity.

Remote Work?

Before March of 2020, a large percentage of businesses wouldn’t dream of letting their staff work from home for more than one day or less. It had been tried—with varying degrees of success—for the past decade. Most business owners cited drops in productivity as the core reason why it was disallowed. When governments started instituting shelter-in-place mandates last March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many business owners had little choice but to allow their staff to work remotely. They could sustain operations apart or shut down together.

Most immediately chose to allow for remote work.

There were a litany of problems with this. Firstly, not all businesses had the infrastructure in place to allow their staff to work remotely. They had to scramble to purchase remote-access software or other solutions that would allow people to work remotely without taking on extraordinary risk. At the same time, hackers and scammers shifted into overdrive as the pandemic was a perfect opportunity to try and get over on people and businesses.

Finally, a workforce that was clamoring for years for additional flexibility got their wish but weren’t ready to do their jobs from home.

This whole storm led to a hiccup of productivity. For the first two months of the pandemic, more businesses failed than in any two-month stretch since the housing crisis. Productivity was way down, and many businesses made the decision to either pull the plug completely or make the investment overhauling their workspace so that their employees could come back to work. All-in-all, March-to-May 2020 was a stressful time to be a small business owner.

A Productivity Miracle

As summer 2020 approached, something happened. People settled in. Government stimulus programs helped businesses afford the technology they needed. Productivity went up. Not just to pre-COVID levels, but slightly higher. The newly-remote worker took this as an opportunity to show their employers that they could be productive from home, and they were. Businesses were learning how to properly get the most out of their employees, even if they hadn’t seen them face-to-face in months.

The reason that is actively cited for this is technology. Communication and collaboration had to improve for business to work, and they did. In fact, productivity is known to grow by 20-to-25 percent in organizations that prioritize connectivity between employees. Technology makes this possible, so any productivity growth that was there in the summer of 2020, had to do with the fact that (despite people being in different locations) they had to be more connected in order to effectively do their jobs.

Reality Sets In

As the pandemic has dragged on, productivity levels have slowly started to decrease. People working from home for long periods of time remained productive, but the people that were never allowed to began to struggle, and it showed up in the productivity statistics. From June to October of 2020 productivity was at comparable levels to where it was in 2019, but as winter came, productivity dropped substantially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, productivity dropped a total of 4.8 percent in the 4Q of 2020.

That is the single largest drop since 1981. Let’s take a look at the reasons why productivity is trending downward (it’s not all the weather).

  1. Stress – The pandemic has had a marked effect on public stress, that much is true. How quantifiable is it? Right now, the collective stress levels are comparable with the levels when the pandemic started a year ago. In the past year, America has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial protests, a contentious election, a riot in the Capitol, and a stumbling vaccine rollout (just to hit the big points) and mental health professionals are suggesting that the people of the U.S. are experiencing collective trauma. People simply don’t have the capacity to continue to be stressed at levels we are now seeing and it has a major impact on their ability to be productive, inside of an office or at home.
  2. Fatigue – Regardless of what you do for a living, when your job changes drastically, but expectations don’t, it will tire you out. People that are working remotely are tired of being at home all the time. They are tired of their kids not being in school. They are tired of utility bills increasing. They are tired of being tired. Fatigue is one of the largest productivity killers inside any business, and with people largely stuck at home, it’s difficult to get the energy to sustain the focus that is expected.
  3. Lack of Incentive – Workers, whether they work at home or at a brick-and-mortar location, aren’t seeing the returns they’d like to see from their hard work. Many workers, especially front-line healthcare and retail workers have been going to work the whole pandemic with very little reward for the perceived risks. For remote workers, especially those who have children, their priority hierarchy is dictated by the situations they face. If they need to home-school their kids or find solutions for pandemic-related issues, it won’t be a big surprise when their work suffers. Businesses are doing all they can to stay afloat, so wage growth or other incentives that they may have seen are all but removed from the equation, as well.

Productivity is extremely important for every business and to get the most out of your staff, you will need to stay engaged. Where your workforce works have less to do with their productivity than other factors, that if confronted, will work to boost their output. One of the biggest misconceptions business owners and managers have is that paychecks are the best motivator. Sure, they are effective, but if you are seeing drops in productivity with remote work (or your in-house staff) engage your staff. Make them see that you are trying as hard as they are and only when everyone does the best they can, will we pull ourselves through this period.

AE Technology Group can help you utilize technology to boost productivity. If you would like to learn how, give us a call today at (516) 536-5006.

Keep The Spirit of Teamwork Alive With These Tips

cyber security tips

If the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced you and your employees to work from home, you may be wondering how you can keep team spirit alive in the weeks to come. If you work in an industry where teamwork is a vital part of your business, you may be concerned that your bonds as a team, and your ability to collaborate, may begin to deteriorate as a result of a prolonged period of remote work; however, this does not have to be the case. There are many simple and cost-effective strategies that you can employ to maintain a sense of community amongst your staff even while going an extended period of time apart. Here are just a few of the ways that you can keep the spirit of teamwork alive while working from home.   

Encourage Water Cooler Talk

Water cooler talk and socializing on breaks is essential in creating a sense of community in the workplace. Coworkers build bonds that allow them to work better together, and many people even develop friendships that transfer outside of the workplace during their trips to the water cooler. However, there is often a misconception that time spent socializing at work means lost productivity while the opposite may be true. In fact, there is some evidence that small water cooler breaks can boost productivity by helping relieve stress and improve concentration, and it doesn’t hurt that these breaks help employees to bond.

To maintain this sense of community while your company is working remotely, you should create a designated place for casual conversation where people can go throughout the day, such as in a group-chat application like Slack. Make sure to get the conversation going every day with fun ice breakers and conversation starters such as asking people to share their opinion about the latest episode of The Voice or This is Us, or by asking the highly debated question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich.

Schedule Time to Play Games

Another fun way to bond and stay connected while working remotely would be to schedule a few times a week where you and your team play games as a group. Platforms like Kahoot and Steam make it easy for groups to play games together remotely using their interactive platforms. You may even be surprised to learn that these platforms not only keep team spirit up, but they may also help certain team members to come out of their shell, causing your team to actually grows closer. Some games like Codenames are even designed specifically for group-chat platforms, making them easy for you and your team to play remotely.    

Create Competition With Team Fitness Goals

Friendly competition can also be an exciting way to build and maintain relationships amongst your staff during a period of telecommuting. For instance, you could consider splitting your staff into teams and giving the teams fitness goals that they have to collaborate on to achieve. Investing in team Fitbits or similar technology can allow everyone to track their goals, share progress updates, and encourage each other. This is a great way to not only keep team morale up, but it will also encourage physical activity during a time where people may be less active.  

Share Your Hobbies

Considering people are more likely to spend time at home while social distancing protocols are in effect, it is likely that everyone will be spending more time on hobbies or catching up on the latest Netflix series. A great way to promote team spirit would be to encourage people to talk about what they are doing, watching, or reading to pass the time, and create a chat channel that encourages staff to participate in the same activity remotely. For instance, get everyone to agree to read the same book, or watch the same TV show, and set a time to talk about it in a few days. A remote book club can allow staff to bond over shared interests. 

Even if you and your staff work from home, this does not mean that you can’t have team spirit. Contact us to learn more about steps that you can take to keep team morale high while working from home during the coronavirus. 

How to Find Balance Between Productivity vs. Security and Compliance

how to find balance between productivity vs security and compliance
However, in order for each one of them to work successfully, business owners must find common ground between each of them.

The truth is productivity, security, and compliance are all important to your business. However, in order for each one of them to work successfully, business owners must find common ground between each of them. More importantly, it’s imperative to define how each of them apply to your business needs too. On the one hand, you’re business is always trying to meet the demands of higher productivity and then on the other hand, security and compliance become just as important.

How does your business find a way to balance their goals of productivity, security, and governance? 

How To Balance Productivity, Security & Compliance 

Your business may define productivity as producing 500 units one week and then 800 the next. It’s obvious your level of productivity has increased. Your business was more productive in the second week than in the first, right? For a service provider, your productivity is defined by the number of customers your business is able to serve. However, today, productivity means giving your employees the flexibility of doing their job which could mean logging into your network from a mobile device, but this opens the door for exploitation by hackers. So, how do you continue to balance productivity, security, and compliance? The experts suggests; “a professional blend of management, resources, and strategy.” 

The need for productivity has created a demand for device compatibility, new workforce benefits, new technology, and vendors that have access to your network information. This has created IT obstacles that have never existed before which insights the need for a balance between productivity, security, and compliance. In fact, it may be harder for small business to keep up with the demands of all three, but here’s how your business can find the perfect balance: 

Choose To Be Adaptive & Context-Aware 

Stop asking users to authentic themselves and take the matter into your own hands. For example, when a user is logging into your network, background authentication checks like: are they using the same device, has their number recently been ported or are they logging on from a geographical location are all safety and compliance measures that can help you form the perfect balance between productivity too when met with the right tools. Your governance rules may be more stringent with a administrator who can change your system configurations or your finance staff who can access sensitive data over employees with less privileges. 

Think Technically “Smart” 

Why give your employees access to more of your network than what they need to do their job? The best balance between productivity and security is the least-privilege rule. Never give your employees access to more than what they need to avoid a security risk, but with the ability to still remain productive. For instance, any data that users upload to the cloud should be encrypted or blocking any downloads from a bring-your-own device (BYOD). 

Utilize Adoption & User Experience

Users absolutely hate things that get in their way. For instance, complex password requirements and hardware tokens feels like it is enabling their work which impacts their productivity. However, there are proven technologies that will streamline and improve the user experience while protecting your security. Use single-on features that don’t require a key fob, adaptive authentication (that remembers their device and log-on pattern), or even go passwordless. 

Bottom line: How do you balance productivity, security, and compliance? Identify the most profitable balance between the three along with what works best for your employees and for your business. 

You’re invited to contact us at the AE Technology Group for more details on balancing your productivity, security, and compliance. We’re you IT support and managed services professionals. Together, we’ll focus on the productivity of your team while protecting your business security and keeping you fined tuned with the current compliance standards. 

How to Avoid These 4 IT Mistakes As Your Company Grows

how to avoid these 4 it mistakes as your company grows
Mistakes

Have you noticed that your technology is struggling to keep up as the company expands over time? If so, you’re not alone. Many companies solely focus on increasing their sales without considering whether their technology will be able to  accommodate their growth.

Here are several IT mistakes you should try to avoid as your business starts to grow:

Mistake #1

Your Technology Does Not Align With the Company’s Overall Goals

Your technology should always align with the goals of your business. After all, not every product is going to be a good fit or meet your needs. Once you have outlined the company’s strategic goals, you should only invest in technology that will help you achieve them.

Mistake #2

Your Employees Are Not Supportive

Do your employees know why your company uses certain technology over others? They are less likely to embrace it if they don’t understand its purpose. This can lead to unsupportive employees who can lower the morale in the workplace. You can avoid this mistake early on by explaining to them in detail how your technology ties into the company’s overall mission.   

Mistake #3

You Don’t Explore Your Technology’s Full Capabilities

Technology has made significant strides within the last couple of decades, but many companies are still not taking advantage of all its capabilities. Talk with your managed IT service provider to learn more about how you can fully optimize it. You should also train the employees on how to use your software and equipment.

Mistake #4

Your Technology Isn’t A Priority

Sadly, some small business owners and managers are so focused on driving sales that they forget to prioritize their IT. You can use technology to increase efficiency and productivity. To prevent this from happening, you should work with a dedicated IT service provider to oversee your company’s technology.

Schedule a Consultation Today

For more information on how to avoid costly IT mistakes, please contact us our managed services IT company today. We’d be happy to perform a free audit and give an on-site consultation.

Why Is 2-Factor Authentication Important?

why is 2 factor authentication important
2-Factor Authentication

Hacking is becoming more common as major websites have had data leaks containing emails, passwords, and other sensitive information. This kind of hacking has made international headlines and brought the issue of cybersecurity and internet safety to the forefront. Any computer that gets infected and that contains your personal information can make the victim of identity theft. The most serious cases of hacking will include hackers getting far more than just your email and password. Oftentimes, such information and data security breaches will include hackers getting access to even more of your sensitive information such as your credit card or bank account numbers or even your address, phone number, and social security number.

Many people use passwords to keep the bad guys out of their information and out of their accounts, however, sadly, in 2018, that’s not always enough of a protective barrier to keep your sensitive information safe. Today’s most sophisticated hackers have learned how to use methods like phishing and pharming to test billions of password combinations till they find yours. Once they do that, all of the sensitive information contained inside is theirs for the taking!

Many internet users are even easier targets as they likely use the same password for multiple accounts on multiple websites because it makes their information easier to remember. If you do that, once a hacker gets access to one site, they have access to all of the sites with the same username and password combination, which can compromise more of your personal information that would otherwise be compromised if you used different combinations for each site.  

To combat this increasing issue of hackers getting into people’s information, many websites are taking to using what is called “2-factor authentication” which is essentially a system that double-checks a person’s identity to make sure they are the person who should be accessing the account before letting them in. This 2-factor authentication can be required every time a person logs in or if they are logging in from a new device, for example.

Many websites that you already use have this 2-factor authentication option. Sites like Facebook and Gmail are great examples of sites that give users this option. Users simply have to use their settings to request 2-factor authentication as an option. One example of 2-factor authentication is entering a code that you are texted or emailed to access your account if you forget a password or want to change a password. This is confirming you are who you claim you are, so you have already engaged in a 2-factor authentication process.

This 2-factor authentication is even more crucial when protecting personal information such as your banking information or personal email where further personal information may be attainable. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where people try to take other people’s information but it is happening more and more often these days. Protecting your information should be your number one priority and 2-factor authentication is the latest way to do just that.

For more information about 2-factor authentication and how you can protect your personal information please feel free to contact us at the AE Technology Group for further assistance.