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.

6 Signs Your Business Has the Right Remote IT Support Services

signs you have good remote support

Remote support is a lifeline to businesses that need immediate help for their in-house IT or workers trying to salvage a workday. Having an effective remote support company as part of a business’ safety net can be the difference between hours of downtime and lost business and getting back on track in a few short minutes. Understanding whether you have good remote IT support services or need an upgrade is a simple matter of ensuring the organization embodies these six positive signs.

Automation Takes Care of Simple Requests

One sign of a great remote support company is that many of the simple solutions are available as part of a self-service platform. For example, some remote support businesses will allow a client to log in to their account and access a list of common solutions to various problems. If the network is not acting properly and needs to be reset, it can be done automatically and remotely without requiring intervention from remote support agents or technicians.

The Support Center Has Easy Solutions for Customers

How hard is it for your business to get the solutions they need from the remote support company? Do you need to go through menu after menu to get to the tools that you already need? That should not be the case. A good remote support company knows what its customers need and make it simple for them to get to it. For example, live customer support should be available upon request at every point during the support interaction instead of being locked behind page after page of customer responses.

Remote Support is Fully Integrated on the Business’ Site

A business should not have to request remote support for an issue. The ability to access direct remote support should be integrated into the customer’s journey. That way, when they are putting in a support ticket, clients can see that they have a direct line to help when they are suffering from a serious problem.

The Business Solves Issues and Prevents the Next Ones

Remote support businesses understand that problems tend to cascade into others. If a company with HIPAA implications has a risk assessment performed and it comes back and shows serious deficiencies, then the next problem will be how to secure their workplace. That issue requires personnel training, new security measures, and more. Your remote support should anticipate your future needs after they identify your immediate problem and offer solutions.

The Remote Support Teams Actively Work Together

A good remote support company will have seamless interactions between their technicians in the field and agents in the remote office settings. That means the total amount of time to solve a problem should be very low if you have remote support and a technician on the same task. Furthermore, the technician should come to the job site with a good idea about how to quickly fix the problem because they have been informed by the remote support agents.

Most Issues Are Resolved Remotely

Every call to your support center should not result in a technician coming to your workplace and adding billable hours. A remote support company is most useful because it solves problems without stepping foot in a business. Remote support techs visiting your site should not be a common occurrence when most solutions can be delivered over the internet. Of course, there are some cases where work must happen in-person.

If your business is lacking these six signs, then it may be time for a switch to a provider like AE Technology Group. As a Managed Services Provider with over two decades of experience helping customers, and a member of the WheelHouse IT family, AE Technology Group has what it takes to swiftly help clients get the support they need. Their offices in Fort Lauderdale, Long Island, and Los Angeles allow them to deliver on-site and remote support to small and medium-sized businesses in the busiest corporate hubs in the U.S.

6 Cyber Security Tips for Remote Workers

cyber security tips

As we transition into the #WorkFromHome life, staying safe remains our top priority. Don’t forget to consider data security and cyber threats while working remote. Viruses of a different kind can throw a wrench in productivity and compromise core systems and information. Stay safe at home with these 6 Cyber Security Tips for Remote Workers.

Best Practices for The Best Remote Office Experience

Transitions are the perfect opportunity to review best practices and ensure your company is operating at maximum efficiency. Preventing cyber attacks begins with a thorough review of your organization’s security and compliance. 

Review employee password requirements and ensure your company is following the recommended security protocol to keep your sensitive information from slipping into the wrong hands. Protect your clients and your team by requiring two-factor authentication and passwords that consistent of a phrase or sentence with capitals, numbers, and special characters.

Ensure employees have logged out of all devices aside from their designated work computer. Be clear with your team that personal devices should not be used for work purposes. These devices are unsecured and may compromise integral security. This includes transferring files with confidential information between work and personal devices.

Support your crew with sufficient resources such as tablets, work phones, and laptops for on-the-go business instead. For easy data transfer, opt for convenient and secured Cloud storage solutions.

Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Portals, email, and CRM’s aren’t the only platforms that require strong security. Remote work should always be conducted via a secured Wi-Fi network. This ensures that sensitive information is not transmitted through compromised channels. For staff that are currently working from home, offer a DIY IT workshop to get them started. 

Change the router password to meet best practice standards and consider installing firmware updates and cracking down on encryption levels. 

Protect Privacy

Cyberspace is a dangerous realm. You never know who may be viewing your information and tracking your supposedly private IP address. From advertisers to phishing scams, accessing sensitive information and demographics is surprisingly easy.

Get your team outfitted with the protection of a virtual private network or VPN. A company wide VPN supports secured browsing by masking the IP address (or digital footprint) of each user. These helpful tools encrypt internet traffic, keeping company data protected and private information secured.

Check for Updates

Good anti-virus software is only as good as its last update. Think twice before hitting the “later” button on daily or weekly updates. Although keeping software and applications in top shape can seem like an extra annoyance in your busy day, these updates contain essential information and patches for vulnerabilities.

Firewalls, anti-malware, and anti-virus software are the most critical components to prioritize. These programs are constantly adapting to capture and quarantine new, evolving threats. Ensure an automatic update schedule has been enabled. Taking a few minutes to streamline applications will save you a lot of grief in the event of a cyber attack.

Don’t Be a Victim of Cyber Crooks

There’s no better time for a company refresher on the importance of cyber safety. Phishing scams are on the rise since the increase in remote workers. These devious cyber crooks typically operate by sending scam emails, calls, or texts in order to gain personal and financial information on their target. Make your team aware of recent scams and threats while keeping each member up to speed on what they can do to prevent a data breach.

A few SOP’s for remote work might include a cheatsheet of information you should never give out via phone, text, or email, as well as helpful tips on how to spot a phishing scheme.

Be Prepared

One positive element to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is that the current situation underscores the value of preparedness. Data loss can happen to anyone, whether by human error or cyber breach. Be sure your company is prepared with a backup plan in case the unexpected happens.

Investing in a robust Cloud storage system provides a sufficient backup in case of disaster. This simple solution is typically the most convenient and cost effective for small to mid-sized businesses. If all else fails, AETechnology Group has your back(up) with disaster recovery options for our Long Island and New York business clients.

Contact our experts today for all your remote work needs as we continue to empower businesses to prioritize safety alongside productivity.