Three Ways To Avoid Work From Home Burnout

The lines between work and non-work have blurred for so many people. For those who are still working from home (WFH), they may now be in their sixth consecutive month where there’s little balance between what they do professionally and personally.

Because when the work is sitting there in your personal space, it’s far too easy to work early or late – or both. Accidentally spotting that “urgent” email just before you’re about to go to bed really is incredibly damaging.

Added pressures of childcare have made this worse. Some parents feel that working all hours is the only way they can make up for the perceived reduced quality in their work.

The stress of constantly working (or constantly thinking about work) is dangerous. Our bodies and minds simply aren’t designed to be “on” all the time.

This is bad for our mental health. Which can easily have a negative effect on our physical health too. As IT specialists, we’ve been working remotely for years. Here are our top 3 suggestions to avoid WFH burnout.

1) Have physical ways to transition from personal you to work you, and back again. The easiest way to do this is with a dedicated workspace that’s strictly only used for work.

Even a specific seat at a table can be dedicated to work, even if you sit in other seats to do other things, like eat or play games. Some people dress for work each day, so they can change their clothes to mark the end of the working day.

2) Set strict work hours and stick to them. 9 to 5 might be impossible, but you can still have set work times, even if they’re scattered throughout the day. Make sure your family knows when you’re working. This is where having a set physical space can really help. In your non-work hours, make sure you only do non-work things. And do not check your email!

3) Prioritize what really matters: The other downside of sitting surrounded by work all the time is that there’s always something else that can be done. There’s no point working on minor tasks at 11pm at night, because the chances are, you’re not actually achieving anything meaningful. Assume you have 3-4 hours of truly productive time each day. And make sure you get and stay organized to achieve the most important things in this time.

Emerging: A New Version Of Business In 2020

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Signs of hope are emerging across the globe as economies slowly begin to reopen, but the sad reality is there will never be a return to the “old normal.”

Re-opening phases will look different for each industry and business type. B2C will have different challenges in reopening than B2B. Different regions have been affected in different ways and some more than others.

There is no cookie cutter model to reopening
McKinsey and Company has developed the CEO’s guide to reopening (https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-restart) based on research they have done across the globe, specifically in Europe and Asia. One of the biggest differentiators will be if you are B2B or B2C.
[Read more…]

Remote Workforce Or Not – You Can Securely Protect And Back Up Your Corporate Information

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

One of the most common objections heard when talking with businesses about moving towards a remote work strategy is the supposed security risks posed by not having all data contained within the physical confines of the office building.

While this has widely been debunked, the myth still remains. But the tide may be moving in the other direction now that many businesses were forced to move to an entirely remote workforce during the COVID-19 shutdown.

CNBC has reported that 85% of businesses are now operating 50% of their workforce remotely, and with tech giants Twitter and Facebook both reporting plans to move towards a continued remote strategy, the reality is that remote work in a larger capacity is going to become the norm instead of the exception.

Now is the time to prepare for the “new normal” that will become our reality.

Sadly, along with the threat of COVID-19, cyberattacks have grown as attackers realize that home networks are not as secure as corporate networks. However, security and back up firm Acronis shares 5 things that you can do to protect your business data moving forward with a remote work strategy.

Five “must do’s” according to Acronis
Acronis is a leading cloud backup and security provider and one that we recommend widely to all of our customers. They list 5 “must do’s” as you set up your remote workforce, and as always, we are here to help you put these processes in place.

Must-Do #1: VPN – or Virtual Private Network
You have most likely heard of this technology as it has been around for a while. But if not, a VPN will encrypt all data while in transit to protect it from cyberattackers.

Must-Do #2: Keep an eye out for phishing
Hackers are known for taking advantage of highly stressful events and we have seen an increase of COVID-19 themed phishing attempts and we expect this number to continue to rise as businesses reopen.

The best and most reliable way to prevent a phishing attack from affecting your business is through effective employee training. As another protective measure, you can install URL filtering software on your employees laptop or home computer to further reduce the risks of falling victim.

Acronis says, however, that you should always ask yourself if you were really expecting that email before opening or clicking any links contained in the message.

Must-Do #3: Anti-Malware
Virus and malware protection has always been a standard recommendation, but with the wide net that is cast with remote work, it has become even more important that every endpoint that touches your corporate data has this protection installed on it.

Must-Do #4: Patch, patch, and patch
Regardless of your operating system, whether it be Microsoft or Apple, you need to ensure that you are operating under the most recent operating system. Many attacks occur by taking advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities.

Must-Do #5: Keep your password, and your workspace, to yourself
Just because the office location is at home does not automatically mean people can’t access sensitive information when you step away. Limit access to your computer even when you are at home and do not tell anyone your passwords.

Prepare for the future now
There is no question that the future we anticipated at the close of 2019 is different than the one that will ultimately surface.

By making the assumption that remote work will continue to be the norm instead of a return to the standard office environment will help your business be agile and meet challenges head-on.

The Latest Small Business Security SNAFU? Zoom

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

With everyone now working from home and finding new ways to collaborate and get things done, Zoom has become one of the most popular video conferencing applications, reporting growth of 378% over just one year ago.

As its popularity has grown, so has the allure for hackers. The FBI in Boston reported that two online high school classes had been interrupted by individuals who began yelling obscenities and the address of the teacher to another which displayed swastika tattoos. So how does this happen?

To start, most recurring meetings use the same meeting IDs. Someone, in an effort to make sure other attendees were aware of the event, would share it in an unsecured way, such as on Facebook or other social media.

Hackers can pick up this information, and even after the event was over, they could use the same information to gain access to the next meeting. Fortune Magazine has reported that dark web dedicated forums have popped up on popular sites like Reddit, and all a hacker would need to do on Facebook is search for “zoom.us” to find any public post containing the targeted words.

So what is a business to do to secure their meetings and avoid the potential sharing of sensitive corporate information during this time of extensive virtual meetings? First, and foremost, set your meeting to private. This means that there is a password required for each participant to enter. Although Zoom has now changed this setting to be the default setting, some users are still opting to make the meeting public for the sake of convenience.

As inconvenient as it is to have invitees enter a password to get into their meeting, it’s even more inconvenient to have sensitive corporate information released. Also… and this might seem to be stating the obvious but do not share your meeting invite over social media.

No matter our security settings on social media profiles, it’s best to assume that nothing you say on there will stay private. Another way to ensure the security of your zoom meeting is to use the feature of the waiting room. This means that each invitee who logs in will first be placed into a room where the meeting host then has to approve their entry and allowing the host to assess each attendee before they enter the room.

Also, never use your personal ID. Each zoom user has a personal virtual meeting room assigned when they create an account. Defaulting to using your assigned virtual meeting room can make it easier for hackers to enter in from old meeting announcements.

You know the phrase, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Yeah. When it comes to Zoom (and any virtual meeting for that matter) assume what happens in Zoom does not stay in Zoom. If the information that is going to be shared is of such critical nature, you should find another medium where you have no chance of being overheard.

Covid-19’s Effects On The Tech We Use Every Day

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

As we all know, most of the world was basically shut down earlier this year. There was no planning or infrastructure in place to help ease the burden of entire populations staying home. Consequently, the domino effect hit hard.

People rushed out to stock up on essentials like toilet paper and sanitizer. Overbuying then created a new issue as supply chains struggled to keep up with demand. Shipping times overall started to slow.

Amazon, whose Prime subscription service is famous for its 1-2 day shipping time, prioritized essential items for their guaranteed delivery. From personal experience, I had an Amazon item that did not ship for two weeks after ordering. This was solely due to the de-prioritization of nonessential goods.

The United States Post Office has had severe delays as well, specifically in their larger Metropolitan areas, and have been buried under a Christmas season-like load with a much smaller workforce.

Manufacturing as a whole took an almost immediate hit. Most manufacturing facilities have a large number of employees in an enclosed area. This presented a huge risk for the spread of the disease, causing automobile manufacturers, food processing plants, and computer manufacturers to send their employees home and shut their doors.

Why does manufacturing being put on hold matter so much? Once again, it’s due to the struggle to meet demands.

While many industries did put a hold on their business, many others made a quick transition to remote work. Many companies, both big and small, scrambled to obtain laptops for their employees to allow them to work from home.

While companies worked out remote solutions for their employees, schools had also closed down all over the country.

Some schools had existing devices for their students, such as Chromebooks, but many schools did not. To continue the learning process during the pandemic, more computers were needed for students to do their work. All of these new needs for computers – primarily from online retailers – created a huge surge in PC sales, but also created a real issue. Inventory was running out all over the United States and a computer shortage began.

With no manufacturing, there was no inventory being created, including PC parts. This affected the entire sector and the shortage is on-going.

All faces of technology – from the big guys like Amazon to smaller companies – have felt the effects of the pandemic. They have also done their part to help.

Auto plants changed their lines over from making cars to making respirators. Amazon put a high priority on essential items and medical supplies. Many other industries and businesses have shifted their production to meet immediate needs such as masks.

There is some silver lining in all of this. Seeing companies band together for the good of people without thinking of profit has been reassuring. The phrase “unprecedented times” has been used more times than we can count, but now that we have that precedent, let’s hope we can learn from it.

Should I Go, Or Should I Wait? Re-opening Tips

Stay at home orders are being lifted, businesses are beginning to reopen. Our world is being turned on its head again, and normal will never be the same again.

As we begin to reopen our doors and essentially relaunch our businesses, here are some things to think about to get you started.

Be very careful about what and where you make cost cuts
Uncertainty naturally causes us to restrict, and this is by no means bad. You may have to make cuts in order to get things back on their feet. But Inc Magazine contributor, Graham Winfrey, cautions to you make those cuts wisely.

In his interview with Manny Cosme, the CEO and President of a CFO and Bookkeeping business, he was advised to make projections before you make cuts. Cosme said that businesses need to think about growing their way out of the crisis.

He said, “Every cut that you make is going to cut your ability to generate revenue or keep your business going, which is not something you want to be doing right now.” So think very carefully about what, and even if, you are going to make any cuts as you reopen.

Look closely at your business model
No matter how much we wish we could just go back to the way things were, we have all experienced significant changes over the last few weeks. Nothing feels better than returning to some sort of normalcy.

But one thing we have learned over this global health crisis is the ability of the entrepreneur and the business owner to pivot and meet their consumers’ needs where they are. Changing your business model in light of the pandemic just might be what saves your business.

Graham Winfrey suggests you ask yourself 3 questions:

● What should your business model be when you come out of this?
● Is your current business model viable? If so, how can you hang on until it’s viable again?
● Are there ways you can pivot all of your expertise into a better revenue stream?

Along with his panelist in the article on Inc, Cosme believes that it comes down to changing one or more of the following within your business model:

● What you sell
● Whom you sell it to
● How you deliver it

Evaluate local support options
Throughout this crisis, many federal and local supports have been extended to small business and their employees. Graham suggests that you look to your local chamber of commerce to see what local support programs may have been crafted to help you as you reopen your doors.

Create policies to ensure the safety of both your employees and customers
After you have completed the above steps, now you should create your communication plan for letting your customers know you will be open for business.

George Brandt in his article in Forbes suggests you approach it in three steps: Emotional, rational, and inspirational.

Be authentic
George suggests that you connect with your audience in an authentic, relatable and compassionate way.

Empathize with your consumer that you know this was difficult for them as well as for you. George quotes PrimeGenesis’ saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Lay out the facts
With calm composure, polite and authoritative, lay out the hard facts of the current situation. For them and for you.

George defines the facts as “things that any rational person would agree are true no matter what bias or perspective they bring to the situation – objective, scientific truths as opposed to subjective, personal, cultural or political truths, opinions or conclusions.”

Think ahead and paint an optimistic view
George recommends that you ground all your communication with Mayfield and Mayfield’s meaning-making and direction-giving language, meaning providing purpose and value: be – do – say.