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.

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.

How To Set Up And Maintain A Secure, Remote Work Environment To Overcome The COVID19 Pandemic

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

“We are in this together.” We can’t say that enough. It’s not you, and I, but US.

Information technology and communications providers are considered essential services in this unprecedented time, and we take our role seriously. We are here to help, and we ask you (no, implore you) to reach out with any technology-related questions as you work to transition from a central office to a remote employee environment.

As you prepare (or maybe you already have transitioned) for remote work environments, many of which will need to be done by the individual who will be working there, we developed this list of 10 things to keep in mind to secure a remote work environment on the fly.

Invest in antivirus software for all employee devices
Yes, technically it is your employee’s devices and these are usually outside of the typical IT circle. But with these circumstances coming about quickly, there may not have been time to follow your normal procurement cycle to get the specific equipment your employees need to remain productive while working from home. That means they will be working from their own device, and they may or may not be as cognizant of your security measures.

So a good rule of thumb is to work to ensure that all employees utilize antivirus software. Many ISPs (Internet service providers) also offer free antivirus software with their service, and we would encourage you to take full advantage. There are several ways you can handle this and we invite you to give us a call to see what will work best for your organization. [Read more…]

Working From Home? Probably The “New Normal”

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

I hope that you and your family (and pets) are safe and sound and doing as well as can be expected. This is an extraordinary time for all of us, and the very embodiment of the ancient Chinese aphorism “may you live in interesting times.” We surely do.

Our team is mixed between working in the office and working from home, and everyone is doing a great job. We initially saw a huge increase in our ticket volume as our client’s teams prepared to work from home but that’s tapered off in the last week to a pretty normal level of activity.

If you had to wait for help, please accept my personal apology for the inconvenience – while we have plans to handle client disasters, I never anticipated something as far-reaching as the current pandemic.

The “new normal”

If the politicians and experts are to be believed, many of the changes we’ve had to make to slow the spread of this virus are going to be around for quite a while, at least until we have an effective vaccine for COVID-19. From an IT perspective, that means more of your team will probably be working remotely. And that presents a new kind and new level of security exposure for your company. [Read more…]

Working Remotely: Changes Amid The Outbreak

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

It was early March when Microsoft decided to mandate its employees work remotely. Over a month since then, the world has not yet “bounced” back.

It’s still looking like we haven’t seen the worst of things to come. Many industries are closed altogether. Others are running with reduced staff. More people than we can count are out of work and seeking unemployment.

Unless your position called for travel, working remotely wasn’t something many people would consider. However, there is no normal right now, and many people find themselves working from home for the first time.

Not all industries can manage it. There are front liners that have to work. Sure, you can likely do a video appointment with your doctor, but doctors are still seeing patients.

Food service, gas station, and grocery store employees are all critical and in-person jobs that are going to work on a daily basis.

Insurance companies and accounting offices? Their employees are probably very important to a lot of people right now. Their jobs are unlikely to be reliant on a central location.

A computer with web access can be enough to get you through in some situations, and other times, you need access to resources on your corporate network. Different people have different needs. In some cases, people are learning what they need and how to get it as they go.

As someone working in the IT industry, a fair portion of my normal work is done remotely. The only difference is my physical location. I can make calls, remotely assist clients, resolve issues, and carry on like a typical day at the office.

Many are not so lucky. The world doesn’t stop running, and being under quarantine is creating some unique situations. People who have never worked from home suddenly are.

Non-critical business is on hold, but the justice system isn’t on complete shutdown. Different cities and states are still working with its judges to get things done. There are certainly some instances of cities where they have the infrastructure in place to do telecourt appearances. There are others that are trying to put systems in place to be able to operate and hear cases.

While it is likely that some criminal cases will be put on hold, other court matters, like custody cases, can’t always wait indefinitely.

With such uncertainty, some judges are doing Zoom meetings just to make sure that the world does keep moving around us.

Meeting apps like Zoom are being used more and more frequently as people attempt to find ways to host meetings. Skype, Discord, and just about anything else have been used in a pinch to try to make ends meet.

Technology can be daunting, especially when new concepts like virtual meetings or VPNs are introduced.

People trying to use a webcam and mic or remote connection for the first time can get frustrated; it can be hard enough when we’re not facing a global pandemic. Having a technology partner like Tech Experts can ease the transition (and your mind) in these trying times.

There are many things to be learned from this entire situation, though, and many things are sure to change. One thing is for sure: we will all likely be a little more comfortable with the idea of working from home in the future, should we need to.

How Can Small Businesses Amplify Employee Communication?

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Using email to conduct important business always starts with the best intentions, like saving everyone time. Just think back to the last time you used email to solve a significant business issue or answer detailed questions from an important customer.

But, sometimes, email creates a disaster of miscommunication. Tone, intonation, and emotion get lost in translation. Messages and ideas are misunderstood. Nothing really gets accomplished.

So, what’s your next step when email isn’t working?

Usually, it’s a meeting in person or a quick conference call. Un-fortunately, those communication methods can create a whole new problem. In an increasingly mobile business world where teams, employees, and customers are spread out over multiple remote offices, work-from-home setups, or field operations, it can be nearly impossible to get everyone into the same place at the same time.

Tethering to the mothership: The lasting value of a virtual phone system
Web conferencing has helped mitigate the above problem. However, the fact that many businesses lack the communication and collaborative tools their team’s need — regardless of where they work — is the bigger issue. For example, even with web conferencing, many remote or work-from-home employees still rely on personal cell phones that aren’t connected to the company’s main phone system.

That’s problematic for a couple of key reasons:

• With personal landlines and cell phones, it’s significantly more difficult for remote employees to access antiquated company systems for voicemail, call forwarding, and conferencing.

• Without a true company-owned connection between the corporate office and the employee, the relationship between the two feels more like a contract gig than a full-time job — hurting employee engagement and retention.

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple way to solve that problem: implementing a new, company-owned communication system that’s flexible, mobile, and collaborative.

One common solution is a VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, which can be based in the cloud or on-site.

The reality is that voice communication is still a far superior — and much more immediate — way for team members to connect with each other. It typically leads to richer, more sincere, and more empathetic communication, which in turn amplifies productivity.

These tools are like a tether to the corporate mothership. They’re a lifeline that allows everyone to feel connected to their colleagues and customers, but in a way that aligns with the mobility and functionality that today’s remote workers need.

Why many businesses are moving to the cloud
Of course, the image of a desktop phone doesn’t exactly convey a sense of mobility. And it certainly doesn’t solve the problem of being able to connect from any location.

That’s where cloud-based phone systems come in.

Cloud-based phone systems allow team members to receive company calls, access corporate voicemail, and set up virtual conferences from a basic Internet connection.

When employees step out of the office, calls can be forwarded and certain features can be accessed from their cell phone.

Traditional phone systems, on the other hand, often hinder remote workers’ communication effectiveness because of their limited mobile capabilities. This often results in lost money, lost productivity, and big headaches. Even worse, businesses often pay more for traditional phone systems in the form of equipment maintenance and outages.

Virtual communication systems create an overall experience that makes people feel like an effective part of the team, wherever they are. No more emotionless email exchanges and no more awkward, disjointed conference calls. At the end of the day, that’s good for your team, your company, and, most importantly, your customers.

Does Your Company Need An Internet Usage Policy?

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

With the growth and expansion of the Internet, it is important to make sure that your business has a policy in place to protect its assets.

Depending on your business, an Internet Usage Policy (IUP) can be long and drawn out or short and to the point.

An IUP will provide your employees with guidelines on what is acceptable use of the Internet and company network. IUPs not only protect the company, but also the employee.

Employees are informed and aware of what is acceptable when it comes to websites and downloading files or programs from the Internet.

When employees know there will be serious consequences for breaking the IUP, such as suspension or termination of employment, companies tend to notice a decrease in security risks due to employee carelessness.

You will need to make sure your IUP covers not only company equipment and your network, but also employee-owned devices such as smart phones and tablets. You may be surprised at the number of employees that feel they do not have to follow the IUP because they are using their own device to surf or download from the Internet.

Make sure you address proper usage of company-owned mobile devices. Your business may have satellite employees or a traveling sales force. Even when they are away, they need to be aware they are still representatives of the business and must follow the business IUP.

After all, it would not go over well if your sales staff was giving a presentation to a prospective client and suddenly, “adult content” ads popped-up on the screen because one of your employees was careless in their web habits.

The downloading of files and programs is a security risk in itself. Private, internal company documents and correspondence downloaded from your company’s network can become public, causing unrepairable damage.

On the same thought, employees downloading from the Internet open your company’s network up to malware attacks and infections.

There are a lot of hackers that prey upon the absent-minded employee downloading a video or song file by hiding a piece of malware within the download. Once the malware makes it into your network, there’s no telling what damage it can cause.

As for non-work related use of the company network and Internet, make sure your employees know there is no expectation of personal privacy when using the company’s network and Internet connection.

Make it well-known that the network and Internet are in place to be used for work purposes only. Improper use of the network can reduce bandwidth throughout the company network.

This includes all mobile devices owned by the company. This way, your employees know that no matter where they are they still must follow the guidelines of the IUP.

Make sure all of your employees sign the IUP and fully understand what it is they are signing. Make sure you answer any and all questions they may have.

This will help clear up any confusion your employees may have. This way, there can be no excuses as to why the IUP was broken.

Whenever you update the IUP, make sure you have all of your employees sign and understand the new additions and/or changes to the IUP. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll be glad you did if you ever run into any violations of your company’s IUP.

For assistance in creating Internet Usage Policies or if you have any questions, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.

Remote Access And Security For Your Business

Working remotely is on the rise and is revolutionizing how business is conducted as a whole. As companies make the switch from centralized networks that require being physically present in the office to expansive virtual environments, it is possible to access corporate data from just about anywhere. Those companies that resist embracing remote access risk being left behind technologically and miss out on all of the benefits using things like clouds or application virtualization can bring.

Just by providing remote access to corporate files and programs, employees can work from anywhere on the fly. This allows your team to work on projects while at home or out of town, greatly increasing productivity and reducing the stress of trying to meet deadlines when life gets in the way and prevents being physically in the office. Remote access also lets employees view or share important documents from other devices, such as smartphones or tablets, to quickly verify information on the fly or perform last-minute tasks with ease.

With remote access, new security concerns also arise. With the transfer of sensitive data, there is the risk of it being intercepted by a third party that isn’t committed to your company’s success or has the intent of doing harm.

Consequently, it crucial to secure your remote access system. Secure remote access will ensure that files are encrypted during transfer, scan for malware, authenticate user identity, and control who has access to particular information.

In these ways, proper security measures not only prevent those outside the company from gaining access to private data, but also manage who can view and use data internally.

With the proper security, a business can thrive beyond expectation. Employee performance can skyrocket by having access to work data 24/7 and from any location because physical presence in the office is no longer a prerequisite to getting work done.

Business continuity is also greatly improved because inclement weather or natural disasters don’t shut down operations and the meeting of deadlines. Secure remote access can even boost employee morale and productivity by facilitating work in varied locations using multiple access mechanisms.

If you require assistance setting up or securing remote access to your business, let us know and we will show you what works best for your situation.

Remote Employees And Network Connections

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As businesses begin to downsize their ecological footprint, the need for remote or satellite employees grows. Business leaders and owners are now faced with the daunting question on how to allow remote employees access to their existing network without compromising network security.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of VPN.

VPNs allow secure access to business resources by creating encrypted pass-throughs via the Internet. The Internet, combined with present-day VPN technology, allows businesses a low cost and secure means to extend their networks to their remote employees.

The two most common methods in which to set up remote access are IPsec (IP Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Both methods work well and both have their advantages depending on the needs and size of your business.

VPNs created using SSL technology provide remote-access connection from almost any Internet-enabled location or device using a web browser interface.

No special client software needs to be preinstalled on either device. This makes SSL VPNs a true “anytime, anywhere” connection to company-managed desktops.

There are two different SSL VPN connections to choose from: clientless and full network access.

Clientless requires no special software. All traffic is transmitted and delivered through a web browser.

There is no need to install or download any unique software to establish the connection. With clientless access, only web-enabled programs and apps are able to be accessed, such as email, network file servers and local intranet sites.

Even with such limited access to network resources, this style of connection is well-suited for most businesses.c868266_m

Additionally, because there is no need for special software to be supported by the IT department, businesses can cut down on managed overhead.

A full network access VPN allows access to almost any program, application, network server, and resource connected to your business network. Unlike clientless access, full network access connection is made through the use of VPN client software. Because the client access software is dynamically downloaded and updated, it requires little or no desktop support.

As with clientless access, you have the ability to customize each connection based on employee access privileges. If your remote employees require the full functionality of installed programs and applications as if they were sitting inside the office building, utilizing a full network VPN connection is the obvious choice.

IPsec based VPNs are the staple of remote-access connection technology. IPsec VPN connections are created by using installed VPN client software on the user’s workstation and connecting device.

Client software allows for greater customizability by modifying the VPN client software. Businesses are able to configure and maintain the appearance and function of the VPN client, which allows for easier implementation for connections with other desktops, kiosks, and other special need cases.

Many businesses find that IPsec connections meet their requirements for the users, but the advantages of self-updating desktop software, accessibility from non-company managed devices, and customizable user access make SSL VPNs a front runner for remote-access connections to your office.

If you have any questions or would like more information about how a VPN can help your company, you can reach Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)