Since the pandemic, employers around the world have needed to change. They’ve had to shift how their employees operate. Remote work is very much here to stay. Organizations and employees can both benefit from the work-from-home and hybrid work revolution.
Cost savings is a driver for supporting remote work. Employee morale and productivity also can be higher when employers grant this flexibility.
A majority of organizations support some type of remote work. Statistics show that:
16% of companies are completely remote
40% support hybrid office/remote working
44% don’t allow employees to work remotely
While there are benefits, there are also challenges to this new environment. Employers worry about the cybersecurity risks of remote teams. Managers can find it more challenging to make sure employees are doing what they should do.
The remote and hybrid work environment has led to the rise of employee monitoring tools. These tools have mixed reviews from employees.
What Is Employee Monitoring Software?
Employee monitoring software tracks digital movements. This can include everything from general clock-in clock-out tracking to taking screenshots of an employee’s computer several times per hour.
Tracking tools like Hubstaff and BambooHR track many activities on a person’s computer. The information is then sent in a daily or weekly report to the company.
Items that these tools can track are:
Screenshots of the desktop
Apps used and how long in use
The most invasive of tools can even track the sounds and video of the employee. Tracking can be visible, so the employee knows about it or hidden from the employee. It depends on the tool used and the ethical considerations of the employer.
This type of monitoring can benefit an organization worried about “productivity theft.” But it can also alienate good employees and torpedo morale and trust. We’ll go through the pros and cons to weigh before you set up this type of system.
Pros of Activity Monitoring Tools
Helps Managers Understand How Employees Spend Their Day
One feature of many tracking tools is the ability to track time by project. This helps managers understand where employees are prioritizing their time. Knowing how much time employees spend on a project helps with ROI projections.
Reduces Non-Work Activities During Working Hours
One thing that employers worry about with remote employees is that they will waste time. A manager doesn’t want to pay someone only to find out the employee spent half their time on Facebook.
About half of monitored employees spend 3+ hours per day on non-work activities. When employees know that their boss is monitoring their app usage, they’re less likely to goof off.
Can Be an Easy Way to Track Time for Remote Workers
Smaller companies that work with fully remote teams may find tracking tools convenient. Employees or freelancers can track their time at the click of a button. Employers can put an hour-per-week cap on time. They can also manage payments automatically through the app.
Cons of Activity Monitoring Tools
Hurts Employees’ Morale & Productivity
Many employees feel they are put in a cage when monitoring is introduced. Morale can plummet, which takes productivity along with it.
Instead of focusing on work completely, various thoughts go through employees’ minds. Such as, “If I think about this problem too long, is the tracking going to give me a low productivity score?” Or “What happens when I’m on the phone with a customer and not moving my mouse around? Will the tracking make it look like I’m not working?”
Some of the feelings that employees can have when monitored are:
No longer trusted
Loss of company loyalty
Treated like a number instead of a person
“Activity Monitoring” Doesn’t Mean Productivity
Many of these tracking tools send employees and employers “activity reports.” These reports simply look at keyboard and mouse activity during a specific time.
But what if the employee must solve a workflow issue and needs to use their brain, not the mouse? What if a salesperson is on the phone with a customer, not using their keyboard? Zoom calls bring a similar quandary. If you’re in a Zoom call, your mouse and keyboard aren’t being actively used as they would if you are typing.
Yet, the activity report doesn’t include this information. It will simply give a score of x% based on keyboard and mouse activity. This could make an employer think a worker was goofing off when they were actually working hard.
Costs Organizations Good Employees
Nearly half (47%) of surveyed tech employees stated they would quit if their boss tracked them. Employers implementing monitoring can alienate good employees and make them feel untrusted. They can also feel unappreciated.
When you relegate everyone to a number of keyboard strokes, you constrain creativity. Good employees often stay with companies where they feel appreciated and can grow. Once that’s gone, they’re likely to leave.
Finding a Balance
A few things to think about when finding the right balance between tracking too much or too little are:
What do you really need to track?
Should you treat all employees the same?
What do your employees think about monitoring?
Are you trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?
What features are unnecessary that you can turn off?
Is the tool giving you accurate data related to productivity?
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You often hear the words “digital transformation” and “collaboration.” But what do they actually mean? What do they mean for the day-to-day of running your business?
Collaboration can’t happen without shared goals. When departments are siloed and unconnected, priorities can conflict. People are doing their best but may not be moving in the same direction.
Digital transformation is simply the use of technology to better reach business goals. This encompasses moving from analog ways of doing things. Transitioning to tools that are more automated and connected.
Microsoft has been at the forefront of digital transformation and collaboration. Its Viva platform drives an improved employee experience. It does this by use of AI, automation, cloud connectivity, and more.
In this article, you’ll get an overview of Microsoft Viva. Then, we’ll dive into one of the newest Viva offerings, Viva Goals. We’ll explore what it does and how it can help your company meet its targets.
What Is Microsoft Viva?
Microsoft Viva is a line of employee experience applications. These connect to the Microsoft 365 platform, and especially Microsoft Teams. The apps act as add-ons that can build on your organization’s digital capabilities.
There are currently seven apps within the Microsoft Viva line:
Viva Topics: Allows organizations to harness knowledge and experience. It serves up relevant topics from the company knowledge base from keywords.
Viva Connections: Gives employees a personalized and connected newsfeed. The company newsfeed serves up important news, conversations, and tools.
Viva Learning: Consolidates employee training apps. Makes it easy for employees to gain new skills from inside the MS Teams application.
Viva Insights: Improves employee well-being and corporate culture. Uses data-driven insights to provide productivity and well-being recommendations.
Viva Sales: Reduces the data input needed from salespeople. Serves up helpful lead interaction recommendations.
Viva Engage: Cultivates personal networks and community. Fosters engagement and knowledge sharing.
Viva Goals: Enables clarity and alignment of corporate goals.
The Viva line expands what businesses may traditionally see as “software.” It creates a connection between Microsoft Office and M365 apps. It also focuses on the people, rather than the tool. Microsoft designed Viva applications to use AI. This makes work easier and gives visibility into actionable data points.
What is Viva Goals?
Viva Goals is one of the newest Viva applications from Microsoft. It connects teams so they’re moving toward a shared set of goals. Employees align, whether someone works in the accounting department or customer support.
Business leaders can look at Viva Goals as a way to solidify company objectives. They can then tie these objectives to meaningful targets for each department.
For example, say you have a corporate target to provide exceptional customer support. This goal by itself is generic. It doesn’t connect to what teams need to do to make it happen.
In Viva Goals, that target can have directives for various teams. Such as customer support reducing ticket resolution by 8 hours. This brings goals to a meaningful level and allows organizations to track progress.
Here are the key value-adds of using Viva Goals.
Aligns Your Team to the Same Goals
Viva Goals puts company goals and targets in a tangible form. There is a definition of success for teams and individuals. Work outcomes are directly connected to company-wide objectives.
Everyone is on the same page, rather than departments pursuing different targets. With alignment, companies can more easily reach their goals.
Maintains Focus on Goals
Viva connects to other M365 apps, making it easier to gather data insights. These insights help leaders more easily see goal progress.
Employees stay focused on goals. This is because goals connect to their daily work targets. Rather than being something they hear at a company event, goals get infused into the workflow.
Integration with Teams & M365
The integration with Teams keeps goals front and center. Employees get recognized for meeting targets and helping the company achieve its goals. This keeps everyone engaged and moving together.
Progress towards goals isn’t kept on a spreadsheet on someone’s cloud drive. Instead, stats on goal achievement live in tools used daily. When goals remain visible, organizations have a better chance to achieve them.
How Do You Get Viva Goals?
If you want to subscribe to Viva Goals as an add-on to your M365 plan, it is currently $6.00/user/month.
For the entire suite of Viva applications, the current price is $9.00/user/month.
Questions About Microsoft 365 or Viva Goals?
Digital transformation with tools like Microsoft Viva is a necessity if you want to keep up. Old ways of doing things are giving way to the cloud, AI, and machine learning. We can help you navigate that territory. Give us a call and schedule a consultation to learn more.
The global pandemic put a big emphasis on the need to run a business from anywhere. Enabling employees to work remotely requires cloud solutions. This includes collaborative platforms like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems have also become critical.
VoIP allows companies to stay in contact with customers and potential customers. Employees can work from anywhere and still answer the business phone line. Callers get a similar experience no matter where employees may be working, office, or home.
When you have people working from home, those old landline systems are inefficient. This has led to a large movement by businesses to VoIP. Both for necessity and cost-savings.
According to Microsoft, 82% of organizations have reported saving money after implementing VoIP.
While VoIP is the way to go for the future, this doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. Companies that don’t set up their system efficiently, can experience issues. This includes things like dropped calls, low bandwidth, and features left unused.
If you’ve been struggling to make your cloud phone system more efficient, check out these tips below. They provide setup best practices for VoIP. Use these to positively impact your bottom line.
1. Check Network Capabilities
You can’t just assume that you can enable a VoIP system, and all will be well. Your network may not be able to handle the extra bandwidth needs without adjustments.
Things you want to look at include jitter and packet loss. Additionally, review router settings to make sure it can handle peak traffic times. Experiencing dropped calls or choppy audio shows a need to address issues. These may include adjusting network hardware and/or increasing your ISP bandwidth.
2. Prioritize Your VoIP Software Using QoS Rules
Quality of Service (QoS) is a router settings area that allows you to say which traffic is most important. If QoS is not in place, it means resource issues. A large cloud backup could kick in and interrupt your calls because it’s taking up bandwidth.
QoS sets up “traffic lanes” that give priority to certain functions. You’ll want to have your VoIP software prioritized to get the bandwidth it needs. This avoids issues with less critical processes hogging up internet resources.
Using QoS keeps your calls smooth. It also improves the reliability of your cloud phone system. It’s also a good idea to use these rules for other important cloud activities.
3. Provide Quality Headsets for Your Team
A cheap headset can ruin the call experience for a potential customer. If someone calls in and can’t hear anything or gets choppy reception, they’ll quickly get frustrated. They will most likely figure that your company doesn’t have its act together.
Your employees may not be able to afford high-quality headsets. They also may not know what type to buy. Head off potential problems by issuing quality headsets for your team to use.
4. Set Up Departments & Ring Groups
One of the great features of VoIP phone systems is the ability to set up ring groups. You first set up your department groups (accounting, marketing, etc.). Then set the included employee extensions.
Creating a ring group allows you to have a call go to your customer support department as a whole. This is better than one person, who may be busy. That way, the whole group gets the ring, and the first available person can pick up.
Ring groups improve the caller experience by reducing the wait time. It can also mitigate the need for the caller to leave a voicemail and get stuck waiting on a callback.
5. Create Your Company Directory
Auto assistants are extremely helpful and nearly all VoIP systems have them. First, you set up your company directory and then record messages to prompt the caller.
For example, you can set up a message that prompts them to input the last name of the person they are trying to reach. If they aren’t calling a specific person, they can be routed to a department.
While setting up a company directory takes a little effort upfront, it will save much more. You no longer will need to have someone specifically routing every call. Callers can also get to the person or department they need faster. This improves the customer experience and boosts office productivity.
6. Have Employees Set Up Their Voicemail & VM to Email
When you get out of a long meeting, going through a bunch of voicemails can take time. Instead of having to listen to each one to see which calls are a priority, you could simply read through them.
The voicemail to email feature in VoIP phone systems will automatically transcribe voicemails. They are then emailed to the recipient. This improves efficiency. It also eliminates wasted time having to listen to entire messages to know who called.
Have employees set up this feature with their extension and email address. Some VoIP systems also offer an option to have transcribed voicemails sent via SMS.
7. Train Your Team on the Call Handling Process
Don’t leave your employees to jump in and learn a VoIP system themselves. It’s important to train them on the features and the company calling process. This ensures that your team can enjoy all those time-saving features.
Get Help Enhancing Your Business Phone System
Need help improving your business phone system? Looking for a better customer experience? Give us a call and schedule a consultation. We can help!
One constant struggle in offices is the balance between productivity and security. If you give users too much freedom in your network, risk increases. But add too many security gates, and productivity can dwindle.
It’s a fine balance between the two, but one you can achieve. Organizations need to recognize the importance of both. And not sacrifice one for another.
A recent report from Microsoft notes a dangerous lack of authentication security. Just 22% of Azure Active Directory users had multi-factor authentication (MFA) enabled. This means that over three-quarters were at a much higher risk of an account breach.
Why do organizations fail to adopt important security protocols, like MFA? We know that it’s as much as 99.9% effective at stopping fraudulent sign-ins. Yet so many companies aren’t adopting it.
User inconvenience is the biggest reason. MFA is not expensive. In fact, it’s free to enable in nearly all cloud applications. But if users say that it’s hurting productivity and is a pain to use, companies may not bother with it.
But sacrificing security can hurt productivity worse. Downtime due to a data breach is expensive and can put smaller companies out of business. The main cause of data breaches is credential compromise. So, if you’re not protecting your authentication process, the risk of becoming a breach victim is high.
35% of data breaches initiate from breached login credentials.
There are ways to have both secure and productive users. It simply takes adopting some solutions that can help. These are tools that improve authentication security. But do it in a way that keeps user convenience in mind.
Solutions to Improve Security Without Sacrificing Convenience
Use Contextual Authentication Rules
Not every user needs to go through the same authentication process. If someone is working in your building, they have a certain trust factor. If someone is attempting to log in from outside the country, they do not have that same trust.
Contextual authentication is used with MFA to target users that need to reach a higher bar. You may choose to limit or block system access to someone attempting to log in from a certain region. Or you may need to add an additional challenge question for users logging in after work hours.
Companies don’t need to inconvenience people working from normal locations during typical hours. But they can still verify those logging in under non-typical circumstances. Some of the contextual factors you can use include:
Time of day
The device used
Time of the last login
Type of resources accessed
Install a Single Sign-on (SSO) Solution
A report on U.S. employees found they use a lot of apps. Workers switch between an average of 13 apps 30 times per day. That’s a lot of inconveniences if they need to use an MFA action for each of those logins.
Single sign-on applications solve this problem. They merge the authentication process for several apps into just one login. Employees log in once and can go through MFA a single time.
Using multi-factor authentication isn’t nearly as inconvenient. Users gain access to everything at the same time. SSO solutions help organizations improve their security without all the pushback from users.
Another way to better secure network access is to recognize devices. This is typically done using an endpoint device manager. This automates some of the security behind user authentication. Thus, it doesn’t inconvenience the person.
First, register employee devices in the endpoint device manager. Once completed, you can then set up security rules. Such as blocking unknown devices automatically.
You can also put in place device scanning for malware and automated updates. Both these things increase security without sacrificing productivity.
Use Role-based Authentication
Your shipping clerk may not have access to sensitive customer information. But your accounting team does. One can have a lower barrier to authentication.
Using role-based authentication saves time when setting up new employee accounts. Authentication and access happen based on the person’s role. Admins can program permissions and contextual authentication factors once. Then, the process automates as soon as an employee has their role set.
Consider Adding Biometrics
One of the most convenient forms of authentication is biometrics. This would be a fingerprint, retina, or facial scan. The user doesn’t need to type in anything. It also takes just a few seconds.
Biometric hardware can be costly, depending on the size of your organization. But you can introduce it over time. Perhaps using biometrics with your most sensitive roles first, then expanding.
Additionally, many apps are now incorporating things like facial scanning. Users can authenticate using a typical smartphone, making it much more affordable.
Need Help Improving Authentication Security?
Don’t give up important security because you’re afraid of user pushback. Give us a call and schedule a security consultation.
Microsoft Teams is a lot of things. It’s a video conferencing tool, a team messaging channel, and a tool for in-app co-authoring, just to name a few. During the pandemic, the popularity of Teams skyrocketed.
User numbers for MS Teams jumped from 20 million in November 2019 to 75 million in April 2020. As of this year, Microsoft reports a user count of 270 million for the platform. This makes it the most popular business tool for team communications.
But one of the things that makes the app popular is also one that can make the setup complex. Microsoft Teams has many moving parts, but to use them effectively they need to be well organized. Additionally, users need to have a chance to learn the system and train on best practices.
What Can Microsoft Teams Do?
First, let’s look at the different areas of Microsoft Teams and what it can do. Then, we’ll give you a simple setup checklist to help your team get up and running productively.
You can think of Teams as a virtual office in the cloud. It’s a centralized hub where teams can communicate, collaborate, and manage tasks. There is also an external communication component to Teams. You can use the app to video conference with anyone. You can also invite guests to a chat channel.
Here are some of the features of MS Teams:
Siloed chat channels
Security for team communications
Integration with Office apps
Integration with 3rd party apps
Video and audio conferencing
VoIP phone system (with an extra add-on)
Keep all team resources in a single place
Microsoft Teams Versions
Some good news for small businesses is that there is a free version of Microsoft Teams. If you sign up for a Microsoft 365 business plan, you get the app included, but with a few more features.
Microsoft has also been pushing MS Teams for personal use. So, you can use it to keep your departments better coordinated at work. Or to manage family video calls or PTA meeting collaboration. It’s a versatile and scalable virtual office platform.
Easy Checklist for Setting Up Microsoft Teams
1. Set Up Your Teams/Departments
One of the advantages of Teams is that it allows you to set up specific areas for your groups to collaborate. You do not want everyone to set these teams up on their own, or you could end up with an unorganized mess.
Some ideas for setting these up:
Set up teams by department (accounting, marketing, etc.)
Add a company-wide team (where everyone can collaborate)
Set up teams by role (office managers, executives, etc.)
Typically, if you mirror the hierarchy of your organization, that’s a good place to start. Team areas are secured so only those users invited can see or access any of the content in that team.
2. Add Team Members
For each team, add the members allowed to take part in that team. These would be people that can see the resources posted in that team area. It would normally be the members of the department or group that the team is designed for.
3. Set Up Team Channels
The next level beneath the Team is the Channels. These team channels help organize conversations. For example, within a team set up for your marketing department, you may decide to add three channels. This keeps conversations more focused and makes it easier to find things.
For instance, you could have channels for:
Team channels are another area that you want to control. Don’t let everyone set up channels without a plan, otherwise, things get messy fast.
4. Set Up Team Tabs
Tabs are a great way to foster productivity. Say that employees on your accounting team need to access a tax reporting website. Inevitably, there can be time wasted asking for that link or a login. This is especially true if someone is filling in for a co-worker.
You can add that website link and info to the Tabs area at the top of the team channels. Just click the plus sign to add a new resource and consolidate things for your team members.
5. Schedule MS Teams Training
One of the reasons that company initiatives fail is that users weren’t properly enabled. If users aren’t trained on using MS Teams, then they’ll revert to using whatever they used before. This negates the benefits of moving to Teams when not everyone is onboard.
Work with a Microsoft professional to train your teams. We can provide tips on the most productive features. As well as short-cut their learning curve quite a bit! Make sure to have a realistic timeframe. You should also survey users on whether they feel they need more training.
Need Some Help Implementing Teams in Your Organization?
We can help you over many of the roadblocks that organizations face when starting with Teams. Contact us today for a free consultation to enhance your collaboration and productivity.
The pandemic has been a reality that companies around the world have shared. It required major changes in how they operate. No longer, did the status quo of having everyone work in the office make sense for everyone. Many organizations had to quickly evolve to working through remote means.
During the worst of the pandemic, it’s estimated that 70% of full-time workers were working from home. Even now that the pandemic has hit a new waning phase, remote work is still very much a reality. 92% of surveyed employees expect to still work from home at least 1 or more days per week.
This transformation has forced companies to rethink the tools and policies they use. Many have also needed to completely revamp how they work. They’ve had to switch to a cloud-based digital workspace to enable a hybrid team.
This transition has brought newfound benefits, such as:
Lower costs for employees and employers
Better employee work/life balance
The same or improved productivity
More flexibility in serving clients
But, the transition to a digital workplace has also brought challenges and risks. These include:
Vulnerable networks and endpoints
Employees feeling disconnected
Difficulty tracking productivity and accountability
Increased risk of data breaches
20% of organizations experienced a breach during the pandemic due to a remote worker.
Overcoming the challenges and reaping the benefits takes time and effort. It also often takes the help of a trained IT professional, so you avoid costly mistakes.
Below are some of the biggest company mistakes when building a digital workplace. For the statistics, we referenced IGLOO’s State of the Digital Workplace report.
1. Poor Cloud File Organization
When companies go virtual for their workflows, files live in a cloud-accessible environment. If those cloud storage environments aren’t well organized, it’s a problem. It can be difficult for employees to find the files they need.
About 51% of employees have avoided sharing a document with a colleague for this reason. They either couldn’t find it or thought it would be too hard to find. It’s notable that this is the highest percentage recorded for this stat in the IGLOO report. Meaning that this problem is getting worse.
Some tips for making shared cloud storage files easier to locate are:
Keep file structure flat (2-3 folders deep)
Create a consistent hierarchy and naming structure
Don’t create a file for fewer than 10 documents
Archive and delete older files monthly to reduce clutter
2. Leaving Remote Workers Out of the Conversation
No one likes to hear people start talking about something at a meeting and realize they’re lost. They missed an important piece of an earlier conversation. Many companies haven’t yet overcome in-person vs remote communication challenges.
In fact, nearly 60% of remote workers say they miss out on important information. This is because colleagues first communicated it in person. Efficiency suffers when in-office workers make decisions without regard for remote colleagues.
Managers and bosses must lead the way in changing this culture. While old habits do take a while to change, mindset can transition to be more inclusive of the hybrid world.
3. Not Addressing Unauthorized Cloud App use
Unauthorized cloud app use (also known as Shadow IT) was already a problem before the pandemic. That problem escalated once people began working from home. Which is often using their personal devices.
Over half (57%) of employees use at least one unauthorized app in their workflow. When this happens, organizations can suffer in many ways.
Some of the risks of shadow IT include:
Data leakage from non-secured apps
Data privacy compliance violations
Redundancies in-app use that increase costs
Unprotected company data due to a lack of visibility
The employee leaves and no one can access the data in the unauthorized app
4. Not Realizing Remote Doesn’t Always Mean From Home
Remote employees aren’t always working from home, connected to their home Wi-Fi. They may also be working from airports, hotels, a family member’s home, or local coffee shops.
Companies that don’t properly protect company data used by remote employees, can be at risk of a breach. Public networks are notorious for enabling “man-in-the-middle” attacks. This is where a hacker connects to the same public network. Then, using software can access data transmissions from others on that network.
It’s advisable to use a business VPN for all remote work situations. VPNs are fairly inexpensive and easy to use. The employee simply enables the app on their device. The app then reroutes their data through secure, encrypted servers.
5. Using Communication Tools That Frustrate Everyone
Are virtual meetings giving your team problems? As many as 85% of remote workers say that they’ve had 1-2 meetings interrupted by technology. It’s getting so you can hardly have a virtual meeting without someone having a technical issue.
Communication is the oil that makes the engine of a digital workplace run. Effective cloud-based video calls, audio calls, and chats depend on the right technology. This facilitates a smooth experience.
Don’t rush to use just any communication tools. Take your time and test them out. Get help optimizing settings to improve your virtual meetings. Additionally, ensure your remote team has tools to foster smooth communications. This includes headsets, VoIP desk sets, webcams, etc.
Boost the Productivity of Your Hybrid Office
Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation. We can help you improve the efficiency and productivity of your digital workplace.