The number of vaccinated Americans climbs higher into the millions each day. The return to work is soon to follow. What exactly will that look like? For most, it will be a combination of remote work and in-office teams. Preparing for that new hybrid workplace will go a long way in ensuring success.
Our own Sandro Alvarez partnered with three other leading technology CEOs across the U.S. to share tips on the return-to-work experience. Each provides managed IT support and cybersecurity to small and midsize businesses Here is what they shared:
Sandro Alvarez, CEO of Internos in Miami
The Internos Group is a leading IT Services company in Miami. We’re known for being relentlessly caring about customers. We are thankful to share that the Internos team never stopped going to people’s offices to answer questions for clients who were comfortable hosting us. Alvarez offers these tips as we bring our teams back in a phased manner to a hybrid work environment:
1. Create a Mask Policy Based on Open Team Discussions
Creating a mask policy that makes everyone feel comfortable is crucial before employees return to work.
“The biggest thing is to make sure all employees feel comfortable,” Alvarez says. “If your state or city does not have a mandate, it is a good idea to decide on a company policy before issues come up. Some people are comfortable with masks, while some are comfortable without them. Come together and discuss the policy as a team.”
2. Leverage Your MSP for Tech Support When Employees Come Back to Work
A lot of employees took laptops and phones home during the pandemic. Have your MSP or other tech provider on site to ensure your systems are up and running to prevent any tech issues that might otherwise arise when your staff gets back. It is a good time to refresh passwords on the Wi-Fi for added security, too.
Alvarez recommends having a breakfast or other “welcome back” type event with your team and MSP provider. “By having your tech support team at this first event, you create an informal way to get tech issues heard and taken care of during mingling time; not as much work time is lost to waiting while updates are made.”
Tim Rettig, CEO of Intrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio
Intrust IT is an employee-owned cyber security and IT support partner in Cincinnati, Ohio. The team is optimistic and planning for fun in the near future. In fact, plans for a late summer event are already the talk of the team. “We will have our annual outdoor open house with food trucks from 4 to 6 p.m. late in the summer, so temperatures have cooled,” says CEO Tim Rettig. “Last year the pandemic forced us to cancel the event. This year, we have been talking with people through Zoom and MS Teams, so it will be exciting to see everyone again.” Rettig’s tips for going back to work are as follows:
3. Prepare Your Conference Rooms for Hybrid Meetings
Having the right equipment in your conference rooms can improve collaboration and help with bringing hybrid teams together in a seamless way. “We are going to have a hybrid workforce, so not everyone will be back in the office right away, or maybe ever,” Rettig believes. “About 25 percent of our team is in the office as of today.
“We have three conference rooms ready for use, outfitted with equipment capable of handling the new hybrid workforce. Good conference room equipment used to cost a business anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Today, it is much more affordable for small businesses to outfit a conference room with a good $1,000 TV and affordable speaker, mic and video options.”
The team at Intrust IT recommends these solutions for equipment to go with the TV:
- Poly Studio: This video conferencing device has a wider camera and mic on the table. It works well with MS Teams, Zoom and Go-to-Meeting. Plus it plugs in with a USB but still requires a laptop. “The cool thing is that it finds people’s faces and automatically switches to them,” Rettig says. It costs about $950 to $1,000.
- Owl Labs: This system has a 360-degree camera, mic and speaker device that sits in the middle of the room. It retails for just under $1,000.
- Logitech MeetUp: This compact device is perfect for smaller meeting rooms. It can sit above or below a TV.
4. Take a Fresh Sweep of Your Office Environment
Over the last few months, Intrust IT invited all of their employees into the office to pick up their personal belongings.
“When people come back, they may sit every-other cube to distance from one another. We updated chairs and replaced monitors while people were working at home,” Rettig says. “We wanted to make the office a place that people felt welcomed in and wanted to come back to.”
The transition back to in-person work is a great time for office projects to spruce up the work environment.
Brian Rodgers, CEO of Aeko Technologies in Fort Worth, Texas
Aeko Technologies is a Fort Worth IT support and cybersecurity firm. The Texas economy has been declared “100 percent” open as of March this year. This may still mean things will not be as open as they were before the pandemic. Tips from their CEO Brian Rodgers on returning to work include:
5. Take a Staggered Approach to Returning
Many computers and devices in the office have not been working in over a year; it is likely that they will have issues. It can be overwhelming for IT if the entire team comes in at once and everything stops working all of a sudden.
6. Build in Catch-Up Time for Your Team
Establish time for your team to catch up with one another. Employees have been isolated and in lockdown since the pandemic started, so they haven’t seen each other in a while. “I was talking with a team member who is ecstatic to see people,” Rodgers says. He recommends a hybrid work environment that combines on-site and remote work to ease the transition back to being in the office.
Anticipate a need for greater tech support during the transition. People were more prone to cyber attacks during the pandemic, likely while they were looking for news on the virus.
7. Implement Lessons Learned
Many businesses figured out alternative work flows and better communication methods while working remotely. Some have even been saying they communicate better now than when they were all in the office. People used to rely heavily on in-person meetings, which can become too scattered. Applications like Microsoft Teams and Slack make it easy for communication on the go and to organize conversations into channels.
Workflow efficiencies gained while working remotely should be incorporated once your team is back in the office. Think of how to keep the more streamlined workflows to stay efficient and cut down on the number of meetings.
Jason Hagens, CEO of SWAT Systems in Seattle, Washington
SWAT Systems is an MSP in Seattle that serves healthcare, manufacturing, financial and professional services firms. The SWAT team recently had to deal with a late-night break in. Here are the key takeaways from CEO Jason Hagens’ tips:
8. Take Security Seriously
“Physical security is more important than ever as laws change to protect the data businesses create,” Hagens says. “It’s no longer safe to keep office equipment in your car overnight or out on your desk at work. Even just an unfortunate smash-and-grab moment can put your data at risk.”
9. Use Security Cameras
“SWAT had $2,000 security cameras in place at our building, which were great for 2010,” Hagens says. “The cost of newer cameras would have been $4,000 or more, but would have given higher quality video footage for nighttime and rainy weather, which were the conditions when the break-in at our office occurred. This would have made it easier to identify the kind of car that the perpetrators drove. It’s time to get those cameras up, especially with employees and equipment returning to the office.”
“Newer technology is coming to the market with AI and speakers. The security camera systems can now recognize human activity and even send a message over a speaker to warn intruders to leave. That might have stopped the crime.”
The footage, although grainy, did help SWAT with their insurance claim by giving more concrete evidence of the situation. That proves installing security cameras at your office building is worth consideration.
Having a group of tech pros in your corner is extra important as employees return to the office and a year’s worth of tech problems surface. These tips, along with Internos Group’s managed IT services, cyber security services and disaster recovery services, can set your company free to grow and thrive. Contact us or book a virtual meeting to learn more.
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