Safely Reopening the Office: James Ludwig’s TED Talk Insights

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the structure of businesses all over the world. Companies have scrambled to create temporary fixes, from work-from-home options to layoffs to total shutdowns. With no end in sight, uncertainty pervades the workplace. Recorded June 16th, this new TED talk could not be more relevant. James Ludwig, vice president of global design and product engineering at the office supply company Steelcase, engages in conversation with TED curator Chee Pearlman about the long term future of organizations. Here are some notable insights into the talk and James' perspective on the future and potential reopening.

3 Insights About The Workplace Illuminated By The COVID-19 Pandemic

1. This is a massive technological shift and generation-defining moment

Ludwig proposes the idea that there is “now, the near, and the far” for companies. We are only just beginning to understand and approach the “now”, which is to remain safe within the pandemic. The near is how companies will return to the physical workplace, if ever. The far, long-lasting impacts of this crisis are not yet conceptualized. Ludwig refers to this time as an “experiment” for companies, and in a sense, it is. It is a test of resiliency at all levels, from employees to CEOs. But, it is also an opportunity for change.

2. People need to physically collaborate and connect to sustain most workplaces

Ludwig makes the claim that it’s simply unsustainable for most companies to stay remote forever. He emphasizes that being together as a team shapes the culture of brands. Competitive advantage is formed through this culture, through interpersonal connection and cultivation. For many businesses, Zoom meetings and emails can’t recreate the ecosystem of a good team. Connecting as individuals, pushing each other and learning from each other, sharing food and humor, growing and adapting together—this is what makes a good workplace.

3. Now is the time to see what is truly essential for offices when reopening

Taking a step away from the cookie-cutter workplace allows the opportunity for tremendous positive change. We can delve into individual-focused design that supports employee wellbeing both physically and mentally. Companies have the chance to be creative and strip away redundancies that hinder productivity and safety. Additionally, how businesses respond to future crises is contingent on how workplaces are shaped right now. To follow up with this point, Ludwig lays out what is essential to the generations of now and the future. He sees a technologically-rich, human-centric environment with strong values that connect individuals as key. Ludwig claims that after the pandemic is over, people will continue to lean into what is authentic and fulfilling in the workplace. After spending months in lockdown working from your couch, you get a better grasp of what is really necessary to be productive and what you sincerely miss about your office. A high-walled cubicle or private office may now seem constrictive. So, looking for the insights during this unusual time seems to be a good strategy for organizations. While quarantines and forced remote work scenarios have challenged many, this time also presents unique learning opportunities.

Questions to Consider

Here are just a few questions to think about as you work to gain greater insight into the impact COVID-19 has had on you and your work. What redundancies can you identify in your work processes that may slow down productivity? Also, are there things you miss about working in an office environment that you previously took for granted? What components of your work flow are most important to keep you productive, organized and happy? Are there long term changes would you like to see implemented at your company or on your team, that were inspired by this pandemic? Plus, what does a thriving office culture look like after reopening? Asking these questions will help ensure a strong organization, and safe reopening if and when the time is right. We are an information technology company with years of experience. We have helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Microsoft Edge: What to Know About Microsoft’s New Browser

July 23, 2020 / in IT Trends, / by Number8

Known for cutting edge technological innovation, Microsoft is always coming up with something new. In January 2020 the company released its new Edge browser. This is a spin off of Chromium, which is an open-source program. Microsoft Edge is very much like the predecessor, Chrome, and in fact supports the Chrome browser extension and has the same rendering engine.

Microsoft Edge Rollout

The next step is for automatic updates of Windows 10 with the new product, Edge. Similar to the updates for Chrome, Edge will be updated every six weeks. If you don’t want to wait for the update, you can download Edge from Microsoft’s website. The old Edge, now named Legacy, will still be in the system. The logo for the new version of Edge is a blue and green swirl as opposed to the Legacy blue E. What if you don’t want Edge? If this is the case, you need to go to the Microsoft website and download the Chromium Edge update blocker toolkit. However, Windows 10 users will automatically get this new browser that promises an open-source rendering engine, more frequent updates, and better support from websites. Bing is also encouraging Chrome users to use Edge. Further, Microsoft is initiating a campaign proposing Edge rather than Mozilla’s Firefox.

Edge vs. Chrome

History sync and extension sync are not implemented but promised for a later release. You’ll still find favorites, settings, passwords, and so on. New features include Collections which will let you gather images and material but prevent tracking. In addition, new Edge will support 4K Netflix with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, all of which is an improvement over Chrome. Edge also includes three different blocking levels with the default blocking trackers from sites you have not yet loaded. More track blockers could also result in failure to load all or a part of some sites you want to see. Microsoft is banking on the fact that most users will prefer the privacy of the blocks while still remaining web compatible. These differences, plus some other features, have a lot of people looking to Edge as a viable Chrome alternative.

Additional Features

Speaking of compatibility, Edge for Windows 7 is also planned for release. Windows 7 is generally out of the support range, but Microsoft has committed its support for another year or so. Edge will work on Windows 8.1 and macOS, Android and iOS. Future plans include a version of Linux. Another nice feature offered by Edge is vertical tabs. If you have a tendency to open lots and lots of tabs, it becomes difficult to read and easy to close the wrong one(s). Vertical tabs promise to be simpler to manage with only a single click. Smart Copy will allow you to retain the format from the original material as you copy and paste it into your personal document. This will include images and links. So if you are prone to quote web text, you will enjoy this feature. Password Monitor is designed to help prevent password theft. It will alert you to any attempt to gain access to your autofilled usernames and passwords. Edge will search for matches to your data and notify you of any potential problems. You can then proactively make the appropriate changes before problems occur and have more confidence in your usage. Finally, the Immersive Reader feature is notable. This will be helpful for individuals with reading and learning differences. It will allow the user to adjust the text for easier readability and have the material read aloud. More updates on this feature are planned. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Common Misconceptions About Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation has become popular in recent years. Being a new concept, there are certain things that people don’t understand about it. Simply put, staff augmentation is a way that a company fills the gaps between the skills they possess and those that they lack to complete a certain project by means of hiring temporary help. Companies often try to just redistribute workload to cover the area that is missing. However, by doing this, they are only taking away from the regular tasks they have and often won't get the end results that they want from the new project.

Answers to 4 Common Misconceptions about Staff Augmentation

Why do companies choose to flounder instead of looking for outside help through staff augmentation? Many people still have misconceptions and don’t exactly understand the idea, or they are simply unaware of the concept entirely. Continue reading to hear about the truth behind these misconceptions.

“It is a waste of money or more expensive than permanent employment.”

Many employers believe that since augmented staff is often paid by the hour rather than salary, it comes out to be more expensive. Some also believe that it does not save the company any money to contract someone just for one project. Looking at the comparison of the augmented staff’s hourly pay compared to the salary of permanent employees can be deceiving because this does not look at the whole picture. In reality, hiring augmented staff can help bypass in-house costs that it would take to search for, hire, and train a new member of the team. “There is too much risk and no long-term benefits.” Teams sometimes think hiring augmented staff is risky. They may be hesitant to relinquish power over certain projects. Or, they might not believe that someone working remotely will follow through on their promises. They may even be worried about work quality. However, staff augmentation teams are specifically trained to acclimate to different environments. This includes effectively working with varied teams and types of people. After all, this is their job—to work on one project and then move to another company or team. They are used to adapting and achieving goals within deadlines.

“Communicating and managing an augmented staff is too difficult.”

Because augmented staff often works remotely, many people believe that communication and management is more difficult. However, if you can keep open communication by way of email, phone calls, or virtual meetings, everything will be fine. Augmented staff expects to be very responsive and communicative, looking for opportunities to align with teams and increase efficiencies and productivity.

“Technical support is just as constructive.”

While technical support can be helpful, staff augmentation fulfills a different role. Staff augmentation actually brings in another person and skillset to help with a project. In contrast, technical support aids people already on the team with technical issues. Staff augmentation can provide benefits to many different types of businesses and teams. Companies can approach projects in a more dynamic and successful manner. They can meet more aggressive deadlines and objectives. Really, the questioning of staff augmentation isn’t about whether or not it is a good idea. It's about who provides the best services for the specific skillsets you are seeking. Not all staff augmentation services are equal, though. You have to find experienced staff augmentation companies with successful track records in a given sector. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Tools for Transitioning to a Remote Workspace

In recent months, many companies have moved from the office to working from home. Working remotely can be great, but it’s important to be aware of how to create a remote workspace conducive to productivity. When we work from home we have many distractions that weren’t present in the office. Distractions from your day to day home life may impact your workday, which can make it a bit difficult to concentrate on everything you need to get done. When working remotely, there are several things to take into consideration. One is the space in which you are working. While you may not put much thought into it, this is something that can truly make or break your work from home experience. Some people believe that working remotely means that you can work from anywhere in the house such as the kitchen table or even your living room couch. However tempting that may be, you are more than likely not going to get as much work done on your sofa as you would in a well thought-out office space.

5 Tips To Make Your Home Work Space As Productive As Possible

Do you need to create a home work environment that is as conducive to work as possible so that you can get all of your work done easily and in a timely fashion? Follow along for some tips and tools that you can use when transitioning to a remote workspace as an office.

1. Keep your remote workspace clean and free of clutter

This is an important tip because the less clutter there is in your workspace, the less distraction. Also, many people find it much easier to concentrate when they are working in a clean area. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Cluttered spaces have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep”. Given this, you can easily imagine how having a cluttered workspace would affect your productivity.

2. Select tools that will help you feel comfortable

Whether it is a nice chair to sit in while you work, or even a standing desk, ensuring that you are comfortable in your remote workspace is vital for productivity. Furthermore, your space should be efficient. Have everything you need close to you so that you do not have to constantly get up and look for the stapler or a pen. You should have a comfortable place to sit (or stand). Additionally, your laptop should be eye level so that you are not hunched over all day. This will make for a much more enjoyable work day.

3. Make sure you choose a quiet remote workspace with enough light

When working from home, especially if you live with family or other people, there can be many distractions. Resist the urge to shut yourself in a closet—your workspace should be comfortable and have enough light so that you do not strain your eyes while working. If you have a spare room that you can equip with a desk, or even put a desk in your bedroom and shut the door during your workday, then you are more likely to get things done. Having people in and out all day can be quite a distraction, so for your work’s sake, keep it quiet.

4. Establish clear boundaries with family and friends

Just because you are at home does not mean that you are always going to be easily accessible if you are trying to work from home. It is important that you communicate clearly to loved ones, family and friends, about your needs and expectations while trying to work from home. Ongoing interruptions can really cost you a lot of time and lead to frustration. Finding ways to limit these distractions with a plan and forthright communication is at the heart of a successful remote workspace.

5. Create a beginning and an end to your work day

Depending on the type of work that you do, it is possible to experience a work from home environment as never-ending. You can fall into a rut of always being “on call” and never really feel like you are at home or at work fully. Given this, it makes sense to establish a beginning and an end to your work day, with clear rituals that help you make the transition. Sometimes simple things like a cup of coffee, or organizing your desk, can help get you ready for to begin or to wrap up a work day. When transitioning from the office to home, it can be quite a big change. However, many tips and tools like the ones shared above can help make the experience positive and productive. There is not one right way to create a home environment that is conducive to work. Try various approaches to find the right one for your situation and personal effectiveness. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

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