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.
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.
Do’s and Don’ts for Virtual Meetings
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted every business in the world in one way or another other. While people practice social distancing, many businesses are encouraging or even making work-from-home mandatory for their employees. This has led to an exponential rise in the use of various digital systems and tools, including video conferencing for virtual meetings.
It may seem convenient to jump out of bed at 8:50a.m., and after hurriedly washing your face and brushing your hair, get onto that virtual meeting scheduled at 9:00a.m, However, you should refrain from doing so. Even if you are experienced with online meetings, giving yourself ample prep time to set up and log on sets you up for a much more productive meeting experience.
As a company that has engaged in virtual meetings for years, Number8 has picked up a few things along the way. Follow along for some helpful tips on how to get the most out of virtual meetings.
12 Tips Every Business Professional Should Know
While preparation for a virtual meeting may vary depending on the context, here are some basic tips that can help you get the most out of the experience.
Test your microphone before the virtual meeting.
You can simply conference with one of your colleagues to make sure it's working as it should. Low volume and poor audio clarity can impact communications, especially if you are discussing something crucial. Speak clearly and slowly when you are on the call so that none of the participants miss anything you say.
Be aware of the video settings on your computer.
Check if you have muted the microphone before delivering a monologue that no attendee will hear.
Be prepared to share your screen.
While this may be unlikely, if screen sharing is a possibility, you should make sure you are prepared. Shut down or hide other programs like email and unrelated browser tabs, and ensure your computer monitor is ready for sharing.
Try to be in a space with the best internet connection possible.
Virtual meetings are sometimes full of delays and frozen screens. It is advisable to do what you can to limit the type of distraction this creates. Set up your computer in the best location for connectivity, and limit your movement while on the call, as this can interfere with the quality of your connection.
Wear appropriate attire.
While you aren’t necessarily expected to wear regular formal office attire while attending virtual meetings, you should always wear professional and clean clothing.
Make sure that your room is appropriately illuminated.
It can be extremely disconcerting to speak with someone that sits in a dark and poorly lit location. It's best to sit in a place with side lighting. Consider positioning yourself near an open window or switch on an overhead light to brighten up the space.
If you are sitting next to any décor or wall-art, make sure it’s work-appropriate.
The surroundings should be clean and not cluttered or messy, even if you live alone. If you are sitting at your desk, ensure it isn't covered with trash, dishes, or coffee mugs.
When you are in a group call without any video, introduce yourself before you begin talking.
Most programs send notifications as to who is talking, but conference line numbers do not. Therefore, it’s advisable to take the extra time to introduce yourself, depending on who is in the meeting and how well the participants know you and the sound of your voice.
Whenever you are talking, look straight into the camera rather than looking at yourself talking on your computer screen.
It helps others on the video call feel like you're fully present and engaged.
Forget to mute your microphone each time you’re not speaking.
Follow this even if you are alone in the room. Background noises can be an annoyance and distraction, and impact the meeting’s flow.
Position the camera too high or low, or hook it onto a different monitor.
Strange camera angles can be unflattering and distracting during video conference calls. Set the camera at eye level and on your monitor before getting onto the call.
Read or check emails or read articles when on a video call.
Do not do any other work while on the call. The rest of the participants can easily tell if you are distracted, and that is disrespectful and unprofessional.
Keeping these helpful tips in mind is an essential part of maintaining professionalism when you are participating in virtual meetings. You should plan ahead as much as you can. There are always unexpected interruptions that can challenge the quality of any meeting. 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.
How To Increase Your Tech Team’s Off-Site Productivity
Many IT companies have started to allow employees to telecommute on a part-time or full-time basis. People can work from home, cafes, or even parks instead of commuting to work every day. While this has several advantages, it can also hamper a team’s productivity if it isn’t handled correctly. There are several ways to help teams be more productive when they are working off-site. Here are some tips that can help:
1. Invest in Technology
Technological challenges can hamper a team’s productivity and make working from off-site locations a frustrating experience. It is important to make things easier for employees by providing them with tools to keep things organized. Use efficient conferencing or messaging applications like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts to ensure everyone can communicate without interruptions. Additionally, there are several project management and tracking applications available online, including Asana, Airtable, Trello and Todoist. These tools can help managers, teams, and temporary staff remain connected.
2. Implement Regular Check-Ins
Check-in with your team on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This doesn't have to be a long or drawn-out process, but it can help people remain connected with team members. It can also help people switch to work-mode when they are at home and navigating household distractions. A simple call or a video conference that discusses daily priorities, tasks, goals, and targets will help people start on the right track. It is easier to maintain productivity when team members have a clear agenda at the start of the day.
3. Track Work
Several applications allow managers to track just how much time employees spend working on a particular project. These applications give a very board view of an employee's working routine and help managers identify people who are falling back. For example, some employees work better during evenings or nights and may put in more hours during this time than during regular office time. If you track work, it is easy to see such a pattern and adjust their schedule accordingly. Off-site work can be very flexible and convenient if handled correctly.
4. Provide Emotional Support
Employees that work remotely are prone to occasional feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially if they don't maintain a proper work-life balance. That can lead to depression, burn-out, and a serious dip in productivity. Managers must help remote teams remain connected and offer some form of emotional support. In-office workers socialize, engage in conversations over coffee, joke around when there's no work to be done, and blow off steam. This helps them maintain emotional equilibrium and stay productive. Home, libraries and coffee shops don't offer this kind of social stimulation, which can take its toll over time. Encourage casual conversations and schedule video conferences dedicated solely for team members to reconnect with their coworkers.
5. Reward Good Work
Reward good work with positive feedback and praise. People working remotely can’t feel the general air of triumph that most on-site teams feel when a project is completed. That’s why it is important to reward good work with verbal praise regularly as it helps team members feel accomplished. A simple text or email with a few encouraging words about meeting targets and completing tasks on schedule can help.
6. Encourage Proper Work-Life Balance
Keep an eye on how much time team members spend on work. It is easy for work to take over life if there’s no separation between the job and personal life. It is important to establish a good work/life separation early on. Make sure your team works for a specific number of hours every day and limit all communications for specific times. Don’t call or message after hours unless there’s an emergency.
Teams that strike the right balance between flexibility and maintaining a proper schedule are most successful at off-site work scenarios, while maintaining high levels of productivity. 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.
8 Amazing Ways Technology Has Transformed Business Over The Past 20 Years
Technology has changed significantly in the past 20 years and, as a result, has influenced every aspect of our lives. People rely on modern tech for everything from daily chores to complex tasks. Technology has had a significant impact on the world of business as well. It has disrupted several industries, abolished a few, and transformed how we work on an everyday basis. Here's a look at some ways in which technology has changed business.
Instant communication, regardless of distance, has been one of the biggest influences on businesses. It allows different branches of a company to interact seamlessly, for multiple teams to work on a single project without any delays in communication, and so much more. Rapid communication has improved productivity and also influenced how customers interact with businesses.
Impact on Customers
Technology has changed the way customers shop. It has given them access to all the information they need so they can make informed decisions. People can now read online reviews, watch demo videos, and see ratings or testimonials before making a decision. They're also not hesitant about sharing their experiences online or approaching companies with complaints if a product or service doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Access to Data
Data is a gold mine for businesses. It gives them insight into customer mindset, competitors, industry trends, and the impact of cultural and political trends on the business. Entrepreneurs can then use this information to refine business practices and reach a wider audience.
Modern technology has made it easier for people to start ventures. Prospective entrepreneurs can open an eCommerce store or sell products on websites like Etsy or Amazon with very little investment. Even people who don’t have much capital can start their own business, which wasn’t as easy 20 years ago.
Digital marketing has proven to be an equalizer, helping small businesses with limited resources shine. Companies can approach customers through different channels with minimal investment. It is easier for entrepreneurs to advertise online, create effective digital marketing campaigns, and make content to draw people in. Even regular smartphones can shoot professional-quality marketing content like pictures or videos.
Many modern businesses have an international presence, regardless of their size. Technology has made it easier for a small business in Japan to then sell products to customers in the UK. It is easier to expand, get global customers, and communicate with them seamlessly. Social media helps companies connect with a broad audience too. Products go viral and draw attention from unexplored markets.
Transparency from Businesses
Modern customers hold companies up to a different stand compared to customers a few decades ago. For example, many customers care about personal products being cruelty-free or technologies being environmentally-friendly. They also expect businesses to follow modern ethics by providing an environment free of discrimination, racial bias, gender bias, and other oppressive factors. Technology has facilitated this- people online don't hesitate to raise their voices against companies that don't live up to these standards.
Influence of Influencers
In the past, companies would hire actors, musicians, and other such celebrities to promote their products through advertisement or other marketing content; however, modern technology and platforms like YouTube or Instagram have given rise to influencers, who are much more effective in promoting products than celebrities. These influencers are people entrenched in the industry. They test different products, provide opinions, and offer recommendations. Influencers can sway customer opinions, which makes them an excellent investment. These are just some of the many ways in which technology has changed the way businesses are run. 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 so we can get the conversation started.
10 Things Desk Workers Can Do To Get Healthy
Desk worker health is a pressing issue. Individuals who work in office spaces are relatively less healthy than those who work at jobs that are physically demanding. Recent data suggests around 86% of all workers in the United States alone sit for the majority of the work day. This is a problem because of the negative health outcomes associated with high rates of sitting. These outcomes include an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and musculoskeletal disorders, just to name a few. However, there are several things that desk workers can do to get fit at work. Here are 10 things desk workers can do to get healthy.
10 Things Desk Workers Can Do To Get Healthy
Walk to Work
If your workplace is located close to where you live, consider leaving your car at home and walking. Although it might not be possible to do this every day due to bad weather or lack of time, walking will definitely get you fit.
Use a Standing Desk
Sitting all day is incredibly harmful to one's health. Health experts now say that sitting is the new smoking. If your job demands that you sit all day long, consider opting for an adjustable desk. This way, you can switch between standing and sitting when you are at your desk.
Use a Fitness Ball
Another great way to get fit is by replacing your chair with a fitness ball. You have to balance yourself on this ball while working, and although it looks a bit goofy, it's a great way to train the muscles in your back and legs.
Avoid Outside Food
Another major problem that several office workers face is that they cannot control themselves from eating food outside. Although it's convenient to pick out something from the cafeteria, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthy option. An excellent way to stop eating outside food is to pack your own lunches and snacks every day.
Get Some Exercise Gear
You don't have to head to the gym to get exercise. You can always carry your own fitness gear and perform a few essential exercises during breaks. Keep a few lightweight dumbbells and elastics in your workplace. Perform exercises while reading notes or even while making calls.
Take Periodic Breaks
We always tend to wrap up our work as rapidly as possible so we can leave the office on time. But it doesn't mean you have to be glued to your chair all day long without taking any breaks to stretch. Those who avoid taking breaks end up feeling mentally inactive. Some believe that taking periodic breaks means they get less work done; however, that isn't necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, taking frequent breaks can be more productive. The idea is to take a short break to rejuvenate and get work done at a clipping pace.
Work Out During Breaks
Rather than sitting down during your lunchtime and other breaks, consider spending that time performing some basic exercises. If the weather permits it, you can also start going out for a walk as opposed to being cooped up indoors. Find a colleague to walk with you during breaks. Start doing this regularly, and you will feel healthier in no time.
While carrying out your daily duties, it may not be possible to get up and wash your hands each time you want to. However, you can always keep a hand sanitizer on your desk. This makes it easier to avoid infections that can spread from shaking hands with people that have a cold or cough.
Maintain Good Posture
People who use computers at work have to spend hours staring into a screen, and they're slowly drawn to it. This means they stretch their neck forward. Over time, this puts a considerable amount of stress on their spine and neck. However, you can easily avoid this by carrying out some basic desk exercises. It is crucial to remember that everything must be done in moderation. Just because you're keen on getting fit doesn't mean that you stop enjoying a beer with your colleagues. However, you must be watchful on how often you place one thing over the other. 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 and we can get the conversation started.
8 Traits Software Developers Tend To Share
People often wonder what makes a great software engineer. Although there are several opinions on this matter, the most typical qualities that software developers share are the ability to produce maintainable working software, staying on top of the latest technologies, and, most importantly, being a team player. Here are a few traits software developers tend to share.
8 Traits Software Developers Tend To Share
1. An Analytical Mindset
A software developer must have high system-level thinking skills. At the same time, another essential quality is excellent problem-solving skills. There should be a perfect balance between the ability to think about the big picture while paying attention to smaller details.
2. Inquisitiveness and Curiosity
There may come times when a software developer creates codes that don't work. In such cases, they mustn't be afraid to ask questions about why it happened. The best way to move forward is by continuing to dig. Another quality that's crucial for developers is the ability to ask superiors, clients, and peers questions. This ensures that they fully understand the expectations and requirements for their work.
It's crucial to remember that software is all about people. Good developers always make efforts to understand their users. Being able to relate to and empathize with the team and clients is another trait that good software developers share.
Regardless of the kind of programming language a developer specializes in, code is always unpredictable. Skilled developers have the ability to switch the scope of a project quickly and return a previous point if required. Adapting and being able to respond to time-sensitive problems as soon as they arise is crucial.
5. Enthusiastic To Learn
When it comes to technology, there's always something new to learn. Expert software developers always keep abreast of advances in their industry and are eager to expand their knowledge.
Software developers can come across unique problems with their projects. They understand that the best solution and the correct solution aren't always the same. Sometimes, standard practices work well. Other times, they have to think outside the box. Skilled developers value their own practices and problem-solving abilities more than just relying on a set of rules.
7. Team Player
Besides working on projects alongside other developers, designers, and engineers, software developers have to work as part of a team within a company as well. They can be assigned to work with sales teams, support teams, or even marketing teams. Being a team player is a quality successful software developers pick up early in their careers.
8. Technical Mindset
A developer's main tool to carry out day-to-day work is a computer. A computer can do what it’s told to do but cannot think for itself. So, software developers need to know the "logic" of computers. Software developers are very adept at working with computers and other devices. They also have the capacity to quickly learn about new technology and apply it in their work. Another indispensable quality that expert developers have is the ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical people. Being able to evolve and adapt and look at things positively are key traits for this. These are just a few of the traits that developers tend to share. Overall, being adaptable and willing to learn are some of the most important abilities. These qualities help them grow as professionals. 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 and we can get the conversation started.
10 Agile Project Management Terms You Should Know
Whether you're planning on managing a project the agile way, or just want to stay up to date on the latest developments in the field, here are 10 agile project management terms you should know:
1. Agile Manifesto
The agile manifesto is a great starting point for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with the agile methodology. The manifesto outlines the 4 values
and 12 principles of agile software development and was actually created by a group of software developers in an effort to provide a clear and alternative set of processes for developing software. The agile way of doing things prioritizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.
is a daily stand up meeting
with the sole focus being to review each team member's progress on any given project. Scrums help to keep everyone accountable and on the same page, ensuring no one falls too behind or gets too far ahead in the development of a project.
3. Scrum Master
A scrum master oversees the development process
and acts as a problem solver for the team; preventing roadblocks and enforcing the agile way of doing things.
refers to anyone with a vested interest in the product
. This can be the client, the end user, sales people, legal representatives etc. Stakeholders have an informative role in the development phase, and are critical in defining the project's requirements.
The backlog is the ever changing list of the software's requirements
. It's not to be seen as a to do list so much as a prioritized list of desired features of the product provided by the stakeholders.
The story tells the software system's requirements from the consumer's point of view. For example, as "a <type of user>, I want to <perform some task> so I can <achieve some goal.>"
7. Burndown & Burnup Charts A burndown chart visually measures the progress of a project over time
(the vertical axis is made up of the backlog while the horizontal axis represents time). A burnup chart displays completed work
(the vertical axis shows the amount done over the horizontal axis, time). These charts are essential to inspiring the team as they work and help provide a realistic time frame for the project's completion as well as a working scale of the project.
8. Feature Creep
While changes are expected, and certainly embraced in the agile way of doing things, the phrase "feature creep" refers to features that are added after development has begun
. Adding too many features during the development phase can result in feature creep and software that is too complicated or difficult to use.
Timeboxing is kind of like time blocking in that it assigns a specific time frame to accomplish a goal. The definitive feature of timeboxing however, is that the work stops at the end of the timebox, instead of when the work is complete. This is extremely helpful in terms of productivity, and controlling the scale of a project.
A sprint is a short development phase usually lasting anywhere from 1 week to a month. Sprints help prevent projects from feeling overwhelming and allows feedback to be given at appropriate junctures. At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at(502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!