Remote Working: Will It Be The New Norm?

Flexible work setups have often been the subject of debate — employees want the option to work away from the office at least some of the time, but many businesses value well-founded methods and processes. Will the world’s largest work from home experiment change that?

Enforced Flexibility

A pandemic is one of the most socially, economically, and politically disruptive events that could ever happen. Infections and fatalities constantly increase, business operations are shut down, and scientists race against time to find a cure.

Companies lucky enough to remain operational still face a significant challenge: maintaining business continuity. For most, the simplest way to achieve this is by moving their business resources online and adopting an effective remote work strategy.

With resilience and careful decision-making — as well as the right tools and processes — you might just find your employees more productive, less stressed out by work, and expressive as ever.

A Wealth Of Benefits

Remote work offers several benefits for both employees and employers. In addition to saving time and eradicating commute-related stress, remote work can improve employee productivity. A number of studies reveal that the freedom to create a comfortable environment and schedule encourages employees to perform at their best.

At the same time, employers benefit from reduced overhead expenses while also having access to a wider pool of applicants. Because workplace flexibility is among the top considerations of many young job seekers, remote work arrangements would be right up their alley.

Employers can also hire outside of reasonable commuting distance, as employees won’t have to report to the office as frequently, if not at all. What’s more, mandatory daily attendance is going out of fashion — more businesses are now prioritizing performance over hours clocked in. Many prefer focusing on the quality of outputs rather than just keeping people in the office from 9 to 5.

Businesses reap great rewards for recognizing performance instead of just presence. This approach makes for more engaged, efficient, and satisfied employees, consequently creating a healthy and progressive company culture.

Encouraging Development

Many businesses believe that a traditional office setup helps bring about better relationships and collaborations. However, data actually points out that interpersonal behavior and communication — not solely proximity — are the key drivers of trust and teamwork.

Traditional work arrangements also make it easier for managers to look after their employees — it’s easy to see who is and isn’t at their workstation during office hours. However, mandating work hours and location makes sense only for time-sensitive and location-dependent jobs like retail, manual labor, and healthcare, where employees need to be physically present.

Meanwhile, for knowledge workers whose jobs involve non-routine problem solving, an office cube isn’t always the most conducive environment for devising solutions and innovations. Sometimes, the best and most unique ideas come from exposure to the surroundings, people, and events outside the confines of an office.

Embracing Change

Being forced to adopt a work from home policy in the face of a global crisis isn’t an ideal circumstance to test the waters. Full-time remote work doesn’t and won’t work for all businesses. But this shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing projects and sustaining productivity and efficiency. Leverage your resources to help you weather the storm and emerge stronger than before.

Though we have yet to see if remote work is here to stay, it’s currently a nonnegotiable aspect of the corporate setup, and we should learn how to make the most out of it.

Having a strong strategy in place and the right tools and equipment are crucial to ensure effective communication, collaboration, and management. Our experts can help you configure the perfect remote working setup for your business. Call us today.

Published with permission from Source.

What Office Equipment Should You Provide Your Remote Workers?

In spite of remote work being commonplace today, many business owners are still skeptical of it because of the considerable risks that come with minimal supervision and numerous distractions. They may be surprised to know that employees are actually more productive when working from home, according to a study by Airtasker.

On average, employees working remotely spend 1.4 more days working in a month (16.8 more days in a year) compared to those working in an office.

As a business owner, you can further boost your remote workforce’s productivity by providing them with the right equipment. Deciding what to provide remote workers with depends on several factors, including your budget, business goals, and staff’s tasks and responsibilities. Here are four options to consider when allocating office equipment to your staff:

#1 Provide All Necessary Equipment For A Home Office Setup

This entails recreating a conducive work environment by providing them with all the devices, including a computer, phone, printer, scanner, office furniture, and the like. You can even provide them with furniture, like a chair and desk, which they’d otherwise have in the office.

Many remote workers consider this the perfect option because they won’t have to worry about procuring their own equipment. All they’ll have to do is find a place to set all these up.

Choosing this approach offers several advantages. You’d have greater control over the tools and devices they use to work, and it’d be easier to ensure compatibility with the equipment in your office. This would also make information security and tech support simpler.

What’s more, this places your remote workers on an equal footing, which could boost morale and, ultimately, lead to higher productivity.

The downside of this option is that it’s costly. You’d have to shoulder the expenses associated with purchasing and delivering the equipment to an employee’s home. And in the event that they leave the company, you’d have to face the prospect of taking these back or selling it to them.

#2 Provide Only A Laptop And Peripherals

This is a popular choice among businesses, as this yields almost the same security and support benefits as the all-out approach, but at a lower cost. It’s a great solution for small businesses and startups that have limited resources and need to quickly expand their workforce.

A potential drawback is that your remote workers might feel like you’re skimping on their equipment, especially if the work they do requires better or more tools and devices. For instance, graphics tablets are necessary tools for digital artists and illustrators. If you can’t provide your employees with these, then you might lose some goodwill with them.

#3 Provide A Technology Stipend

The key advantage of this option is flexibility. Your employees could acquire their own equipment using the allowance given to them. Just remember to specify clear tech requirements, and make sure that whatever they get is compatible with your equipment at the office.

Instead of procuring the equipment yourself, you could just set a reasonable stipend for devices (e.g., a laptop and monitors) and maybe even furniture (e.g., a computer table). You could let them spend more, out of their own pocket, if they prefer a different option.

One downside of this approach is that providing support could be challenging. If your employee has a computer problem and they’re the only one with that particular model or brand, they might have to get it fixed on their own. This could lead to downtime and frustration.

#4 Let Them Use Their Own Devices

This is the best option if you wish to avoid the hefty price tag and administrative burden. You could simply set minimum standards or tech requirements for the devices they’ll be using, and leave it up to them to come up with a system that works.

You could also provide a list of tools and applications to keep their devices secure, as well as to communicate and collaborate with other employees. But because you’ll have no control over the equipment your employees are using, you won’t be able to ensure compatibility nor timely security and support services.

Although you could explore solutions to overcome remote work security, another drawback of this approach is that you’re forfeiting a “loyalty” benefit. Because your employees are using their own equipment, it would be easy for them to leave the company should a better offer come along.

Whichever option you choose for your remote workers, it’s important that you formalize this policy and use it across the board. Don’t play favorites and offer every employee the same level of support.

To help maximize productivity wherever your employees may be, work with a managed IT services provider like Integrated Technology Services. Want to know what else we can do for your business? Call us now.

5 Tips To Keep Your Business Afloat During The COVID-19 Crisis

Businesses across the globe have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been forced to close their doors, some only temporarily, but countless others for good. With experts saying there’s no guarantee of a rapid economic recovery, it’s important that you reassess and redefine your business strategy and buckle down for more storms ahead. Here are some tips to help your business survive this crisis and come out on top.

Reduce Expenses

This one is obvious but still bears mentioning: take out your books and find out where and how you can cut costs without affecting the quality of your service.

Putting off non-essential or discretionary expenses, such as repainting your offices or buying new equipment, is a no-brainer. Cutting out fixed expenses such as rent and loan payments is harder, if not impossible, to do. However, it is crucial if your production and revenue are at a standstill.

Try asking your landlord for a reduction or deferment of a portion of your rent. Also, ask your bank if you can put off or skip loan payments for a finite period, or if they can at least waive fees on late or missed payments. (Find out if your bank is one of those offering relief to borrowers amid the pandemic here.)

Learn From Your Competitors

Observe both your direct and indirect competitors, especially those that are faring better than others. Find out what they’re doing differently and see if this will work for your business. More than adopting these strategies, it’s important to adapt them to your own and your customers’ needs.

It’s also a good idea to look at larger organizations within your industry. SMBs like yours may not be able to compete with bigger players on a scale level, but you can learn a few things about customer service, marketing strategies, and the like from them.

Redefine Your Business Model

Even with coronavirus restrictions gradually being lifted across the United States, it would take a while before things return to normal. It’s crucial to ask yourself if traditional business models would still make sense in a post-COVID-19 world and adjust accordingly.

Determine any changes you need to make to your current business model. This involves identifying who your customers are and what they need, your staff’s capabilities, and any uncertainties and their impacts. Such changes may include finding a way to deliver your products or services to your customers, just like what groceries and restaurants did in the face of lockdowns and shelter-in-place directives.

Connect With Your Customers

Understand that many of your customers may have been affected in some way by the pandemic — they might have been laid off, for instance, or are caring for a family member who tested positive for COVID-19. They may reach out to you to pause or cancel your services, or to ask for a discount or payment deferral. When speaking to them, demonstrate empathy, whatever their concerns may be. When things get back to normal, it’s likely that those who had a positive experience with you during the pandemic will stick around and keep doing business with you.

Keeping your customers informed throughout these trying times is important. Make sure, though, that what you’re saying is relevant to them. For example, if you run an eCommerce business, let your customers know through email or social media about any shortages in supply and when you expect to be able to fulfill their orders. Doing so reassures customers that you’re doing your best to provide them with the same quality of service pre-COVID-19.

Upskill Your Staffz

Upskilling your employees may be the best way to spend your resources during the current situation. Equipping your team with new knowledge and skills will help them adapt to the changing business environment.

Sharpening your team’s digital skills is especially important now that the COVID-19 crisis is spurring digital transformation. Other areas to focus on are project management, communication, data analytics, and digital marketing. And if you find yourself short-staffed, it might pay to train employees to handle other aspects of your business, ensuring that everything runs smoothly throughout the pandemic and beyond.

The current situation requires swift and decisive action from business leaders. Making smart and proactive decisions now will ensure that you’ll mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on your business, and that you’ll emerge from this crisis stronger than ever. For more tips on how to run your business effectively in times of crisis, drop our experts a line today.

Published with permission from Source.

“Black Dot Of Death” Locks IOS Messaging App

People who use iPhones, iPads, and Macs are at risk of encountering a Unicode attack that can cause the messaging app to crash and lock up the device. The good news is a workaround has been found which can restore the state of said Apple products.

What is going on?
A bug, known as “Black Dot,” is locking the messaging app on Apple devices running iOS 11.3 and 11.4 beta with Apple TVs and Apple Watches also at risk.

Black Dot is activated when an iOS user sends another user an iMessage (this is not an SMS) with an emoji of a black dot with a finger pointing at it. Loaded with plenty of invisible Unicode characters, this emoji will overwhelm the CPU and memory, forcing the messaging app to stop functioning and possibly lock up the device.

The affected user may be lucky enough to close the app, but the bug will remain when the program is opened again, causing everything to crash.

How do I squash this bug?
Apple’s development team is still working on a patch to address the issue, but you can apply a temporary remedy to keep your device going.

For devices that have Siri installed:

  • Force close the program.
  • Tell Siri to reply to the sender of the bugged message.
  • Make Siri send replies until you do not see the black dot on the screen.
  • Run the messaging app, tap Back, and remove the message that has the black dot from the list.

If your iPhone has 3D Touch installed:

  • Force close the messaging app.
  • Run 3D Touch on the program. Choose the new message option.
  • When you see the new message window, tap Cancel to see the conversations list.
  • Delete the message with the black dot from the list.

If your Apple device does not have 3D Touch or Siri installed:

  • Try using a different Apple product that is synced to your iCloud account to run and log in to iMessage.
  • Remove the message with the black dot from the conversation list in the former device. Make sure that you do not accidentally open the message in that app.

While this bug is a major issue, it has not infected many Apple products yet. Once the final version of iOS 11.4 is released, the problem should be resolved. If you need more information on properly maintaining your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, feel free to give us a call today!

Published with permission from Source.

What’s New At The 2018 Apple WWDC?

San Jose, California, recently hosted WWDC 2018. Apple’s engineers interacted with the developers in attendance, while everyone at the event got a sneak preview at the computer manufacturer’s upcoming products and software. Check out the highlights from the event right here!

A more personal, faster iOS 12

Apple has focused on improving the operating system’s performance so that iPads and iPhones become more responsive and work faster. The good news is that older devices that can still run iOS 11 will be compatible with iOS 12.

Developers tweaked the software to make apps launch quicker, especially the keyboard and camera. The latest version of iOS is designed to optimize its system when it is under load, so that Apple products run faster when the user demands higher performance.

Fresh features aimed at impressing consumers include the Memoji, an Animoji that users can customize to their preferences. Group Facetime supports video conferences of up to 32 individuals, and these fun tweaks can be used in both Facetime via the Effects camera and in Messages.

A smarter Siri

Apple’s signature digital assistant can now answer queries about motorsports, food, and famous people. There is a new Shortcuts feature integrated in the Workflow app, which allows users to automate various tasks in first- and third-party apps, to be triggered through Siri voice commands.

Both Shortcuts and suggestions by Siri appear on the Lock screen, and third-party Shortcuts integration will let Siri do more when the user pulls the Lock screen down to search. A dedicated Shortcuts app will be available later this year to give users a quick way to build Shortcuts from dozens of preset options.

An alternative to Google Photos

The iOS Photos app may be useful to Apple product users, but it may seem too basic for some. Once iOS 12 is released however, a clever Photos app will showcase most of the features that Google Photos has.

The Search feature has been improved – users can look for images based on general terms such as “park” or even business names, and multiple terms can be searched (such as images from Africa during a particular month). All pictures will be arranged by place and time in case the user wants to perform searches with those variables.

A new tab labeled “For you” will contain the auto-generated albums which Photos makes, and is sorted with any shared albums. Speaking of sharing, the enhanced Photos app will proactively advise users on what images to share according to who is in the pictures.

A refined WatchOS

Apple’s upcoming WatchOS 5 will introduce users to new ways of connecting to the world while staying active. It may not be a radical revision for the wearable device, but the apps and features it provides will be more helpful and fun for the user.

The highlight of WatchOS 5 is the Walkie-Talkie app, an innovative method of communicating by combining the natural flow of messaging with real-time voice discussions. Just like the conventional product that the app is based on, users simply press and hold down a virtual Talk button to converse with friends and family.

Hiking and Yoga have been added to the list of workout types, while users can keep track of their Outdoor Runs more effectively with support for cadence, the custom pace alert, and the rolling mile pace. Automatic workout detection will make sure that the Apple Watch will always stop or start recording user activity while exercising. This feature works with Open Water Swim, Pool Swim, Rower, Elliptical, Indoor Walk, Outdoor Walk, Indoor Run, and Outdoor Run.

To get users motivated to work up a sweat, WatchOS 5 has a Competition feature that allows friends and family to challenge each other in a contest to see who can get the most activity points within a week. The watches will post regular progress reports to let contestants know how they are doing, and the winner will get a special award.

These updates can change at any time, and will be released by Fall this year. If you need more information on making use of Apple devices and software, or if you have other computer-related concerns, feel free to contact us today!

Secure Your Mac Computer In 6 Easy Ways

If you’re a Mac user, data privacy and security should be your #1 priority. Without the right security measures, you’re inviting cybercriminals to steal your critical data. Are you willing to take the risk? Secure your computer and fortify your defenses with these six tips.


The basics
First, let’s start with the basics and head over to the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences. Here, you’ll find the General, FileVault, Firewall, and Privacy tabs, which control various aspects of security. To change your security settings, click on the padlock icon on the bottom of the screen and type in your username and password.


Enabling the firewall will block unwanted incoming network connections. All you need to do is click Firewall in the System Preferences > Security & Privacy pane, click the padlock icon on the bottom left, enter your username and password, and click Turn On Firewall. Don’t forget to enable Stealth Mode by clicking Firewall Options then clicking Enable Stealth Mode in the dialog box — this makes your computer invisible on public networks.


Make sure to set strong passwords for your user accounts if haven’t already. To do this, go back to the General section of the Security & Privacy settings. In this section, you should also consider setting the Require Password field to “immediately.” This will require you to re-enter your login credentials to unlock your Mac when it goes to sleep mode or when a screensaver is on.


Automatic login
It’s best to disable this function, especially if you are using a mobile Mac. If your Mac gets stolen, you don’t want to give thieves a free pass to your private data.


At the bottom of the General Settings tab, there are three options that authorize which apps can run on your Mac. The safest option is to allow only apps from the App Store to run, and the least secure option is to allow apps downloaded from unauthorized stores. Get the best of both worlds by choosing the option of running apps from the App Store and from developers known to Apple.


The FileVault tab enables you to encrypt all the files in your account. To decrypt them, you must enter either your account password or the recovery key you created when you switched FileVault on. It might be tedious to type in a password every time to access a file, but it helps keep your vital data under lock and key.

In this digital age, ensuring the protection of all your devices is crucial to your business’s success. Feel free to give us a call and we’ll help prepare your business for choppy waters.

Published with permission from Source.

Android P: Features to Look Forward To

Fans of Android mobile devices look forward to each new version of Google’s operating system as it shows off new features. Aside from being easier and more efficient for developers to create applications on it, there are some improvements for consumers to look forward to when they update or buy a device that runs the new Android P.

App Actions and Slices
App Actions aim to anticipate the next thing you may do on your smartphone. Actions such as beginning a workout or giving your spouse a call will appear in notification bubbles on top of the screen as suggestions for what activity it thinks you will do next. It uses machine learning techniques to predict your actions according to your usage habits. For example, if you go jogging at 7:30 am each day, your phone will suggest that you use an installed fitness app during that time.

Slices offer a smaller version of an installed app when you do a Google Search, providing you with various app functions without activating the full app. For example, if you type “I want to book a flight” in the search bar, Search will display a basic version of an installed travel app. If you type “Philippines” in the search bar, Google Search will dig through your Google Photos for related images.

These functions will not work if the developers do not implement them on your favorite apps.

App Timers and Android Dashboard
Android P comes equipped with App Timers which help you control how long you use certain apps (especially games and social media) so that it reduces the compulsive need to check the phone often. Once the time limit expires on an app, it changes the launcher icon to a grey color for the rest of the day.

In line with App Timers, the Android Dashboard shows you how long you’ve been using your phone to help you with your “digital well-being.” It keeps track of the apps you often use, how many notifications you get, and how many times you unlock the device during the day.

Android Shush and other silent modes
Android P adds a new “do not disturb” mode in the device known as Shush. Place your phone on a flat surface with the screen down. Only notifications and calls from contacts that you specify will show on-screen.

Another way to activate this feature is to push the power and volume up buttons simultaneously. There is a setting that lets you choose between placing your device in “vibrate” mode or keeping the phone quiet.

Android P also introduces Wind Down, a “do not disturb” mode that turns on a night light in dark areas. Once the device detects that it’s time for bed, Wind Down forces the screen to enter a gray-scale mode while silencing notifications and phone calls.

Battery-saving features

  • Adaptive Brightness learns the apps you use and the level of light in your current location. This makes sure that the screen is not too dim or bright at all times, helping the battery last longer.
  • Adaptive battery uses artificial intelligence to anticipate what apps you may use in the next hour and those you will not. This should save processing power as well as battery power as the CPU of the device will not be used often.
  • App Standby Buckets groups installed apps into which ones you use more and cleverly sets aside battery power for them. This will basically cut down on device resources like the battery and the CPU according to your usage patterns.

If you need more information on how the latest version of Android and its functionalities can fit into your workplace, give us a call today!

Published with permission from Source.