Today's modern workplace is not as it used to be. Instead of those cramped cubicles, we now have wide open spaces. Instead of those dusky archives, we now have the cloud. And instead of that strict 9-to-5 schedule, we now have flexibility. While these examples here are by no means exhaustive, they do, however, paint an entirely different picture about today's office, as opposed to what we were used to several decades ago. This is how to make your business a modern workplace.

One such modern workplace has plenty of advantages, yet many are still using the traditional model. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that the modern workplace is still going through a transition period, meaning that it hasn't reached a final form. It also says that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and every business has to create its workplace, based on their needs and respective industry.

In any case, here are some guidelines.

Leveraging Modern Technology

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the changing face of the modern workplace is driven in large part by digital technology and automation. It's pretty much the same trend, but to a much larger degree, to what happened when the PC arrived during the mid-1980's.

Today, however, with various automation software for multiple industries, cloud computing, and social technologies, the way people work is no longer the same. Known as the Internet of Things (IoT), these technologies and the devices they use, are creating a much more efficient, intelligent, and connected workforce.

Flexible Work Schedules

Another critical ingredient for the modern workplace is flexibility. It refers mainly to employee working schedules and can take numerous forms, depending on the type of business you have. For instance, flexibility in the workplace can imply full or partially remote work.

It can also mean a so-called flex schedule where employees can create their schedules, as long as they make their 40 hours per week. Likewise, flexibility can also take the shape of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), where results take center stage, not hours worked, or it can even imply unlimited vacation days, among other such examples.

Better Communication

With increased flexibility in the workplace, the need for good communication and collaboration could not be higher. When creating your modern workplace, the discussion needs special consideration, otherwise, risk everything falling apart.

When not all of your employees are under the same roof, at the same time, some may be excluded from meaningful conversations. It can lead to increased suspicion and worry, which, in turn, may result in decreased employee happiness and productivity and a higher turnover rate. Regular internal newsletters and employee feedback can help mediate this situation. Making frequent use of social technologies such as Skype is yet another.

Modern Performance Reviews

Under the traditional model, performance reviews were given roughly once per year. But in today's fast-paced business environment, this model is not only obsolete but can also be counterproductive. For a whole year, an employee could be thinking that they're doing a good job, and then faced with a barrage of negative feedback and reviews.

Like with the point above, once-per-year performance reviews will do no one any favors. With more and more employees working off-site, monthly or weekly checkups will better help clarify objectives, improve efficiency, and morale, and will also keep these employees in the loop.


These are some of the core elements that define the modern workplace. But as mentioned before, each business needs to create its system that will best fit its individual needs. But by focusing on leveraging automation technologies and providing your employees with flexibility and better communication, you are driving modernization.

Are you ready to take the next step for a Modern Workplace? Managed Solution can come on-site for a Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) and provide a hands-on demo of productivity tools that help promote a flexible and collaborative work environment. Learn more about CIEs here.


IM on it—why instant messaging is collaboration’s secret weapon

Implementing an instant messaging platform is important for productivity for teams of all sizes. Enabling a system for quick, informal, easy-to-reference and mobile chats keeps teams connected for nimble collaborations—resulting in a major value-add to your business.
How much value, exactly? Businesses that have embraced instant messaging practice have seen remarkable improvements in productivity and streamlined communication. According to a survey of employees using chat services conducted by, 75 percent saw decreased call and email volume, and 66 percent noticed quick resolution for simple questions. When it comes to productivity, 21 percent noted either moderate or significant increase.


As company-wide IM benefits become clear, more and more businesses are getting on board. If you’re interested in these benefits but are wary to ensure proper implementation and use throughout your company, provide best practices for your employees to reference to increase productivity and reduce frustrating growing pains.
Don’t shoot the messenger
The following five best practices help ensure successful adoption and usage of IM in your organization:
1.Provide a company-wide solution—Don’t require employees to use personal accounts; implement a company-provided instant messaging offering. This will streamline features and allow all your employees to find each other to chat.
2.Choose a secure solution with robust features—Compliance standards (like HIPPA, DPAS and FISMA, FERPA and banking) apply to more than just email and other secure information sources. Ensure that all your business communication tools align with common compliance standards.
3.Integrate with other collaboration tools—Standalone instant messengers can leave employees with cumbersome roadblocks. Ensure your solution integrates seamlessly with other tools like business email, phone and video conferencing. Encourage employees to start conversations within project-specific documentation, so that the goal of the conversation remains clear and important information can be easily referenced.
4.Empower employees to set and respect boundaries—Being reachable 24/7 is unrealistic and sets up your employees for burnout. Encourage colleagues to mute their instant messaging tool for periods of private productivity and focus, then remind co-workers to respect that virtual space.
5.Don’t replace email completely—Instant messaging is a great option to communicate with even the most inbox-overwhelmed colleagues. But, instant messaging should not replace email or other collaboration tools that are core to keeping record of memorialized conversations. Set standards and show examples of the types of content best handled via IM, email or other project management tools. A general rule is length, if the message will contain more than a few words or sentences, email remains the best option.
A valuable tool for company-wide collaboration, instant messengers should be used to keep employees productive—not distracted or stressed. By implementing and encouraging best practices and sticking with a solution that includes everything you need to implement these practice at the outset, you can see skyrocketing productivity and results.


Marketing agency improves technology, saves $87,000 with cloud-based telephony

For BDSmktg, its field staff is the core of its business, with only a small percentage of employees at headquarters. BDSmktg is using Skype for Business Online in Microsoft Office 365 to knit these two groups more closely together, accelerate business, and save bundles of money. With Skype for Business Online, BDSmktg will save US$87,000 annually in personal phone charge reimbursements, audio conferencing fees, and PBX maintenance, and avoid the need to spend $250,000 on a new PBX system.

Flustered by phones

James Metcalfe never imagined that the most troublesome technology in his company would be the most mundane: phones.
James Metcalfe is Director of IT Network Infrastructure for BDSmktg, an agency that provides retail marketing services for world-class brands by representing their products and services in stores. The Irvine, California¬–based agency provides thousands of representatives each year to some of the biggest names in retail.
James Metcalfe had already outfitted several hundred of the agency’s full-time employees with Microsoft Office 365 to give them anytime, anywhere, any-device access to email, document storage, document sharing, and web conferencing. Employees used the latest PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
But old-fashioned phone communications posed a growing problem. Only a small percentage of BDSmktg employees work at the Irvine headquarters, while thousands work in the field—from home or on the road—because their jobs require that they be near the stores they service.
A significant portion of the company’s large recruiting team and extensive field staff used their personal phones to conduct business, and BDSmktg reimbursed them for the charges. But this was expensive and problematic. When job candidates returned calls to recruiters, they could end up talking to a recruiter’s family member. Or, if recruiters or field operations managers left BDSmktg and went to work for a competitor, they took job candidates’ phone numbers with them.
“There were delays in tracking down phone numbers to reach colleagues, which slowed down the business,” Metcalfe says.
In the Irvine office, the company’s private branch exchange (PBX) system was old, out of date, and hemorrhaging money. “Every time we had budget talks, the PBX system came up, but sticker shock ended the discussion,” Metcalfe says. “The timing was never right to make the large investment to replace or upgrade it.”

One way to connect everyone

In late 2015, BDSmktg asked to be part of a Microsoft early adopter program for a new version of Skype for Business Online (part of Microsoft Office 365) that included significant telephony enhancements. Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling provide software-based PBX functionality with a bank of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers. PSTN Conferencing allows people invited to a Skype for Business Online meeting to join by dialing in over a landline or mobile phone (rather than the Internet).
BDSmktg gave Skype for Business Online to about 300 of its employees, and adoption was instant and enthusiastic. “We’ve been using Lync Online for years, so our staff already had experience with chat, screen share, and video and web conferencing,” Metcalfe says. “Adding PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling just makes communications even simpler. With Skype for Business Online, we have one way to connect everyone, wherever they are, whatever device they’re using, and whether they’re connected to the Internet or not.”

More professional, more accountable

Today, BDSmktg employees who work from home have an assigned Skype for Business Online phone number that they use for work calls; no more giving out personal phone numbers. When an employee leaves BDSmktg, there’s no longer the worry that a personal phone number is a contact’s only link to the company. BDSmktg simply reassigns the Skype for Business Online phone number to a new employee, maintaining continuity with client and job candidate communications.
“With PSTN Calling, we can track every inbound and outbound call, see the number called, and the duration of the call,” Metcalfe says. “We have much better accountability around a critical part of our business.”

Work effectively from anywhere

Employees working from home now feel better connected to the company because they can connect quickly with colleagues. “We’re able to provide more seamless communication for our employees who work from home,” Metcalfe says. “People are blown away by the quality of the HD Voice in Skype for Business Online. They don’t want to go back to regular phones.”
BDSmktg management likes the flexibility that the new features provide. “With Skype for Business Online, we have more freedom to place people wherever the business needs them to be, rather than having technology limitation determine employee access,” says Ken Kress, President of BDSmktg.

Huge savings

Management also likes the savings. By using Skype for Business Online for field staff telephony, BDSmktg eliminates the need to reimburse employees for calls made from personal devices—a US$12,000 annual savings.
By replacing the $8,000-a-month licenses from its current conferencing provider with a $1,700-a-month Skype for Business Online subscription, BDSmktg will save $75,000 annually.
And by replacing its physical PBX with Cloud PBX, BDSmktg will avoid a $250,000 replacement cost and ongoing maintenance costs of $35,000 a year.
Last but not least is the real estate cost avoidance that BDSmktg could realize by using Skype for Business Online. “We’ll avoid significant costs to expand our office as our company grows as we enable more people and roles to work from home,” Metcalfe says.

Easy to manage

From Metcalfe’s perspective, having telephony functionality bundled with Office 365 makes his life easier. He eliminates the work and expense of a physical phone infrastructure. It’s far easier to move employees around the office and to move them from office to home. “Scaling up and creating additional phone numbers with PSTN Calling is very straightforward,” Metcalfe says.
There are fewer vendors and bills to manage. More services on user desktops are connected and interoperable, making support easier. “Giving employees new capabilities and saving money is what a successful IT department strives for,” Metcalfe says. “I’ve been championing a new phone system for three years, and to finally find a solution that is affordable, easy to implement, and easy to use is a game changer.”

Next, extend to every field employee

Metcalfe’s vision is for all the company’s thousands of field staff representatives to have access to Skype for Business Online and other Office 365 services. The above-mentioned savings could well make this possible.
“It would be ideal for our field operations managers to easily and instantly connect with the representatives that they manage,” Metcalfe says. “Everyone would have the Skype for Business Online mobile app on their smartphones. As our field programs ramp up and down, we adjust our Office 365 subscriptions as required using a central admin portal. It would make us more nimble, more responsive, and more competitive than ever.”

Sir Ken Robinson gave the most popular TED Talk of all time.

While there is no question that what you say matters, studies suggest the words you use make up just 7% of the impact you have.
The remaining 93% is split between your body language and tone.
That's why it's imperative to master the nonverbal cues you send. And since a presenter has only about 60 seconds to hook the audience, it's important to get them right from the start.
We spoke with Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of "Well Said!," about mastering the art of nonverbal communication. Scroll down to see her tips.
Read more:

Control your facial expressions.

Oftentimes, we have no idea what our faces are communicating. "Because our facial expressions are closely tied to emotion, they are often involuntary and unconscious," Price says.
Letting our emotions get the best of us can negatively affect the impression we give, whether it's a presentation or a one-on-one conversation. To avoid a misunderstanding, hold a slight smile, nod occasionally, and make sure you show interest, she advises.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

"Make sure 'business casual' is not 'business careless,'" Price says.
Professional attire, such as suits or jackets, should be worn to important meetings and presentations, especially with senior leaders and customers, she says. It's also important to avoid showy accessories, busy patterns, and tight or revealing garments.

Concentrate on the tone of your voice.

Price cites the common phrase: "It's not what you said; it's how you said it." If someone has ever said this to you, they are referring to your paralanguage, or tone, she says.
"Separate from the actual words used, these nonverbal elements of your voice include voice tone, pacing, pausing, volume, inflection, pitch, and articulation," Price says. Recording a few of your conversations can be a good way to identify the emotions your tone communicates, she says.

Offer your full attention, and avoid multitasking.

In an increasingly digital age, constantly checking your phone or emails may seem discrete and standard, but it should be avoided. Multitasking can often be "perceived as disinterest or disrespect," Price says.
Offering your full attention means using open body language, which includes uncrossed arms and legs, squared shoulders, and portraying clear engagement in the conversation, she says.

Maintain strong eye contact for more than a brief second.

The importance of maintaining eye contact can't be overstated.
Simply glancing at members of the audience is known as the "eye-dart," Price says, and it "conveys insecurity, anxiety, or evasion." The key is to maintain direct eye contact for at least two seconds before moving to the next person, she says.


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