In this article, we'll discuss how to work from home, how to stay productive and secure, and what tools you might want to consider to do so.
Technology has enabled us to work remotely and we've seen a huge increase of that in the last decade, especially now with COVID-19 forcing businesses into a remote work policy.
Telecommuting offers wonderful benefits to companies and workers alike, with an improved work-life balance topping the charts. People who are working from home are also likely to be more engaged in their jobs, and being engaged can lead to higher profitability, mobile productivity, customer engagement, and other positive business outcomes.
However, remote teams cab experience problems of their own. At the forefront is the disconnection that naturally occurs when team members work separately from the rest of the team. If partially remote, with some workers in the office, remote workers don't get the same experience of office culture. However, with it becoming the 'new norm' many leaders are looking at alternative options to built culture remotely through online games and events, message boards, regularly scheduled video meetings and more.
If you’re new to working remote, here are some things you can do to make your experience as successful as possible:
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate—It’s important to let your team know when you’ll be away from your desk for any extended period of time - whether that means homeschooling your kids, running an errand, or getting in a workout during your lunch. That way, they’ll know when you’ll be back in case they have anything pressing. Teams work better when members know what to expect of each other. If you have a communication software like Teams (or Skype), Slack, or Zoom, maybe sure to use the status setting. You can customize a message such as 'out for lunch' or set your status simply to 'Away' so they know you're not at your desk.
  • Always meet your deadlines—This should go without saying, but it’s important to make sure you aren’t slacking off.  Work-from-home productivity is at least as good as in-office productivity, if not better. Don’t be the one that causes your boss or co-workers to lose faith in the system. If you need help, check out a task planning tool like Microsoft Planner, Monday.com, or Basecamp. While paper and pen are great, this allows your team to collaborate and track progress
  • Use technology —While email certainly has its place, other technology—such as instant messaging, conferencing, etc.—helps you connect with team members in the moment. Because you don’t have the ability to stop by a co-worker’s desk or see team members at the water cooler, you should take any opportunity you can to create conversations and collaboration when appropriate.
  • Visit the office (if it's safe)—Some remote workers may not live close enough to visit the office, but—depending on your role—regular time spent in the office is crucial to team cohesion. In a pre-COVID world, getting facetime in the office was highly recommended as a way to keep in touch and build relationships. Until it's safe again to do so, establish regular check-ins and video meetings with colleagues.
  • Build relationships with co-workers inside and outside your 'circle'—It's important to schedule regular meetings within leadership and in your department to make sure you're all on the same page and get status updates on projects, goals, and deadlines. It's also important to check in regularly with office friends and colleagues outside of your department
Now that we've covered the basics to being successful when working remote, let's dive into some technology and tools.
  • Audio & Video Conferencing tool: As it's mentioned many times above, it's critical to maintain great communication when working remotely. Utilizing a tool like Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Slack allows for constant and quick communication.
  • Productivity tools: Things like email, word processing, file sharing are essential to keeping business operations running
  • Identity Management & Security: This allows you to see which employees should have access to which files.
  • Mobile management software: You need the ability to push and pull data and information to different devices so your users can be productive.
As a result of COVID-19, many organizations are looking at moving their business to the cloud. What was once a scary and unknown place in technology, businesses are adopting a cloud strategy more than ever before. Watch our video below to see why you should consider the cloud for a remote workforce.
Our CIO Tony Pecora discusses how you can support a remote workforce with a modern workplace - a deeper dive on some of the tools discussed above. Check out the interview below:

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3 Crucial Things to Consider for Building a Remote Workforce

Source: Microsoft
The modern workforce is including more remote workers and flexible work policies. Companies that utilize remote employees see an increase in productivity, collaboration, and overall profitability. In order to successfully build a remote or flexible workplace, there are a few things you have to consider first.

Download the Infographic to Learn 3 Crucial Things to Consider when Building a Remote Workforce (and how to solve them)

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Hendrick Motorsports drives collaboration to the finish line with Microsoft Teams

By Matthew Cochoran as written on blogs.office.com
At Hendrick Motorsports, we look at IT as a competitive advantage. And it’s my job to support the company’s goals with the right technology. When Mr. Hendrick says he wants everyone—pit crews, engineers, accountants, mechanics—to work together to win NASCAR championships, we use Microsoft Teams to achieve that goal.
Most fans watching a race think it’s all about the car and the driver. But behind that combination is a ton of data, and the real question becomes how quickly we can consume and act on information to make race-winning decisions that give us a competitive edge. At the track, there’s not only adrenaline, but there’s a lot of noise, power issues and radio interference—so a lot of this collaboration has to be text driven. The persistent chat-based workspaces we get with Microsoft Teams are perfect on pit road.
In Talladega, Alabama, we have to make race strategy decisions for two of our cars. If we have a long green flag stint, when do we stop each car and take on gas and tires? The people on top of the pit box for both car crews use laptops running Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams to communicate so we don’t lose time due to a single car drag coefficient. And we can do that all without breaking radio silence, so we are not giving away secrets to the other competitors. Unlike most organizations that are separated from their competition across the city or the country, our competition is within feet of us, week in, week out. Microsoft Teams is based on the security features built into Office 365 and Windows 10, and that’s critical to keeping our competitive advantage.
Nowadays we have live radar on top of the pit box, and if we see a rainstorm coming, we get that information into Teams and chat about stopping before the race is halfway over. The reason being if the rain holds off until the race goes beyond the halfway mark, then it’s an official race, and we want to run it as if it’s not going to be canceled. Before Teams, we would send runners back and forth to a central radar location.
The communication that goes on during a race extends from the pit box to the people sitting in our transporters in the garage area to our complex in Concord, North Carolina. We have race engineers and crew chiefs devoted to individual car teams along pit road collaborating in Teams workspaces and making decisions that are relayed directly into the ears of the driver.
Then you have the crew members entering data into Teams, such as tire wear information, miles per gallon and how much fuel got added to a car. Race engineers and team managers back in the transporters watch the event, monitor communication and relay that information via Teams, straight to our personnel.
Back in Concord, there are people in the shop or conference rooms all signed in to Teams workspaces. They monitor the race to record events that the people at the track might miss in the moment. We use this to compile valuable historical data that we review later to make decisions for future races.
Everywhere you look, Hendrick Motorsports is using Microsoft Teams to fulfill Mr. Hendrick’s vision. We’re bringing the company together to help produce winning results.

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Relationship Goals: Our IT Department and Yours

Kimye is so 2016.  This Valentine's Day, there's a new "IT" couple and it's called Blended IT.  Blended IT is the perfect combination of mixing our IT resources with yours.  A 24/7 help desk is probably the best valentine you can ask for. Don't take on more than you need to - Blended IT helps you get back to what you do best, without losing technology reliability. Work with us and you've finally found the perfect relationship.

Managed Services

Our Managed Services Portfolio includes service offerings that cover a wide range of technologies – choose from one of our packaged offerings or pick and choose the specific services and applications that fit your unique business needs.
  • Desktop and Device Management
  • Server Monitoring and Management
  • Onsite and Offsite Support
  • Business Continuity

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Systems Integration

Integration services which streamline applications and optimize enterprise wide resources. Our integration services include consulting,
mature governance framework and system integration in the following areas:

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Backup & Compliance

93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. Don't let this be you! Managed Solution offers a variety of Backup and Disaster Recovery solutions to tailor specifically to your business.

Mobile Workforce Solutions

Today’s employees want flexibility in where and when they work, access to the latest devices and technology… and they expect their employer to make it easy for them. To keep up with the pace of change and the speed of business, they need to access their work remotely, connect with their team, and meet with customers or partners in ways that support virtual teams.

Read More >>

 

Want more info on how Managed Solution and Your Business could be the perfect pair?

Read about all of our Products & Services

 

Looking for a partner in your business' managed services needs? Call us at 800-790-1524 to learn about all that we offer!

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A deeper look at Skype for Business integration with iOS CallKit

As written on blogs.office.com
We recently announced deeper integration of Skype for Business with iOS devices using Apple’s CallKit framework, which enables a better experience for Skype for Business calls on the iPhone. The CallKit API with iOS 10 enables Skype for Business calls to work the same way as the native calling experience on iOS, allowing you to seamlessly extend your personal device as a business phone.

Answer Skype for Business calls from lock screen

Now, iPhone users can accept an incoming Skype for Business call right from the lock screen. There is no need to unlock the phone or launch the Skype for Business app to receive the call. Skype for Business calls will appear and behave just as regular cellular calls do—including being able to see the caller’s name on the lock screen. When you need to, you can also get to the app from the calling interface with just one touch.

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Handle Skype for Business calls like any other call

This integration also allows you to switch between calls across Skype for Business, your personal cellular line and other VoIP applications supporting CallKit. If you are in an important Skype for Business conversation and receive an incoming cellular call, you can send the second call to voicemail or put the Skype for Business call on hold to accept the incoming cellular call. You’ll also see Skype for Business calls in your phone’s call history.

Built-in IT and user controls

These new features are enabled by default for all iOS app users. In scenarios where you may not want the Skype for Business calls to appear in the native iOS call log, the built-in IT and end-user controls allow you to disable the CallKit integration altogether. IT admins can disable this integration for their users through a policy, and app users can also control it in the settings.

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Try the new calling experience

To try the new calling experience, update your iOS app today. If you haven’t yet checked out the Skype for Business mobile app for iOS, you can download it at Skype for Business Apps & Downloads.

Introducing Outlook Customer Manager—relationships made easy for small businesses

As written on blogs.office.com
With Office 365, we’re eager to help your small business achieve more. That’s why we are expanding the value of Office 365 to include not only essential productivity and collaboration tools, but also new services to help you run your business. The launch of Bookings earlier this year introduced a new way to schedule appointments with your customers. Today, we are adding a new tool to help you manage your customer relationships more effectively.
As a business owner, you know that getting repeat business starts with knowing your customers well, remembering the conversations you’ve had, and following through on their requests. That can be a challenge when you have many customers to keep track of and not enough time in the day. To make it easier for you to track and grow your customer relationships, we are introducing a new Office 365 service called Outlook Customer Manager.

Outlook Customer Manager gives you a complete view of your interactions with each customer, helps you track tasks and deals in progress, and surfaces timely reminders. You can stay on top of customer relationships right from Outlook, with no need to install or learn separate tools.
Now included at no extra cost in the Office 365 Business Premium plan, Outlook Customer Manager is a cloud-powered solution designed especially for small businesses. And as your business needs grow, you can move to Dynamics 365 to take advantage of enhanced customer information, process efficiency and consistency, and deeper financial and customer insights.

Customer information in one place—without busy work

Trying to keep up with all the information and tasks from emails, meeting invites, call logs, Excel sheets, handwritten notes and other team members can get in the way of more important work. That’s why Outlook Customer Manager automatically organizes customer information—such as emails, meetings, calls, notes, files, tasks, deals and deadlines—in a timeline next to your inbox.

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See customer information next to your inbox so you can act on it right away.

The information in the timeline is automatically gathered from the email, calendar and call log data from your Office 365 environment, minimizing the need to manually enter data about your customer interactions. With all your customer information gathered in one place, you can spend less time entering data, or searching for it in various places, and more time with customers.

Never miss what’s important

Within the busy day of a business owner, it’s easy to forget about items that need follow-up—or worse, fail to fulfill important commitments to a customer. Outlook Customer Manager helps you stay on top of opportunities and commitments by surfacing timely reminders, letting you associate tasks with a contact, company or deal, and listing deals by stage, close dates, priority and amount. To help you prioritize your time, the system automatically presents a Focused list of your most important customers and deals.

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Dive in for a detailed view of your customers and deals, and see timely reminders.

Get everyone on the same page

At a small business, everyone pitches in for customers. But when several team members talk to a customer, it can quickly get complicated to keep track of all the communication. With Outlook Customer Manager, you can choose to share customer information with your team so everyone is on the same page.
This means the next time an employee is out sick, other team members can answer a call from their customers with all the needed information at their fingertips—from notes from recent customer calls to upcoming meeting dates, and from deal stage information to the name of that customer’s dog.

Access it all on the go

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Get on-the-go access.

Work doesn’t always happen in front of a desk, which is why Outlook Customer Manager has a mobile app that gives you quick access to the same customer information you’ll see at your desktop. You can check recent communication right before meeting with a customer, jot down a quick note after a meeting or scan a business card to quickly create a new business contact—all in a few swipes on your phone.
The mobile app is initially available for iOS, and over time we will bring it to other mobile platforms.

Simple to use

Outlook Customer Manager is accessible in one click from the home tab in your Outlook inbox—so you don’t need to install any new software or spend days training your team to get them started. Because your data stays in Office 365, you don’t waste valuable time setting up connectors to other software or services, or managing separate products.

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Get started in one click.

Getting started with Outlook Customer Manager

Outlook Customer Manager is now rolling out to Office 365 Business Premium customers, starting with those opted into First Release and continuing worldwide in the coming months. Once it has rolled out to your Office 365 account, you will see an icon for it in the home tab in Outlook 2016 for Windows. Just click the icon to get started. If you want early access, please see this page for more information on how to join the First Release program for Office 365.

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Working Parents Day

By Kelly Cronin
We asked our Managed Solution Team to send us pictures of what being a working parent really looks like. The response we got was somewhat unexpected, but was well put by our Cloud MarketPlace Manager, Mary Johnson, who said, "I don’t know that these are pictures of what it’s like to be a working parent because I don’t usually have a free hand to take a picture with." And it's true - an estimated 60.6% of families have both working parents. Work-life balance is a difficult task to manage for employees, employers, and their families. At Managed Solution, we have new flexible work arrangements, that give employees the opportunity to work part-time from home and part-time in the office. As a result, our team can have more balance between their work life and their personal life.

Whether it's being there for their first steps, picking them up from their first day of school, or watching their last soccer game, every moment is precious. Take a look at what our working parents treasure and appreciate every day:

 

8 ways to successfully lead your mobile workforce

As written on blogs.office.com

For many of us, the rise of the remote workforce comes as no surprise. For years now, office workers have been abandoning their desks in favor of settings that are farther afield and allow them to work in a more comfortable, and often more productive, environment. And it’s a trend that only promises to keep growing. In fact, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the U.S. mobile worker population is on track to grow from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020. And by the end of the forecast period, IDC projects that mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the total U.S. workforce.

Although the mobile workforce has been building for some time, managers are, in many ways, still catching up and trying to determine how best to lead their teams when they’re not only not in the same room, but may be spread out over a number of cities, states or even countries. However, because so many organizations have used a remote workforce model for so many years now, and technology has moved ahead by leaps and bounds, leading remote teams is certainly easier than in years past. Of course, finding your own path to successful leadership will largely depend on your personal style, corporate culture and team members, but if you don’t know where to start or would like to add new techniques and technology to your bag of tricks, you would do well to try these time-tested tips:

  1. Manage results, not style—Remote employees often have their own style of working. Some may work for two hours, then take a break to take their kids to school or run an errand, then work four more hours, take a break and work the remaining two (or more) later, while others may keep regular office hours. So instead of managing how an employee gets his or her work done, focus on the quality of the work, whether deadlines are being met, whether they exhibit good decision-making skills, etc.
  2. Encourage teamwork—Working great distances from your co-workers can feel isolating, so make a point to encourage project work that allows team members to work together. This way, your staff will feel more connected to each other, and your department will benefit from shared ideas and greater communication between team members.
  3. Communicate—Because you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk or grab a cup of coffee in the break room, managers need to take initiative to establish relationships with their teams. Weekly or bi-weekly status calls can often help you address upcoming projects, performance issues, etc. Yet, other times an instant message or email conversation (that may or may not be work related) might be the best way to stay in touch. Whatever your approach is, be clear in your communications—but also let your personality shine through. After all, when you’re building and managing a team it’s important for everyone to know who they’re working with.
  4. Host web meetings (with video)—With everyone’s camera up and a shared view of your agenda, presentation, etc., your team can not only see each other—and put faces to names—but see the presenter’s desktop and get a clear picture of the information being addressed.
  5. Give them the right technology—Part of being a good manager is ensuring that your team members have everything they need to work efficiently. And when your workforce works remotely, that means supporting your staff with the right technology. When researching your options, look for software that makes sharing files safe, secure and simple; works on a range of devices, including laptops and desktops, tablets and mobile phones; and gives your workers the power to work on the same documents simultaneously. This way, everyone will have access to the same tools, you can mitigate compatibility issues, and your collaborative efforts can flourish.
  6. Give them a reason—Remote workers can feel disconnected from an organization’s goals and may not have a clear understanding of where their work fits into its mission. If you share the company’s vision and goals with your remote workforce and address how their work contributes to the success of the organization, your team will feel less detached from the company. This, in turn, inspires remote teams to work toward a common goal and be productive members of the organization.
  7. Be inclusive and provide praise—When it comes to training, praise for a job well done, and parties, offsite employees are often overlooked or simply forgotten about—which does nothing to encourage loyalty or foster relationships. As you manage your team of remote workers, try to ensure that they have the same opportunities for training as others and receive the same, prompt praise for a job well done that you would offer onsite workers. As for parties and team outings, if remote team members can’t make it to an event, consider giving them a small gift or a few extra hours off in a week. It’s a small gesture, but it can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated.
  8. Encourage a work-life balance—For remote workers, it’s easy to get caught up in a project or want to make just a little more progress on something before calling it quits for the day. It’s also equally easy to get distracted by projects at home, spouses, kids, pets, etc. The key is to strike a balance between the two. When onboarding new remote workers, talk to them about setting a schedule that they can stick to and setting aside a space designated for work only. Then, at the end of the day, they can shut down their laptops and disconnect from work. This will help them mentally unwind and enjoy their downtime, and start work with a clear head and a fresh perspective the next day.

Finally, as with most things in life, you must lead by example. By taking a proactive, transparent approach to work, being available to your teams and communicating clearly and often with staff in a wide variety of ways, they’ll see that you can not only be relied on, but trusted. They’ll see firsthand how you want the team to function and will follow your footsteps—helping you create a supportive virtual environment that’s conducive to mobile productivity and exemplary work.

 

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