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,, 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:


4 things about hosting virtual meetings you can learn from TED Talks

As written on
With more than a billion views, TED Talks are clearly doing something right. So, what is it that makes them such a success? Here are four tried and true techniques that some of the most viewed TED Talks have in common.
  1. They’re the right length—While there are talks up to 60 minutes, the average and most well-known length is 18 minutes or fewer, as reported by Forbes. When facing pushback on this length, TED Talks founder Chris Anderson often guides speakers to fit within the time limit by quoting President Woodrow Wilson (according to Forbes): “If it’s a 10-minute speech, it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it’s a half-hour speech, it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to, it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.” Concise and strategically planned presentations are key.
  1. They focus on the right topic—Choose a topic that’s meaningful to you, that you’re knowledgeable about, and you’re comfortable talking about in depth. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, your audience won’t either. Having something worth saying is more important than stage presence and confidence in public speaking, Anderson explains to Forbes.
  2. They use top-notch presentation skills—While having something worth saying is key, you still need presentation skills to back it up or your presentation may fall flat. Even though you might not be presenting in person, being personable and accessible is essential. According to research by the Science of People regarding the most viewed TED Talks, audiences liked the speakers just as much with the audio on as they did when the volume was muted.
    They also discovered the more hand gestures, the more successful the talk. They reported that the bottom TED Talks had an average of 124,000 views and the speakers used an average of 272 hand gestures during the 18-minute talk. The most-viewed had an average of 7,360,000 views and used an average of 465 hand gestures.
  3. .They’re conversational—Scripts are comforting because they help you feel like you know exactly what to say, but planning word-for-word comes off as impersonal. Instead, create an outline with talking points to allow for natural vocal variety. The Science of People discovered a direct correlation between vocal variety and Ted Talk views.

Take your virtual meetings to the next level

Now you know what elements to leverage to make your virtual meetings powerful, dynamic and interesting to attendees. Pair these with the features available in Skype for Business to set your virtual meetings apart.


Climbing 50 Peaks in 50 Days, Powered by Microsoft Technology

Melissa Arnot returns from record Everest climb to help protégé tackle 50 Peaks Challenge


By Vanessa Ho as written on
In May, Melissa Arnot became the first American woman to successfully climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. A month earlier, her good friend and business manager in Seattle, Christine Hass, had a baby.
After such life-changing feats, you might think the two of them would want a leisurely summer. Maybe hang out at the pool and do a little less after summiting 29,028 feet in brutal conditions on dangerously thin mountain air, or caring for a newborn day and night after giving birth.
But you’d be wrong. Instead, the women are now helping Arnot’s climbing protégé, Maddie Miller, tackle a new adventure called the 50 Peaks Challenge, which involves climbing the highest point in all 50 U.S. states in 50 days.


With Microsoft Band, Skype, Office and Surface empowering their journey, Arnot and Miller are now on a cross-country race against the clock in a camper van named “Tiffany,” with Hass providing support from her home office in Seattle. The epic road trip and expedition kicked off on June 27 when Miller summited 20,308-foot Denali in Alaska. She then flew to Florida to join Arnot, who sustained a cold-related foot injury on Everest and skipped Denali to recover and finalize logistics.
After quickly reworking their plans – part of their nimble nature in the business — the pair is now heading north and west, before flying to Hawaii for a final hike up Mauna Kea in Hawaii. If they’re successful, Miller will be the first woman to complete the challenge.

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For the trio, 50 Peaks is less about mountaineering and more about a powerful team working together to achieve goals, share a joy for adventure, and inspire others to accomplish great things. It’s a chance for Arnot, a renowned professional climbing guide, to mentor a younger athlete and share her vast mountaineering experience, which began at 19. She had quit an ad-writing job in Iowa, drove west and lived out of her truck to climb mountains.
“This year is really a year of mentorship, and it’s pretty special. It’s the most responsibility I’ve ever had in terms of teaching and caring for people,” says Arnot, who started her climbing business seven years ago. Earning success in a male-dominated industry, Arnot has summited Everest six times, led expeditions on three continents and climbed to the top of Mount Rainier more than a hundred times.
She has also supported others. This year, she guided a 13-year-old girl on climbs in Nepal for six weeks. She worked on her non-profit organization, The Juniper Fund, which helps families of Sherpas killed on Everest. And she’s been preparing Miller for 50 Peaks, on everything from gear to workouts to mental stamina. The two met in 2013, when Arnot guided Miller on a climb up Rainier as part of Miller’s high school graduation gift from her dad.

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“It’s been teaching her the skills to be technically ready, but also the skills to have the confidence in herself that she can do this,” Arnot says of 50 Peaks, which includes technical climbs, shorter hikes and six summits in a single day.
For Miller, the challenge is an opportunity to learn mountaineering and life skills from a thriving entrepreneur and world-class climber.
“Melissa is a really important person in my life, not just for guiding me up mountains,” says Miller, a 21-year-old Colorado College senior majoring in mathematical economics. “She’s taught me that women can achieve so much, and do so much, and there’s no limitation.”

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The essential, behind-the-scenes glue and magic of Arnot’s business, Infinity Expeditions, belongs to Hass, the group’s go-to, get-it-done executor. As an efficiency expert and administrative director of another company that specializes in wilderness medical care, Hass manages details and logistics. She deals with sponsors, clients, insurance, flights, budgets, media and Arnot’s many speaking engagements. She’s the doer to Arnot’s thinker and climber; when Arnot suggests a raffle to sell the van after 50 Peaks, Hass is thinking of three ways to accomplish it.
“I love being able to support [Arnot] and find success in making the business successful,” says Hass. “It is efficiency, the making things happen, the completion of a project.”
The pair has developed a winning formula for running a business, with Microsoft technology playing a major role. To train for Everest and other climbs — and encourage clients on their workouts — Arnot uses Microsoft Band, which tracks heart rate, mileage and elevation.


Because she works remotely much of the time, she and Hass need seamless tools to keep in touch, scale the business and collaborate efficiently from different parts of the world. For that, they turned to Microsoft’s cloud and Skype for Business, which enables dial-in access (handy for calling in from a big mountain). They save, share and edit emergency plans, the 50 Peaks schedule and other important content in OneNote. And they use Office Lens to scan receipts and avoid the end-of-trip headache of paper piles.
The team includes Melissa Arnot (center) and her best friend plus business manager Christine Hass (right), who is also a new mom. Arnot is coaching Maddie Miller (left), who has taken time from college to complete the 50 peaks adventure.
Everything is done on the light-weight, high-performance Surface Pro 4 — particularly useful when Arnot is 17,600 feet in the air at Everest’s base camp, where every ounce counts.
“Using a lot of different pieces of technology to keep us all connected is probably one of the biggest things that’s helpful for me,” Hass says of 50 Peaks.
The adventure is the latest in a series of expeditions marked by both elation and tragedy, including the 2010 death of one of Arnot’s climbing partners, the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal and two years of deadly avalanches on Everest.
Through it all, the women have supported each other in an extreme sport that’s often nomadic, isolating and tough on friendships. After the deaths, Arnot returned to the U.S. each time to grieve in Hass’ home. After Hass became a new mom this year, she Skyped Arnot in Nepal to introduce her newborn daughter. They’ve been able to bridge distance and time zones through technology.
“When we were both 20-something-years-old and started this friendship and business together, I never could have imagined that this would be our lives,” says Arnot. As she reviewed her itinerary and massive amounts of gear with Hass in the final days before 50 Peaks, she was grateful for the support.
“Getting ready for this huge challenge of climbing 50 peaks in 50 days, I know that there’s no way I could have done that without Christine,” Arnot says. “We’re stronger together.”


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