5 Tips for a Better Work From Home Experience, and 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Save Money During Lockdown
This week, my team and I were discussing all of the interesting things we have learned through lockdown, businesses being shuttered, mass layoffs and global fear around the pandemic that is upon us. Some of the things we have learned seem obvious, some are surprising and others are just outright hilarious.
P.S. This article is not all about technology and I promise you won’t be bored. There is even a picture of a cute dog.
Social distancing can be very healthy.
Few of us take the time to get acquainted with our own self; the demands and distractions of every day life pull our attention in many directions and give us little time to be thoughtful or reflect. During this time when many of us are being forced to take a time out from our normal routines, making time to check in with our own thoughts and our own state of mine can be very valuable and rewarding. A close friend of mine introduced me to the teachings of Dandapani, a Hindu priest and former monk who teaches on many subjects — self reflection being one of them.
When was the last time you asked yourself “How are you doing?”
Dandapani suggests that you should sit down for five minutes each morning, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and speak to yourself.
“What would you talk about if you met a stranger at a bar? Ask yourself these questions.”
He goes on to say:
“When you have that conversation every day, the initial conversations will be very superficial…by month three or month four our conversations would be so much deeper…and then you would really get to know yourself…”
Here is a video of Dandapani describing the power of getting to know yourself.
The technology available for telecommuting is amazing.
Telecommuting isn’t exactly ideal for people who have a lot of distractions at home or simply crave human interaction on a regular basis, but for most of us, having a health mix of telecommuting in our life isn’t bad at all. Below are a few tips to make your telecommuting experience easier, more family-friendly and more productive.
- Create a dedicated work space to “go to” each morning
For many, there are far more distractions at home than at the office — they key to this is having a comfortable, dedicated and quiet place to work that is separate from the rest of your home. Don’t show up in pajamas or sweats either, get dressed for work and your head space will be much more aligned with your work.
If you don’t have a space that you can use away from the distractions, focus on ways to reduce the distractions. Kelly, a member of our service desk told us that her husband uses wireless headphones similar to these (still available on Amazon) to watch TV so that the sounds of Zombies and shotguns does not distract her from her work and schoolwork and is not the background noise for our team meetings.
At the end of the day, it is almost important to make sure you leave your dedicated work space. Change into your “home clothes,” turn off the computer, go for a walk, move to another room and keep your work and play spaces separate and distinct.
2. Take advantage of collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams
The technology in place today makes telecommuting so incredibly easy. Home internet speeds in the US are on par with that of many small businesses, tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams (which just announced they have reached 44M daily active users) and Zoom allow the human interaction to feel more meaningful than a phone call and many employees are working from home just as efficiently and effectively as they were at the office just weeks ago.
Speaking of Teams, here is a video from Microsoft with some tips and tricks that you might find useful in your WFH life.
I challenge you in this time to reach out to someone on your team, or a vendor, or a customer each and every day and just “catch up.” Ask them how they are doing, how their family is doing, and don’t just talk about work.
Be a friend, be a colleague.
3. Consider moving your infrastructure to AWS or Azure
If you haven’t seriously considered moving your on-prem infrastructure to the cloud — now might be a better time than ever. While we were scrambling to get our on-prem clients help with more VPN licenses, evaluating home networks and home hardware for readiness and working with many people to ensure they had printer redirection working and the ability to scan documents from home — our AWS and Azure clients never even flinched.
Our AWS and Azure hosted clients never even called. They just went home, signed in and kept going about their day.
The concept of “the cloud” has never been more appealing than it is right now. If you want to find out if moving your infrastructure to “the cloud” could be a good move for your business, reach out to us. We would be happy to help.
4. Go for a walk
Go outside and get away from your desk for a few minutes. The world around us has not stopped being beautiful and with everyone in lockdown, the skies are clear and the birds are singing. It is oddly calm and peaceful out there. Get outside, clear your head and you will be better for it.
5. Think about your home security
When I say home security, I don’t mean your alarm system or cameras. I mean your digital security.
Is your wi-fi password your home phone number? You should probably change that.
Does your home computer have antivirus on it? We recommend ESET which is about $40–60 a year.
Do you know what DNS filtering is and do you have it enabled at home? OpenDNS for your home is free and it is fairly easy to setup — if you cannot figure it out, ask your tech-savvy family member.
These are three easy things you can do right now to tune up your home security — and there are plenty more where these came from.
Vegan food is not so bad!
With supermarkets and grocery stores bare and aisles empty, I went to stock up on a few items and was left with very few choices. I found more vegan, dairy free and gluten free options than anything else, likely because there are less people who choose these diets and because these items tend to be more expensive.
I realized that during this crisis, people may be forced to try things they have never tried before, which could actually lead to healthier lifestyle choices and could be a silver lining in this challenging time.
The iPad Pro is finally a valid alternative to a laptop!
Neal, one of the members of our management team informed us that Apple just released a keyboard with built in trackpad for the iPad Pro, getting it one step closer to being the perfect alternative to a laptop or Microsoft Surface. For those of you who already have an iPad Pro and wish you could work full time on it and keep your perfect Apple ecosystem intact, you can! This accessory is Apple’s way of finally admitting that you may not need that Macbook Air much longer.
Do you call your computer a “modem” or a “CPU?” If so, we are here for you!
We have many clients with staff who are, to put it lightly, not so tech savvy. Some are downright self-proclaimed Luddites.
While some are trying to jam HDMI cables into Displayport ports, others don’t know the difference between a computer and a modem. One person recently took their monitor home thinking it was their whole computer — not realizing that the tower under the desk would be necessary to make their “computer” work.
It is especially challenging for us to help because we are not physically there to help, (#socialdistancing and all), but with so many people using iPhones and Teams, we are able to use video to see things from their perspective, allowing us to better serve them. The technology available to us in this challenging time is so amazing and we as technical people are tasked with empowering those around us to learn how to utilize it.
Some people are taking calls in closets right now!
I am a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Chapter of Orange County and the Inland Empire, and last week I had a quick check-in call with my “Match Support Specialist” because she wanted to make sure my Little and I are socially distancing and that I am continuing to be a supportive figure in his life during this time — and she told me that she was taking the call from inside of a closet, surrounded by clothes because she has a really noisy and excited dog who follows her everywhere and wants to be a part of the conversation. I couldn’t help but laugh — and now I want to adopt a dog to hang out with during lockdown.
My wife may need to learn how to cut hair
If you have seen me recently, you know I am wearing my hair long. A few months ago, I told my wife I was tired of getting haircuts and suggested she do a self study on Youtube and learn how to cut it for me. I was half kidding.
Now I may not have a choice or I might end up looking like Matt Damon when he had long hair — and that was not good for anyone. Thanks for keeping it short, Matt.
Now for Some Money-Saving Tips for Small Businesses
Here are a few low-hanging fruit you may want to consider, or reach out to us and we will be more than happy to assist.
- Make sure you are not oversubscribed on licenses on any of your SaaS platforms. We often find there are a handful of licenses that are not in use, or users who left two years ago that were never terminated in the system. These small amounts can add up to big savings over time.
- Have a professional review your internet and phone bills to make sure you are not on legacy rates, over-paying for services simply because nobody has looked at your bills in several years. We often find that this exercise leads to a) better redundancies with more diverse internet connections, b) reduced cost due to the falling prices of internet and phone services and c) opportunities to upgrade legacy systems to modern systems and usually all of this for less than our clients were paying previously. We would gladly do this review for any business, client or not. What may only take the trained eye a handful of minutes may save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars each month or each year.
- Utilize free resources from Google and Microsoft rather than paying for additional services. If you are already a subscriber to one of these two platforms — Google gives you Drive, do you really need to pay for Dropbox? Microsoft gives you Teams, do you really need to pay for Zoom?
Now that we have had some fun and given you some money-saving tips, here are a few general takeaways that we discussed as a team and these apply so much to our normal every day lives but people forget to embody these during normal times and we want to remind everyone around us to be good, be compassionate and be a positive influence on those around you.
Be Good and Pay It Forward
While some of us are struggling to find toilet paper, others are struggling to pay their rent. How can we help each other during this challenging time?
I suggest a “Pay It Forward” campaign.
My wife and I are running low on toilet paper and we cannot find it anywhere, and my father is a known “Prepper” so I Facetime’d him and he let me know he has over 120 rolls of toilet paper stocked up and he didn’t have to buy any due to COVID-19. He is going to ship me some rolls — thanks, Dad!
This inspired me to find out what I might have around the house that someone else might be in need of and make an offer of the same.
For example, I have plenty of extra electronics and if someone is struggling to WFH because they don’t have a power adapter for their office phone, or a docking station to hook up their laptop to an external monitor, I probably have extras that I can send. We challenge you to do the same and help a friend.
If you need a docking station or a power adapter for a VOIP phone, I have a few. Let me know!
If your business needs to purchase laptops or other equipment for your staff transitioning to WFH and you are having trouble finding anything available online or in stores, let me know as well and we will have our procurement team see what we can source through our distribution channels.
The Digital Divide has never been greater than it is today.
We are also partnered with a local non-profit called Human IT that takes donations of e-waste, diverts as much as possible from landfill, gives much of it a second life which helps our earth and donates tech to students, families in need and businesses in low income communities. They also provide free or low cost internet to these same families through the resale of refurbished business devices and donations from people like you and me.
According to my friend Brandon Smith at Human IT, the average piece of technology requires the consumption of 530lbs of fossil fuels, 3,300 lbs of water and 48 lbs of chemicals. Let’s give these devices more life!
There are so many students working from home without access to working computers — so many families working from home without access to working computers. Human IT can help, but they need your donations!
Especially now more than ever, we are all acutely aware of the struggles that others may be going through. We don’t frown at people who wear masks to the store or judge someone for keeping their distance and we don’t criticize someone for being overly anxious but why only now?
Why did a pandemic have to arrive for us to be compassionate?
What about the person who wore a mask on the plane the last time you flew…
Did you assume they were sick with some viral disease?
Did you consider switching seats?
Did you think to ask them why they were wearing the mask?
Maybe they have an immune condition and don’t want to take risks with their health when they travel.
What about the last time you criticized someone for over-reacting to something that didn’t bother you?
Anxiety, depression and mental health challenges are all around us and are very real and we should not only be aware but be supportive of those struggling. Whether their concern came from a tangible place you don’t understand like an immune condition, or from an intangible place you don’t understand like anxiety — why not take a moment to gain perspective and try to see things through their eyes?
I recently started taking a medication for an autoimmune disease I suffer from, and this medication in certain dosages has given me anxiety for the first time in my life on a few occasions.
While I cant say I enjoy it, I can definitely say I understand how it feels now. I have a much better understanding, patience and desire to be supportive of those around me who suffer from anxiety because I unfortunately know what it feels like now.
Be a Positive Influence on Those Around You
We as a team are looking for ways right now to seize opportunities to help our friends, colleagues and clients and find silver linings in this trying time.
We are focusing our weekly team calls on “Who can we help?” and “How can we help?”
We have some clients who have been kicking the tires on AWS and Azure and may want to consider moving to the cloud right now.
We have other clients who are struggling because their phone system is not well-equipped for WFH scenarios and we are moving some of them to hosted VOIP.
We have other clients who are just asking us to help them find ways to cut costs on their technology and infrastructure.
This pandemic brings many terrifying and challenging things with it, but it also brings opportunities.
We are looking for ways to help in this challenging time and we are finding them. We are going to begin publishing semi-regular case study type stories about specific ways we have helped clients. We will make sure the focus of these stories are relevant to this new life we are living and we hope you find some value in them.
What can we do to help you or a friend in your business?