Spring is in the air and COVID vaccines are rolling out across the country. In Texas, the economy has been declared “100 percent” open again by the governor as of March. That means the return to the office has already started for many, or lies just ahead. But what will it look like? And how can companies best prepare for their teams to thrive with some in office and some working remote—a hybrid workplace.
Our own CEO Brian Rodgers joined forces with four leading tech CEOs across the country to share tips about how to prepare for the new return-to-work experience.
Brian Rodgers, CEO of Aeko Technologies in Fort Worth, Texas
Although the Texas economy is open, it may still mean things will not be 100 percent in-person the way they were before COVID. Tips from Brian on returning to work include:
1. Take a Phased Approach
It is likely that computers and devices that haven’t been working in over a year will have issues. It can be overwhelming to the IT department if the entire staff comes in at once and suddenly everything is not working. Consider implementing a staggered return to work.
2. Build Catch-Up Time in to Your Expectations
“I was talking with a team person who is ecstatic to see people again,” Brian says. He recommends a hybrid environment that combines on-site and remote work to ease the transition back to in-person work. He also noted that time should be built in for staff to catch up since many have been isolated from one another since the lockdown started.
Thanks to the higher rate of cyber attacks during the pandemic, especially targeting people looking for COVID-related news, expect a need for increased tech support.
3. Try to Incorporate Lessons Learned
Incorporate redefined workflow efficiencies when you move back into the office. Many businesses tapped into applications such as Teams or Slack that make it easy for on-the-go communication and conversation organization. Many companies have reported better communication even while physically apart; this could be due to the fact that in-person meetings can be scattered and drawn out.
Here at Aeko, we are keeping our workflows more streamlined to increase efficiency.
Tim Rettig, CEO of Intrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio
Intrust IT is a Cincinnati-based, employee-owned IT support and cyber security partner. The Intrust IT team is planning for fun in the future, including a late summer event to invite customers back on site for an outdoor party.
“This is an annual open house outdoors with food trucks late in the summer so temperatures have dropped,” says CEO Tim Rettig. “Last year we were not able to have the open house because of the pandemic. All this year, we have been talking with people through Zoom and MS Teams, so it will be good to see everyone in person.” Rettig’s tips for returning to work are:
4. Prepare Your Conference Rooms for Hybrid Meetings (Affordably)
The right conference room equipment can improve collaboration and bring hybrid teams together seamlessly. “We are going to have a hybrid workforce and not all be in the office right away, or maybe ever,” Rettig notes. “About 25 percent of our staff is in the office today.
“We have three conference rooms with equipment suited for the hybrid workforce. Good conference room equipment used to cost up to $10,000. Today, it is much more affordable to outfit a conference room with more affordable options like a $1,000 TV and speaker, mic and video technology.”
The Intrust IT team recommends three choices for equipment to go with the TV:
- Poly Studio: A video conferencing device that has a wider camera and mic on the table. Compatible with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Go-to-Meeting. Requires a laptop but plugs in with a USB. “The cool thing is it finds people’s faces and automatically switches to them,” Rettig says. It costs about $950 to $1,000.
- Owl Labs: A system with a 360-degree camera, mic and speaker device. Sits in the middle of the room and retails for $999.
- Logitech MeetUp: A compact device designed for smaller meeting rooms. Sits above or below a TV.
5. Take a Fresh Sweep of Your Environment
Now is an opportune time to spruce up the work environment. Intrust IT welcomed employees back to the office to pick up their personal belongings. They have also completed updates to the space over the past few months.
“When people come back they can sit every-other cube to socially distance. We updated chairs and replaced monitors that needed to be replaced,” Rettig says. “We wanted to make it a place that people felt welcomed and wanted to come back to.”
Sandro Alvarez, CEO of Internos in Miami, Florida
The Internos Group is a leading IT services company in Miami. The Internos team never stopped going to people’s offices to answer questions for clients who were comfortable having them on site. CEO Sandro Alvarez offers these tips as they bring their teams back in a phased manner:
6. Create a Mask Policy and Have Open Discussions
Create a policy that makes everyone comfortable before people return to work.
“The biggest thing is to make sure all employees feel comfortable,” Alvarez says. “If your state does not have a mask mandate, it is a good idea to decide your business’s policy before issues come up. Some people are comfortable with masks while some are comfortable without masks. Discuss the policy as a team.”
7. Leverage Your MSP for Tech Support When People Return to Work
Have your MSP on site to get all your systems up and running so there won’t be any tech issues when your employees return. Before they arrive, consider refreshing passwords on the office Wi-Fi to boost security.
Alvarez recommends holding a “welcome back” type event with your team and inviting your MSP provider. “By having your tech support at this event, it provides an informal way to get issues heard and taken care of so not as much work time is lost while updates are made.”
Jason Hagens, CEO of SWAT Systems in Seattle, Washington
SWAT Systems is an MSP in Seattle serving healthcare, manufacturing, financial and professional services firms. After 22 years, the team at SWAT was recently stung by the “bad guys” in a late night break-in. Here are key takeaways from CEO Jason Hagens:
8. Take Security Seriously
“Physical security is more important than ever as state laws are changing to protect the data we create,” Hagens says. “It’s no longer safe to keep a laptop in your car overnight or equipment out in the open on your office desk. A disgruntled employee or chance smash-and-grab moment can leave any business exposed.”
9. Set up Security Cameras
“We had $2,000 security cameras in place, which would be great, if it were 2010,” Hagens explains. “The cost of newer cameras is $4,000 and up, but they would have given higher quality of resolution for nighttime and rainy weather, which is when our break-in occurred. This would have made it easier to identify the type of car that the perpetrators drove. It’s time to install those cameras.
“Newer AI technology and speakers are coming to the market. The camera systems can recognize human activity and send a message over a speaker telling the bad guys to leave the area. That might have stopped the crime.”
Although grainy, the footage did help SWAT with the insurance claim by providing more concrete evidence of the situation.
Book a quick consultation with our Aeko pros to ease the transition back to work. Partnering with an IT service provider is the best way to protect your company’s data and recover from the past year.
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