As more and more Americans receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, the return to work feels like it is just around the corner. But what exactly will it look like?
Intrust IT CEO Tim Rettig partnered with four leading technology CEOs across the country to share tips about how to prepare for the return to work experience.
Tim Rettig, CEO of Intrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio
Intrust IT is proud to be an employee-owned cyber security and IT support partner in Cincinnati, Ohio. The team is optimistic and planning for fun in the near future. In fact, a late summer event is already the talk of the team, with plans to invite customers back on site for an outdoor party. “This is an annual outdoor open house with food trucks from 4 to 6 p.m. late in the summer, so temperatures have cooled,” Tim Rettig says. “Last year the pandemic forced us to cancel the open house. This year, we have been talking with people only through Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so it will be good to see everyone again.” Rettig’s tips for the return to work are the following:
1. Affordably Prepare Your Conference Rooms for Hybrid Meetings
The right equipment for conference rooms can improve collaboration and help with bringing hybrid teams together in a seamless way. “We are going to have a hybrid workforce, so not everyone will be back in the office right away, or perhaps ever,” Rettig says. “Today, about 25 percent of our team is in the office.”
“We have three conference rooms ready for use, outfitted with equipment for the new hybrid workforce. Good conference room equipment used to cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. Today, it is much more affordable for small businesses to outfit a conference room with a good $1,000 TV and affordable speaker, mic and video options.”
The Intrust IT team recommends these three solutions for equipment to accompany the TV:
- Poly Studio: This video conferencing device from Poly has a wider camera and mic on the table. It works well with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Go-to-Meeting, plus it plugs in with a USB (but still requires a laptop). “The cool thing is that it finds people’s faces and automatically switches to them,” Rettig explains. It ranges from about $950 to $1,000. You can find more information about Poly Studio here.
- Owl Labs: A video conferencing system from Owl Labs has a 360-degree camera, mic and speaker device that sit in the middle of the room. It retails for about $999. You can find more information on Owl Labs here.
- Logitech MeetUp: This compact device from Logitech is designed for smaller meeting rooms. It sits above or below a TV. Find more information about it at Logitech MeetUp.
2. Take a Fresh Sweep of Your Office Environment
Over the last few months, Intrust IT invited all employees back to the office to pick up their personal things. We have also completed some updates to the office space. “When people come back, they may sit every-other cube to socially distance. We updated chairs and replaced monitors that needed to be replaced while people were working remotely” Rettig says. “We wanted to make it a place that people felt welcomed and wanted to come back to.”
This is a great time for projects to spruce up the work environment.
Sandro Alvarez, CEO of Internos in Miami, Florida
The Internos Group is a leading IT services company in Miami. Their team continued going to clients’ offices to answer questions for those who were comfortable having them on site. Their CEO offered these tips for a return to a hybrid work environment:
3. Have Open Discussions and Create a Mask Policy
Creating a return-to-work policy that makes everyone comfortable is crucial.
“The biggest thing is to make sure all employees feel comfortable,” says Sandro Alvarez, CEO at Internos. “If your state does not have a mandate, it is a good idea to decide your company’s policy before issues come up. Some people are comfortable with masks and some are comfortable without them. Come together as a team and discuss the policy.”
4. Leverage Your MSP for Tech Support When People Return to Work
A lot of employees took laptops and phones home. Have your MSP or other tech provider on site when your staff gets back to have all your systems up and running so there won’t be any tech issues. It is a good time to do a password refresh on the Wi-Fi, too, for greater security.
Alvarez recommends having a breakfast or other “welcome back” event with your team and your MSP provider. “By having your tech support team at this event, it provides an informal way to get issues heard and taken care of during mingling time so not as much work time is spent solving problems.”
Brian Rodgers, CEO of Aeko Technologies in Fort Worth, Texas
Aeko Technologies is a Fort Worth IT support and cybersecurity firm. In Texas, the economy has been declared “100 percent” open again as of March. This may still mean things will not be 100 percent in-person the way they were before the pandemic. Tips from their CEO on return to work include:
5. Take a Phased Approach to Returning
Many computers and devices have not been working in a year or more; it is likely that they will have issues. It can be overwhelming to IT to support the entire team if they all come in at once and suddenly everything stops working.
6. Build in Catch-Up Time to Your Expectations
Establish time for your staff to catch up with one another. Employees have been isolated and in lockdown since this started, so employees may not have seen each other in a while.
“I was talking with a team member who is ecstatic to see people again,” Aeko CEO Brian Rodgers says. He recommends a hybrid work environment that combines on-site with remote work to ease the transition back to fully in-person work, if that is the direction your company is heading in.
Anticipate a need for greater tech support; people were more prone to cyber attacks during the pandemic, likely while people were looking for news on the virus.
7. Incorporate Lessons Learned
Workflow efficiencies gained while working remotely should be incorporated once your team is back in the office.
Many businesses figured out alternative workflows and new communication methods while remote. Some have even been saying they communicate better while working remotely than when they were in one location. One explanation is that people used to rely on meetings in person, which can become too scattered. Applications like MS Teams and Slack made it easy for communication on the go and to organize conversations into channels and teams.
Think of how to keep the more streamlined workflows to stay efficient and cut down on the number of meetings your team has.
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 in business, the SWAT team was recently stung by the “bad guys” in an office break-in late at night. Here are the key takeaways from CEO Jason Hagens:
8. Take Security Seriously
“Physical security is more important than ever as state laws change to protect the data we create,” Hagens says. “It’s no longer safe to keep a laptop in your car overnight or equipment out on your desk at work. A disgruntled employee, cleaning crew or just an unfortunate smash-and-grab moment can put your data at risk.”
9. Set up Security Cameras
“We had $2,000 security cameras in place, which were great for 2010,” Hagens remarks. “The cost of newer cameras is $4,000 or more, but would have provided higher quality of resolution for nighttime and rainy weather when the break-in at our office occurred. This would have made it easier to identify the make and the model of the car that the bad guys drove. It’s time to get those cameras up, especially when employees return to the office.”
“Newer technology is coming to the market around AI and speakers. The camera systems can now recognize human activity and send a message over a speaker to warn the bad guys to leave the area. That might have stopped the crime we experienced.”
Although grainy, the footage helped SWAT with an insurance claim by providing more concrete evidence of the situation. Consider installing security cameras on your premises.
Having a partner in IT support and cyber security is key to protecting your data and recovering from the past year. Use these tips to prepare for your employees’ return to work in the office and rely on your tech partner to handle any tech issues.