The rush to enable the remote workforce has challenged many businesses to rapidly adjust IT operations, from expanding VPN licenses to provisioning devices and platforms that most effectively support virtual meetings. The flood of users migrating to remote offices has shown a spotlight on some of the differences between the requirements of the average remote worker and the remote executive.
Different Paths to Remote Workforce Security
The first and most important issue for remote team management is obviously security. Many companies automatically assume that everyone who needs access must be on VPN, and they scramble to rapidly scale VPN licenses. However, depending on your business operations, it may be better to draw a clear line between workers that need VPN access to network resources, and those that could be more securely supported with access to cloud services without direct corporate network access.
If your remote workforce primarily needs to collaborate and share documents, migrating them to cloud services may be a more secure option than provisioning VPN licenses to access the corporate network. This can minimize vulnerabilities to your corporate network from workers who might not otherwise follow secure computer practices in their home. Hackers have certainly paid attention to the remote working surge, and they’re targeting workers who may provide a convenient doorway into corporate networks.
For remote executives, VPN access is likely more of a requirement, in order to manage and provision corporate resources on the network. In this case, ensuring the use of a reputable VPN client—and training executives on how to use it effectively—is essential. Additionally, remote executives will need access and training for the cloud services that their staff may be using for day-to-day work collaboration.
Optimizing Equipment for Remote Executive Communications
Another difference between average remote workers and remote executives is the level of computing resources needed on a device to support normal remote working functions. For most workers, working offsite requires access to communications and collaboration tools. Some of those tools are asynchronous, like email or Slack, which require lower levels of processing power, while other tools require real-time simultaneous video and data connections, like the surging use of platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
The more tools a user needs to access and use at the same time, the more processing power that user will need to be productive. A customer service worker that just needs to monitor and respond to trouble tickets will need less computing power than an executive trying to conduct a Zoom meeting while simultaneously presenting Power Point presentations or running a live product demo.
Similarly, peripheral devices required for average remote working may be simpler than those needed to support remote executives. Most workers can likely get by with the audio and video systems native to their laptop. For executives interfacing with customers or strategic partners, a higher level of professionalism might dictate the use of a dedicated Webcam to optimize lighting and angle of view, as well as a quality noise-cancelling headset.
Moving Beyond a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Obviously these differences are going to depend on the nature of your business and the job roles of your team. The important point to understand is that remote working is not a one-size fits all solution. It has been treated that way because of the sudden and urgent demand for remote working support on an enormous scale.
Smart businesses, however, are now taking a deep breath and analyzing the actual need and mapping it to roles and profiles of their worker’s job functions. It’s not essential for every employee to have an HP Z-book remote workstation with the ability to run data visualizations in real-time for a virtual meeting. But if you have executives that need real processing power, handing them a chromebook isn’t going to help them do their job.
When you need a more tailored approach to how you provision your remote teams, from average workers to remote executives, Avinext can help you map out and quantify your needs. From procuring the right devices matched to the needs of a job function, to helping provision your VPN and cloud services, our team of experienced technicians will help you make the right choices to get the job done. To learn more about our Remote Executive solutions, call us at 979-846-9727
Many businesses have suddenly found themselves in the deep end of the pool with remote working and virtual meetings. While some are quite comfortable with virtual meetings having worked from home for some time, many are experiencing challenges with adopting the technology in a way that keeps their team productive. From managing the discomfort of being on video from home to keeping teams engaged, here are some of the top tips for running productive meetings.
1. Scheduling time
You know the scenario: everyone has agreed to a meeting at a certain time, and then someone says they can't make it, can the meeting be moved, and suddenly the whole calendar is up for debate again. The more people on your team, the more challenging it becomes to accommodate everyone's schedule. If you're managing a team, the best practice is to set a recurring time that works for key stakeholders and most team members and stick to it. If someone can't make it, rather than blow up the schedule, keep the meeting with the rest of the team and loop the missing person in by sharing the agenda, asking for input, and sharing the meeting notes and actions after the meeting.
Obviously if a key stakeholder can never make a recurring schedule, you'll need to assess calendars. But once a schedule is set, resist the temptation to debate rescheduling, and try instead to accommodate non-attendees with information through email and follow ups.
2. Have an agenda
Just like a normal business meeting, good virtual meetings have a defined objective, whether it's a one-time meeting or a weekly call. Be clear about the meeting objectives and any desired outcomes, and include them in the meeting invitation. Ask your team to review the agenda and provide feedback before the meeting, to be sure you've covered the critical points. Also make sure your agenda is achievable in the time allotted. Meetings that meander and stretch on long after the expected time will increase distractions and undermine the motivation of your team to participate.
3. Turn on your cameras
It's often hard for some users to feel comfortable live streaming video of themselves from home. They may not like seeing themselves on screen, they may not feel confident in the way they look, or their environment, or distractions that may show up on screen. But video is a powerful way to feel connected and engaged. It's deeply humanizing to see each other candidly, to see facial reactions and interest, and to be able to "read" the virtual room. Almost everyone has some discomfort the first time they turn on the video feed, so try to provide some encouragement and positive feedback for users new to this medium.
Some basic tips for optimizing your video feed:
• Put your camera at eye level. Looking up or down at your face from a steep angle is often unflattering.
• Make sure there is light shining on your face, either from a window or an extra lamp. You can use the lightening to soften shadows on your face that can accentuate your least favorite features, particularly wrinkles.
• Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom allow you to substitute a virtual background, if you don't want to share a view of your personal space.
4. Learn the technology
Whatever platform you decide to user for virtual meetings, spend some time working with the software before you host a meeting. Make sure you understand how to invite users, let them into the room, manage rooms with passwords for added security, how to enable presenters, and how to mute or enable user's microphones. Many of the virtual meeting platforms are making rapid changes to features in order to respond to the growing use of the technology--like adding passwords to block out unwanted interlopers. It's important to be comfortable with the technology to instill confidence in your team and avoid wasting time trying to adjust the controls while everyone is waiting.
5. Use the mute button
Background noise and feedback is a major distraction for all users. When you're not talking, hit the mute button and encourage others to do the same. If you're the host, you can automatically mute users by default, and let them unmute when it's time to speak. Again, learn the tools so you can easily respond to background noise. If you live in a noisy environment, explore the use of noise-cancelling headsets to block out background noises. Gaming headsets in particular often have more sophisticated noise cancelling features than standard business headsets.
6. Make time for small talk
While agendas are important, having time to connect with your team is also important, and research shows it improves productivity. Some meeting hosts like to have a structured ice breaker, such as having everyone mention one good thing that happened them since the last meeting, others prefer a more casual period of chatting and small talk before the agenda. You can set the tone as the host, either by sharing something yourself, or asking others how they're doing. Be mindful of your agenda and time, though, and be ready to reel in the discussion to kick off the agenda.
Some people are mixing things up for recurring meetings by adding novelties to their calls. "Funny hat day" where everyone where's a strange hat or wig has been popular. Bringing a goat or a llama to your meeting from one of many online farms has also gotten a lot of press. If that's your corporate culture, be creative and try things to break up the routine. But be aware that some users will see this as an unnecessary waste of their time, so know your audience. Some teams just want to cover the necessary agenda and move on with their work.
7. Take notes and Assign Actions
For some reason, the tactics we all develop for in person meetings often get forgotten in a new environment. Taking notes during a meeting to track feedback, outcomes and assigned actions is critical to ensure a productive meeting. Often that's hard for the host who is trying to manage the platform and users, so consider assigning someone to take notes, and distribute them after the meeting. For recurring meetings, you should assign clear actions for your team, distribute them with the meeting notes, and check in on them in the next meeting to track progress.
8. Engage your team
Often some users will drop into the background during a meeting. Maybe they're not confident they have something to contribute, maybe they're distracted by something else on their desktop. As the host, you should monitor team participation and constantly read the room. Ask users for their ideas and input, and draw them into the discussion. If users are disengaged, they're more likely to tune out of the discussion and feel disconnected from the team.
If you need help determining the right technology to support productive virtual meetings, from devices to meeting software, MNJ can help. We support remote and virtual teams with everything from laptops to peripherals from leading manufacturers like HP, and software from leading virtual meeting vendors like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Our specialists can help you select, provision and support the right technology for your team, wherever they're connecting to get the job done.