Technology has changed how we communicate and work. It’s allowed us freedom to be productive from anywhere, be more efficient and provide better products and services. For those of us in Maine, these technologies can also help retain our valued younger employees. I wanted to share some of the tools my customers and I use for remote productivity, so you can understand how you might apply this technology in your life.
Remote network access
I take my laptop with me wherever I work. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) I can connect to my office and access all the information stored there. This is great for snow days, or when I have a sick child. You might think people would not be as motivated if working outside the office. However, I have found staff are generally more motivated, have healthier work habits, and in general are more productive when given this option.
Mobile Email, Contacts and Calendars
In my life, email is critical to communication. It’s an invaluable tool, allowing people to review and respond at their own pace, while keeping a record of what’s been said. In today’s economy, customers expect an immediate response. By having my email on my smart phone, I can stay up to date and communicate instantly. With the right system, you can also keep your calendar and contacts up to date. When I add a contact, appointment or meeting to my work calendar, it appears on my phone as well. There are even free services that allow you to share your calendar with a friend or spouse. Imagine having a shared calendar that updates in real-time, allowing coordination of schedules like never before. And if I lose or break my phone, it’s all backed up by my email service. As a matter of fact, I’ve had the same contacts list for 10 years!
When I first started hosting online meetings, I immediately saw the benefit to a business. The ability to share your screen to show a presentation, to allow an attendee to update a document, these are ways you can collaborate like never before. It’s also extremely affordable, with most plans starting around $20 a month and include conference call capabilities. I’ll save that amount in drive time and paper!
Facial expressions and body language are still a large part of how we communicate, and can help get your message across the right way. While there are some very pricey solutions out there, there are also some really great free video conference services. Skype lets anyone with a webcam communicate with audio and video, and even works on some smart phones too. FaceTime is an Apple product that lets you video conference with other iPhone, iPod or iPad users. Most laptops today have webcams built in, so using a solution like this is very simple.
one of my all-time favorites. When I first introduced this to my business, the staff loved it. Now, they can’t live without it! I immediately saw two major advantages over email. For one, email can get cluttered, and short messages such as “Want to do lunch” or “Where is that document” can be overlooked. Instant messaging is just that – instant. A second advantage is known as “presence”. This allows others to see your status – if you are available, in a meeting, or just can’t be disturbed. These statuses can be automatically set. Your calendar says you are booked for a meeting now? Your instant messaging application sees this and sets your status as “In a meeting”! Most solutions today are mobile too, so you can receive messages on your smartphone, tablet or computer. And when you aren’t available, you can set your status as “away” so everyone knows.
As you can see, there is some great tech to make our work lives easier, and allow greater flexibility with schedules as well as improve productivity.
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Matt Rice is an Owner and Chief Technology Officer of Burgess Computer, a comprehensive IT support, managed service and network design firm located in Bath serving clients in southern, midcoast and central Maine. www.burgesscomputer.com