Monthly Archives - November 2020

Top Cybersecurity Threats When Working From Home

As the adjustment to working from home continues for many, it is important to keep in mind the potential security pitfalls that come along with that. Your home WiFi network can open you and your company up to specific types of cybersecurity threats. Here are the types of threats to be on the lookout for, and how you can help prevent them as a member of the mobile workforce.

Risk Of Malware Infection

You’ve likely been using your personal computer at home for a long time and had security software pre-installed on it from the time of purchase. However, when you bring your work computer home for a remote work setup, it is even more important to protect it from malware. This will help protect sensitive organizational documents, passwords and processes.

When you are using your work computer at home, you are more likely to use it for personal use in down time and on the weekends. This kind of activity invites more occasions for malware to be installed onto the computer without your knowledge. This can happen when you download a file or click a link from a suspicious site (that may be a clone of a site you are familiar with) or opening emails from unknown persons.

Once you have downloaded this malware onto your computer, scammers now have access to any of the information you have on your computer. This includes passwords, phone numbers, bank account information and sensitive documents. They can then use this information to make nefarious purchases, or to sell to a third party for illegal use down the line.

Using Your Personal Computer For Work

Your employer likely spends a great deal of money on security software for every company issued laptop, as well as in collaboration and organizational tools that have built in security as part of the cost. When you start using your personal computer for work activities, you lose all of that protection that the company has provided.

If you must use your personal computer while you work from home, be sure you use a VPN (virtual private network) that is provided by your employer. VPNs have built-in safeguards that can better protect your data. Also be sure you are using the same approved tools that your organization has provided for day-to-day tasks.

Weak WiFi Security

Your home WiFi connection may be strong, but is it safe? Once someone has access to your network, they also potentially have access to every device connected to that network. You need to ensure that you make it as difficult as possible for someone to access your WiFi outside of your home. You can do this by ensuring that your password is long and complicated, implementing a firewall, enabling network encryption, disabling remote access and keeping any firmware associated with your router up to date.

How To Know If Your Computer Has Been Compromised

Unfortunately, even with strict guidelines in place, some users will still unwittingly be hit with malware or some kind of malicious cyber scam. Here are a few signs that your computer has been compromised and requires action from you:

  • Your computer begins running slowly.
  • Sudden crashes to your system.
  • New pop-ups even when they haven’t been enabled.
  • Unusual messages in your inbox (always check that the return email matches the name of the person who sent it to you)
  • Being locked out of certain files and programs unexpectedly.

If you are experiencing any of these signs when working from home, contact your company’s IT department immediately for next steps. Do not continue working until the threat has been mitigated, as you could unwittingly compromise more people within your company and/or their sensitive documents and login information.

Other Ways To Protect Yourself With Working Remotely

Aside from items we have already discussed, there are many ways that you can help mitigate cybersecurity threats while you work from home.

  • You can use two-factor authentication for logins. This takes longer, but is an added layer of security.
  • Make sure all of your software is up-to-date and you’re using a secure, updated browser. If you need to share passwords or sensitive files, do so on a secure platform such as DropBox rather than through email.
  • Stay logged into your VPN when doing anything work-related. It’s smart to use the protections that your company has put in place for you in case of accidental loss.

No one wants to be the victim of a cybersecurity breach when working from home. Make sure you are vigilant, keep all of your work on your work computer and know the signs of a breach. These things will help ensure your remote work remains secure!

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Why Employees are Avoiding Your Collaboration Tool

It may be hard to believe, but at one point in the evolution of business communications, email was a novelty. Even though it’s an integral part of everyone’s day now, it once started out as the new kid on the block in the business communications toolbox. Voice was the go-to option for business interactions. So, while some people adopted email immediately, it took others a little longer to embrace it. Gradually, more people saw the value of email and it is now the default communications tool for most business interactions.

Collaboration tools are going through a similar adoption process. For a long time, businesses opted not to invest. Later, they chose a free, off-the-shelf option that came bundled with other software. Now that collaboration tools are essential for distributed workforces, many businesses are trying to do more by adding robust collaboration tools to their systems.

But adding collaboration tools to work processes is not the same as adding email was way back when. For many employees, these tools will continue to be a novelty until they become a necessity. To do more with your communications system and fortify your communications strategy, collaboration should be an intentional investment and an integral part of daily workflows.

VOICE AND EMAIL ARE COMFORT TOOLS

Regardless of which industry you’re in, phone and email will always be the natural first choice for business communication. Whether your employees are communicating with colleagues, suppliers, partners or customers, they will continue to consider their phone and email as the go-to options for communication. As a result, these tools are table stakes for any organization looking to succeed in a competitive market. Employees expect to have them.

For organizations looking to enhance their communications strategy to increase productivity, these tools are still important.

As a synchronous communications tool, voice is ideal when face-to-face meetings are not possible, but clarity is needed and some degree of cooperation, collaboration or discussion are key to reaching a decision in a timely manner. As an asynchronous communication tool, email is indispensable for the one-way distribution of report style communication, documentation or other forms of information that cannot be shared with other communication tools.

Beyond these situations, however, the strategic value of voice and email is limited. Organizations need other tools to ensure their employees are efficient and effective in their daily business interactions. That’s where instant messaging (IM), short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS) and video come into play. Integrated into the mix, these tools can significantly improve communications processes and enhance efficiency. Employees will use them when the need them, but voice and email will continue to be the default options. So, true collaboration is still not possible.

JUST BECAUSE YOU BUILD IT, DOESN’T MEAN THEY’LL USE IT

To truly increase productivity among a group of two or more people, employees need a team collaboration tool that incorporates multiple forms of communication, like IM, voice and video, into one integrated package that also enables file and task sharing. But even though you and your employees may acknowledge the need for a collaboration tool, simply having it is not enough. Collaboration will stay a novelty until it becomes a necessity.

Why? Because comfort and habit are difficult to overcome.

As we experienced with the introduction of email, just because a tool is available doesn’t mean employees will use it. Chances are some employees will opt for it, but many won’t. From their perspective, they’ve gone all this time without it, so why would they start using it now?

Likewise, although training employees on how to use a new collaboration tool is important, the training itself will not guarantee widespread adoption. Employees might use it for a while, but once things get stressful, they’ll revert back to the tried and true methods of communication that they are comfortable with.

And although you could establish a company policy that insists employees use a collaboration tool, this would probably cause a backlash. Employees might use it begrudgingly at first, but they will find a way to avoid being forced down a path they are not comfortable with. Eventually, they will probably choose to use their personal mobile devices and cellular plans to thwart IT policy, or they will simply revert to using email and voice.

A COLLABORATION CULTURE IS DEVELOPED, NOT FORCED

Making collaboration essential requires more of an investment in changing corporate culture and daily workflows to incorporate the tool into regular workday activities.

Start by building a solid foundation for the change. Hold focus groups to let employees contribute to the change process. Give employees the opportunity to talk about what they like and don’t like about the existing or proposed collaboration tool. Share lessons learned about communication processes across the organization and commit to improvements that everyone can agree will make workflows more efficient and effective.

Use the feedback from focus groups to create a nexus strategy that leverages what you already have and integrates collaboration tools fully with your phone system, your contact center, your workforce tools and your back office tools. Plan the integration carefully to ensure it enables all your employees to work the way they want to work from anywhere, at any time and on any device. And since new tools require new workflows, design workflows to complement a collaboration mindset.

Most importantly, lead by example. Be an evangelist for the tool by using it for everything whenever you can to show the value of the change you are implementing. Track employee usage across the organization and use the data to inform your decisions about adjustments, enhancements or changes you have to make to increase adoption rates and ensure the success of the integration process.

EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION

Integrating collaboration tools into your daily operation as part of a well-crafted communications strategy makes good business sense. With the right tools, your employees can be more efficient and effective in all their business interactions. And the productivity gains can make a positive impact on your bottom line. But to ensure those tools are adopted, the process should be an evolution rather than a revolution.

If you’re a Mitel MiVoice Business customer and your systems are current with the latest updates and upgrades, that evolution can be seamless. You can do more with the system you have by adding full featured collaboration tools your employees can use today.

MiCollab simplifies the way employees talk, meet and share information by bringing together communications and collaboration tools into a single solution that makes it easier for them to connect, communicate and collaborate, from anyplace at any time. And MiTeam Meetings offers a true collaboration experience. It’s a multi-party video solution designed for those who want to work more efficiently and enhance workplace communication with seamless transitions between voice, video and chat capabilities.

So, start thinking strategically about your communications system by looking beyond voice and email. Your employees and your business will be glad you did.

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How To Keep Your Remote Workforce Motivated

As your team begins to return to work, that may mean a portion (or all) of them will continue working from home. With remote work becoming a long-term solution for more and more employers, it is important to know how to keep your team motivated on an ongoing basis. Here are some ways you can be sure your team is efficient and productive, no matter where they are working from.

Resist The Urge To Micromanage

Without your team in your physical line of sight, it can be enticing to overstep your normal management routine and increase check-ins and daily productivity. While it is always a great idea to have a handle on what each employee is working on, and the deadlines for those activities, you do not want to overwhelm anyone with too much questioning. They’re your team, and you hired them because you trust them. Now is a good time to focus on the achievements they reach and help them work towards their future goals. This will allow them to focus on the work at hand, and not distracted by constant questions and check-ins. Your trust in them will be their motivation to perform!

Regularly Challenge Your Team

Day-to-day work can become mundane for people who like to be challenged. When someone isn’t challenged, they can become complacent and less likely to push for excellence. Establish what the goals are for each individual and give them work assignments that fall outside of their normal wheelhouse. This will allow them to grow and see past their current potential limitations. You can also foster growth by allowing for learning opportunities through online courses or conferences in any area of interest.

Establish Open Communication Channels

It can be easy to assume that your remote team is happy if you don’t hear from them with complaints. Unfortunately, this can mean that you haven’t set up consistent, easy communication channels with them, where they feel comfortable bringing up any issues they are experiencing. Likewise, remote workers often feel disconnected from their coworkers. Make sure you utilize technology to keep everyone connected to you and each other, including collaboration software, chat platforms and video conferencing.

Optimize Your Workflow

With a remote team, it is important for each person to understand their job function, and how it fits into the larger function of the organization. People who understand the “why” behind the work they are doing and understand how important it is to the success of the company as a whole are more likely to be motivated to do their part (and do it well!) As things change in your organization, be sure you update your workflow, and communicate that to your remote team. It is also important for remote employees to understand the team structures within your organization, so they know who needs what information. To avoid any miscommunication, make sure you update the teams on any changes, and give the reasoning behind the change where applicable. This will take the guesswork out of the equation for remote workers and help them feel more involved with the company.

Cultivate Remote Work Culture

This may sound counterintuitive to a degree, since it’s harder to establish a sense of culture when your team doesn’t see one another regularly. However, you can work around the physical distance with regular, scheduled team check-ins. This allows everyone to see each other and discuss the work at hand. Also, make sure you have a channel for fun. Since the remote workers are missing out on office conversations and relationship building, you can mimic these activities with a watercooler hour (or happy hour) where the only topic is anything but work. This allows team members to get to know one another on a more personal level and feel invested in the success of the team. You can also plan virtual team-building activities including storytelling workshops and virtual painting. While this may seem cliché, it can help team members to feel included in the larger culture of the office, and more likely to help them feel like their success is part of the company’s success.

Just as in-office employees need motivation, the same goes for remote workers. By establishing trust up front, and engaging employees in the workflow and personal fronts, you can maintain a productive remote workforce in perpetuity!

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End Video Conferencing Fatigue With 5 Simple Tips

That video conferencing experienced a boom in the early days of COVID-19 wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone. Video technology is a visual bridge, allowing us to see our colleagues and loved ones face-to-face at a time when many of us are stuck at home.

At first, all of the time spent in front of the camera was novel, even fun. It made the transition from office or classroom to home much easier. With video, teams could pick up where they left off, collaborating more efficiently and continuing to engage fully in discussions. But after months of back-to-back video conferences, many of us are experiencing video fatigue . You (like many others) may find yourself dreading that video call you once enjoyed.

A number of factors contribute to video fatigue. There’s the added pressure and feeling of being “watched” when you’re on video. When everyone is prominently displayed on a screen, people can feel more self-conscious about how they look, what they say and what they do. Many of us are already under more stress than usual as we deal with the fallout from the pandemic. The added pressure of an on-screen presence can increase that anxiety.

Also, since our view of other meeting attendees is often limited to shoulders and above, we miss body language cues. Our brains need to focus more on facial expressions and tone of voice in order to infer what people are thinking and feeling. The difficulty of this effort multiplies when several people appear on screen (Brady Bunch-style) in grid view. Last, technical glitches such as audio delays and frozen screens can frustrate attendees and make it harder to communicate effectively.

Video conferencing has also become a means of communication for more than just work. Many of us are relying on video to stay in touch with friends and go to school. As a result, we’re spending both work and personal time on camera, and these hours add up fast. It’s no wonder people have come to find video conferences draining.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce video fatigue, while still interacting with your colleagues and getting your work done. The five tips below will help you recharge your video conferencing batteries.

Five Tips To Combat Video Conferencing Fatigue

1. Ask Yourself If Video Is Really Necessary.

Video conferencing technology has definite benefits. It allows us to maintain a more personal connection with attendees and keeps people engaged. However, sometimes it’s just not necessary. If you’re scheduling a meeting, think about how important it is to see the other participants. Client meetings and brainstorming sessions are often better with video, but routine check-ins and status updates may be just as effective with the camera turned off.

2. Be Selective About Invites.

The more people on a video call, the more tiring it can be. There are more faces to watch (and interpret) and it becomes difficult to constantly adjust your attention from one person to another. Staying focused becomes a challenge. When scheduling video conferences, carefully review the invite list. Divide participants into two lists: required and optional. While this advice also applies to audio calls, it’s even more crucial to follow when scheduling a video conference. Limit attendees to only those who need to be there.

3. Use A Reliable And Secure Video Conferencing Provider.

reliable video conferencing solution reduces worry about potential technical issues. A powerful solution also includes additional features that make video calls more productive and engaging. For example, the ability to grant centerstage to a presenter makes it easier for everyone to focus, while a whiteboard feature allows attendees to easily share ideas in real time. Some providers include persistent chat logs and file sharing, so you can keep track of important decisions and share information.

4. Schedule Breaks Between Video Conference Calls.

With remote work continuing for many, video conferences aren’t going away. Do yourself a favor by spacing them throughout your day. A short break in between calls gives you time to stretch, grab a snack and freshen up if you’re feeling drained. A walk outside can also do wonders. It will help you to refocus and gear up for the next call.

5. Leverage Other Unified Communications Technology When Appropriate.

Video certainly has its purpose. But other unified communications technologies produce the same level of collaboration and engagement without the need for participants to be camera-ready. Desktop sharing, for example, enables attendees to work together and share progress and notes. Sometimes an individual or group chat is all that’s needed to get answers to questions. Persistent collaborative workspaces are another unified communications tool that allows team members to work together efficiently and effectively. Colleagues can share files, chat and exchange ideas in real time. You can even create and assign tasks to people, making it easy to track progress on projects and to stay on top of your own to-do list.

No matter how much we love our jobs and our co-workers, the truth is sometimes we just don’t want to be on screen. Remote work and video conferences will be part of our new normal, so take steps to keep them in check and you energized.

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The Rise of the Chatbots

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly transforming the way we connect, communicate and collaborate. One powerful tool helping to close the social distance gap between customers and businesses is the chatbot, a software application designed for human-like conversations.

Though they’ve been around since 1966, chatbots were already a familiar feature on company websites in the pre-Covid era. The technology uses customer data to personalize interactions, answer questions and route requests to the right person. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enables the bots to recognize common words and phrases as well as gather information to resolve issues or assist agents once a call is transferred.

Recently, chatbots have become especially valuable in helping businesses adapt to smaller workforces and the shift to work from home. Amid the pandemic, they’re being used to fill the resource gap and enable businesses to operate at scale.

But that’s not the only reason we’re seeing more conversational AI. As it turns out, customers value them as much as businesses do. According to a recent study, 62% of U.S. consumers say they like using chatbots to interact with businesses. While they still prefer a human agent’s help with complex matters, customers are more willing to accept AI help for simple tasks, such as relaying an account balance.

Meeting The Demands Of The COVID-19 Era

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, businesses were operating under the strain of reduced staff and the switch to remote work. Chatbots helped them meet the demand of call center inquiries and long wait queues. Beyond support issues, conversational AI also has been rolled out for a variety of uses in multiple sectors.

For instance, health insurance and medical companies are deploying chatbots to answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19 or to screen patients for potential infection. Retailers find bots help them meet higher demand for e-commerce online orders. Governments are using the technology to tackle record-level unemployment claims. In education, where virtual learning has become a necessity, chatbots are answering students’ questions. Banks have deployed the technology to provide personalized responses during secure transactions.

Conversational AI is also adept at helping businesses manage heavier workloads created by the competing demands of shrinking workforces and higher call volumes. With chatbots handling routine questions and transactions, employees can spend more time building relationships with customers or working on problems that require creativity to solve. For example, the technology has allowed healthcare companies to scale down contact centers while also keeping service quality high. Chatbots assist with scheduling and billing inquiries, but employees focus on providing patient care.

Delivering On Customer Expectations

Businesses have much to gain from the use of chatbots, but what are the benefits for their customers? Though people often say they prefer getting help from a human, their real preferences are often driven by context. If they can get personalized answers faster, customers will happily work with chatbots. Some do express reservations, especially about security and privacy. Here’s what businesses should keep in mind.

Improved Customer Experience

In a time of global crisis, customers crave authentic, personalized connections. Chatbots that incorporate empathy into their design are more likely to create a positive customer experience. The tone of voice, personality and language all contribute to authenticity and building customer trust. Accurate information will always be paramount. But when chatbots converse in a personalized and human way, they can set your business apart.

Fast, Efficient Service

Consumers are more likely to engage with chatbots if they feel they will save time and money. In a Gartner survey, 58% of respondents said they personally would use AI if it saved them time, compared to 53% who said saving money was their top reason. Nearly half (47%) say easier access to information would make them more likely to interact with a bot.

Security And Privacy Concerns

Customer perception of AI tools also differs from generation to generation. Millennials, who have a high level of comfort with AI technology, are likely to be more accepting, while Baby Boomers harbor concerns about security and privacy. Generation Xers are somewhere in between. Overall, customers say privacy is a significant concern. In the Gartner survey, 65% of respondents say they believe artificial intelligence will destroy privacy rather than enhance it. To increase adoption, business will need to tailor the experience to each user group.

Chatbots On The Rise

All signs seem to indicate that chatbot growth will continue. The pandemic has provided businesses with proof that conversational AI is essential for improving both business operations and customer experiences. This trend toward more chatbot interactions is likely to continue as businesses rely on innovative ways to get work done and provide fast, efficient customer service.

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