Back to Work? Tech CEOs Offer Top Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Hybrid Work Environment
As COVID vaccinations roll out from the Northwest to the Southeast, the return to work is just around the corner. But what exactly will that transition look like?
Our CEO Jason Hagens talked with four leading technology CEOs of IT services and MSP firms in different regions for tips about what to do to prepare for the new return to work and hybrid work experience.
Jason Hagens, CEO of SWAT Systems in Seattle
SWAT Systems is Seattle’s only fixed-price, all-inclusive cyber security and IT support services. We are proud to serve healthcare, manufacturing, financial and professional services firms. After 22 years, our team at SWAT was stung by the “bad guys” in a late night break-in recently. Here are key takeaways from CEO Jason Hagens:
1. Take Security Seriously
“Physical security is more important than ever as Washington state laws are changing to protect the data we create,” Hagens says. “It’s no longer safe to keep your laptop in your unattended car or a device on your desk. Both are at risk of theft by a disgruntled employee, cleaning crew or through a smash-and-grab moment.”
2. Set up security cameras
“We had $2,000 security cameras in place, which were great in 2010,” Hagens explains. “The cost of newer cameras would have been $4,000 and up; they are well-worth the cost since they allow higher quality of resolution for nighttime and rainy weather, which were the conditions 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 get those cameras up.
“New technology with AI and speakers is coming to the market. 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.”
The footage, although grainy, helped SWAT with an insurance claim by providing more concrete evidence of the situation. If you want to learn more about security cameras, you can do so here.
Tim Rettig, CEO of Intrust IT in Cincinnati, Ohio
Intrust IT is an employee-owned cyber security and IT support partner in Cincinnati. The Intrust IT team is optimistic about the future and planning for fun, with an on-site event with customers in a few months. “This is an annual open house outdoors with food trucks late in the summer so temperatures have cooled,” says CEO Tim Rettig. “We were not able to have the open house last summer with the pandemic. All this year, we have been talking with people only through platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams. It will be good to see everyone again.” His tips for returning to work are as follows:
3. Prepare Your Conference Rooms for Hybrid Meetings (Affordably)
Conference rooms can be outfitted with tools to help with collaboration and bringing hybrid teams together in a seamless way. “We are going to have a hybrid workforce and not all be back in the office right away,” Rettig notes. “Today, about 25 percent of our staff is back in the office.
“Intrust has three conference rooms outfitted with equipment ready to support the new hybrid workforce. Good conference room equipment can cost $5,000 to $10,000. For most small businesses it is much more affordable to outfit a conference room with a good $1,000 TV and affordable options for speaker, mic and video.”
The Intrust IT team recommends these choices for equipment to accompany a TV:
- Poly Studio: This video conferencing device provides a wider camera and mic on the table for about $950 to $1,000. It works with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Go-to-Meeting plus plugs in with a USB but still requires a laptop. “The cool thing is it finds people’s faces and automatically switches to them,” Rettig says.
- Owl Labs: This system has a 360-degree camera, mic and speaker device that retails for about $999. It sits in the middle of the room.
- Logitech MeetUp: This compact device is designed for smaller rooms and sits near a TV.
4. Take a Fresh Sweep of Your Environment
Now is an opportune time for projects to spruce up the work environment. Over the last few months, companies, including Intrust IT, have invited everyone back to the office to pick up their personal things. Many have also completed updates to the office space.
“When people come back they may sit every-other cube to distance. We took this opportunity to update chairs and replace monitors that needed to be replaced,” Rettig says. “We want to make it the office place that people feel welcomed and want to come back to.”
Sandro Alvarez, CEO of Internos in Miami, Florida
The Internos Group is a leading IT services company in Miami. Over the past year, their team didn’t stop going to clients’ offices to answer questions for those who were comfortable having them on site. CEO Sandro Alvarez offered these tips for bringing teams back in a phased manner:
5. Create a Mask Policy and Have Open Discussions
“The biggest thing is to make sure all employees feel comfortable,” Alvarez says. “If your state does not have a mandate, it is a good idea to decide before issues come up. Some people are comfortable with masks and some are comfortable without masks. Come together and discuss the policy as a team.”
6. Leverage Your MSP for Tech Support When People Return to Work
A lot of employees took laptops and phones home, so anticipate problems when they return. Have your MSP or other tech provider get all your systems back up and running before your staff returns. It is a good time to refresh passwords on the office Wi-Fi for added security.
Alvarez also recommends having a “welcome back” event with your team and to invite your MSP provider as well. “By having your tech support team there, it provides an informal way to get issues heard and taken care of so not as much work time is lost to waiting while trying to work.”
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 by the governor as of March. As in other states, this may still mean things will not be 100 percent in-person the way they were before COVID. Rodgers shared these tips on returning to work:
7. Take a Phased Approach
As is wont to happen, many computers and devices may have issues because they have not been working in a year or more. IT can be overwhelming to support if everything stops working at the same time. Phase the return of employees to avoid this problem.
8. Build Catch-Up Time in to Your Expectations
Set aside time for staff to catch up with each other. People will not have seen each other for a while and may be feeling isolated. “I was talking with a team member who is ecstatic to see people,” 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.
Anticipate a need for increased tech support. Cyber attacks were especially likely to happen while people were looking for news on the virus.
9. Try to Incorporate Lessons Learned
Many businesses figured out alternative work flows and different ways to communicate while remote. Some companies have been saying their employees communicated better while working remotely than when they were in offices. People used to rely on meetings in person, which could become too scattered. Applications like Teams or Slack made it easy for communication as you go and to organize conversations into channels and teams. Redefined streamlined workflow efficiencies from remote work should be incorporated into an office environment to stay efficient and cut down on the number of meetings.
SWAT Systems is honored to be the managed IT service provider that Seattle and its surrounding communities counts on. Your peace of mind is our priority as we all transition back to hybrid and in-person work.