Category Archives: Innovation

4 tips for planning holiday office parties

The company holiday party isn't just a chance to decorate the office and eat one too many cookies; it's an important opportunity to recognize employees for the hard work they've done all year.

As you head into the fourth quarter, it's a smart idea to start planning your office's holiday party. The earlier you begin hammering out the details, the better, as a little prep work nows saves headaches later and helps ensure the festivities are a hit. 

Here are four tips for planning your holiday office party:

1. Pick a fun theme 

Giving the holiday party a creative theme keeps the atmosphere from being too stuffy and, as online invitations company Punchbowl noted, provides a focus for the event that can simplify planning. An ugly sweater party is a classic theme, but there are lots of other fun ideas you could try, such as:

  • North Pole: Transform the space into a winter wonderland complete with Santa's workshop. 
  • Holidays in Paradise: Decorate with a tropical island theme. 
  • Roaring 20s: Have a classy, old-fashioned holiday celebration with 1920s-inspired decor and music. 

2. Choose a convenient time

Schedule the holiday party for a convenient time to boost attendance rates; the Friday right before many employees head off for holiday travel may not be the best day for the party. 

Some companies hold their holiday parties in the evening, after a workday or on the weekend. However, the event doesn't have to be after hours; luncheons are a popular alternative, according to HR consulting firm ERC. They can be held during the workweek, making them likely more convenient for a greater number of employees, and these gatherings can be less expensive than evening parties, offering a great option for smaller budgets. 

3. Consider your booze policy 

Give some thought to whether you'll serve alcohol at your party. If you do, it's important to follow safe practices. The Balance has a helpful list of tips for serving alcohol at company events; it includes serving solely beer and wine instead of liquor and limiting the number of hours the bar is open. Only professional bartenders should serve alcohol, too, never employees. 

4. Include remote workers 

Remote workers shouldn't be left out of the festivities! With the simple-to-use video conferencing solutions available today, companies can get creative with including their remote staff in the party. As The Atlantic explained in an article on the increasing popularity of remote-work holiday parties, telecommuting staff can call into in-office parties via video conference. 

With these tips, you can throw a fun and successful holiday party at your company this year. 

How remote work helps the environment

 

Remote working has lots of benefits: increased productivity, lower overhead costs and greater employee engagement. But there’s another major benefit that you shouldn’t overlook.

Remote working helps the environment.

If you want to save the planet, why not start at your desk? Below are several reasons why remote working helps the environment based on statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tech.co Global Workforce Analytics report (and if you want a handy infographic summing it all up, we have that too).

Remote work saves gas

The office commute is the bane of the modern worker’s existence. Eliminate that step, and you’ve also helped soothe the collective psyche of not only humanity but also Mother Nature. Employees who work remotely just 50 percent of the time save 54 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s equivalent to taking 11 million cars off the road for a year, as well as the amount of carbon sequestered by 1.4 billion tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

Remote workers also avoid 119 billion miles of highway driving – that’s the mileage equivalent to circling the Earth 4.7 million times. If the image of commuters mindlessly driving around the world 4.7 million times – and all the road rage that comes with it – doesn’t scare you into making some environmental changes, then we don’t know what will.

Remote work uses less energy

Computers are incredible tools for helping us do nearly anything these days, including saving energy. The greenhouse gas emissions saved by remote workers telecommuting just 50 percent of the time was equal to the amount of electricity used by 8 million homes in one year.

Remote work decreases wear and tear

According to to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans take 1.1 billion car trips a day. Some 15 percent of these trips are for commuting, which comes out to 165 million driving commutes taking place each day. In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage, having that many cars on the road every day is just plain bad for infrastructure. Roads, highways and parking garages deteriorate over time, and vehicles start having issues – leading to more car purchases. Nixing the commute and working from home protects the infrastructure around you, meaning less energy used to make costly repairs and upgrades.

Remote work helps save the environment, and when you add in using the right tools like video conferencing and unified communications, you can make sure it’s a productivity boon for your business, too.

5 Tips on Moving to the Cloud

Move to the cloudCloud computing will continue to grow over the next few years. If your business is done with handling bulky, expensive on-premises IT systems, consider moving to the cloud today. It’ll free up IT resources, streamline and add to your productivity, enable your remote workers, provide business recovery benefits and more.

If you’re like most people, though, you have fears of moving to the cloud — from talking with employees about which data moves to security. Address those fears and get the most out of your move. Here are five tips on how to start:

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

You don’t have to be fully on-premises or in the cloud. Many companies benefit from a hybrid IT environment. If you don’t believe you can move all your operations to the cloud, choose the ones that you can and keep the rest in-house.

2. Create goals

You need to develop a mix of short- and long-term goals for what you want to accomplish through moving to the cloud. This way, you’ll know you’ll be on track for reaching your main objective — a successful cloud migration.

3. Improve communication channels

Everyone should be in the loop during a major IT system restructuring like this. Take time to keep everyone informed and give periodic updates or hold Q&A sessions to give employees a chance to respond. This involves bringing them into the process before decisions are made. This will increase buy-in and ensure a higher adoption rate.

4. Address security concerns

Due to many high-profile data breaches in recent years, your clients and personnel may be concerned about the security risks from a cloud migration. Despite these worries, many companies actually boost their security abilities by switching to a cloud storage provider. Address their concerns to alleviate fears.

5. Use this time to consolidate and reorder data

Like spring cleaning, moving to a cloud-based data center is a great time to consolidate and get rid of excessive data or structures that are no longer relevant or needed. Again, you don’t have to do all or nothing.

Need more tips?

Get more information in our ebook (PDF), Move to the Cloud. You can even start small and move your communications system to the cloud.

Go Cloud Communications

IT Professionals Are Like Star Wars Characters

star wars charactersAs many of us are still recovering after seeing “Rogue One,” mourning the passing of Carrie Fisher and greatly anticipating the next “Star Wars” film coming out later this year, you might have this iconic series on the mind. While the IT world is galaxies away from stormtroopers and Jedi knights, we still believe there are some similarities between the classic film characters and certain individuals you will encounter at work.

Han Solo: The Rebel

You’ve all known these IT professionals. They are great at what they do and not afraid to show off a little or bend a few rules, just like one of my favorite Star Wars protagonists, Han Solo. While tough to work with at times, they’ll always have your back when times get tough. They can go rogue, but it’s usually for good reason. And the Force is always with him.

Luke: The Newbie

N00b. We’ve all been the new guy or girl before. Just like Luke getting his first lightsaber or starting to learn about the ways of the Force, you need to be patient with this type of IT employee. While he or she might have a lot of hidden talent, this individual might also be intimidated by the weight of new responsibilities. Don’t scare workers like this off before they’re able to save your back when your industry’s equivalent of a Death Star shows up.

And … maybe be wary of their parents.

Princess Leia: The Fighter

She’s scrappy. She’s independent. She knows her way around a blaster. Much like the Han Solos in your office, she knows she’s good at what she does, but mostly prefers playing by the rules and knows how to work a crowd. Don’t let her imprisonment by Jabba the Hutt fool you — she’s always ready for a challenge. She’s always got a few tricks up her sleeve. And she’s definitely no damsel in distress. She’s the perfect gal to have on your team.

No one would know you’re related to the newbie.

Yoda: The Expert

Knows the ways of IT, he does. Mysterious. Wise. Every office needs a guru, just like all fledgling Jedi knights need masters like Yoda to show them the way. Whether you’re the Yoda of your department or know who is, don’t take these experts for granted.

Darth Vader: The Tyrant

Security. Standards. Order. Yeah, “no” is your middle name. Although you’re probably involved in your own Shadow IT projects, you have alarms, traps and systems set up to uncover rebels in your company who use unapproved software. But you’re not a bad guy. You’re just misunderstood. In your heart, you want to do the right thing; it’s just your company is preventing you from it.

Boba Fett: The Mercenary

You’re an original. You play by whatever rules you want, moving from gig-to-gig. You consult, sharing your expertise for the highest bidder. And you don’t take flack from anyone. Teams love to have you because you solve big problems. Some people don’t like working with you, but that’s not your issue; it’s theirs.

Love sci-fi? Me, too. Take Sci-Fi Personality Quiz to determine your sci-fi personality. This quiz totally groks you.

5 Tips to Grow Your Business

As a small business, you may feel at a loss as to how you should effectively grow your operations. If you’re looking to expand or improve profit margins in the new year, here are five tips you might benefit from.

1. Simplify and reduce costs

Focusing your strategy, focusing on best-selling products, focusing on your target consumers … there are many ways to simplify your business to promote future growth. Reduce overhead costs and build up your core team in order to lay the firm foundation on which you hope to flourish. Costs can be associated with your outdated phone system to ineffective communications.

You can also simplify your employment strategy by hiring freelancers or giving up the office you don’t need, and the expenses, and enable your team to work remotely. Roughly $24 / month is easier to swallow than thousands for a downtown office. Reducing costs by simplfying is easier than you think.

2. Reach out to prospects and customers

how a business owner can grow a businessSuccessful marketing tactics revolve around meeting the average consumer where they are. And where most consumers are at is on social media. Build meaningful customer relationships online! Don’t forget a content marketing plan, including webinars.

3. Embrace data

Many small businesses are afraid of data-informed decision-making because they believe it’s costly or won’t support their specific needs. This isn’t the case, as many analytics websites are free or low-cost, such as Google Analytics. Start measuring your progress today!

4. Use video marketing

Most consumers would rather watch content than read it today, which is why video marketing tools are so integral for growing small businesses. If you want to stand apart from your competitors, put videos on your homepage, in your marketing emails, on your social media pages and on your blog.

5. Move to unified communications

Whether you move away from desk phones to enable mobile devices or upgrade your web and video conferencing tools, you need to unify and strengthen your business’s communication strategy. By choosing one vendor, you can save money while providing communications to your company.