Put Down the Remote: Being Productive While Quarantined

We are in a unique time and life today seems a lot different than it did just a few short weeks or months ago. One of those changes is that the entire country – almost overnight – made a push for folks to work from home.

While I normally work from home throughout the week, also having my wife at home was a glimpse into what many are going through right now – trying to work from home for the first time. This can be a difficult transition and it is not made easier when people may also have to take care of kids or other factors that take up their time.

However, this ‘new normal’ will likely be here to stay throughout the rest of March, April, and likely May – at least. Since we all have to figure out how to make it work, I thought about what we can do to make the most of our time. There are alternatives to solely focusing on watching every video on the internet…

  • Education: There are a number of free resources for taking classes online – even more within the last week. This is a great opportunity to learn something new. Anyone want to go to Harvard?
  • Certifications: This could also be a way to look into something that will give you the edge. It could be a great opportunity to find the right certification for you.
  • Resume: Even if you are not currently looking for a job or think you will be in the near future, there is no downside to having an up-to-date resume. The same goes for making sure your LinkedIn profile is in top-notch shape.
  • Fitness: Take care of yourself! I will try not to get on a soapbox here, but nothing is stopping (most) anyone from taking a walk or run outside. Can’t get to the gym? You Are Your Own Gym is the way to go.
  • Spirituality: This will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. However you view spirituality, take a moment to get centered, be thankful for what you have, and focus on what is most important.
  • Friends: We can all take the time to email, text, call, video call, FaceTime, group chat, online hangout, or whatever your flavor may be. This will be just as fulfilling to you as the person or people you connect with.

It is time to put down the remote and get some work done…

What are some ways you have tried to be productive during the quarantine?

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BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

laptop-phone-BYODFor a class project in the spring, I was part of a team that looked at bringing your own devices to work, instead of a company providing them. We reviewed the pros and cons of both phones and laptops. I use my personal laptop in the office and have remote access to our network, which means I can work from anywhere. The only time I am on my work desktop is when I need to print. I am also using my own phone. By doing this, I am able to be more productive through increased flexibility. Our findings were interesting and provided me new insights.

Cell phones were the first item we reviewed. The benefit of having a work phone with you at all times is that customers and coworkers can contact you, via phone, email and/or text, at all times. This can greatly increase efficiency, as well as customer service. When a company provides a separate work phone, we found that this requires many individuals to have two phones with them at any given time. That often leads to work phones not being taken from work or left at home when it is not during regular business hours, which defeats the purpose.

By allowing individuals to use their personal phone, the benefits can be seen through only needing to have a single phone. Call forwarding can be used so the employee’s phone number is not being given out or used by mistake if he or she leaves the company. There are also services that pay a stipend directly to the cell phone provider to ensure employees are not taxed on the money through a regular paycheck. Specific security measures are also available, at low-cost, which protects company information. Overall, we found the greatly reduced costs through allowing employees to use their own cell phone for work outweighed any risks.

Laptops were also reviewed as part of the project, but the outcome was quite different. In first looking at potential cost savings, there was certainly money to be saved. However, we found the savings, in this case, did not outweigh the potential risks. The security issues, theft/loss, viruses, repair, intellectual property, and commingling of data were too substantial to overlook. The main concern for any firm would be the potential loss of sensitive company data. The small percentage of dollars saved could not overcome the clear issues that were presented.

By undertaking this project, I certainly learned a lot about these different ideas and what benefits and risks arise with each. I certainly enjoy using my personal cellphone and laptop for work, but as a graduate assistant, both were my own choice. When outside of the university setting, I will certainly use this information when presented with the question of bringing your own device to work.

If you have seen specific risks or benefits that weren’t mentioned here, please let me know through a comment below.

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5 Benefits of Using the Cloud

cloud-computingOne of my favorite advances in technology that has benefited me in my career is the emergence of The Cloud. I was first introduced to cloud computing in a previous job when I joined a new team towards the end of 2009. Since that time, I have been using cloud computing in one form or another on a daily basis. My main platform is Dropbox, but I also use Google Drive from time-to-time. Through my years of using these tools, I have developed a specific perspective on a few aspects of the technology.

Access: By using a cloud service, there is a great deal of flexibility given for working outside of an office. I am constantly traveling for work and do not always have my laptop with me. By using Dropbox, I can easily access all of my information on any computer with an internet connection. This makes giving a presentation easy because there is no need to create duplicate copies through emails or flash drives.

Mobility: Not too long after I started using Dropbox, they developed a mobile app for my iPhone. For me, this allowed for an almost exponential increase in functional use. By having access to all of my documents at all times through my phone, I had the ability to provide better customer service because answers that I would have needed to go back and check on were always at my fingertips.

Safety and Security: The nature of The Cloud is that information is not just sitting on one computer waiting to be lost at any moment when a hard drive fails or someone spills water on the keyboard. Backing up is almost redundant because your information is not just on one computer or device. Additionally, files are secured directly through protection from Dropbox. While hacking of their system does occur, I don’t believe the risk to my non-sensitive information outweighs the benefits.

Time Savings: The Cloud has also allowed me to save time on several different fronts. The first is for sharing files with myself on various computers. If I need to print a document, my files are already on the desktop I use for printing. This also saves time when sending a document to someone else. They are provided a link that will remain the same as I make updates; one location to find the latest draft.

Collaboration: Specific to Google Drive, being able to collaborate with others – in real-time – is one of the greatest benefits available. This is particularly useful when I am working with coworkers who are 3000 miles away. Again, this eliminates redundant drafts left out for people to mistakenly use.

The Cloud has greatly changed how I work and my productively. I wouldn’t call myself an early adopter, but I have been using this resource for many years and have tried to maximize the benefits with each new feature. I am certainly interested in seeing where the technology will go next.

If there are any other benefits you find from using The Cloud, please post them in a comment below.

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