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January 5, 2021 Jammie Meyer

Productivity among remote workers has been a surprising success story coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several studies across industries have noted high levels of satisfaction among both employers and employees in remote working productivity, leading to a significant expansion of both temporary work-from-home programs and permanent work-from-home positions. 

In fact, productivity has been so solid many companies are already eyeing reductions in office real estate while many workers are relocating out of city centers to places they would prefer to live. A few stats help illustrate the momentum: 

According to a study of 800 US businesses by HR firm Mercer in New York, 94% of employers report that productivity among remote workers is the same or higher than it was before the pandemic. 67% said it was the same, 27% said productivity actually improved. 

Before the pandemic only one in 30 employers allowed remote work. Now 73% of businesses expect at least a quarter of their workforce will continue working from home after the pandemic, and a third of businesses expect more than half of their employees will work from home after the pandemic. 

recent study of US commuting trends related to remote work helps illustrate the impact businesses and employees have seen from this shift. Working from home saves an incredible 62 million commute hours per day, with a cumulative total of more than 10 billion commute hours saved since the start of the pandemic. 

In the same study, which was conducted among more than 10,000 US workers, 35 percent of those saved hours were spent on business related work. Studies have shown similar findings in the past, with major tech firms reporting that remote workers were 35-40% more productive than their office-bound peers. 

The question employers need to address for 2021 is how to maintain productivity and flexibility as the world waits to see an end game for the pandemic. Placing a bet on continued remote working is certainly a good start—there’s simply too much uncertainty involved with containing a global virus to bet on a quick return to normalcy. 

Accommodating worker preferences will be another step, as employees with secondary health problems, or employees with vulnerable family members may be slower returning from remote work—and many employees may look for opportunities to work from home permanently. 

Finally, even if most of your employees do return to the office, there’s no guarantee the companies with whom you do business will be ready for visits, so while your own team meetings may be in person, a lot of business is likely to continue to be conducted through virtual meetings for the foreseeable future. 

If you’re working on your remote workforce and return-to-the-office planning for 2021, MNJ can help. We provide equipment, services and support to businesses managing remote work forces large and small, and are working with many businesses on flexible planning to optimize productivity whatever challenges await in the coming year. 

MNJ is delivering the solutions you need to manage your remote workforce successfully – Contact us to learn more at sales@mnjtech.com.  

Thanks,

Jammie

October 7, 2020 Jammie Meyer

The world of computing is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to managing vast amounts of data and being able to create incredibly detailed imaging. To process the magnitude of data and pixels necessary in a changing world, there is a need for a new approach. 

Enter the new HP Z series of high-performing mobile workstations. With the growing demand for better computer performance in many industries, the HP ZBook models provide a compelling solution. These ZBooks offer the benefit of portability with powerful performance so that everyone from data scientists to creative professionals can work anywhere their job requires.  

A Changing World And Need For Hi-Performance On The Go 

In many professions, the sheer volume of data underlying a day’s work just keeps expanding. More data is being collected for analysis, more data is being generated to improve clarity, and more data is being shared between users and stored in the cloud. It’s not just data science, but any type of design or creative profession, not to mention virtual-reality.  

For many professionals, a standard computer and screen just won’t cut it anymore. This trrend is generating greater demand for high-performance mobile workstations with more RAM capacity, more robust processing cores, as well as graphic cards that support high-resolution across multiple monitors.  

The New Generation of HP ZBook Mobile Workstations 

HP ZBook Create 

Suitably equipped for the serious professional, the ZBook Create comes with up to 32 GB of RAM, up to Intel® Core™ i9 Processors, and a NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 2080s graphics card. 

Perfect for 3D artists, video editors, and gaming and virtual reality (VR) developers, this mobile workstation is equipped with a number of performance features. These include HP Vaporforce Thermals for maximum performance with a vapor chamber, fans and venting, and BIOS innovations for more efficient power consumption and distribution. 

It has a thin, sleek design with the aim of being the smallest 15” laptop designed for creators. This makes it perfect for creative professionals who need a flexible, portable device to take with them anywhere they go.  

HP ZBook Studio  

Targeted towards product developers, architects, and creative professionals, the ZBook Studio G7 also has up to 32 GB of RAM, Intel® Core™ i9 or Xeon® Processors, and up to NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 5000 graphics card capabilities. 

With the addition of 100% DCI-P3 coverage and HDR capability, HP’s DreamColor technology comes to life without any negative effect on battery life.  

When it comes to the keyboard, users can enjoy greater responsiveness, whisper-quiet rubber domes, and anti-rattle brackets. This ensures an optimal and distraction-free typing experience.  

The ZBook studio also features HP Vaporforce Thermals to distribute heat evenly throughout the vapor chamber. This optimizes cooling when under pressure from a large workload.  

HP ZBook Studio x360 

With all of the same supportive features of the model described above, the ZBook studio x360 has up to 64 GB of RAM, optional Xeon® Processors, and is available wtih NVIDIA® Quadro P2000 graphics. 

What’s more, this model is convertible, making it a strong competitor for the world’s most powerful convertible PC. Creators, architects, and product developers can use this device in laptop mode for general work needs, in stand and tent mode for collaboration, in tablet mode for sketching, and in docked mode to connect to multiple displays.  

HP ZBook Firefly 

This aptly named model is the smallest and lightest ZBook ever made. It is geared towards Office power users, creators, architects, and designers. At 2.96 lbs, this is a mobile workstation built for the professional on the go. It has 3 x faster WiFi capability, gigabit-class 4G LTE, and long battery life.  

To ensure security, this model also includes built-in hardware-based security features, such as HP Sure View. This helps to guard it against prying eyes with an integrated privacy display, which you can activate with the touch of a button. 

HP ZBook Power G7 

Equipped with the latest security features, and designed to support complex workflows, this model offers students, architects, construction managers, and product managers a range of features, including up to 4 TB of blazingly fast storage, up to 64GB of memory, and 10th Generation Intel®Core™ OR Xeon® Processors.  

The ZBook Power G7 mobile workstation is the perfect tool for those who work in teams, and is appropriately configured with HP Sure Suite advanced security features, which can be rolled out and managed across fleets. 
 

HP ZBook Fury 

The ZBook Fury is HP’s most powerful mobile workstation. Perfect for data scientists, product designers and engineers, and media and entertainment professionals, this workstation can easily meet the needs of the most demanding professions.  

It has configurations for Intel® Core™ i9 or Xeon® Processors, up to 128GB RAM, and up to NVIDIA® Quadro RTX™ 5000 for professional applications.  
 

The Bottom Line 

Whether you’re a creative professional editing videos on the fly, or a data scientist crunching AI algorithms, HP ZBooks are purpose-built for today’s most demanding work requirements. With more people working remotely, power users need to be able to take their high-performance workstations with them wherever they go. With raw, powerful performance, and portable design, ZBook mobile workstations are an all-in-one solution for the most demanding lines of work.  

MNJ is proud to offer HP’s ZBook lineup, both as a targeted replacement for employee upgrades, and as a fleet solution for businesses that need to move in a new direction at scale. MNJ can also configure ZBook workstations as edge devices in situations where data must be processed and packaged for transmission at the source, and when piping data directly to the cloud is impossible. Call us for special pricing or deployment configurations for your most demanding projects.  

MNJ and HP are delivering the solutions you need to manage your remote workforce successfully – Contact us to learn more at sales@mnjtech.com.  

September 29, 2020 Jammie Meyer

Beyond Security Software: Hardware-Based Security for Computers

As a business or IT manager, you are no doubt focused on the security of all your company devices on an ongoing basis. Anti-virus programs and other software offer important protection against malware. But, it’s also important to take a look at hardware-based security methods to secure the integrity of your business assets.

This is increasingly important as more businesses shift to working remotely. There are so many security threats, including ransomware and viruses, to be aware of and defend against. Thus, it is important to have a well-rounded security system in place to cover all your bases.

The Importance Of Security Features

As we all know, IT assets and systems are under constant threat of hacking and data breaches. This makes security for your computers paramount as you never know when a threat might present itself.

Online hackers are often sophisticated in their methods. Since they understand the workings of computers too, it’s important to stay a step ahead of them. You need to make sure that you equip yourself with all the security features necessary to protect your information and your devices.

With the rise of remote work, and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, it has become even more crucial to safeguard the assets of your business. This includes your online communication systems and networks.

While there is no need to be paranoid, putting security measures in place is a fundamental part of an IT strategy. It will serve your business in the long term even as technology continues to evolve.

Hardware-Based Security vs. Software Security

All IT assets and systems will use a combination of hardware-based and software security. However, even though software security is important, it is still vulnerable to threats from outside sources. In addition, it can be corrupted.

Thus, it’s essential to have a holistic strategy in place that looks at your computer as a whole and evaluates all the opportunities for threats to come in – even before you’ve even opened your computer for the first time.

For this reason, hardware-based security is critical as devices can even be tampered with before they’ve even been sent to a customer. By paying attention to hardware-based security measures, however, you can detect this immediately.

This type of security can also protect a user’s computer through fingerprint scanning and other means. This ensures that no one can gain access to your computer or files in the first place.

In a shared working environment, or in distributed teams, this is something to consider – especially because it isn’t always possible for the relevant IT team members to keep track of all the information that each computer processes at all times within the company.

Advantages Of Hardware-Based Security Features

There are many advantages to using hardware-based security systems. The most central of which is being able to offer a core wall of defense against any kind of threat, whether a user is simply logging into a computer or browsing the internet.

Over the years, HP has been developing a range of Elitebooks with embedded features that fight against all kinds of malware, including ransomware. This very concerning form of threat is a top priority when it comes to overall business information integrity. So, HP’s Elitebook range aims to combat this kind of risk with a number of key features:

HP Sure Start

As we’ve discussed already in this post, it’s critical to have security features built into the very fundamental structures of your IT system. The basic input/output system (BIOS) is a core element of a computer’s processing system. Therefore, it needs constant checking to detect any damage.

To combat this, HP Sure Start Gen4 inspects the device’s BIOS and automatically self-heals. This means that it addresses any potential damage done by malware, rootkits, or corruption at a fundamental coding level.

HP Sure Recover

Despite the best efforts of an IT team to maintain a consistently secure infrastructure, breaches and problems do occur. These may mean that they would need to restore systems – sometimes across an entire fleet.

Thanks to HP Sure Recover, the ability to restore a machine quickly and securely to the latest image is built into the system hardware and firmware.

HP Sure Click

Browsing online is a routine task that is an essential part of many jobs. But, it’s also an easy way to make your device vulnerable to malware and other threats as you interact with information across seemingly infinite shared connections.

However, HP Sure Click provides a hardware-enforced security protection system that isolates web content into a CPU-isolated virtual machine. Here, any malware is contained and limited from contaminating any other browser tabs, applications, or the operating system of the device itself.

HP Image Assistant

Implementing optimal security across an entire fleet is a consistent work in progress. This includes developing and maintaining a solid software image. With HP Image Assistant, you can achieve this consistently across new and existing devices.

HP Image Assist helps to make sure that your devices are updated regularly with the latest patches and upgrades. It also diagnoses and identities any issues with the image and recommends solutions.

The Bottom Line

Many businesses know how important it is to have software-based security, like a good anti-virus application. However, many neglect the hardware-based security aspect. Having a combination of the two is essential for businesses as it enhances the overall security and ensures the protection of an organization’s data.

As the world continues to evolve and change, remote work becomes more common. This makes this kind of approach to security highly beneficial as there are all sorts of threats that come with remote working. As seen with the HP Elitebooks, the hardware-embedded security features make identifying and solving problems much easier for your remote workforce.

Having these security features ensures that your remote workers are equipped with the best security possible. In the future, these kinds of measures will also support your overall company resilience as your business and your teams continue to grow.

MNJ and HP are delivering the solutions you need to manage your remote workforce successfully – Contact us to learn more at sales@mnjtech.com.  

July 27, 2020 Jammie Meyer

Remote work is a part of the new normal. The good news is that this does not need to affect employee productivity negatively. The trick lies in creating the ideal environment for distant collaboration when your team members work from home.

Below, we’ll look at how you can help your team to tailor workspaces that allow for optimal productivity from the moment they sit down (or stand up) at their desks in the morning until they power down at the end of their workday.

Set The Scene With Essential Tech

First things first, you need to ensure that your employees have access to all the technology at home that they would have at their disposal if they were working in the office.

Every work environment differs, so there will be certain job-specific technologies at play for each individual industry. However, there is a baseline set-up that applies across the board. It starts with a laptop or PC. 

While laptops tend to be the norm for remote workers because of the mobility benefits, some companies are finding that a desktop actually makes more sense. Once users find an ideal space, they don’t need as much mobility for getting the job done. Saving money on a desktop in this way allows more budget for a bigger monitor and peripherals, for instance.

If your team members do use laptops, provide them with access to a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor if they prefer.

Connectivity

Next up, it’s time to focus on connectivity. If there is one thing that hampers productivity severely, it’s a spotty internet connection and/or the inability to tap into vital applications or data.

To this end, consider equipping your team with the following:

  • A high-speed, broadband internet connection
  • A VPN to provide secure access to applications and data behind a corporate firewall.
  • Remote desktop protocol (RDP) applications.
  • Hardware such as an on-site printer if it is essential to daily tasks.
  • A quality USB headset for attending virtual meetings.
  • A power supply with battery backup and surge protection to protect data in the effect of power outages or fluctuations. 

Tailor A Safe & Productive Space

Once the technology is in place, ergonomics come into play. Sitting in front of a monitor all day can wreak havoc with your employees’ health and wellbeing if the environment is not suited to their physical needs.

An ergonomically optimized workspace helps employees to work efficiently and safely. It all starts with setting up a space that supports neutral spinal alignment, i.e. the natural S-shape curve our spines follow from our necks to our tailbones. This calls for:

  • A desk or table that an employee can sit comfortably at.
  • A chair with proper lumbar support that can be adjusted for individual comfort.
  • A working surface on which the keyboard and mouse is at elbow height when the user is seated.
  • Monitor height slightly below eye level (i.e. when an employee looks at the middle of the screen, they should be looking slightly downwards).
  • Monitor distance at least an arm’s length from the user so they don’t have to move their heads from left to right to see the entire screen.
  • Keyboard and mouse placement that allows the user to keep their wrists straight and keep their upper arms close to their body without any force.

Standing desks are also becoming more popular, and with good reason – it burns calories while you work and it’s a welcome change from remaining seated all day. If employees choose to use a standing desk, caution them to introduce it slowly. If you’re used to sitting all day, it’s not a good idea to jump straight to standing for 8 hours.

Similarly to conventional desks, standing desks should also be at the right height for each user. The location of the desk should also allow the user to find the ideal “sweet spot” in terms of proximity to the screen.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Working virtually may seem like an ideal set-up at the outset – there’s no commute, you can work in your yoga pants and accommodate other aspects of your life (e.g. the school run, etc.). However, without the proper processes in place, it can be easy to get distracted or burn out.

Find The Perfect Setting

It starts with choosing the right type of workspace. Although it can be tough to find the perfect environment in every home, employees should ideally opt for a space with natural rather than fluorescent lighting and minimal auditory distractions.

Similarly, a neutral temperature is best – a very warm room can make you sleepy, while a very cold room can be distracting and make typing a chore.

Clear The Clutter

Clearing clutter away is another surefire way to improve concentration. Encourage remote employees to keep their desks tidy, and to introduce indoor plants. Natural greenery in a workspace improves air quality and mood and lowers stress.

Self-Care

From a self-care perspective, it’s also important that your employees stay well-nourished and hydrated, and take care to do some physical activity each day. Here, the old-school dietary rules of thumb still apply – drink at least 8 glasses of water each day and limit caffeine intake. This will help ensure that they don’t feel fatigued or lose concentration throughout the day.

Stick To Scheduled Work Hours

To prevent burn-out, it’s also essential that remote employees set firm work hours and stick to them. When you’re working from home it can be tempting to remain “tuned in” at all times. While this may seem like it would boost productivity, it only does so in the short term. In the long run, it leads to fatigue and burnout.

The Bottom Line

When your team members work from home, it’s very important that their workspaces and lifestyle choices are tailored for optimal productivity. By sharing the information above, you can help them to address many of the day-to-day challenges of remote work.

 MNJ and HP are delivering the solutions you need to manage your remote workforce successfully – Contact us to learn more at sales@mnjtech.com.  

A Person Sitting at a Desk
July 21, 2020 Jammie Meyer

You may have thought that being alone was something you enjoyed, but when remote work goes on indefinitely, the novelty quickly wears off. Remote working sounded so inviting when first introduced to it but now it suddenly feels a bit lonely. Remote working requires you to adapt to staying connected with your peers from afar. To make up for the lack of face-to-face interaction, try to do incorporate some of the following activities:

More Video Calls And One-On-Ones

A lot of the time, emails can be misconstrued. Especially now with the stress that comes with having to adjust quickly to remote working due to COVID-19. So, emotions may be a little higher due. So instead of risking an unnecessary misunderstanding, rather schedule more frequent “face time”.  This can be done by using online tools such as WebEx or Microsoft Teams. Depending on the needs of your specific work team, set time aside in your calendar for more video meetings.

Perhaps in your work environment, you weren’t always that proactive – maybe because there was always more than enough going on. However now, as a remote worker, it might just be a great opportunity for you to be more proactive.

If you feel that your manager needs to arrange more virtual meetings, suggest it. Having one-on-one video calls with your boss can help keep the sense of office normality – even though you’re working from home.

Match Your Work Schedules

If you miss the daily interactions of your office, line up some of your work hours with your colleagues. Even if you’re only able to match an hour of their work time, it can help to have someone readily available to get work-related advice from when you need it.

Stay Connected While You Work

Talking with your colleagues can be quite insightful when it comes to solving work issues or bringing a fresh perspective to a project. Working remotely eliminates the social interactions of the office.

So, if you would normally sit next to or work with one or two colleagues, suggest that you keep an ongoing video call or text chat during your set work hours. This will help keep you connected and improve your productivity as you have someone working alongside you.

Staying Focused

Unless you’re brilliant at staying focused all the time, remote working could cause some of us to take a few more liberties than usual. Let’s have a look at a few ways to stay focused. After all, we still need to get the work done!

Create A Good Workspace

As a remote worker, one of the aspects that rank pretty high in terms of productivity is setting up a productive workspace. An area that is clearly defined for work – an “office” space where you are most productive.

It also helps to take a shower and get dressed before you head over to your designated workspace. This will help to keep the semblance of a normal routine and workspace.

Stick To A Set Work/Life Schedule

Discipline levels vary from person to person but it helps across the board if you create boundaries from the onset. Try to set and stick to your required working hours.

Set a time to “go home” even if you are at home and be strict on yourself about when your day begins and when it’s time to relax. Be careful not to set a precedent of being available around the clock (unless there’s an emergency of course). By setting boundaries from the onset, colleagues will learn to respect your working hours.

Use Apps To Block Distractions

While our screen time has increased significantly, somehow we still find ourselves scrolling on other devices. This may happen when you drift off in a long Zoom meeting, so you grab the phone and start scrolling.

Thankfully, some apps prevent us from having a constant urge to scroll for no specific reason. Apps such as Freedom and Focus block sites, like Facebook, for a set amount of time, allowing you to be more productive.

Check out a site called Strict Workflow that helps with time management, setting sessions for dedicated focus, and allowing breaks in-between. You can try a variety of methods to see what works for you.

Maintaining A Positive Outlook

Encouragement from colleagues during a time of remote working somehow allows us to find ways of introducing normalcy into this new way of life.

Morning Coffees With The Team

How about suggesting virtual coffee meet-ups in the morning to help kickstart your day with your colleagues. It does not have to be a compulsory meet but just to know that there is an opportunity and whoever wants to join at that time over a cup of coffee is welcome to join – no pressure.

Weekly lunches are also great if you just want to catch up with your team in a more relaxed setting than a formal video meeting.

Team Activities

Team activities are another great way of keeping people motivated and lifting their spirits. Steer clear from making activities an elaborate affair, throw a couple of ideas out there, allow people to contribute, and work from there.

Activities could be things such as book clubs, meditation, workout classes, sharing thoughts on a pertinent topic, or a passion project. To exercise the brain muscles, suggest some trivia, or how about a virtual happy hour?

In A Nutshell

With remote working, you can’t simply swivel your chair or peer over the divider to have a quick chat about random things to a colleague. So, you need to find what works best for you to keep you going at home.

Use your imagination and be creative about how you connect with colleagues and don’t forget to have fun. Try not to allow the distancing to make you feel overly disconnected. How you’re connecting may be different, but you can still make it just as productive as before.

MNJ and HP are delivering the solutions you need to manage your remote workforce successfully – Contact us to learn more at sales@mnjtech.com.  

June 16, 2020 Jammie Meyer

Remote working is one of the hottest discussions in business these days. Even as public health officials adjust quarantine guidelines to open states for business, many companies–and many workers–are planning to continue remote working, after discovering benefits beyond public health factors. But there’s definitely a period of adjustment going on as people discover the ins and outs of optimizing their remote working setup. Here are a few tips and tricks for improving your environment. 

Managing Distractions

By far the biggest challenge most people report with remote working is staying on task, whether trying to avoid external or internal distractions. External distractions most commonly include kids, pets, noisy housemates and neighbors. For these kinds of distractions, the best antidotes are all about creating your space–someplace you can get at least 20-minute chunks of time alone, ideally more like 45-90 minutes. If you’re fortunate, you may be able to create a couple of spaces to be alone, maybe one place in a quiet room and another on the patio, but many people make do with a converted a closet or even a bathroom. 

Internal distractions are often harder, including everything from surfing the web to obsessing over what to have for lunch later. Some of these distractions can be managed with technology. There are productivity tools you can use that block your use of websites for a period of time, allowing you to focus on your work–in extreme cases, you can edit your hosts file to completely block specific URLs. Other distractions, like hunger, take more of a behavioral approach, like snacking wisely between meals and staying hydrated. 

The fundamental way to figure out what distractions you really need to manage is to set specific objectives for the day–things you can accomplish that day–and monitor your ability to achieve them. It may take a little time to adjust your expected workload, or to account for the things you have to do that you didn’t list, but if you’re paying attention to setting objectives and monitoring your ability to carry them out, you’ll figure out quickly which distractions are getting in your way. 

Optimizing Your Technology 

As you get into a routine of working in your space, you’ll start to see the strengths and weaknesses of the devices that support your productivity. If you move around a lot from space to space in your environment, having a lighter weight laptop that moves with you is liberating. On the other hand, feeling your entire work space crammed into a small laptop screen can feel claustrophobic. Many people find the ideal to be a laptop for portability, with a docking hub connecting to a bigger monitor and other peripherals. That way you can move from doing a video call on the patio to working with an array of spreadsheets on a monitor without missing a beat.  

Peripheral devices are also really handy for improving your remote experience. Noise cancelling headsets can help you manage a productive call, even when your neighbor is working with power tools. In fact, gaming headsets, though usually not designed to look great in corporate meetings, often have the best audio and noise-cancelling features compared to those designed for business workers. 

If you’re doing a lot of video meetings, a dedicated webcam, even a cheap one, is a great way to improve your appearance with a higher grade camera than those used on most laptops. With a decent webcam, you’ll get better light and resolution, and ins some cases control over zoom and field of view, that can help you look more professional to your team. 

Reprogramming Your Brain

A lot of the challenges of remote work are more about habits of work than technology. There are endless self-help approaches to improving your work habits, but the basics are pretty universal: 

  1. Set small daily goals to focus your attention and activity on what matters. 
  2. Work in blocks of focused time, ideally around 45 minutes, but not less than 20 or more than 90. Two techniques worth exploring are Kanban, which focuses on visualizing your work, and The Pomodoro Technique, which focuses on chunking your work into blocks of time. 
  3. Zero out distractions while working in one your dedicated time chunks. Some people use music to help focus their attention, including technologies like Binaural Beats to keep their brain focused. 
  4. If you work in a team, communicate with your peers about your objectives and your time-based focus. Keeping shared objectives will help you stay on task, while communicating your workflow will give you latitude to ignore distractions for a few minutes from team tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams. 

If you need help determining the right technology to support productive remote working, from devices to meeting software, we can help. We support remote and virtual teams with everything from laptops to peripherals from leading manufacturers like HP, and software from leading virtual meeting vendors like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex. Our specialists can help you select, provision and support the right technology for your team, wherever they’re connecting to get the job done.