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The Business Side of Hybrid

Hybrid Workplace

The business side of hybrid is forefront as we make plans for the future. In a survey recently published by Gartner, CEOs were asked to identify the top enduring changes resulting from the pandemic. 45% of CEOs stated that hybrid and remote work was the most significant long-term impact. This equals all other noted enduring changes, combined. Nearly every business will have some degree of remote and hybrid working arrangements, as we experience a change in employee expectations and broader cultural shifts.

In past posts, we have looked at the technology and related services needed to properly support remote and hybrid workers. The business administration issues related to hybrid and remote work are more complex than the technology solutions.

Business Considerations

Working Environment

As we have noted before, as employers we are responsible for providing staff with a safe and healthy work environment.  If employees are working remotely, or from home, on a regular basis (an expectation for the job), their work environment must be managed.  We are responsible to ensure appropriate lighting, noise, desk space, seating, and ergonomic accommodations.

Payroll, Benefits, and Compliance

With employees working at home, you are more likely to be paying employees who both live and work out of state (or in another tax jurisdiction). In addition to accurately representing their work location for payroll, you will need to provide benefits in each state and comply with each state’s employment laws.  Minimum wage, sick time, and paid leave are a few of the regulations that differ between states.  Healthcare plans and providers will also differ, as do contributions to state unemployment insurance programs.  Additionally, you will need workers’ compensation insurance coverage for each state in which employees work.

Insurance

Beyond workers’ compensation, you may need to update your general liability coverages to address employees working from home.  Your insurer may see additional risk and/or the need to document work locations to ensure your business is properly covered.  Most policies require that you list any company-owned or leased work spaces, including co-working spaces.

Taxes

Employees working in your state while living in another is not uncommon. States have reciprocity agreements that dictate how these employees need to file their personal tax returns.  When you have remote employees working in other states, the rules are not yet as clear.  Some states expect you to withhold taxes based on your employees’ locations, as this is their workplace.

Even more impactful, some states see an employee’s work location as creating nexus, and will require you to file business tax returns in that state.

Recommendations

We strongly recommend that you proactively address the business side of hybrid work.  Speak with your HR, tax, and legal advisors as you navigate your hybrid and remote work plans.

  • Consider using a Professional Employment Organization, or PEO, to manage payroll, benefits, HR policies, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.  In addition to operating across state lines, PEOs provide you with a unified approach to human resource services. They can assist with recruiting, onboarding, offboarding, and regulatory needs such as driver safety, OSHA compliance, and testing for banned substances. PEOs als0 assume liability for compliance errors.
  • Be prepared to provide employees working from home with the workspace and accommodations they need to be healthy, safe, and productive. Beyond IT, we can assist with home office workstations, desks, stands, lighting, and more.
  • Communicate with your insurance provider to ensure your coverages are appropriate and correct.
  • Consult your tax and legal advisors to ensure you understand when, and where, you have nexus with respect to corporate registrations and taxes.

 

Modern Workplace: Benefits and Challenges

The modern workplace brings together teams, information, and processes to empower our teams and enable our businesses. Powered by cloud, getting the most out of our systems requires more than simply moving from one system to another. Managing adoption, ensuring users understand how to use tools effectively, increases individual and team productivity and efficiency.

5 Benefits

Most of our businesses realize benefits when we create our modern workplace.

1 Faster and more reliable communication
The modern workplace improves our ability to communicate. Beyond fast Internet connections, the integration of voice, messaging, audio/video conferencing, file sharing, real-time collaboration, and other tools lets us work together and share information in the ways that work best for us. Secure access from virtually anywhere enables us to work where we are most productive.

2 Enhanced efficiency and productivity
The modern workplace ushers in efficiency and productivity in many ways. Automating tasks and workflows, improved access to files and information, and embedded AI help users complete work more effectively.

3 Lower costs; Higher profits
Technology-driven increases in efficiency and productivity decrease operating costs. Reduced travel, faster time to market, quicker customer response times, and faster and more effective decision-making all result from the reliability, mobility, and productivity of a modern workplace.  These benefits save time and money, and drive revenue and profits.

4 Greater transparency and interconnected operations
You can replace complex, bureaucratic processes when you match access to data and information with updated processes that take advantage of integrated, secure applications, tools, and services. Whether simple file sharing or ensuring you have one record of customer information across your systems, the modern workplace helps connect, streamline, and simplify.

5 Improved security
Modern workplaces are more secure. Integrated, layered security is embedded into the architecture of cloud services, designed and built to meet your security and data privacy needs. Beyond the traditional focus of protecting physical computers in specific locations, security for the modern workplace protects the systems, networks, applications, data, and processes. You also protect your people with identity and access management that removes the physical boundaries of security.

3 Challenges

Moving to a modern workplace, like any, change comes with challenges.

Resistance to Change
Even when they understand the objectives and benefits, some members of your team will hesitate to embrace change. Helping team members understand how the changes will benefit them individually —  how it will enable them succeed — improves buy-in and acceptance. Offering tools to help them learn and apply new features and capabilities supports their personal growth and overall adoption of new apps, tools, and processes.

Inadequate Training
Turning on a new app, tool, or process is not enough. “One and Done” sessions are not effective.  To fully benefit from your modern workplace investments, your team needs to understand your apps and tools as they use them. Individuals retain and apply learning best when they have time to use what they have learned. Adoption plans that provide training and support relevant to a person’s role and responsibility in small, manageable doses, over time are most effective.

Mismatched Technology
Technology for the sake of technology leads to disaster. Picking the best technology that is not the best fit creates problems. Start your selection process by defining your business goals and objectives. Identify the types of technologies you need and want to support your objectives. Then select the specific technologies that match your prioritized needs and wants.

Your Next Steps

Email us or complete our contact form to discuss how your modern workplace can help your business thrive and grow.

Not a Good Time? Do it Now Anyway!

Procrastination
Working with small and mid-size enterprises, one of the challenges we see is time. Stating the incredibly obvious, time is often a commodity in short supply  and your company’s leaders may struggle to manage it well.  The result, we often hear something along the lines of:

“We are definitely going forward, but …”

Sometimes, there are other projects that need to finish first. Sometimes, it’s your busy season. Sometimes, it is just too difficult to schedule meetings with all of the people that need to be there.

Let’s face facts: It is never the “perfect”, “right”, or “most convenient” time to make changes to your IT systems.

Your business — your team — will always be in the middle of something that should not be disrupted. Whenever you decide to move forward, you will be busy and you will risk some disruption.

Do not let the fear of disruption prevent you from gaining the advantages change.

In a recent study by Forrester, and in conversations with our customers, moving IT infrastructure and apps into the cloud has measurable impacts.

  • Better collaboration saves knowledge workers ~2 hours per week
  • Review and acceptance of documents takes 20% to 60% less time
  • Chat and video reduces travel expenses by up to 70%
  • Mobile access enables shorter sales cycles, by as much as 22%

Often times, we see how modernizing IT services via cloud solutions can improve workflows and access to information, thereby reducing the backlog and some of the “busy-ness” of the team.

Facing challenges and armed with the facts, many small business leaders still put off changes, hoping a “better time” will arrive.

Let’s face reality: your business will probably never reach that elusive (maybe even mythical) “right” time to make IT changes. By waiting, you prolong the problems and the frustration of your staff. You are missing the opportunity to improve to very systems that are contributing to your challenges.

If there is never going to be a “right” time, why not move forward now?

 

 

 

Wide Area Benefits from Going Cloud

Simplification String
Most of the businesses, nonprofits, and local governments we help move to the cloud see both tangible and intangible benefits shortly after deployment. Whether they focus on improved availability and reliability, easier secure access to files, or lower capital expenditures, or the benefits of improved collaboration and access to video conferencing services, very few businesses regret the move.

Many organizations, however, do not look beyond the scope of their cloud implementation for other, indirect or subsequent benefits. Cloud migrations often create opportunities for additional IT simplification that can improve the users’ experience as well as further lower costs.

Most common across our customer base is the ability to simplify wide area networks. Organizations with multiple locations rely on wide area networks to connect offices, servers, and people. We see several common architectures, each with limitations.

  • Centralized servers require all users not at the server location to access data remotely, at lower speeds.
  • Distributed servers provide performance, but require more complicated backup solutions and/or data synchronization.
  • Spoke and hub networks connect all sites, typically over leased/dedicated lines.  Bandwidth between sites is limited and relatively expensive, with a single path (or, hopefully, redundant paths) to the Internet.
  • MPLS (Multi-Protocol Layer Switch) networks provide a managed network, better security, and greater Internet bandwidth, but still rely on leased/dedicated bandwidth to the carrier.
  • Lan-to-Lan and PC-to-LAN VPNs can securely connect machines and sites over private or public lines, but VPN services add overhead that hurts performance, increases admin costs, and makes it more difficult for users to connect.

When files and other data are centrally located in the cloud, you can simplify your wide area networks and lower costs.

Because your data is centrally located, you may no longer need point-to-point connections between your offices. Replacing point-to-point, VPN, and MPLS links with Direct Internet Access Links can have up to a 100X benefit, as many carriers can provide you with up to 10x the speed at as little as 1/10th the cost. At these price points, building in redundancy is affordable and can protect your businesses from carrier outages.

As you move to the cloud, reassess the role of your wide area and Internet links. Simplification and modification of your architecture can save you time, money, and overhead, while providing faster, more reliable service.


If you would like to review your network for opportunities, or discuss the potential benefits from moving to the cloud, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion.


 

3 Non-IT Benefits of Google Apps

When most companies consider moving to cloud computing solutions, in general, and Google Apps, in particular, the decision making process is often IT-centric.  Decision makers focus on the features, cost, and impact of the change.

While not surprising, the decision should really be business-centric.

What value will moving to Google-Apps bring to the business, beyond the direct impact on IT?

In a recent Executive Briefing, we presented answers based on a formal study of more than 100 companies that switched to Google Apps for Business.  Here are three of the highlights:

1) Individual worker productivity gains of 5% to 25%

2) Sales increases of 1% to 4%

3) Travel expenses drop by 5% to 18%

While features, reliability, and cost are all reasons to look at changing technologies, the business benefits should guide the decision process.