Remote Workers: Benefits and Managerial Tips

18 Apr

Thanks to improved technology, more and more employees are able to accomplish most or all of their work from home. Smartphones, tablets, teleconferencing, and WiFi-equipped bookstores and coffee shops have made this possible. This presents a big advantage for employers: the more employees that work from their home, the less money companies need to spend. Many companies, for instance, don’t have assigned computers and desks for each of their workers as so much of their workforce is working remotely. Additionally, employees working remotely are frequently more productive; they’re not wasting time and energy driving to work every day. And they’re not exchanging office gossip in front of the water cooler when in the office.

Remote Worker Challenges

A major concern for most managers when deciding to have remote workers is, how can you monitor their work? How do you know that they’re actually working and not just watching movies all day?

Employers can solve this challenge by setting reasonable deadlines for their remote employees and expecting these workers to fulfill them. What really should matter for employers is that work is done on time. It should not matter if workers complete their tasks from midnight to four in the morning.

Setting Remote Worker Deadlines

This is most likely the simplest way to monitor your remote workers. Employers may decide that a specific amount of work needs to be completed by Friday. One other way would be to set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings via phone or video chat. To resolve any feelings of disconnect some employers may ask that a remote worker spend one day a week in the office. This will help to keep everyone on course and informed.

Off-Site Not a Permanent Condition

While many people may have the personal discipline and time management skills to effectively work remotely, some don’t. So, if an employee doesn’t work well remotely, and that has become clear, remote working doesn’t have to stay permanent, it can easily be revoked. Ultimately, trust within the employee/employer relationship is among the key elements of a effective remote working relationship. The worker needs to maintain that trust by hitting deadlines and delivering excellent work.


Simplify Your Life With These 5 Smartphone Apps

13 Apr

Your business keeps you busy. You are juggling three projects at once for your employer. You are on the road more often than you are at home, and your day planner is covered in ink. You need smartphone apps that can make your life easier, not complicate it. Luckily, there is a host of smartphone applications available designed precisely to simplify life for the busiest of business professionals. Listed below are five of the top ones to explore.

Top 5 Business Apps

  1. WhosHere: WhosHere enables you to quickly find freelance contractors in your area to help you complete projects. For example, if you want to find a freelance illustrator in Philadelphia to close out your latest ad campaign, you are able to send out a search through your smartphone. Then you’re able to send free text messages or calls to the professionals who reply to your search.
  2. Locale: What’s more embarrassing then hearing your phone blaring during the middle of a crucial business meeting? You will not have to worry about this with Locale. This service allows you to select your phone settings dependant on your most common locations. For instance, you can automatically set your phone to vibrate mode whenever you enter your office or the local cafe.
  3. WaveSecure: One of the potential risks of traveling frequently is the chance of loosing your phone. This app enables you to lock your phone and backup the data stored on it remotely, as well as track its location through the SIM card. Talk about reassurance.
  4. Bump: Bump is a wonderful little app. It enables you to exchange contact information with fellow business professionals merely by tapping that person’s phone with yours.
  5. Scan2PDF Mobile: This app will let you scan reports, receipts, or any other documents on the run using your smartphone’s camera. You can then turn them into color PDFs and email them to your computer’s desktop.

Five Excel Tips to Impress Your Boss

6 Apr

Are you gunning for a raise or a promotion? Maybe you simply want to get noticed for job security. Either way, you can do this by impressing your boss, but how?

What about Excel? Most of us, despite our position, use spreadsheets in Excel. This program is an extremely robust business tool; here are some tips to improve your efficiency, which is bound to impress your boss.

  • Hiding Information: You may wonder why you would want to hide certain information in a spreadsheet. Well, suppose the spreadsheet which has all your data about the company also has everyone’s salary. That is confidential information that you don’t want to divulge at the meeting. Simple hide the column or row by clicking the related number or letter to highlight it, then right-click on that highlighted row or column and select the Hide option from the popup menu. Then you can Unhide the row or column in the same way once the meeting is finished.
  • Timestamping: If you want to attach a date to your spreadsheet, you can use the Timestamp feature. Just hold Ctrl while you press the semicolon key. If you would like the current date and time hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys while pressing the semicolon.
  • A Better-Looking Spreadsheet: Give your spreadsheet a fresh look by using Excel’s Themes option. You can find this in the Excel Ribbon, at the top. Click it, and you’ll be given a huge variety of fonts, and color schemes that you may apply to your spreadsheet. You can even make your own!
  • Tracking Trends: This is only applicable if you have a more recent version of Excel. The feature is called Sparklines and with it you can create charts that relate trends in the information in your spreadsheet. One way this can be used is to quickly and easily see how many software bundles your company’s salespeople sold in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Conditional Formatting: This feature allows formatting only in cells that meet the requirements that you select. For example you could chose to have any dollar amount over 1,000 be a particular color.

New year, New Tech Security Challenges

4 Apr

As technology changes cyber-criminals adjust to it. Recently MIT’s Technology Review published an article regarding the biggest technology security threats of 2012. Most of us spend much of our time online: working, surfing the Web, or just chatting with friends via social media. If you spend time online, being aware of these threats can help guard you and your data.

Stolen, Spoofed Certificates

One problem that the article brought up is stolen or faked certificates. When you log into a website, your bank for instance, the traffic is encrypted with a “certificate”. This establishes that the site can be trusted. The faking and stealing of these certificates was a popular strategy utilized by cyber-criminals in 2011. This can give them access to confidential information.

A Common Security Mechanism in Trouble?

Sites use certificates as a security measure more than any other means. If these are no longer considered trustworthy it might affect everyone, from the consumer, to the large company that is charged with protecting your data.

Another common security challenge is what is termed “Hacktivism”. Cyber-criminals see this as activism through hacking, hence the name. Groups like Anonymous and LulzSec target large companies that they believe are guilty of wrongdoing. Additionally they target companies to demonstrate the vulnerability and weakness of them. Technology Review believes that groups like these will continue “hacktivism” for a long time.

Home Automation

In 2012 yet another security risk is the growing popularity of home automation. People connect alarm systems, lights, even locks, to the web to automate their homes. If respected companies are not used or if hackers get into these systems think of the damage that can be done.

The Humanity Behind the Invention of the Computer

30 Mar

Can you imagine life without the computer? It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t have them, yet today we carry them around inside our pockets in the form of smartphones.

George Dyson, a science historian, asks how we went from having no computers to having so many in such a small amount of time period in his book, Turing’s Cathedral.

Dyson has a unique vantage point which makes him an ideal author for this book. He’s the son of a top scientist, Freeman Dyson and, due to this, has spent much of his years at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The Institute was home to the globe’s most capable scientific minds – included Einstein’s – as they were in the middle of building and operating the very first digital computers under the direction of scientist Josh von Neumann.

If you read Turing’s Cathedral it will surprise you at just how much chance was involved in the development of the machines that let to computers. The book not only highlights the creation of the computer but also the personalities involved at the Princeton Institute. They weren’t always on the same page but managed to produce the first digital computer nevertheless.

When great minds work on a project there are bound to be rivalries and heated disagreements, the development of the computer was no different. This book demonstrates that the individuals that worked on this project were geniuses, not necessarily saints. Moreover there were some moral issues that the creators of the computer faced while working on this project, since the work they were doing had a close association with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.

You might think that history books are dull reads and a history of computers must be filled with technical jargon. Turing’s Cathedral does not fit that image at all. Anybody who uses a computer will find this book intriguing. Which is an awful lot of people nowadays.

The Connected Car: A Look at The Debate

28 Mar

More and more cars are appearing that permit people to be connected to the Web from the front seat via Wi-Fi or 3G networks.  The Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, and Audi A6 are all illustrations of this. With these connections individuals will be able to stream videos, get up-to-the-minute traffic information, in addition to speak their text messages. These things all sound terrific, and we usually greet technological advancements with open arms but this make us ask the question: Is full connectivity in a moving vehicle a good thing?

Challenges of the Connected Car

People get unfocused when they text or chat on their phones while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 80 percent of traffic accidents involve driver inattention within 3 seconds of the crash. So, if basic cell phone use is a distraction consider what it would be like if a person is video Skyping with their closest friend while driving or watching that funny Super Bowl advertisement.

Does Tech Distract Drivers?

Drivers need to focus on the road. Whatever takes their awareness away from it—whether it’s chomping down on a fast-food burger or searching for traffic information—can lead to potentially fatal accidents. That is why the news that cars are on pace to become much more connected is greeted with just as much hesitation as excitement.

Browsing the Web Inside Your Car

Regardless of how we feel about this, unless laws are put into place stopping it, individuals will soon be able to stream YouTube videos, Google an answer to a question, and correspond via social media sites within their cars. Maybe the next phase should be to improve self-driving aspects to cars; but perhapsthat would remove us even more to the world around us.

As we said before, improvements in technology normally have us excited. But the biggest concern with the connected car is that, will raising the volume of distractions increase the number of accidents? Car connectivity will bring a lot of enjoyment to travelers, specifically on long commutes, but it’s important that drivers realize the need to stay focused on the road no matter how adorable that video of a baby monkey is.

Nanotechnology: Not the Stuff of Science Fiction

23 Mar

You have probably heard about nanotechnology, but may have almost no idea as to what it’s about and how it pertains to you. Nanotechnology makes life easier for all of us; it’s not merely the stuff of science fiction. In essence, nanotechnology is the science of dealing with matter on an atomic scale.

The practical side of nanotechnology

As an example, Science Daily ran a feature story about scientists creating a way to use nanotechnology to reduce the amount of friction in car engines and machines. If this technology becomes widespread, it will help extend the lives of machines and engines and enable them to operate more proficiently. According to the Science Daily story, a team of scientists created tiny polymer particles that were dispersed in automobile engine base oils. When tested under conditions that simulated those present in car engines, these tiny particles were found to have an extraordinary ability to reduce friction.

More efficient motors

The story reported that even when these particles were distributed at a low concentration, they boasted more powerful friction-reducing abilities than the friction reducing additives used by lots of industries today. The scientists found that these particles, measuring just nanometers in size, made it possible to reduce friction by 55 percent more than additives presently can. Expect more discoveries like this in the future. The field of nanotechnology is growing. It’s growing so quickly, in fact, that the United States recently launched a national strategy for making sure that environmental, health, and safety research needs are determined and addressed in the field.

The emerging world of nanotechnology

If you believe, then, that nanotechnology is only good for Hollywood special effects blockbusters; simply take a close look at your car’s engine. Eventually, nanotechnology could leave you with an engine that utilizes less gas. That, of course, can leave you with a fatter wallet, and you’ll be able to thank nanotechnology for this.