Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Smart Technology Can Actually Help You to Streamline Your Business

 A lot has been made about smart technology over the past few years with one major takeaway: it is far too risky to deploy. Security problems with Internet of Things (IoT) devices have been widely discussed and it has kept organizations from deploying technology that can really help their business. Let’s take a look at some of the technologies that your business can use to streamline your operations.

Smart Technology Gets Smarter Through AI

Before we get into specific business solutions, we should mention that many of today’s smart technologies utilize some form of AI to help them be effective in business situations. AI typically does one thing extremely well: fuels successful automation. Obviously, this benefits both the operational-level workforce and the business as a whole. The whole point in deploying these smart technologies is as a subsidy to your current workforce to help them do their jobs better and focus on the right things to help generate revenue. 


One of the best ways to invest in smart technology is to use it to enhance the capabilities of your security systems. Not only are there smart physical security tools that typically come with door, window, and motion sensors that alert business owners and managers immediately when there is unauthorized activity, there are also technologies that are built to alert decision makers when HVAC systems aren’t working optimally. Additionally, AI can be used to improve your operational cybersecurity as well as using the same general principles. 

Utility Management

Businesses can save up to 15-to-20 percent on their utility bills with the use of smart thermostats and lighting. These technologies can be set on a schedule or even detect usage and modulate electricity consumption. With more businesses going to more flexible work schedules, they are a great way to save some money without having to constantly pay attention to the in-office environment. 

Digital Assistants

I know what you’re thinking: “You're not going to tell me that Alexa can help my business.” That’s exactly what I’m saying. These apps may not be all the way there now, but they do offer some pretty solid features. They are probably most effective as a hub to manage all the other smart devices you may use, but they can also be used (with integrations) to schedule meetings, set up correspondence, and quickly access information.

Other Internet of Things Devices

There are all types of innovative devices that have been produced over the past few years that are designed to help people manage their tasks. From wearable devices like smartwatches to connected devices inside your printer that tell you when your ink/toner is low, to RFID tags that can help manage inventory, the IoT can fuel a culture of efficiency in and around your business.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Technology is Changing the Way We Look at Productivity

 The concept of productivity isn’t what it used to be. It has evolved significantly over time. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 16th century, where subsistence living was less frequent, where the term started to mean what we know it to mean today. Today, we’ll take a look at how the modern definition of productivity came about.

Changes in Technology Fueled a Reimagining of Productivity

The life of a worker in the late 16th and 17th centuries wasn’t always so much to bring home a paycheck, it was to sustain their lives and the lives of their families. With no refrigeration, no electricity, food had to be acquired and prepared in short order. Even after people started moving to cities and forgoing the subsistence life, most of their time was trying to secure shelter and food. 

Birth of Modern Productivity

By the end of the 18th century, global trade had created demand for new goods and services. This is when you first start to see productivity mentioned regularly. In Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, he describes labor as:

  • Productive labor, which produces added value
  • Unproductive labor, which produces no additional value

Shortly thereafter, the polymathic Benjamin Franklin developed his own philosophy of productivity that asked the questions that modern productivity is centered around:

  • “The morning question, What good shall I do this day?”
  • “Evening question, What good have I done today?”

These questions and the development of new technologies that would change the world went a long way toward creating the definition of productivity that we know today. In fact, one could say that the more technologically advanced society has become, the more apt people are to reference productivity. Take into account that initially slave labor was used and then for half a century low-wage workers (many of a very young age) toiled in unsafe conditions before labor unions pushed for protective measures.

The Shift to Modern Productivity

After the turn of the 20th century, what could only be described as the predecessor of today’s efficiency guru was born. Thought leaders such as Franky Winslow “Speedy” Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (yes, the ones from Cheaper by the Dozen) started a movement that has since grown into a massive industry of management consultants. 

For much of the early 20th century, productivity was looked on as a patriotic duty as workers toiled through the first two World Wars and the Great Depression. This expanded productivity to women, who up until this point, were looked on more as domestic caretakers than workers. 

Food, which was the major driving force behind work just centuries ago, has transformed to adjust for more productivity elsewhere. The TV dinner was developed in the 1950s and the invention of the microwave oven only made those prepackaged and easy-to-make meals more of a mainstay in homes. This also revolutionized the ability for food chains to make food quickly. This led to the explosion of fast-food chains starting in the mid-1970s.

The Development of the PC

Computers changed the world. With the development of computers that you can use to expand productivity, and then computers that you could take on the go, you’ve seen a complete shift in the way that people categorize productivity. 

Where to Go from Here

Now that we have superior tools to be productive with and new applications that are using technologies like artificial intelligence to automate tasks that people are slower to accomplish, productivity should be higher than ever. It has plateaued in many instances, however. This can be explained by the amount of distractions available to the average worker. If it wasn’t for automation, we’d probably be falling deeper into recession. 

Productivity Reexamined

Getting back to the definition shift of productivity, there is currently a shift prioritizing value over the core metric of output. This is because workers today are extremely undervalued by many organizations and they need to establish guidelines to lure workers into being more productive than in previous generations. Workers want to be productive, but they also don’t want to work for as long and as hard as the people they’ve replaced. That’s why value is so important in today’s workplace. 

Don’t mistake this shift for one that doesn’t measure output. Output is still important, but value of work is much more important with the technological options available to companies today. Businesses are more focused on doing the right things over doing a lot of things that don’t add value to the workers, the executives, and most importantly, the customers. 

The Journey, Not the Destination

Today’s productivity standards aim to balance the means with the ends. Today, it’s all about the experience, whether that be at work or as a customer. In a way, it builds meaning to the work that is being done and makes this work more tolerable to people who have shorter attention spans.


One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in productivity is that most things today are approached as a team. Since people enjoy their work more when they aren’t being micromanaged, companies have structured work environments that require contributions from many people instead of a few. Essentially it is an assembly line where people are in constant contact with each other. Building trust with your team goes a long way toward giving modern workers the fulfillment they need out of a job that takes over a large portion of their waking hours. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Tip of the Week: Reducing the Impact of Blue Light Exposure

 With each day, it seems that we all have a new threat or risk to worry about. Lately, there’s been a lot said about the dangers of blue light exposure, with lots of things to buy that supposedly help fix the problems it can cause.

Wouldn’t you know it, but blue light actually can create some issues that could negatively impact your health and wellbeing. Let’s discuss it, and what you can do to address it.

What is Blue Light?

Let’s start off with some basic science: what we see as “light” is just what our minds perceive it to be. There are actually many different kinds of light rays that all interact to provide us with what we see each day. We could go into a lot more detail, but we’ll leave that to the real professionals.

One kind of light ray—blue light rays—has the highest energy levels of the bunch, paired with the shortest wavelength. Blue light rays occur naturally in sunlight, and also come from a lot of indoor sources: LED and fluorescent lighting, electronics, televisions, computers, and the mobile devices we’re all so fond of.

Now, the human eye is naturally suited to help filter out certain types of light, ultraviolet light included. Blue light isn’t included.

So, while blue light can help to improve some cognitive functions like alertness and memory while promoting wakefulness and healthy amounts of sleep, it can also be a detriment in some ways (particularly in terms of its contributing to eye strain and macular degeneration).

Where Our Devices Come into This

Historically speaking, the sun and other natural forms of light were the only way that humanity got any exposure to blue light at all for most of human history. It really wasn’t until incandescent light was created that there was another option available.

However, as we’ve surrounded ourselves with more and more artificial light sources, we’ve exposed ourselves to more blue light than ever. In doing so, we’ve shifted the balance… and it certainly doesn’t help that our modern lights contribute more blue light than any incandescent bulb ever could.

In terms of blue light’s impact, this could prove to be serious. Let’s consider what a Harvard study observed about blue light exposure compared to other kinds when exposed for the same amount of time. After six and one-half hours of blue light exposure, enough melatonin (the hormone that dictates the body’s circadian sleep patterns) was suppressed enough to shift these circadian rhythms by three hours. In comparison, the same exposure to green light only caused an hour and a half shift—literally half of what blue light did.

These effects can be compounded, not only decreasing sleep time, but also increasing the risk of depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.

Fixing the Blue Light Problem

Clearly, blue light can be a real problem if it isn’t managed. Fortunately, there are simple ways to minimize its effects, like:

  • Avoiding brighter screens within three hours of bedtime
  • Making sure you’re getting plenty of exposure to other kinds of light to help regulate your circadian rhythms
  • Using red lights over blue lights for nighttime light, helping to avoid melatonin suppression
  • Investing in blue-light filtering glasses or time-controlled filtering apps

Furthermore, modern devices increasingly come with settings to help you accomplish some of these things.

In Windows, accessing your Settings and going to System > Display > Night Light Settings allows you to Schedule your device’s Night Light configuration, either based on Custom times or from Sunset to Sunrise.

Macs offer Night Shift, which is customizable from System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Is Your Business Ready For What’s Coming?

 When the pandemic hit early in 2020, many business owners didn’t understand the situation they were about to face. Many businesses didn’t have the technology in place to support remote work, and the ones that did likely had employees that weren’t prepared for the responsibilities that come with working from home. Now, as millions of people are getting vaccinated and governments are slowly lifting restrictions, the question becomes: What now?

Work Strategies

A lot has been made about remote work. Business owners didn’t think it would work for them, then in a blink of an eye, they were forced to make it work for them, but the general consensus among business owners is that they would like to return to “normal” as soon as they can. “Normal” may not be possible, however. One study found that over 70 percent of workers who worked remotely during the pandemic are expecting more flexibility, even if nearly half of those same workers are looking forward to getting back into their respective offices.

How does this make sense?

Like many things that have happened during the global health crisis: it’s not supposed to. Basically, workers, like business owners, have mixed feelings about working remotely. At first, there was excitement, but as time went on, sitting for hours in video conferences, kids running around, and trying to ignore the giant pile of laundry just off the field of view of your webcam, took its toll. That’s not to say that they would trade it completely, but you may be surprised to find out that many employees who are working remotely aren’t doing as well as you’d think.

One major issue is that a majority of polled business leaders say they are thriving right now while their subordinates are largely struggling. Many workers pride themselves on their ability to be productive regardless of the situation, but some of them are overburdened with the increased digital intensity of their jobs. If someone who works in an office is having troubles in their life, especially the type of troubles that have an effect on mental health, most of the time someone will notice. Working from home, however, management tends to assume that everything is fine unless they hear otherwise. 

So, while decision makers are also largely working from home, they are making more money, developing better relationships, and being able to take a lot of their vacation time, while production workers are feeling largely overworked, underappreciated, and left to fend for themselves working for organizations that tell them that developing a team (or family) atmosphere is a priority.

Remote-Fueled Stagnation

Remote work doesn’t just negatively affect workers, it can negatively impact the course your business takes. When people are in one location there is a tendency for them to communicate better, more ideas to get thrown around, and decisions to be made with direct input from everyone. After a year or more of video conferencing, people just resign to completing the tasks on their schedule and have a tendency to dislike video conferencing more and more. 

This lack of interaction breeds complacency and a stalling of forward movement in a business. Some more company-centric administrators may disagree, but anytime an organization is resigned to groupthink, that business is in trouble. 

The Hybrid Office Experience

The fact is that businesses, especially smaller businesses that find themselves completely leveraged as restrictions phase out, are going to be looking for their people to be the most productive they can be, but they are also going to ask many of them to come back to the office. Some people are looking forward to it, but others are not. Regardless, expect for many businesses to remove the need for people to report to the office everyday. 

This is great, right? Not so fast.

How many days are you going to expect to have to go into the office? Well, it depends who you ask. According to one study 68 percent of polled executives would like to see their staff at work at the very least three days a week. Workers, on the other hand, said that it should be a maximum of three, but less depending on an employee’s responsibilities.

What’s strange is that 22 of U.S. executives consider bringing back their employees to be a major point of emphasis, while similar companies in Canada, Germany, Japan, and China don’t find this to be a major issue at all. In fact, less than five percent of polled executives consider this a strategy.

One thing is certain about the hybrid work model: nothing is certain. Will it help or hurt company culture, productivity, retention rates, and other metrics that aren’t just numbers to a business, but dollars and cents? Would it be better to just choose one over the other? Nobody knows, because every business is different.