Tag Archives: Office

How to Handle a Non-Drinker at the Office
December 31, 2018 12:08 pm|Comments (0)

Nicolette doesn’t drink alcohol. Why isn’t important, and, in fact, I didn’t ask her and she didn’t volunteer the information. But, she did share this story:

After years of happily going about my non-drinking business, I was suddenly confronted with a boss who refused to buy me a soft drink as part of his round in the pub after our Christmas lunch. I felt very uncomfortable, especially as he didn’t seem to have an issue getting one for my Muslim colleague! Another colleague stepped in to tell him how ridiculous he was being. It isn’t a crime not to drink!! So if you want to go ahead, but leave those who choose not to to their virgin mojito!

I would like to state that her boss is an anomaly but as a fellow non-drinker, I can tell you her boss has many people out there who get equally upset when someone declines the offer to drink alcohol.

Now, the proper thing to do is offer something different if someone declines your alcoholic beverage, but not freak out. But, that’s just good manners. As a boss, of the organizer of the company party, or the networking meeting, or whatever, you have legal reasons for not pushing someone to drink. Here are a few.

Religious Discrimination

Nicolette’s boss had no problem giving something non-alcoholic to her Muslim co-worker, so that’s a start, but Muslims aren’t the only ones who don’t drink. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that’s my reason), Jainists, Southen Baptists, and many many others don’t drink for religious reasons. And it doesn’t even need to be a proclaimed church tenant for someone to abstain. If you pressure or punish someone for not drinking, you could be discriminating on the basis of religion.

ADA Violation

Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, even if sober. Alcoholism is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This doesn’t mean you need to allow someone to drink on the job, but it also means that if you pressure someone to drink you could be violating the law. In fact, allowing an alcoholic to skip a company event that has alcohol could be a reasonable accommodation. And do you really want to be responsible for pushing a sober alcoholic to have one little drink? No, you don’t.

Health Reasons

Some people don’t drink because they think it’s not good for them. Some people don’t drink because their doctors have specifically instructed them not to drink. Some medications interact with alcohol. Some diseases are exacerbated by alcohol. And frankly, none of this is any of your business. 

Driving Later

You may say, “Oh, it’s just one drink and then we have a meeting and the alcohol will be out of your system by then, so have a drink!” but you’d be a jerk. Not everyone processes alcohol the same way, and we all want sober drivers on the road. And if you are the boss and you pressure someone to drink you could be held liable if there’s an accident. Remember, you represent the company even at a party.

I Just Don’t Want to Drink

While pressuring someone to drink in this situation isn’t likely to violate any laws, if you do it, you’re a jerk and you need help. I’m serious about that. What is it about someone drinking a Sprite that makes you so uncomfortable? It’s time for you to evaluate your own drinking habits.

Alcohol isn’t necessary for networking, having a good time, or team bonding. So knock off the pressure and break out the soda and sparkling water.

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UK's Sky to invest in Israeli VC fund and open Berlin office
September 2, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Pay-TV group Sky plans to step up investments in tech start-ups in Europe and the Middle East by opening a new office in Germany and investing $ 4 million in an Israeli venture capital fund.

FILE PHOTO: The Sky News logo is seen on the outside of offices and studios in west London, Britain June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Europe’s biggest pay-TV group has built one of the most technically-advanced platforms in Europe, helped in part by investments and partnerships it has made with more than 20 companies in the United States, Britain and France.

One of its early investments was in Roku, a provider of devices that connect televisions to streaming services which listed last year.

Sky, with distribution platforms in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria, said it had been impressed with the tech talent in Berlin and Israel. It will scout for the most interesting companies from Berlin and invest $ 4 million in Israeli venture capital fund, Remagine Ventures.

The British company, formed in 1990, is currently at the center of a bidding battle between Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox and U.S. cable giant Comcast.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter

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Messaging For Customer Service: Bozeman Startup Quiq Brings Its Tech To Office Depot, Overstock.com
July 14, 2018 6:49 am|Comments (0)

Things have been looking up for customers of Office Depot since last year, when the commercial-messaging startup, Quiq, came to their rescue. According to Mike Myer, Quiq’s founder and CEO, Office Depot customers no longer have to call or fill out an online inquiry form to find out, say, what a particular location has in stock or the status of an existing order. Today, that customer can send a text and have it answered by a helpful Office Depot employee almost immediately. (The first text reply generally gets to the customer within a minute, and the entire back-and-forth is usually completed in less than ten).

Office Depot (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Skiers in Jackson Hole are in luck as well, says Myer, who spoke to me from Quiq’s offices, located in the improbably booming tech hub of Bozeman, MT. Wondering about snow conditions or tram hours? All that’s needed is to text the resort for an immediate and up-to-the-minute response. For the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Company, whose entire customer base is a certifiably mobile-only whenever they’re on or headed toward the slopes, this makes a lot more sense, Myer tells me, than a desktop- and email-based support approach.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Gondola. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Overstock.com has also recently implemented Quiq’s solution and is now providing up-to-the minute order information via text. According to Overstock, the most quantifiable “aha” they’ve enjoyed from the new approach is the open rate: 98% for text messages as opposed to “in the single digits” for email.

Micah Solomon, Forbes.com: Tell me what Quiq is and what makes it special.

Mike Meyer, CEO and Founder, Quiq: Quiq is a company in Bozeman Montana that’s focused on making people’s lives easier. You, me and nearly all the consumers out there lead a digital-first lifestyle, where we are always connected. People love text messaging (SMS, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, Web chat, etc.) because it’s convenient and fits in with the crazy pace of our lives. By bringing text to business communication, Quiq makes it as easy to talk with companies as it is with friends.

No one likes to make phone calls (let alone to customer service!) and waiting for an email response is like waiting for paint to dry. Messaging is also more efficient for companies since one agent can serve multiple customers concurrently, unlike phone calls, and there’s no seemingly endless back and forth with to solve even a single issue, like there can be with email.

Who are some of Quiq’s marquee clients?

Pier 1, Brink’s Home Security, Tailored Brands (Men’s Wearhouse, Joseph A. Bank), Overstock, Office Depot, Tile, Insikt, and about 80 other great companies.

If my readers want to see your technology in action, where can they look?

Here’s an example they can see for themselves. Go to http://officedepot.com on your mobile phone, you’ll see a Text Us link right next to the phone number at the bottom of the page, which is powered by Quiq. If you were to have a question about a product or order with Office Depot, all you have to do is use that link to get assistance.

There’s a lot of excitement (and apprehension) about AI and chatbots. Your solution takes a different tack. Is this a philosophical choice on your part, a practical one, or both? Tell me your thoughts here. 

The hype curve for AI and chatbots is nearing the apex. But I wouldn’t say that these technologies are much help by themselves to true customer service at the moment. Most consumers (me included) can’t point to a satisfying interaction they’ve had with a chatbot that has solved a true, actual customer service issue. Getting the weather from Alexa is perfectly suited for a chatbot. Checking payment status or getting account info is harder, but within chatbot capabilities. Getting an actual customer service issue that requires troubleshooting resolved is orders of magnitude harder.

Quiq is in a great place at a great time because our success isn’t dependent upon how fast AI research is able to solve the chatbot problem. There is a ton of ROI and customer satisfaction to be gained from just adding messaging into existing contact centers with human agents serving customers via text messaging.

This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to AI and chatbots, when properly deployed  I think where they excite me most is in the realm of “bot fusion”: the fusion of chatbots and human agents. A lot of people think about chatbots as first handling the conversation and then passing it to a human if the bot can’t handle it. But we think that agents and bots can work together. There may be a specific dialog that a bot can handle during a conversation between the agent and customer. For instance, identity verification or return address confirmation. If the bot gets confused in its task, it can tap the agent for help. The fusion is the seamless transition of the conversation back and forth between the human agent and their bot assistant without the customer’s awareness.

What role will telephone and email support have in the contact center of the future?

In the future, I believe the majority of interactions in the contact center will be messaging, rather than phone or email. Frankly, I don’t see a need for email to continue to be offered for much longer as a channel in the contact center, since it is so prone to laggy, circular conversations. The phone will still have a place but only in a minority of interactions, and even these will likely start with messaging. Why will the phone still have value? Because there are, and will continue to be, situations in which the consumer wants to be solely focused on troubleshooting a problem. In these cases, speaking is likely to continue to be more efficient than typing. But, the voice conversation will be multimedia, meaning that the agent and customer will be able to text back and forth and view images and video at the same time that they’re on the phone call.

Any advice  you can share for other entrepreneurs?   

The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is finding and hiring the right people who can stand side-by-side to build a business from the ground up. It isn’t easy work. My advice for entrepreneurs is 1) find a great market opportunity, 2) hire amazing people, and 3) set the direction. Then, get out of the way and let the magic happen!

What about working with investors and partners?

When working with investors and partners, you need to make sure you keep your focus. While investors and partners are important, they’re not building your product and they are not the ones buying it, so be sure to allocate focus to them in the appropriate proportion.

What is the competitive landscape for Quiq?

We think about our competitive landscape in three broad buckets: 1) legacy chat vendors, 2) CRM vendors with a messaging option, and 3) social vendors adding messaging. Quiq is the first messaging platform built from scratch for asynchronous messaging, as opposed to adding messaging onto their synchronous systems.

[Author’s Note: LivePerson’s messaging solution, LiveEngage, was also built from the ground up for asynchronous communications, to the best of my knowledge. Read about LiveEngage in my previous article.]

Our goal isn’t to displace existing CRM or customer support systems.  Quiq integrates seamlessly with Salesforce, Zendesk, Oracle and internal systems.  So, we’re only competing against other messaging solutions, not the incumbent systems.

Live Content: Keynote Speaker Micah Solomon on Customer Service, Customer Experience, Company CultureMicah Solomon

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An Especially Diverse Audience Lifted ‘Black Panther’ to Record Box Office Heights
February 21, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

Black Panther sprung into the record books with a massive opening weekend that came at the hands of a mostly non-white audience—not to mention with more women than your typical superhero flick.

The trailblazing superhero movie from Walt Disney’s Marvel Studios easily topped Hollywood’s box office with one of the biggest theatrical debuts ever, grossing more than $ 426 million worldwide over the President’s Day holiday weekend. Millions of people around the world lined up at their local movie theater to watch Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther battle for the throne in the fictional African country of Wakanda.

In the U.S., 37% of the movie’s overall audience was African-American, which is well above the norm as the average movie audience is about 15% African-American, according to box office tracking company ComScore. White moviegoers made up just 35% of Black Panther‘s audience over its opening weekend. That an exceptional percentage of African-American viewers turned out for the highly-anticipated movie’s debut is not so surprising, considering that the movie had generated considerable buzz, thanks to its overall critical acclaim and the fact that it boasts an African-American director (a first for a Marvel superhero movie) and a mostly black cast led by Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Angela Bassett.

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The real surprise from Black Panther‘s huge arrival was just how high its box-office totals have climbed in only a few days. The movie is the latest and largest rejoinder to outdated and extremely misguided Hollywood concerns over the ability of movies featuring black-led casts and storylines to become legitimate blockbusters. Following recent strong box-office showings from movies like last year’s Get Out and Girls Trip, along with 2015’s Straight Outta Compton (all three of which were distributed by Universal Pictures), Black Panther‘s roaring success serves as yet another lesson that increased diversity on the big screen can also provide a boost at the box office.

Paul Dergarabedian, ComScore’s senior media analyst, raised the idea of Black Panther as “a game changer in terms of its ability to erase outdated perceptions of what can constitute a blockbuster/superhero movie,” in an e-mail to Fortune. “The across the board appeal of the film reflects that there are no apparent cultural limitations on the interest and love that people have for Black Panther,” he added.

Meanwhile, a higher percentage of women also showed up for Black Panther‘s opening weekend. Women represented 45% of the movie’s audience, which is less than the average moviegoing population but more than the typical female turnout for a superhero movie. The average superhero movie (many of which are led by mostly male characters) draws a 62% male audience, though Black Panther and last year’s Wonder Woman have bucked that trend.

Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman scored box-office success with a majority female audience when it opened last summer. While Black Panther‘s main character is male, the movie features several lead female characters—including Nyong’o, as well as T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. And, like Wonder Woman‘s island of female warriors, Black Panther‘s fictional Wakanda features the Dora Milaje, an elite squad of women fighters sworn to protect the country’s king.

Whether the issue is finding more screen time for minorities and women in Hollywood, Black Panther is the latest example that diversity and inclusion can be sound investments in the movie business.

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When #MeToo and Sexual Harassment Revelations Trigger PTSD at the Office, What Do You Do?
December 8, 2017 12:32 pm|Comments (0)

Yesterday, another two public officials resigned due to sex scandals and their resignations seem a bit backward. The first, Al Franken (D-Minn) had photos of him inappropriately touching women. He, however, denied that he’d really done anything really wrong, saying,

“I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.”

The secondRep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) resigned after “discussing surrogacy” with some female staff members. While that doesn’t seem like actual sexual harassment or discrimination to me, he felt that in the current climate he needed to resign. And, of course, we do not know the whole story. We don’t know anyone’s whole story.

While you can’t shake a stick in Washington or Hollywood without hitting someone sleazy, sexual harassment isn’t limited to the rich and famous. And while some of the victims of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. were, themselves, pretty famous, most victims are normal humans. And normal humans have regular jobs. And normal humans with regular jobs may be feeling a bit more stressed with all this focus on sexual assault and harassment. Some may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Joel L. Young wrote about the mental health effects of sexual assault in Psychology Today. He says:

[R]ape and sexual assault might actually be the most common cause of PTSD. Data suggests that anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of sexual assault survivors develop PTSD. With so many women exposed to sexual assault, it becomes clear that the disparity between men and women in mental health issues might be closely related to the trauma many women face.

So, there may well be someone suffering from PTSD in your office who is feeling worse in today’s climate. What do you do?

Don’t pry.

You’re not your employees’ best friend, and you shouldn’t try to act like it. Don’t have big sharing sessions or talk about how some guy smiled at you on the bus and made you feel violated. It’s insensitive and dumb. #MeToo isn’t a competition.

Remind your whole staff about your EAP.

You should have an employee assistance program, and if you don’t consider implementing one today. They are inexpensive and can be life-saving for employees. EAPs are experienced in helping people find mental health support and depending on your plan, visits may be free or at a reduced cost, at least for an initial therapy session. 

Make reasonable accommodations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act covers many cases of PTSD, which means that (as long as you have 15 or more employees), you are required to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee who qualifies. Encourage someone who brings up any stress from these recent events to see their physician and have the paperwork filled out.

Then, be willing to make accommodations for your employee. What is reasonable depends on the job and the company. Work with your employee to come to a solution. (This is called an interactive process and is required by law.) For instance, if you work in an office, it might be reasonable to move someone’s desk so that her back is against the wall, which means no one can sneak up on her. If the same employee is a cashier at the grocery store, it may not be reasonable to have her in a location where no one can come up behind her. 

Never excuse bad behavior.

One thing we’ve found out during this time of sexual harassment revelations is that perpetrators need accomplices. The Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers of the world wouldn’t have been successful in their longtime harassment had many people, men and women, not allowed it. 

There is no employee so valuable that you should tolerate bad behavior. If you want your employees to feel safe at work, investigate every claim, and fire anyone who deserves to be fired. Period. Even if that person is your top salesperson. Shut that behavior down.

Chances are, you know someone who is dealing with raw feelings, so remember, above all, be kind.

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Microsoft is on the edge: Windows, Office? Naah. Let's talk about cloud, AI
May 10, 2017 8:40 pm|Comments (0)

In other words, all the data coming off connected devices requires both local and cloud computing resources. The revolution will not be centralized.


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Microsoft to slash cloud-connection rights for stand-alone Office
April 25, 2017 11:16 pm|Comments (0)

Microsoft last week announced sweeping changes to Office’s support rules, which will push more corporate customers to the Office 365 subscription model.

The support policies introduced Thursday will cut in half the time that non-subscription versions of Office — usually labeled “perpetual” as a nod to the licenses which, once purchased, let customers run the software as long as they want — can connect to Microsoft cloud-based services. These include Microsoft-hosted Exchange email, the OneDrive for Business storage service and Skype for Business, the corporate edition of Microsoft’s video-calling service.

Under the new rules, owners of perpetual-license versions of Office will be able to use those services only during the first half of their 10-year support lifecycle, the portion Microsoft dubs “mainstream.” Currently, those customers may connect to cloud services such as Exchange mailboxes for the full decade of Microsoft’s combined mainstream and “extended” support.

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It takes a village: Change management with Office 365
August 27, 2016 11:15 pm|Comments (0)

One of the key benefits of leveraging Office 365 for your SharePoint solutions is that you will be able to take advantage of all of the latest and greatest advances in the platform as they are launched. This means that you don’t have to worry about managing upgrades and fixes – and this should save time and resources associated with platform management. But, it also means that you have less control over when changes happen in your environment – and that means you need to stay on top of what Microsoft is planning. Successful change management is a lot about managing expectations. When people are fully informed and aware of changes to the software they use every day, the changes can be easier to accept – especially if you have evaluated the impact of these changes in advance. To ensure that your continuously evolving Office 365 environment is not disruptive to your users, you need to monitor what is happening with the platform with a multi-faceted “lens” – looking at upcoming changes from multiple perspectives. For that, it takes a village.

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7 careers that don’t require a traditional office
August 19, 2016 4:40 pm|Comments (0)

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Think your only career options involve sitting at a desk in an office?    

Think again.   

When it comes to many professions, offices are outdated.   

People simply don’t need a brick-and-mortar headquarters for their jobs, and are better served working remotely, wherever that may be.    

Here are just seven of the many career options that you can get into where you won’t be tethered to a cubicle. 

1. Travel blogger   

When your job is to write about travel, you kind of have to, you know, travel to the places you’re writing about so you can experience the scenery and local culture. This means you need to rely on a suitcase and your mobile devices much more than on an actual office.    It may sound weird, but with this type of gig the world is not only your oyster, it’s your office.  Read more…

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Microsoft Outlook users with Office 365 get a security perk: Unsafe email warnings
April 12, 2016 2:15 am|Comments (0)

There’s no need for a hacker to attack a server or network if they can simply trick someone into disclosing confidential information. Microsoft is adding an additional layer of defense to help stop that from happening—if you subscribe to Office 365.

In the coming weeks, Microsoft said it will begin showing what it calls “Safety Tips” at the top of email: colored bars to let you know whether an email is safe, suspicious, or known to be fraudulent. Microsoft said Safety Tips will be managed by Exchange Online Protection, the back-end protection mechanism used to secure email sent through Office 365.

Why this matters: Everyone tells you, don’t click on suspicious links!—and yet we do, because we don’t necessarily think the link is suspicious. It might be a purported email from HR, or from a client, or an urgent request that comes in late on a Friday. Microsoft’s Safety Tips won’t be able to block everything, but it’s an additional layer of security that will make the crook’s job a little harder. Of course, it’s also another reason to subscribe to Office 365.

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