You’re not imagining it, video calls ARE stressful

You know that feeling when you’ve spent way too much time in virtual meetings, and you’d trade your favorite coffee mug for some real face-to-face interaction? That’s called Zoom fatigue.

It turns out there’s scientific evidence to back up what we’ve all been feeling.

Recently, researchers from Austrian universities decided to take a closer look at the impact of video conferencing on our bodies and minds. They strapped participants with EEG and EKG monitors and went to town with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and similar platforms.

The results were eye-opening.

Brain signal frequency, as measured by EEG, showed a noticeable increase in higher-level frequencies associated with concentration, attention, and stress during online meetings compared to in-person encounters. So, it’s not just your imagination – those video calls are really making you work extra hard to stay focused.

Additionally, the study revealed changes in heart rate variability, indicating ongoing signs of fatigue throughout the course of an online meeting.

Before you swear off video meetings forever, it’s essential to consider the study’s context. The participants were university students, not corporate warriors, and the study was conducted on-campus, not from cozy home offices. So, there might be some variations based on age and environment.

However, the key takeaway is that communicating face-to-face versus through a screen can have a significant impact on the human body. So, even if you’re not a 24-year-old student on a college campus, video conferencing fatigue is a real thing.

What can businesses do if they want to keep the benefits of video conferencing without driving their employees up the virtual wall?

Consider using collaboration tools like Teams, Slack, or even good old-fashioned email to reduce the need for real-time video meetings. Give your team the flexibility to respond when it suits them best.

If possible, schedule in-person meetings when it’s safe and practical to do so. Nothing beats the personal touch of a face-to-face conversation, and it’s a refreshing break from the virtual world.

The simplest solution can often be the most effective. Have an open conversation with your employees about their preferences for communication. Some may thrive in video meetings, while others may prefer written updates or phone calls.

When you do schedule video meetings, keep them short and sweet. Avoid back-to-back calls and allow time for breaks between meetings to prevent burnout.

The message is clear: don’t throw out your webcam just yet. Instead, take a step back, assess your communication methods, and find the right mix that keeps your team engaged and energized.

Can we help you find the tech tools to keep your people productive and engaged? Get in touch.

An AI-charged blast from the past


Happy New Year.

Remember Microsoft Paint? The simple drawing tool that many of us used to create pixelated masterpieces in our youth? It’s probably not an app you use very much these days. But what if I told you there’s a reason you might want to revisit it right now?

Microsoft Paint is getting a serious upgrade in Windows 11 – and it’s all about AI.

The big news is the introduction of Dall-E 3 support to Paint, or as it’s known in the app, Cocreator.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve seen the feature in Bing AI, you know it’s a game-changer. This isn’t just any old image creation feature. With Cocreator, you can tell it what you want, specify an art style, and an image based on your description magically appears.

And this isn’t some gimmicky add-on. When Cocreator first rolled out with Bing Chat (now called Copilot), there was a massive rush to use the image generation capability. And the buzz around how good it is? Well, let’s just say it’s been substantial.

Sure, there have been a few hiccups along the way, but when it comes to AI, a bit of turbulence is par for the course.

Windows Latest reports that Cocreator in Paint has left the testing phase and is ready for prime time – it’s now rolling out to all Windows 11 users.

If you’re not seeing the Cocreator feature yet, don’t worry, it’s coming. Just make sure you’re running the latest version of Paint. If Microsoft asks you to sign up for the waiting list, do it.

The Cocreator feature isn’t the only new addition to Paint. The app has been significantly beefed up this year. We’re talking a transparency effect, layers (a much-requested functionality), and even background removal. And these improvements aren’t just for Paint, Microsoft’s core Windows 11 apps are also getting a makeover.

At this point, you might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but how does this help my business?”

Well, imagine being able to create custom graphics for presentations, reports, or social media posts in seconds. Think about how much time and money that could save.

With Cocreator, anyone on your team can become a graphic designer. No need for expensive software or lengthy training; just describe what you want, and let AI do the rest.

Raring to try this one out (it’s a nice way to start the new year)? You’ll need to have Windows 11 installed. If we can help with that, or any other tech problem this year, get in touch.

Unwrap the gift of knowledge: 5 free AI courses by Microsoft

Happy holidays! With the holiday season in full swing, you should be enjoying some well-deserved downtime. But what if I told you that you could make the most of your few days off from your business and prepare to seize the AI opportunity in 2024?

The world of AI is booming, rapidly transforming industries, and redefining how we do business. In fact, according to PwC, AI could contribute up to $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

Microsoft has released five free courses on AI that you can take advantage of during your time off.

An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

Let’s begin with the basics. This course helps you grasp the key concepts in AI. It’s designed for anyone and everyone, regardless of their technical background. By the end of this course, you’ll have a solid understanding of what AI is and how it can benefit your business.

You can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/introduction-to-artificial-intelligence

What is Generative AI?

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, dive into the world of generative AI. This course covers the fundamentals, including what it is, how it works, different models, and future predictions and implications. You’ll learn how generative AI can be used to create new content and ideas, opening exciting possibilities for innovation and creativity in your business.

You can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/what-is-generative-ai

Generative AI: The Evolution of Thoughtful Online Search

This course takes a deeper look at the core concepts of generative AI-driven reasoning engines and how they differ from traditional search engine strategies. With a better understanding of these concepts, you’ll be able to leverage the power of AI to improve your online search capabilities, making your business more efficient and effective.

You can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/generative-ai-the-evolution-of-thoughtful-online-search

Streamlining Your Work with Microsoft Bing Chat

Chatbots are revolutionizing the way businesses interact with their customers. This course helps you discover the power of chatbots and how to use them effectively. Learn how to streamline your customer service, automate routine tasks, and provide a better user experience with the help of AI-powered chatbots.

https://www.linkedin.com/learning/streamlining-your-work-with-microsoft-bing-chat

Ethics in the Age of Generative AI

Finally, this course addresses one of the most pressing issues in AI – ethics. As AI continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, it’s crucial that we consider the ethical implications of using these tools and products. This course will guide you on how to navigate these complex ethical issues, ensuring that your use of AI aligns with your values and principles.

You can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/ethics-in-the-age-of-generative-ai

Make the most of these free courses to help you stay ahead of the curve, enhance efficiency, build trust with your customers, and unlock new opportunities.

I know you want to kick back and relax for the next few days, and you should! But when you hit that no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year and you start to forget what day it is, this is a great investment of your time.

What are you waiting for? Oh, right, the turkey…

New! A better way to find Chrome extensions


If you use Google Chrome, you’ll love this. Google has just rolled out a game-changing update that’s going to make your browser more powerful than ever.

It’s the revamped Chrome Web Store, featuring a fresh design and exciting new features.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve probably spent more time than you’d care to admit sifting through the Chrome Web Store in search of the perfect extensions for your browser. Those days of endless scrolling and hunting for that elusive add-on are officially over.

First off, they’ve introduced new categories to help you quickly find what you need. Whether you’re shopping, looking for productivity tools, or are just in the mood for some entertainment, there’s a category for you. And the cherry on top? There’s now a dedicated section for AI-powered extensions.

These AI-powered extensions are not to be underestimated. Many of them integrate popular chatbots and even some of the best ChatGPT extensions available. Imagine having your own virtual assistant right in your browser, ready to answer questions, provide recommendations, and assist with various tasks.

And it doesn’t stop there. Google has also included a ‘suggested extensions’ section that tailors recommendations based on what you’ve previously downloaded.

There’s an ‘Editors’ spotlight’ section which promises to showcase up-and-coming extensions you might have otherwise missed.

Navigating the Chrome Web Store has become even more intuitive. The search bar has moved to the top-right corner of the screen, and Google has enhanced its capabilities. You can filter by all items or focus on featured extensions and themes, making it a breeze to find exactly what you want.

In the top-left corner, you’ll find the Extensions tab to dive deeper into add-ons for your browser. Fancy changing the look of Chrome? Simply navigate to the Themes tab. Customization has never been this easy.

While this new Chrome Web Store update is undoubtedly exciting, let’s not forget about the importance of staying vigilant when it comes to browser security. Here are a few reminders:

Monitor downloads to make sure they’re safe and relevant
Never download extensions from third-party websites
Make sure everyone in your business is aware of and follows the correct security measures.
Regularly update Chrome and your extensions and educate your team about the importance of strong passwords and safe browsing practices.
If you’d like help finding even more productivity-boosting tools for your business, get in touch.

Is app overload slowing down your team?


Ever had one of those days where you feel like your inbox is staging a coup against your productivity?

You’re not alone.

In fact, a recent study revealed that 80% of our communications are still happening via email.

Yes, despite all the apps, chat services, and digital tools we have at our disposal, we’re still stuck in our old ways, sifting through an avalanche of emails. It’s a little like using a carrier pigeon in the age of the telephone.

The study also found that employees are wasting precious hours navigating through a maze of apps. Imagine this: Your employee is about to send an important report but gets lost between Slack, Teams, Google Docs, and a dozen other tools. It’s like playing a never-ending game of digital hide-and-seek. And spoiler alert: It’s not fun.

What about video conferencing? That’s got to be better, right? Well, not quite. Sure, it gives us the illusion of being productive, but the truth is, most employees find only three in five meetings genuinely valuable. The rest? Unproductive.

And let’s not forget about the constant need to repeat or clarify ourselves. We’re talking about 74% of workers having to repeat themselves some of the time, with almost a quarter saying this happens often. It’s enough to make you want to scream into the void, isn’t it?

So, what’s the solution?

Well, it’s time to take a step back and rethink your digital strategy.

Instead of piling on more apps and tools, why not work with a technology strategist who can help you create a plan that makes sense for your business? Think of us as the Marie Kondo of the digital world, helping you declutter your digital workspace and sparking joy (and productivity) in your team.

If you’re ready to get away from the endless loop of emails and app notifications and boost your productivity again, let us help.

You’ve heard of Copilot… but what is it?

What if we told you your business could have its own personal assistant that’s always ready to help, can answer virtually any question, and even change system settings on your devices?

It might sound too good to be true, but thanks to Microsoft’s innovative new AI chatbot, Copilot, it’s a reality.

Imagine this: You’re busy. Your day is packed with meetings, and you need to quickly find information or change a setting on your device. What do you do?

Instead of panicking or wasting time you don’t have, just ask Copilot.

It’s the new kid on the block, replacing Cortana as Microsoft’s go-to AI assistant. But what makes Copilot stand out from the crowd? Well, it’s built into the Microsoft Edge browser and integrated directly into Windows 11, allowing it to perform a broader range of tasks than ever before.

Ever tried to find a specific setting on your device and ended up lost in a sea of menus? With Copilot, you can simply ask it to change the setting for you.

But Copilot isn’t part of the operating system. It’s more like a bonus feature of the Microsoft Edge browser that’s been cleverly disguised to look like a native part of Windows 11.

When you summon Copilot, a sidebar appears from the right, revealing an interface identical to Bing Chat’s web version. Here, you can set your conversation style and ask questions on virtually any topic. From “Make me a picture of a tropical beach with palm trees” to “Create a five-day itinerary for my business trip in March,” Copilot is ready to assist.

The best bit? Copilot understands context, meaning you can ask follow-up questions without repeating specific keywords. It’s like having a conversation with a real person.

You can also use Copilot to get answers from any page on Microsoft Edge. Simply ask something like, “Give me a summary of the page I have opened on Microsoft Edge,” and Copilot will scan the webpage content and respond accordingly.

So, what’s the catch? Well, the preview of Copilot in the Windows 11 2023 update doesn’t reflect the final product that Microsoft plans to roll out. But they’re continually polishing the interface and will be adding more features in future updates.

While it might still be finding its feet, there’s no denying its potential.

If you’d like a hand navigating Copilot, or any other productivity tools, get in touch.

SHOCK STAT: A third of business owners don’t trust their staff

Do you trust your employees with confidential information?

If you do, you’ll be surprised by this stat…

For a third of small and medium-sized business leaders, the answer is a resounding “no”!

Maybe it’s because Jim from accounting still has his password on a Post-it note under his keyboard? Or perhaps it’s because they’ve been burnt in the past?

Either way, it’s clear that trust isn’t enough when it comes to data security.

We believe the problem isn’t your employees; it’s the lack of good training and security measures.

So, what can you do about it?

Booking training for everyone is an easy first step. It empowers employees with the tools, techniques, and best practices they need to spot potential threats and take appropriate actions.

Think of it this way: well-trained staff pose less of a risk to the overall security of your business’s digital network. They become your first line of defense, helping to improve your company’s security, and significantly reducing the risk of a breach.

Next, there are your security measures. Many companies admit they don’t have sufficient technology or checks to protect confidential information.

This is where we come in. We can help set up your company’s system so that people can only access the data they’re supposed to.

But our job wouldn’t stop there. We can also ensure that your company has adequate policies relating to information sharing, gaining access to confidential data, and what happens when an employee leaves. By doing this we help you create a more secure working environment for everyone.

Here’s the truth: trust isn’t enough in data security. But with the right training and security measures in place, you can transform your employees from potential security risks into your greatest assets.

Are you ready to move from a place of fear and mistrust to one of empowerment and confidence? Get in touch.

It’s time to say goodbye to traditional passwords


Did you ever imagine a world where the lengthy, complicated passwords people often forget would become a thing of the past?

It seems that day might be arriving sooner than we anticipated.

Google has officially made Passkeys the default sign-in method for all personal accounts on its network, signaling the beginning of a new era in online security.

What’s a Passkey, you ask?

It’s the next big thing in internet safety. And as a business owner with staff, you should pay attention to this game-changing innovation.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What are Passkeys?

Imagine logging into your account using just a four-digit PIN or your biometric data like fingerprints or facial recognition. That’s precisely what a Passkey is.

Simple, isn’t it?

But don’t let the simplicity fool you. This new technology significantly reduces the likelihood of having your credentials stolen or your account taken over by cyber criminals.

How do Passkeys work?

Creating a Passkey is easy. Head over to Google’s official Passkeys website, create a PIN or connect your biometrics (fingerprint or face), link your smartphone, and you’re done.

Just remember, your PC needs to run at least Windows 10, or your Mac should have macOS Ventura or above. And on your phone, you need Android 9 or iOS 16.

As of now, this tech works only on Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Google Chrome browsers.

What are the benefits of Passkeys?

According to Google, 64% of people find Passkeys easier to use than traditional login methods.

Not only are they simpler and more secure, they’re also faster. Logging in with a Passkey is 40% quicker than using a regular password.

What’s next?

Google’s decision to make Passkeys the default sign-in method is just the beginning. The tech giant is already working with select partners to make this new login usable across Chrome and Android. It’s already available on Uber and eBay, with plans to expand to WhatsApp soon.

So, it might be wise to start thinking about how Passkeys can benefit your business. After all, Google could soon roll out this feature for business accounts too.

Meantime, if you’re not quite ready to embrace Passkeys, you can still opt-out. Just head to the Sign-in options page, find “Skip Password When Possible”, and toggle off the switch.

We’d recommend you give it a try and see how much easier – and more secure – it can make things. And of course, if you need any help, get in touch.

Are you using the all-new Teams yet?


Microsoft is rolling out a brand-new version of Teams, its video conference, collaboration, and chat platform. We’re being promised a faster and easier way to work. And we all could use a bit of that, couldn’t we?

The new Teams is like the superhero of apps for Windows and Mac. It’s faster than a speeding bullet… well, at least twice as fast as the classic version. Plus, it’s on a diet, using up to 50% less memory and disk space.

Microsoft went back to the drawing board to reimagine it, make it simpler and more flexible. Now Teams:

Plays better with third-party apps
Is happier calling phones outside of Teams
Gets you into meetings quicker than you can say “not another meeting”
This pumped-up version of Teams uses some tech which allows it to share resources with your browser. That reduces how much memory and disk space it needs.

And the initial test results? Teams is twice as quick when loading the app, joining meetings, and switching chats and channels.

This isn’t just for businesses using Windows. Teams on Mac is also getting this performance boost.

Microsoft promises this update will be a game-changer for your productivity. They’ve improved the user interface, adding in a “mark all as read” feature in activity.

Plus, they’re introducing Copilot, an AI assistant that can summarize key points from your chats and calls. Sort of like having your very own personal assistant, just without the coffee runs.

Are you ready to switch to the new and improved Teams? It’s rolling out now. Look at the top left corner of your Teams app… if you see “try the new Teams”, then you can flick the switch and try it out.

If you need help with Teams for your business, get in touch.

Never mind “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”…

New research has uncovered an unexpected twist in the tale of cyber security risks – your tech-savvy younger employees may be your biggest vulnerability.

Shocked? Let’s dive into the details.

More than 6,500 employees across the globe were surveyed, with an almost equal representation of demographics. The results were rather alarming.

The study found that younger office workers, those 40 or under, are more likely to disregard standard password safety guidelines. Can you believe that 34% admitted to using their birth dates as passwords, compared to just 19% of those over 40?

And it doesn’t stop there.

The habit of using the same password across multiple devices was also more prevalent among younger workers, with 38% admitting to doing this.

And let’s not even get started on phishing scams. A whopping 23% of the younger demographic didn’t report the last phishing attempt they received. Their reasoning? “I didn’t think it was important”.

But surely they understand the gravity of security threats against businesses, right? Well, not quite.

While ransomware and phishing were acknowledged as critical threats by 23% and 22% of employees respectively, the overall attitude towards cyber security leaves much to be desired.

Here’s the kicker: a staggering number of those surveyed revealed that their organizations did NOT provide any mandatory cyber security training.

From the US (30%) to the UK (17%), Netherlands (32%), Japan (35%), India (31%), Germany (22%), France (43%), Australia (29%) and China (65%) – the numbers speak for themselves.

So, are we really to blame our young workforce when it’s clear that businesses aren’t doing enough to equip their employees with the necessary cyber security skills?

It’s high time we stopped treating cyber security as an afterthought and started investing in regular cyber awareness training for everyone in our businesses. Yes, EVERYONE. Not just the tech team or the executives, but every single employee.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about protecting your business; it’s about creating a safer digital world for us all.

We can help you do that. Get in touch.