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In the wake of lockdown and the pandemic, many organisations rushed to adopt a ‘digital-first’ approach to the workplace and adapt to the ‘new normal’ of remote work.

We caught up with Matt Fooks,  boxxe’s resident workplace technology specialist and Microsoft-certified solutions developer, for his views on the fast-changing dynamic of modern work, and to ask his advice for working more effectively during the pandemic.


Hi Matt, shall we start with an introduction to your background and your role at boxxe?

Sure, I design Workplace solutions for customers – helping to increase productivity and creativity by expanding on their capabilities and technology experience. I've been in IT for 20 years and seen a lot of changes in those times.  From the introduction of Active Directory to the advancements of AI in our daily lives.

What types of conversations are you having with clients at the moment?


Since lockdown, clients are keen to discuss Windows Virtual Desktop and Intune Autopilot/Microsoft Endpoint Manager. In the first lockdown, it was largely about Teams and getting devices to staff, whereas now is more about how we can remotely control and secure these devices, to ensure they are patched.

The second most popular conversations are around Windows Virtual Desktop – having a Windows 10 multi-session desktop for all users without large capital expenditure suits organisations well, particularly those with a scalable or fluctuating workforce.



In our online guide to equipping a
Modern Workforce in 2021, we highlighted Microsoft Endpoint Manager as an essential tool for IT specialists in 2021.

See what other tools a modern workforce use in 2021



If you had prior knowledge that the pandemic was coming 3 months in advance, what would you have done differently?


I'd have helped more organisations design and implement better remote working practices.

My first priority would be to ensure that organisations have workable conditional access and identity mechanisms to authenticate staff, and only genuine access is authorised to their data.

The second would be to help organisations improve device management and deployment through Intune Autopilot and Microsoft Endpoint Manager, or Windows Virtual Desktop – both solutions facilitate non-corporate devices to securely connect to a corporate desktop, allowing productivity to flourish anytime, anywhere.

I believe this would have given many organisations an advantage in preventing staff furlough during the first lockdown.
 

I'm curious, would you mind finishing this sentence - 'The longer the pandemic goes on...'


The longer the pandemic goes on... the more I reflect on the important role that technology plays in enabling organisations to function. 

Video conferencing has become the norm, which is great. The rush to get everyone onto platforms like Microsoft Teams has facilitated remote working and helped to keep people talking, collaborative and connected. 

However, as the restrictions to everyday life continue, I think we’re going to see a strain on workers’ mental health. To successfully weather the storms, C-level executives need to promote beyond communication platforms and telling everyone to use together-mode, but actually look at practices that promote overall wellbeing.

My boss ensures our 1-2-1’s are conducted via mobile whilst strolling through the park/woods – in fact, Microsoft announced that they're integrating Headspace into their newly announced Microsoft Viva. Viva will build on Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 to create a more complete employee engagement and well-being platform.

What advice do you have for organisations that want to be more productive?


Trust. Trust your staff.

Focus on becoming an outcome-driven business rather than clock-watching staff. While we’re all balancing so much beyond our jobs, staff need the flexibility to work productively when it suits them, ensuring a healthy balance between home schooling, care, household chores, and most importantly getting some vital fresh air.
 

Which workplace technology do you want to see more people use? 


Microsoft Cloud App Security. It's an exceptional, feature-rich Cloud App Security Broker solution that detects and protects against threats, and helps explore and assess cloud apps in your environment.

As we depend more on cloud apps and Software as a Service over on-prem hosted apps, it’s essential that we don’t compromise our security compliance requirements - this tool is perfect for that purpose and more. 


Most businesses have access to all tools in the Microsoft 365 suite - which one do you think more people should use?


Am I allowed two? There are two that have transformed the way I work – Office Pro Plus “Read Aloud” is great if you
have to read a lot of lengthy documents or learn new things. With it, I could read that 100-page document or, alternatively, let Office read it to me!

Something being read to me suits my learning style, and so I’m likely to retain a lot more information (I think I’m giving away all my secrets now 😉). The second tool is Cortana’s Calendar.help – it’s your own P.A! Who doesn’t want to feel important with their own P.A? 

With it, I just email Cortana to schedule a meeting, and it will look through everyone’s calendars to suggest times, and set the meeting scheduling for the best time. This is a big timesaver if you have a lot of meetings in the week (and who doesn't right now), as it means I don’t have to manually go through people’s calendars or call them up to find a convenient time.

Have Microsoft recently added any software features that you’ve been enjoying? 


This is a hard one as the rate of change is astonishing
at the moment, and Microsoft are rolling new features out all the time across the Microsoft 365 suite.

However, it has to be the humble “Raise hands” in teams – so simple, but I feel it has brought a certain decorum to that unruly large Teams meeting. I just gently raise my hand, and someone will get to me shortly. It does a lot to avoid the stress of cutting someone off or talking over them by mistake.

Trust me, in a tech company like boxxe, there are some very excited people exploding to talk about tech, so the meetings can be really animated – this feature just helps to calm that down, a little. 

 

Thanks for your time and insights Matt (especially the tip around Cortana's Calendar.help).

If you're like us and want to hear more from Matt, visit scarlettabbott for his two-part interview series about risk and remote working. You can watch the first interview here and read Matt's 'risk revisited' follow-up interview here.


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