So, What's in Your IT Bag Now?

Tobin Conley | 10.20.20
Topics: Tips - Trends - TechTalks, CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity, COVID-19

Whether it’s home office IT or work IT, the contents of that bag have likely changed over the course of 2020.

Last weekend, I was preparing for a getaway—the first in some time—and wanted to pack my electronic devices (just in case, mind you). I had to search the house for my laptop bag. It struck me as a bit shocking that I wasn’t quite sure where it was.


For the majority of my working life—far longer than I care to admit here—my laptop bag has been my constant companion: my satchel, my carryall, my (dare I say it) man-purse. It was the vessel in which I would convey to and from work all the items I might need: an umbrella, small first aid kit, medicine, spare eyeglasses, a bewildering array of cords and adapters as well as a host of other things that I felt were important to have on hand, sometimes just in case. It was, in essence, an extension of myself.

it-bag-2020

The new work IT bag for everyone

I was thinking how much life has changed for us all over the course of the past seven months. Things once familiar are now seemingly foreign. For instance, when was the last time you used cash for a transaction? While other things once unknown have become everyday occurrences—Zoom backgrounds, anyone?

This in turn made me revisit our blog post series, “What’s in your IT bag?” I imagine that while many of the things we wrote about then are still valid, you might find a few new things when looking in your (metaphorical) IT bag nowadays.

Working from home necessities

“Even if the sky is falling down
I know that we'll be
safe and sound.”

The transition to remote work was much easier for organizations with some staff already working from home. With technology and policies in place, they just had to scale their efforts instead of starting from scratch.

Security. Whether you’re a remote work veteran or still adjusting to working at home, your IT team (and consultants) want you to be just as safe and sound at home as you were in the office. That’s why your new home office setup includes technology you perhaps hadn’t even thought of before:

Ergonomics. You’ll never take your office chair for granted again! We’re all keenly aware of the importance of keeping our bodies physically sound when working from home.

Make sure your keyboard is at the appropriate level for typing. Place your monitor or screen in a position for optimal viewing—or the phrase “pain in the neck” will become personally all too familiar. Find a comfortable chair that provides sufficient support for your spine.

Schedule breaks in between meetings to decompress and stretch your legs—your body will thank you later. Ernie Smith at Associations Now has more ideas to consider about home office location, comfort, and tools.

Productivity. Yes, you can be more productive at home as long as you can find blocks of uninterrupted time to do focused work—not a possibility for many of you with school-age children. Replicate the closed door of old by discussing the need for focus with your boss and team, and blocking off time in your calendar.

Come to an agreement with your team on the tools you will use for different types of communication and the protocol you will follow when using them. When is it appropriate to use Slack, Teams, email, messaging, Zoom, etc.? Sometimes you might find that kickin’ it old school (i.e., a regular phone call) is not only an acceptable but also a welcome alternative when connecting with others.

Boundaries. At the office, your day began and ended when you entered and left the office, theoretically. You don’t have these same boundaries when your office is down the hall, at the kitchen table, or in the bedroom. Establish opening and ending workday rituals so you can keep the office where it belongs.

Zoom fatigue. Who knew this phrase would become so ubiquitous? The issue is real, as you know, and supported by research. You must find a balance between overZooming it and sufficiently communicating with co-workers and colleagues.

Sometimes people need a break from video—perhaps they’re suffering from digital exhaustion or simply having a bad hair day. Opt for the phone occasionally instead of defaulting to Zoom—remember how easy that was?

The essentials for conducting business virtually

Virtual meetings have become a way of life. But we fell into them without really thinking through our virtual meeting strategy.

Preparation. Just like in real life, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time—staff or members. Send an agenda and supporting materials in advance.

Expectations. Set expectations for meeting participants. If they’re expected to do any preparatory work, for example, reading supporting documents, then make sure they understand their responsibility for doing so.

Ground rules. Is everyone expected to use video, or is audio sufficient? Mute or unmute? Headset/earbud microphone or laptop microphone?

Introductions. Decide in advance if introductions are necessary. How should people introduce themselves and how long should each one take?

Technology. Choose the appropriate meeting platform based on your meeting requirements. Do you need to:

  • Record the meeting?
  • Get a transcript?
  • Go into breakout rooms?
  • Share the screen?
  • Run a poll?
  • Use a whiteboard?

Test any meeting functionality thoroughly and preferably in advance of scheduling the meeting so you can ensure that you can actually do what you set out to do.

Conversations. Remember the best part of any office meeting? It wasn’t on the agenda. It happened when we arrived early and got a chance to hang out and chat. Those serendipitous meetups and moments—talking in the office hallway or kitchen, popping in when someone’s door was open, and overhearing conversations—are what people miss most about the office.

How can you create a virtual water cooler where these kinds of moments can occur, not only with your team but with others at work? These networking and learning opportunities are especially important for younger professionals who are still navigating the profession and establishing relationships.

No matter how you are dealing with the ever-changing landscape these days, it pays to take another look at your association’s IT bag, and make sure the contents will help you weather the present storm.

Questions? Speak to a DelCorian.

About Tobin Conley

A walking encyclopedia, Tobin supports associations in their quest to succeed in all facets of technology strategy and operations, pulling from a rich history working in and with associations, volunteer boards, ASAE programs, and his CAE.

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