‘Tis the season to be gifting, and for IT pros, the office tech wish list just keeps growing longer. With flexible hours gaining popularity, the items on that wish list should play to connectivity when staff is far apart from holiday travel and productivity when teams settle in for long hours to meet project goals.
Here’s a wish list that will satisfy the most exacting IT pro with tools that range from fun to functional.
1. Password managers
Our digital identities are verified daily in the workplace. Every time you log into email, internal communication platforms, cloud-hosted project management applications, and the like, you have to prove who you are with a password. All that requires a great deal of memorization—or resorting to scribbling them in a notebook. Neither of these scenarios inspires confidence in password security, especially in an era of massive security breaches.
Unfortunately, with policies like restricting password length and requiring frequent changes, such strict guidelines make users more likely to use insecure practices. Until we develop a better system, password managers (PMs) are the way to go, according to a recent report from the IEEE, because you can immediately adopt them without changing the company’s infrastructure. The report states, “PMs automate password generation and login processes, which has direct economic benefits: It both reduces the cost of help desk calls related to password issues and minimizes the time employees dedicate to tasks that are not related to their work (login tasks are considered interruptions).”
The authors evaluated four of the most popular—and free—PMs, including Dashlane, KeePass, 1Password, and LastPass, and found that all four passed their rigorous examination. However, Dashlane emerged a leader for offering “the best combination of security and usability characteristics.”
2. Wireless printers
Flexibility is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of the modern workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more people work from home part of the time than ever. A report from FlexJobs, a platform for jobseekers looking for flexible work, revealed that positions in government, engineering, project management, communications, and hospitality industries increased by more than 50 percent. Clearly, workers need the ability to print on demand from smartphones, tablets, and laptops more than ever—and what better way to enable this than by providing a wireless printer?
Better still, IT pros may want to consider a pocket-sized printer with a built-in fun factor. The Sprocket photo printer allows users to print right from their phones. The device connects to the phone through Bluetooth and is rechargeable through a micro USB. Although it requires special photo paper, it completely eliminates the need for ink. Playing to the enormous popularity of Snapchat, Sprocket lets you edit a photo by inserting text boxes, changing fonts, changing colors, adding stickers, or adding borders.
3. Audio enhancements
Amazon Echo—and its personal virtual assistant Alexa—was touted as useful for the office before it even hit the market. Features such as automatic ordering can extend to office supplies, greatly reducing the lag time between ordering and receiving. Now that the device has been around for a while, reviews are still booming: For some, Alexa’s sound outperforms Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. The skills and functionality are constantly improving; integrating with office software such as calendar apps is smoother. The ability to request a particular kind of music or ambient noise is another great perk.
The issue with speakers is that, in the workplace—especially in an open office—there’s already plenty of sound. Enter headphones: Depending on personal preference for over-the-ear, buds, or a combination of the two, there’s no shortage of choice. The best bet for those working in an open office is to invest in noise-canceling headphones, which actually isolate the unwanted noise and allow the wearer to listen to their preferred audio without blasting their music.
Not all noise cancellation is created equal, though—the over-ear variety naturally block out ambient sound thanks to pads that muffle. And don’t discount wireless headphones; although they used to have a reputation for leaking noise and not holding a charge, there are products that perform solidly on both counts.
Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones that can get the most use—and for IT, the office tech wish list is full of productivity boosters. From password managers that help them keep a handle on office security to audio tech that helps them get in the zone when holiday stress peaks, these are sure winners for your tech team this year.