Working remotely has never been more popular. In a 2016 Gallup survey, 43% of respondents said they worked from home in the past year. In industries more conducive to working remotely, such as IT and marketing, that figure exceeded 60%. The rise in the prevalence of remote workers is redefining the workplace, and companies are on the hunt for solutions to best support their employees and keep up productivity. Communications tools are a vital component for remote workers, and companies need to invest in the implementation of unified communications collaborative support tools.
Interestingly, millennials do not form the bulk of remote workers; instead, the median demographic of those who work from home is college-educated workers in their 40’s. This does not mean that remote workers shouldn’t have access to the latest tools and tech, but it does mean they have experience working in corporate environments and have likely used the kinds of tools offered by a unified communications platform before. Terms such as hosted PBX, hunt groups, or call forwarding will not likely be foreign concepts.
The following are five ways your unified communications platform can support remote workers.
Voice and Video Calls
With remote workers isolated from other employees, voice and video calling features are an important tool to help workers feel they are part of a team. Seeing others’ faces in meetings on a regular basis reinforces the bonds between employees and fosters better collaboration. Furthermore, a majority of human communication is non-verbal, so seeing someone in person is a tremendous benefit to both parties. Voice and video calling features facilitate accurate communication between employees.
Remote Desktop IP
Offering employees some hardware to take home has several benefits. First, employees will have dedicated hardware for their work to keep their personal and professional lives separate. Second, it allows the employee to be part of a hosted PBX that is connected both internally and externally to the rest of the team. Desktop IP phones are easy to set up and only require an internet connection to operate. Not all employees, however, will welcome hardware from their work into their homes. Some may prefer an alternative, such as BYOD through mobile apps.
A robust unified communications platform will have a mobile application that employees can download, which will turn their personal handheld device into a work phone. Mobile apps allow employees to take their office anywhere, and creates an environment conducive to flexibility. The term used to describe this style of setup is BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. While the benefits and potential of a BYOD setup are attractive to some employees, others may not find the prospect of installing a work app on their personal device appealing for privacy and work-life balance reasons. For these employees, desktop IP phones may be a better solution.
There are some issues with mobile apps offered as part of a unified communications platform. Chiefly, cell phones prioritize phone calls made to them directly, and will cut off calls made via the VoIP app in such a scenario. Therefore, mobile apps should be employed with these limitations in mind.
Gone are the days of shouting over a thin cubicle wall or walking down to a colleague’s office to ask a question. Especially in regards to remote workers, modern work environments need to leverage modern tools to facilitate the free flow of ideas among employees. Instant messaging makes asking questions and sharing ideas easy and instantaneous, and promotes more frequent communication between workers. Recent studies have shown that instant messaging offers many benefits to a workplace, and measurably increases workplace productivity. Nearly all unified communications platforms offer a form of instant and group messaging. Incorporating this feature with remote workers should be an integral part of their workplace environment.
With more geographic dispersal comes less risk of employees missing work due to adverse weather events. A worker in Boston can continue to work even when their coworker in Miami is sheltering from a hurricane. But weather events are not a primary cause for an outage. In fact, internet and phone outages occur all the time for a huge number of reasons. This means that remote workers are susceptible to a variety of productivity-crushing events. But with a unified communications platform, there is a way to ensure such events will not affect work. Business continuity is a service that sets up your business communications so that in the event of an internet outage, the system automatically moves over to a 4g network to stay active. Remote workers who are part of your unified communications network can also take advantage of business continuity services so that they can keep working even when their internet is not.
Hosted UC for Remote Workers
Unified communications platforms are designed with flexibility in mind. They offer tremendous advantages to workers in corporate environments. What they also offer is a means to empower remote workers to interact and collaborate with fellow workers regardless of geographic distance. With a robust unified communications platform, remote workers have the tools they need to be effective in their work and bolster their productivity, as well as stay connected with their team.