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Unified comms strategy underpins remote working

Businesses must secure their remote collaboration fundamentals to remain competitive in a post-pandemic, hybrid working world.
Read time 5min 40sec

Discussions around remote collaboration have evolved from the days when everyone was finding their feet during the various lockdowns, to a new world where getting the best out of hybrid working is a non-negotiable business priority. A unified communication strategy is crucial to competitive advantage.

Some organisations have found the shift a little easier, while others, not least because of the nature of their businesses, have found it more difficult. Either way, through trial and error, and a calculated investment in new processes and technology, we are able to define how remote and hybrid teams can − and should − collaborate effectively and seamlessly.

The challenges have been well-documented. Connectivity underpins everything, and having a remote team or worker who is unable to perform their duties effectively, or at all, just cannot happen in a post-COVID world. 

The next challenge is electricity. We all know load-shedding is here to stay and it can happen with little or no notice, and again, what use is it if we lose resources for hours on end?

Beyond connectivity and electricity, the toll that remote working has on staff members is also well-documented. There is a risk of loneliness and feeling disconnected from a team and company culture.

There’s also a fairly well-documented drop in productivity among certain staff and then the opposite in others − people who cannot switch off and work towards burnout.

In addition, a loss of non-verbal communication and general deterioration in the quality of meetings has held many organisations back.

All of which bring us to where we are today. There are certain fundamentals that simply must be in place in a post-pandemic world.

The world is on the cusp of a fundamental shift in how we do business and how staff interact with each other and their customers.

Companies would do well to assist staff in creating a suitably connected home environment. We all know the first choice is fibre, but in instances where this is just not possible, look for the best LTE connection and as it rolls out, 5G.

Look at assisting staff with a suitable UPS device to maintain connectivity uptime during power outages. This need not be a massive capex line item, as appropriate devices and solutions are available on a monthly rental basis. Vox’s own solutions were born from the internal necessity to keep the lines up, so to speak, and it provides the security of baseline connectivity.

Provide staff with a VOIP softphone that can be linked to the central PBX for call routing. If we consider that the first two fundamentals ensure there is fast and stable connectivity at all times, staff can then leverage the power of the internet, remain contactable and lower their communication costs.

When it comes to the culture, mental wellness and staff productivity, there are certain baseline processes that must be in place, and all staff should adhere to these much like they would in a physical office environment. These include maintaining appropriate professional etiquette: dress appropriately, be on time, and be available during the agreed work hours. While these may be seen as “soft” issues, they have hard effects.

During meetings and actual work, there should be clear policies, such as regular check-in meetings as well as in-office catch-ups. When at home or remote, there should be a camera-on policy to ensure engagement. When workers are spread out in many locations, daily planning becomes paramount. Encourage regular exercise and set clear boundaries between work and home and when staff should be contactable.

Lastly, and very importantly, provide appropriate physical collaboration spaces and hot desk environments. Ensure the booking system for these facilities works efficiently and encourage these regular in-person sessions.

Once the foundations have been laid in terms of the fundamentals around people and processes, businesses can add technology to take collaboration to another level.

Companies may well have dragged their feet on their digitisation journeys prior to the pandemic, but our new work reality means the successful businesses are reducing their costs and speeding up their unified communications strategy, which starts by implementing an appropriate VOIP solution for voice calling.

They follow up this fundamental with a collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams that can be integrated with their central cloud PBX and which facilitates online collaboration. Outside of Teams, some businesses look at Zoom, the Google suite, Cisco and others.

Unified communications as a service is growing rapidly as companies seek to ensure that not only are their staff empowered to perform their functions as and when needed, but also to ensure customers are served where and when they need to be. Keywords here are speed, availability, context.

Companies should consider unified access to various channels, including chat, voice, video conferencing, SMS, e-mail, social and even fax! It becomes evident how the discussion moves from merely enabling staff to collaborate, to leveraging technology to provide a compelling customer journey.

If everything we have covered so far represents the fundamentals of collaboration, it is apparent there is immense potential in leveraging the power of a well-defined unified communication strategy. Some ways this can be done include:

  • Improve employee efficiency by implementing voice breakout from your collaboration tool to enable staff to make voice calls to customers and other external parties directly from their laptop.
  • Integrate the PBX platform with a collaboration tool such as 3CX with MS Teams to access the power of a mature PBX for the organisation, while enabling Teams calling for key staff.
  • Implement boardroom VC equipment that integrates with the collaboration tool; for example, Microsoft Teams Rooms. This allows remote workers to engage with collaboration spaces or boardrooms across multiple regions, such as collaborating on the same virtual whiteboard at the same time.

The world is on the cusp of a fundamental shift in how we do business and how staff interact with each other and their customers.

To be part of this shift, businesses need to ensure their unified communications strategy is keeping pace with the world because the next discussions − which are sooner than we think − involve real-time artificial intelligence applications and headsets in the metaverse. But, to get there, the fundamentals must first be in place.

Tim Wood

Executive head, information systems and technology, Vox.

Tim Wood is executive head of information systems and technology at Vox.

He is responsible for delivering and deploying information technology services within the Vox business, and the integration and development of information systems supporting internal operations. 

The role involves integrating requirements, systems and processes into the broader ecosystem and deploying solutions that are effective and efficient, from supporting the sales and operational teams, to the provisioning of services into upstream platforms. 

Wood is also responsible for the Vox IT team that provides the foundation over which systems are provisioned within the organisation − essentially, the internal technology deployment. 

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