Unless you are more than 100 years old and you remember the Spanish Flu, nobody reading this article has lived through a global pandemic. We don’t know what to expect, but we do know that the coronavirus is spreading quickly and schools, businesses and organizations of all types are bracing for significant disruption. Now is the time to start investigating your options and defining your emergency continuity communications plan so that you can – proactively or reactively – continue to effectively manage your business as the impacts of this disease come into focus and a large portion of your workforce may be unable to come into the office.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is suggesting in their current guidance for businesses, that companies prepare for and and encourage telecommuting where feasible and ensure their infrastructure can support multiple employees working from home. That’s great advice. Let’s start by taking a look at your options when it comes to telephony.
Keeping Your Employees Connected When They’re At Home
While some media outlets are looking at this potential work-from-home explosion as an “experiment”, here at The UC Buyer, we understand the power and capability of Unified Communications and know that with a little preparation, businesses can quickly make this pivot and the solutions in the market can seamlessly scale to support their needs. For example, the collaboration company Zoom notes how they have adjusted their own policies in lieu of the Coronavirus. If you do not already have an emergency work-from home plan,there is no better time to create one, or review the one you already have.
Whether you need to have your employees working remotely on a temporary basis or you want to move a part of your workforce out of central office on a more permanent basis, there are a few things to take into consideration when it comes to your phone system.
Three Ways to Keep Your Business Phones Up and Running
Making the Mobile Phone the Star of the Show
The simplest solution is to have each worker use their own mobile phone for business. According to Pew Research, 95% of Americans have a cellular phone, and 77% have a smartphone (with an incredible 94% of adults aged 18 – 49 having smartphones). In this sense, then, the hardware is already owned. But, unless your company directories already list everyone’s mobile contact info, you will need to gather this information and disseminate it to the entire staff. Furthermore, every employee will use their own mobile plan, and while most American’s have mobile plans with unlimited texting, far fewer have unlimited voice. So, this may cause your employees to incur expenses that were not negotiated ahead of time.
A solution for this lies in services that run as a smartphone application. You should check the options and apps provided by your UCaaS or hosted PBX vendor. These often provide all the features of your office phone, including the same phone number and extension, voicemail, extension to extension dialing, and some services even provide video capability. With these applications, the smartphone uses data. Since 2015, over 98% of Americans have access to wireless Internet, so the employee often will likely not incur any additional expense for their data access.
Of course, the right headset can help out tremendously, as well. Our friends at Poly have solutions for the mobile worker that enhance voice quality and are comfortable enough for long days. These might be worth the investment as workers become long-term work-from-home associates.
Bringing Your Desk Phone Home
The next solution is to simply unplug the employee’s desktop phone and bring it home, then plug it into an Internet modem. Voice over IP phones connect to the Internet, and they know how to connect and gather the information they need to enable their features and services, like name, caller-id, and even the corporate directory. Being geographically unbound as it is, the phone will work with any sufficiently high-speed Internet connection (which we have discovered, really isn’t a lot of speed for a single phone).
Related Blog: Desk Phones vs. Soft Phones for the SMB
While soft phones use a client or an application for their phone features, a desk phone will use the same buttons, handset, and other components the employee had at their desk – the exact device if you want it to be. This has the advantage of familiarity for the worker, with the same methods to call, hold, transfer, and access voicemail. The only thing you might need to provide is an ethernet cable.
Some higher end desk phones even have features that were designed for open office plans, the same features can help eliminate the noise and distraction of children, pets, and other factors found in home work areas.
Using a Soft Phone and Headset
Like mobile apps that allow the user to emulate their desk phone identity and features, a soft phone client is a program that runs on a Windows or Macintosh computer. It can provide similar features to a mobile app, and includes the company’s corporate directory, the same phone number and extension as the office phone, and operates on a portion of the screen so you can still use your laptop to do other aspects of the job.
These clients will default to the speakers, microphone, and even the webcam of the computer And since you don’t want your employees yelling at their laptop all day, the right headset can make talking with the soft phone much more comfortable while while providing professional sound quality..
Through accident or design, there may come a time when many of your workers have to work from home. With cloud-based communications, though, your business can continue to function as normally as possible through trying times. And, when you think about it, if everyone is impacted by some factor that makes business difficult and you already have a solution, your business will have an advantage over others.