Remote work is changing at a pace that would have been unimaginable just a few short weeks ago. The spread of the novel coronavirus in late 2019 and early 2020 has created an unprecedented need for employees to work from home, as social distancing measures are implemented to limit the spread of the pandemic. As the world adjusts to this new normal, voice communications should be an essential part of your business’ remote work strategy.
The Rapid Rise Of Remote Work
In recent years, the information technology world has increasingly embraced remote work. Some 36% of professionals currently work remotely at least once per week as of January 2020, a marked increase from a decade ago, where the equivalent figure collected in the US Census stood at 9.5%. This steady trend will likely be sent into overdrive during the first quarter of 2020, as companies across the US implement mandatory work-from-home policies and other social distancing initiatives, creating a critical need for reliable voice communications infrastructure. This is especially true for front-line organizations such as healthcare facilities, emergency services and government entities, whose communications are a key source of up-to-date and reliable information for an anxious public. Other heavily affected industries include businesses and educational institutions, who are taking huge parts of their operations online.
Even in the absence of mandated work-from-home, the trends are set to accelerate. More than half of on-site employees expressed a wish to start working remotely in the future, while 42% of remote workers plan to increase their frequency of remote work. Despite these growing remote work trends, many employers are still ill-prepared to have the majority of their staff work remotely, with 38% of remote employees reporting having received no training from their employers on how to work remotely. Moreover, some 44% of companies worldwide do not offer any options for remote work.
Remote work can give rise to a myriad of issues, from effective communication to security to reduced productivity. In companies where remote work is common, but not widespread, these issues are often addressed on an ad-hoc basis, without effective policies being put in place. Managers may need to adjust the frequency and format of their remote employees’ review meetings to ensure expectations are being set and met. Support staff may need to troubleshoot remote workers’ communications setups on a case-by-case basis with limited information and unfamiliar bring-your-own equipment.
All of these issues combine to make remote work a headache for senior leadership, especially in large companies. In recent years, Yahoo, IBM, Aetna and Best Buy have all walked back liberal remote work policies and forced some employees to co-locate. When approached in an agile and holistic manner, however, an expansion of remote work can unlock huge cost savings for businesses.
So how can your business reap the benefits of remote work while avoiding its many pitfalls? Aside from policy and operational considerations, one of the best places to start is your communications infrastructure. If your employees use desk phones at work, set them up with softphones so that they can take calls remotely without taking home an extra piece of equipment. Zoiper and X-Lite both offer softphone solutions which can be easily integrated with Telnyx.
In times of rapid change, your business can experience a pressing need to expand communications reach and capacity. This is especially true in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, where the accelerated cycle of breaking news and policy announcements can cause customers to lose trust in the timeliness of information available through online sources. This can in turn create rapid swings in interaction volume for some businesses, as customers pick up the phone in search of reliable and real-time information. It’s critical to prepare for these demands, in both an infrastructural and operational sense. From an infrastructural standpoint, your voice connectivity should scale on-demand, allowing you to instantly provision voice capacity exactly when you need it. Operationally, it’s important to ensure your front-line staff are well prepared for an influx of calls, especially as they adjust to a newly-remote work environment. One way of accomplishing this is by fortifying your call tracking. By enabling call forwarding and callback queues, you can ensure that calls are never missed and your customers can efficiently find timely information and updates directly from your staff.
Most of all, you should be able to trust your voice communications in a time of need. Choose carrier grade communications services, built on a global, private IP backbone to ensure that your employees can communicate securely, reliably and seamlessly with their colleagues and with your customers.
The world is in the midst of its largest ever remote work experiment, and how your business serves its customers in this extraordinary time could have a lasting impact on your future success. There has never been a better time to re-evaluate your approach to remote work - for this crisis, for the next crisis, and for the paradigm shift that these crises will cause.
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