As COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are gradually lifted and states begin to return to some semblance of everyday life, we shouldn’t assume an automatic return of workforces to the office.
Businesses across the globe have learned during the pandemic that their workforce is just as powerful and enabled when working from home, particularly when utilizing technologies such as unified communications (UC) to their fullest effect. Yet because of the circumstances that led us to be remote, setup was generally rushed and managed as an interim arrangement.
With many organizations now making the decision to keep some or all of their staff in a permanent remote-working environment, time and resources must be invested toward building permanent work-from-home setups.
UC will be key in enabling smooth communications through a variety of technologies that can be implemented easily and quickly. The following considerations will enable an effective, permanent UC remote setup while also keeping staff productive and engaged.
When it comes to hardware and the home office, considerations regarding computer and telephone in particular will determine how effectively you can utilize your UC.
With many organizations still deploying desktop phones for every team member, those moving to a permanent home-office setup might consider bringing the desktop home phone with them. This works best when the desktop phone is a VoIP phone, which it most likely will be, and can be connected to an at-home router.
Alternatively, there’s the option of using a handheld device or desktop application for softphone technology, with the desktop option the most likely scenario.
When it comes to the web conferencing element of UC, having a monitor alongside the laptops many of us have been working on while remote allows us to take notes on one screen and have a webcam running the meeting on the other screen, ensuring team members feel connected with others on the call, while easily taking notes.
A foundational component of successful remote UC implementation is a software program that’s robust and can function over a residential internet connection. Software that’s going to take up a lot of bandwidth requires preparation, and you must consider which type of platform will be best for your UC.
The software you choose should also be collaborative across multiple and varied media. For example, your software should allow for chat, videoconferencing, collaboration, and so on. The solution needs to have a voice aspect to it so that users can make and receive phone calls. It must also allow multiple people to join a conference call regardless of what their internet providers bring to the table.
Ultimately, be sure to choose a UC platform that’s robust and rich with features.
From a UC standpoint, security is handled in two ways: through the organization’s VPN in the company secure network and via the vendor that you partner with for the platform.
It’s critical that remote work setups allow for the same level of security that office workers enjoy. As an example, for a medical organization that is setting up staff permanently from home, a HIPAA-compliant platform is essential.
It's also important to remember that email is considered part of UC, and as UC platforms don’t come with a proactive security education piece—it’s usually an add-on—businesses must think about an additional product that's going to help proactively teach users how to behave securely.
From a UC standpoint, we have several ways to manage privacy concerns in a remote-working setup.
A UC compatible headset can help cancel background noise, which is especially useful in the current environment. And by operating from a private space, communications will generally be as clear and crisp as possible.
It’s important to recognize that there are privacy issues that we have to accept, such as background family noise. However, these issues are less important than we originally thought when we first switched to a remote-working setup.
A lot of UC platforms are built in with the ability to move from a desktop, to a cell phone, to a tablet, back to a cell phone—everything's very mobile. What that means is that the platform is working in the background of the phone, and team members are going to feel that constant connection to work.
Regardless of what UC platform you're utilizing in your business, if you have a service that connects to your mobile device, which is highly likely in a remote working setup, it’s important to have a plan for how to help your users shut down.
Be sure to empower team members to feel in control of their shutdown for the day. Without this ability, productivity goes down and exhaustion sets in. So, encouraging users to shut down all of these communication platforms or limit the number and type of notifications that they're receiving is a critical element of successful UC home-office setups.
Alysha Forsythe is a product manager at Onepath.