Tools for a Better Work from Home Life

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If you’re serving a newly-remotely team, they may be feeling the pressure of constant availability. Containing work to a physical location often reminds employees not to check emails after hours. Unfortunately, when working on a laptop in bed, they may find themselves “on-call” for many more hours than usual.

Technology not only keeps us super-connected but also allows us to disconnect when necessary. With the right tools, your clients can make the best use of their time online and transition to home life the same as leaving the office. Pass along this advice the next time you help a company build out their remote communications (or try it yourself during this busy season).

Utilize Chat to Control Email

When you don’t get to see your coworkers in person, managing your inbox becomes an all-day task. Chat services, like Microsoft Teams, eliminate those one-line emails so you can prioritize your projects better.

If you have a question you would typically poke your head over a cubicle to ask, just send a chat instead of clogging up someone’s inbox.

Tools for All Devices

With a unified communications platform, one app will be used on all devices to call, chat, or conference your coworkers. Even if someone needs to step away from the desk, they’ll be able to get those same chat messages without missing a beat.

The app also helps separate all work and personal communications.  Without a separate, physical work phone, having all texts and calls in one place keeps them out of personal apps… so no one accidentally texts the wrong person.

Shared File Storage

When working from home or transitioning to a flexible schedule, shared file storage becomes essential. With OneDrive or a VPN structure, teammates know they’re working on the correct file exactly where their coworkers left off. They shouldn’t rely on sending file revisions back and forth. Keep the shared file updated, and everyone will be working from the same information.

Track Your Time

We all want to think we’re the most productive person on our team, but that becomes more difficult to track when we’re home. Whether interrupted by laundry or simply distracted online, tracking your time can help you be more realistic about your goals.

Do this yourself by writing down what you’ve been working on every hour. Teams can also install software on work computers to see which programs and tasks use the most time.

Working from home can have significant advantages: don’t be fooled into being “always on” by not watching where the time goes.

Quick Email Updates to Manager/ Team Members

One way to build trust within a team (so you can have better work-life balance) is sending status emails at the end of the day or week. They may only need to send one to their director, but the email should include these three categories: what they finished that week, what is in progress (include deadline changes or obstacles), and what is awaiting feedback.

By building this trust with their managers now, teams have more flexibility in the future (when WFH is no longer a requirement).

Running To-Do List

During this busy distracting time, don’t rely on your brain alone to remember all the little things you do. Find an app to keep a running to-do list on your phone, like OneNote or Evernote. If you remember something important outside of work hours, type it quickly into the app and relax. You’ll get to it when you’re back at your desk.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Working from home with your family members within earshot may bring feelings of guilt for not playing or participating throughout the day. Those who telecommute all year long know the value of noise-canceling headphones for productivity and balance.

When you’re working, they allow you to focus only on your work and block out distractions. But once you take them off, make sure you can be fully present with your family.

Meditation Apps

When home and work start to mix, meditation and reflection become essential parts of the day. Many commuters don’t realize they use the time in the car to unwind from a long day before interacting with their families.

Apps like Headspace or even the guided meditations on Spotify will clear your mind before you jump back into your personal life. You (and your family) will be happier when you do.

Prioritize Your Health

In the end, if you don’t prioritize sleep and exercise, your productivity will suffer. Sacrificing sleep for work not only ruins your home life but lowers your work quality and brings on burnout faster.

Preparing to Migrate to Cloud Communications

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So you’re ready to migrate to cloud communications! This transition comes with so many benefits to your productivity, but some business owners have concerns about the actual process. Your service provider will do the heavy lifting with the transition, but you can be better prepared with a few questions and considerations.

Upgrade Your Internet Connectivity

Now that your phone is also going over the internet, you’ll need to ensure your internet connection can keep up. While your current internet provider may meet bandwidth requirements, remember it could slow down the internet going to your desktop because of the additional devices. If you use WiFi for your customers or POS devices, you’ll want to upgrade and keep those running well.

Create a Disaster Recovery Plan

While Viirtue has never had an outage, power outages and downed internet cables may result in an outage on your end. But VoIP and UCaaS providers have a simple solution for these outages – they just require a little planning on the user end.

Many VoIP services have an app that allows your phone number to ring on your cell phone, as well. Your disaster recovery plan should include all team members downloading the app to receive calls on their mobile device. 

On the back-end of each phone number, you can also set up forwarding numbers in case of an outage. The server will recognize your phones aren’t ringing and will push the calls through to the forwarding cell phone.

Consider Cost Savings from Multiple Angles

If you’re debating whether to migrate to cloud communications at all, consider the savings between the subscription model and the maintenance of your own equipment.

On-site servers usually require an IT expert on staff (or on-call), a climate-controlled room, and the risk of outages due to local disasters (or even a regular snow day!).

Subscription-based cloud providers incorporate all of that support into the cost and have geographically diverse locations to protect against outages. As your business grows, you’ll be able to quickly add features or users, and you won’t need to take on more IT staff just to manage the growing communications side.

With cloud communications, your team will also be able to work from home if necessary, giving the business more days of productivity even if weather or caregiving keeps them at home.

Security and Compliance Considerations

The primary objection to “the cloud” relates to security concerns. In reality, security breaches can strike both on-premise and cloud infrastructure, According to some experts, your data is actually safer on the cloud because those professionals build better safeguards than most businesses do. After all, security is their only job, where your IT staff may be spread between device issues and questions from on-site employees.

If compliance is your concern, discuss your regulations with the cloud service provider. While they’re probably familiar with various rules, you can confirm details like whether data can be stored regionally based on your industry’s compliance needs.

Of course, you can always store your most sensitive data on-site. Combining this small piece of on-site storage with the capabilities of a cloud communications platform will keep most tools easily available for employees, not matter their location.

User Training

The final piece of the puzzle is user training. Your teams may be accustomed to running certain processes in their preferred platform, and their transition can be a challenge. But start the change on the right foot with trainings for each department and videos for easy reference. Have a team leader demonstrate how their daily processes will work in a new platform and show them that these tools make tasks easier and collaboration quicker.

Since cloud communications software may be used in a web browser, require all of your users download the same browser. This will ensure everyone has the same experience during trainings and watching videos.

Viirtue provides a simple cloud communications migration plan that will leave businesses better than ever. They’ll even help with training videos for top features. Connect with them today to start transitioning your clients to a better platform.

Coronavirus: How UCaaS & VoIP Help You Work Remotely

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Coronavirus: How UCaaS & VoIP Help You Work Remotely

Coronavirus: How UCaaS & VoIP Help You Work RemotelyWhile no company wants to develop policies in reaction to fear, getting the systems in place before you need them will help answer questions from your concerned employees. More and more workers will want to tele-commute when an outbreak like Coronavirus is going around (or even during regular flu season!), and you can make the transition easily with a UCaaS or VoIP platform already in place.

Preparing Your Work from Home Process

In the case of controlling a potential outbreak, employers need to determine which employees actually need to be onsite to complete their tasks – this number may be surprisingly low. In fact, you may only need employees who maintain equipment or machinery. With video conference capabilities and all work files stored in cloud storage, many of your employees can transition to working from home with only a few tools they already own.

Tools Each Employee Needs to Work from Home

If your team already uses a VoIP or unified communications platform, many of their services will be accessed through a browser in their day-to-day work. 

The only problem would be when employees save work directly to their device. If your business only provides employees with desktop computers at their workstations, make sure they save all files through cloud storage so these can be accessed from anywhere. 

Setting up your employees for tele-commuting only requires a: 

  • Laptop with a video camera
  • Smart phone
  • High-speed internet connection

Instead of desk top computers, consider providing a laptop to employees from the beginning with a larger screen to use when onsite. All of their files will be stored on one device, and they can take home the laptop whenever necessary. Viirtue does offer a remote desktop service to access a workstation from a different device, but laptops ultimately work seamlessly for employees.

Many companies offer a bring-your-own-device program to save on costs, and some still give out a second cell phone for work calls and email content (especially those with sensitive data or intellectual property). Viirtue provides a simple app to send and receive calls from the same desk phone number through a cell phone, as well as any chat, texting, conferencing, and reporting services available at their desks. This simple tool makes any cell phone a work phone.

High-speed internet at home can be more difficult to manage, because the service level is based on your employee’s personal budget or preference. However, this problem might be solved by a wireless hotspot on a cell phone.

Ensuring Efficiency and Productivity

Business owners seem to limit the remote work option because they believe employees will not be as focused and productive when working away from the office. While this fear has been disproven, ensuring efficiency with workers scattered across the state may seem daunting.

Setting Clear Efficiency Expectations

Even when an employee works from home, you can still set clear expectations for their working hours, especially if they typically work on site:

  • Require they be available the same hours they would be in the office
  • Schedule regular video calls (daily, weekly, etc.)
  • Use chat services like Microsoft Teams to ask quick questions
  • Collaborate on documents and presentations through OneDrive and Microsoft Teams

While no employee wants to be micromanaged, this process may be new to everyone and expectations will make you all more comfortable. Over time, you’ll find that a unified communications platform makes collaboration quicker and easier, and your employees will be finishing more work with fewer distractions.

What If They’re Too Sick to Work

Then they’re too sick and will need to take an actual sick day. But in outbreaks where employees may be contagious before they even show symptoms, working from home will keep the rest of the office safe.

Of course, some employees always insist on coming to the office when they have a cold – despite the stares of disgust from their coworkers. If they have the tools to be completely productive from home, they may feel less compelled to come to the office when they’re not at their best… or their cubicle neighbor may head home to work when they hear sneezing nearby.

Practice All Year Round

Developing a work-from-home policy within a company is a necessary step forward for the modern workplace. Reports show that this flexibility leads to happier and more loyal employees who give their best to the company. So why not consider updating your policies and culture to allow for regular remote work? Unified communications has already given you the tools – and your team will stay happy and healthy well after the fear of pandemic has passed.

Proactively protect your workforce from illness (and distraction!) by calling Viirtue and learning more about how unified communication and VoIP platforms will keep your employees happier, healthier, and more productive throughout the year.

VoIP + CRM = Better Customer Service

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From the sales team to the support team, a centralized CRM tool helps provide a better customer experience for each person who calls your business. Integrating your CRM database with your VoIP system lets you see all customer details right when they call, so you don’t have to spend time searching while speaking on the phone.

This integration contributes so much more than caller ID, and your entire business will benefit.

Centralized Customer Data

Depending on your CRM (and if the team takes good notes), when a customer calls, your call center will see the sales and call history associated with their phone number.

As a support team, this information tells you if the person has called multiple times about different (or the same) issues. Your sales team will see the customer’s purchase history and any products they’ve considered on your website to steer the customer toward the next sale.

Many support calls and chats require the customer to explain the problem to every new agent they are transferred to. This not only frustrates the customer but wastes time on the phone when agents could be serving the next person. By keeping thorough notes in your CRM, even if the customer calls back the next day or next month, they’ll be pleasantly surprised you recognize their name and their problem.

Better Call Center Data

Call center managers rely on data beyond the time it takes to answer a question and resolve an issue. They also consider the tone of the agents, and whether the customer was satisfied with the solution. Some services allow you to attach a call recording or transcription to the customer profile, which helps managers sort out conflict on problematic calls.

Attaching a call recording or transcription also gives the next agent a heads up on what to expect in the conversation if a customer calls back.

Marketing Insights

When a marketing team implements a campaign or sales funnel, combining CRM and phone call data gives a full picture of the customer experience. With proper documentation, marketers can review when in the funnel a lead called the sales teams, and with call recording or good notes, they can better advise the team on how to close the next deal.

Bringing the marketing and sales team together offers incredible value for campaigns going forward, as well. Each piece of addition data gives the teams a better understanding of their customer – hearing objections and considerations in a customer’s own words.

CRM Considerations

While the potential for data within your CRM feels endless – the data you get out is only as good as the data you put in. The sales and support teams need to be trained and continually reminded to add all the necessary information to the customer profile.

If you have a very busy call center, you might need to check out the transaction volume for your CRM service. Because each call will be searching the database for customer details, you won’t want the service to slow down when you need it.

Viirtue Integrates with Your CRM

Whether you use Salesforce or another CRM software, Viirtue integrates with many platforms to make your VoIP experience seamless. And if you think you or your clients need start utilizing their CRM to its full potential, talk to us about how this integration can save time and help more clients every day.

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