Reopening the economy and being remote ready
As we move into the final phases of the Government’s strategy for reopening businesses following the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses are now reopening for the first time since March. Others who have spent the lockdown period working from home are now looking forward to getting back to the office but all of us must be prepared for changes to the amount of time spent working together.
Remote enabling the workforce has seen a very rapid expansion of tech-based solutions since March to keep us all connected. With record numbers now using video conferencing, many for the first time, and the huge success that Microsoft has seen in expanding the footprint of Teams has seen it become their fastest growth product ever (on the back of this we at IP Telecom have seen a huge step up in numbers of existing and new customers utilising our Teams integration – IPT for Teams), the way that many of us work has changed considerably.
However, the nature of the rapid deployment of the lockdown in March exposed a lot of businesses lack of readiness for a long period of enforced remote working. Mobile phone bills surged, and existing telephony infrastructure went unused for months, causing headaches for customer connectivity and for finance departments everywhere.
Getting businesses and the wider economy back to pre-Covid levels of activity is a challenge facing us all. But with new hotspots of Covid-19 infections throughout Europe — even in countries such as Germany who had kept infection levels low — there is always the chance that certain towns or city areas may once again be locked down in Ireland.
So how can you protect your business telephony investment, maintain connectivity and avoid having huge mobile bills should a local lockdown impact your business or residential location?
VoIP-based phone systems can allow your business the necessary flexibility it needs in a dynamically changing environment. When it comes to phone solutions, VoIP has constantly progressed and in just four years’ time every phone call in Europe and beyond will be made via VoIP, as the shutdown of traditional phone lines progresses.
VoIP is a key component in allowing users the ability to do so much more with calls in phone systems such as our IP Telecom Hosted Phone. Fully cloud-based, it allows you the flexibility of being able to update call routing or schedules from anywhere as there’s no physical product to adjust. Everything can be done remotely through the Web-based portal.
But where VoIP really comes into its own is in the flexibility of the endpoint. With VoIP you can direct your calls to pretty much any device that you want. Your landline no longer needs to be associated with a physical location and calls can be made or answered from anywhere, allowing you to carry on your business wherever you are physically located. With softphone apps or integrations with existing CRM or collaboration software your laptop becomes your deskphone. All you need is a headset or even the headphones that come with your smartphone and that’s it.
Personally, I’ve taken all my calls during lockdown through my laptop, but our hosted phone solution also allows me to make and receive calls through an app on my mobile phone – and both the laptop and mobile ring at the same time when a call is coming through, allowing me to be fully connected to my business number wherever I am. The softphone app can be used on all platforms and any smartphone, which means that ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) can be enabled by companies, allowing the user the flexibility of their choice of device and operating system whilst the companies can avoid having to supply a second device for business calls. Everything is contained within the app and calls can be made and received over the phone system keeping business and personal calls separate on the one device.
By taking calls through our hosted phone system via some of the integrations that we have with the likes of Microsoft Teams, Zoho CRM and now Salesforce, I can always assign calls to projects, collaborations or contacts as well. Perfect for tracking conversations to keep on top of what was discussed or for call centres who need to report on the volume or success rates on calls on an ongoing basis.
So, hosted phone solutions are great in terms of flexibility, connectivity, project management and reporting. But what about the call costs? As well as all the features that the phone system brings, VoIP allows considerable call savings as well – so much so that on our standard plans we can include all your Irish and UK landline calls for free. And because you can make the calls via your phone system from any endpoint then those calls are in your business phone bill – no need for separately charged mobile bills.
Even before Covid-19 struck there had been a shift away from traditional models of working to enable remote working for staff. The flexible workplace can be created through clever use of tech-based solutions and research by Stanford University has shown that teams can work together and collaborate on projects as productively in one location or in multiple locations. Work has shifted from traditional 9-5 operations and the battle for talent means that businesses must be adaptable if they seek to attract or retain the best talent.
Space to improve
The lockdown has shown that many office-based businesses can continue to function as near to normal as possible without colleagues being on-site in offices. Tech giants such as Amazon and Twitter have told colleagues they can continue to remote work from home for the rest of the year. Bank of Ireland were able to free up two entire office blocks in the city centre by moving to remote working. There has been a fundamental shift to remote working as part of what we do culturally.
No matter what happens around any second waves or outbreaks (hopefully not much), remote working is here to stay — the lockdown may have accelerated this process quicker than most of us had anticipated. But it should always be remembered that core to the success of a remote strategy is communications, and by putting your voice based solutions at the centre of your communications plan you are building a future-proofed business communications strategy that can work for your business in any scenario. Considerable cost savings can be achieved and business connectivity is enhanced at the same time making it a win-win for you and your customers.
Rory Whelan is head of marketing at IP Telecom