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VoIP Helps Businesses Adapt to Change
October 11th, 2017

VoIP Helps Businesses Adapt to Change

Ian Linton

Can your workplace meet the expectations of millennials? If not then you need VoIP. Why? Because VoIP helps businesses adapt to change.

The workplace is changing as millennials become the largest group in the workforce. They expect a working environment that is social, collaborative, open and mobile. They want to use the technologies they have grown up with, and they may not want to spend an entire workday in the office.

Can your workplace meet those expectations? If not, it could have a big impact on employee recruitment and retention. But if it does, you could benefit from a significant boost in productivity, teamwork, and innovation. This is where VoIP comes in. VoIP helps businesses adapt to change in major ways.

Communications as an enabler

A key area for adaptation is communications. The right communications tools let your employees work together easily from any location on any device to support a mobile, collaborative environment. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) provides the services and features to keep employees connected, wherever they happen to be working.

VoIP is a cloud-based technology that lets users communicate by voice, audio, video, and web conferencing, text, chat and instant messaging on any desktop or mobile device. It is available as a hosted service, which means you don’t have to purchase or operate infrastructure on your premises. And with VoIP’s global reach, location is not an issue for your workforce.

Where is the office?

In the changing workplace, the office is where people choose to work. While practical issues mean that many employees will continue to work in a traditional office building, work-from- home options are becoming an increasingly important part of the recruitment package. According to a report by the Telework Network, one in five Americans work at home at least once a week.

In a survey by the UK government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills, 41 percent of respondents said the availability of flexible work environments was an important factor in their decision to work for an employer. In addition, less than a third of millennials expect to work regular office hours, according to PWC’s Millennials’ Survey.

Home is not the only flexible-work alternative to the office. With the right mobile communications tools, your employees can choose to work from any location with an Internet connection. That makes Internet cafes or Wi-Fi hotspots popular destinations, but some employees may be even more creative in their choice of location.

Executives and employees who are away from their desks or the office for part of the day now expect to remain in contact and communicate in the same way as they would in the office. And service engineers, sales representatives and other employees working in the field operate in a mobile office for the majority of their working day.

What type of workforce?

Another factor changing the shape of the workplace is the “demand economy.” Increasing numbers of people are choosing to work freelance, providing their services to a number of businesses. According to a survey by the Freelancers Union, 35 percent of Americans now work on a freelance basis. Seventy-three percent of respondents said that technology has made it easier to find freelance work.

Employers may also decide to run their businesses with a combination of full-time employees and freelance staff or contractors by operating a business model known as a “virtual organization.” These organizations only hire people when they need them, giving the business greater flexibility and reducing hiring and employment costs.

This model is an important option for start-ups and small businesses that cannot afford to hire full-time staff, particularly for specialist positions such as accounting, marketing or product development.

Although virtual organizations represent a single workforce in the eyes of customers, in reality, the workplace is no longer a single office. Freelance staff may choose to work from home or from shared office accommodations known as co-working spaces that offer basic communications facilities.

To maintain productivity, efficiency, and contact across a virtual organization, you need to extend full communications services to all members of your team, wherever they are based.

Eliminating distance

VoIP solutions can help your business eliminate the barriers of distance that characterize the changing workplace. A mobile app known as a softphone lets your remote employees access VoIP’s services and features from the cloud on smartphones, tablets, laptops or home phones.

Remote employees can take or place calls, send and receive messages or participate in conference calls from the workplace of their choice. Your service provider can deploy VoIP services to any location and route calls to remote employees as if they have traditional extensions on the office network.

That makes it convenient for callers to reach any member of your team by dialing a single number. It also helps create the impression of a single organization, larger than your actual number of full-time employees. In addition, it can reduce internal team calling costs because calls between connected sites or individuals travel free over the VoIP network.

More ways to communicate

In the changing workplace, employees are no longer content just to pick up the phone when they want to make contact. Millennials are used to communicating by text, instant message, and social media. Voicemail, email, chat and collaboration tools are now also important for customer contact and internal communication.

With legacy phone systems, voice is the limit, and using other communications tools means purchasing and managing a range of different devices. Checking emails, voicemails, texts and other messages on all those different devices is very time-consuming.

VoIP overcomes the problem by making all the communications tools available as part of the service. As an added bonus, your employees can access all their messages in a single integrated inbox. That saves time in switching devices and helps improve productivity.

The choice of communications tools also makes a wider contribution to improved productivity. Instead of using the phone for a quick update or request, employees can use any of VoIP’s messaging services to save time. If they want to discuss an issue or problem with a number of colleagues or subject experts, they don’t have to spend time setting up a formal meeting. They can launch a conference call from any device and bring in participants even if they are away from the office.

The impact of BYOD

BYOD (bring your own device) is also reshaping the workplace. Many employees are not satisfied with the performance or functionality of phones and other devices issued by their employers. They prefer to use the personal devices they are familiar with for work tasks, particularly their smartphones and tablets.

In response, businesses have recognized the value of BYOD programs and developed security policies to cover the use of corporate data and applications and services on private devices.

Businesses have also experienced significant productivity benefits. This is partly due to employees’ familiarity with their own devices, but surveys have found that employees were spending longer hours on their own devices, checking emails and carrying out other work-related tasks outside working hours.

A survey by BMC Software found that BYOD users were working an additional two hours a day and sending an average of 20 more emails per day. Around a third of those employees were checking emails early in the morning or late at night.

Collaboration leaves the conference room

An important feature of the changing workplace is the ability to collaborate anywhere. Collaboration is no longer limited to conference rooms equipped with expensive video conferencing systems. Employees don’t have to spend time trying to schedule meetings at times when participants are free and slots are available in the conference room.

VoIP provides collaboration tools that can be used in any location on any device. That means they can participate in meetings at their desks, in small meeting rooms or in open spaces that are reasonably quiet. VoIP’s mobile capability means that employees who are away from the office can also participate in meetings just as easily as their office colleagues.

Many firms are setting up “huddle rooms,” which accommodate small groups for informal meetings but don’t have any fixed collaboration equipment. The meeting members can use their own devices to bring in external participants while sharing content across the meeting table on any device.

Team working grows

Because VoIP simplifies collaboration and makes it an accessible, everyday working tool, teamwork has become a more prominent feature of the workplace. This type of collaborative work is important to millennials, who view a social workplace as their natural environment.

Teamwork plays an important role in improving product development, innovation and other strategic tasks that rely on collaboration. VoIP’s ability to integrate with social media can improve teamwork and decision-making even further.

Using internal social networks, employees post details of their experience, skills and current projects. Other employees can search the network if they are looking for support or can offer help to colleagues using VoIP’s messaging tools to communicate. This helps businesses make the best use of the knowledge, skills, and resources in the company and improves their competitive advantage.

Productivity through integration

Businesses see flexible working and collaboration as key to improving productivity and efficiency in the changing workplace. They also recognize that integration between communications systems and business applications can drive further improvements.

VoIP runs on data networks, rather than dedicated telephone networks, simplifying the task of integration. As a result, businesses are taking more opportunities to streamline workflows and critical business processes.

Integration with customer relationship (CRM) systems, for example, gives employees access to detailed customer information during calls, helping them identify sales opportunities and deliver a personalized service.

Businesses with mobile workforces can integrate VoIP with workforce management systems to improve resource management. Integration of VoIP with the Internet of Things (IoT) can help automate the response to service issues.

The integration of tools like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs with VoIP speeds business processes even further. Employees can place calls, send messages or launch conferences while they are working in applications like Word, PowerPoint or Excel. That helps them get feedback or support quickly, reducing the time taken to complete important tasks.

A better workplace

VoIP in the changing workplace is helping businesses to develop new ways of working and get the best from their employees through improvements in productivity, efficiency, and collaboration. It can also help build a loyal workforce that makes productive use of the latest technologies. And it can improve the bottom line by helping businesses reduce the costs of recruiting, hiring, and accommodating full-time staff.

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