As New England is feeling Nature’s blizzard wrath over the deflated football scandal, it is a good time to reflect on what makes it easy to telecommute and stay in touch with the office.
Instant Message with Unified Communications
Of course we said that, you mutter under your breath. While the desktop unified communications solution (“MXIE”) from Zultys is the best, most cost-effective UC solution on the market, we know there are other options out there. The trick with teleworkers is keeping them in the loop. The trick for managers and customer support is being able to see at a glance who is available. Native UC apps from Zultys (and Mitel) allow this granular level of presence information. Meebo is a browser-based chat client with video and voice support. Adium improves on OSX’s native iChat while Pidgin and Digsby are great for Windows. These UC clients allow you to integrate all sorts of text-based communications such as email and social into a single interface. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the coolest communications startup on the block, Slack, that is aiming to replace email and SMS for internal communications.
I really beat the drum on this, loyal reader(s), but your organization needs to support the devices your users want to use. Support for mobile phones and tablets and phablets and Chromebooks and Surface and all the other permutations of these devices enables you to extend your voice network and the cool chat and presence apps onto the devices we have on us at all times. The Zultys mobile app is just one example (Slack is another) of a way to stay in touch, keep colleagues informed, and chat from any device to any desktop, instead of bouncing between email, text, and phone.
Employees should not be copying important files to USB to transfer to a home laptop to work from home. You run the risk of misplacing the drive and it leads to a lot of messy file duplication and version control problems. File sharing and storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and even Microsoft allow for you to keep tabs on files without storing them locally (though users will have the option to sync a folder locally). If you are nervous about the security of these services, use a VPN – it takes a VPN router, a client on a laptop or computer, and a public IP address at the office. Extenda or your IT partner can help get this set up for you.
Use conference calls to keep in the loop
Schedule regular check-ins with remote personnel to keep in touch and keep tabs on issues and progress. One danger we found with telecommuting is feeling isolated and cut off from the office. Mitel and Zultys offer amazing conference systems with video, desktop sharing, chat, audio, automatic scheduling, calendar integration, secure dial-in, conference leader features, remote support and more. That said, if your budget is tight, FreeConferenceCall.com and UberConference offer free calling services. UberConference provides desktop sharing.
Stop worrying about productivity
Did you know that 1 in 10 US workers is a TeleWorker? A Stanford University study cited in SiliconAngle found that, on the question of whether home based workers were more or less productive than office workers, it was largely a matter of personality. They had a striking example of contact center performance improving when agents worked from home. The biggest concern home-based workers had was that they were nervous about promotion opportunities since they worked out of house, so management awareness of this is helpful for guiding the careers of your best and brightest.
Extenda’s TeleWorking History
In 1999, Extenda started experimenting with the Inter-Tel Axxess IP Phone+ and quickly implemented teleworking for key employees. Our Operations Manager Doug Botti even moved full-time to Portland, Oregon, doing almost all of his work and prolific yapping via ISDN connections.
Some IT advice:
Invest in a remote support app for supporting remote workers. This will allow your IT staff to take over a PC or laptop that is away from the office. GoToMyPC, TeamViewer, LogMeIn and Bomgar are options for providing remote access of varying levels of sophistication.
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