A man in a suit talking on a mobile phone, outside of a restaurant.

Virtual communications can turn your team into a cohesive unit, no matter where members are located.

You know that the secret to being successful as a small business is hiring the absolute best employees you can find. However, the right fit in terms of personality, work style, and strengths may not always be located in your same ZIP code. While small-business owners often have a remote employee or two working for their company, many are taking it to the next level by creating a virtual office using cloud-based technology that supports virtual communications.

This means all employees work out of their home offices — even if they live in the same city as others — and there is no physical office location. One of the biggest benefits is that your small business saves considerable money on rent, furniture, and office supplies. Another is that you can hire the best employee for the position, regardless of location. However, along with the benefits, virtual offices bring some challenges when it comes to communication and collaboration.

Talking with Customers and Co-Workers

Your team gives your customers amazing service if your customers can get in contact with your company. Today’s business communication systems have the technology needed to virtually connect employees and customers, no matter their locations or devices. One of the first decisions you need to make when moving to a virtual office is choosing a business communication system. If that system has a virtual receptionist feature, your customers can dial a single number and then be connected with the right employee for their specific need. This message can be customized and changed very easily.

Remote employees will likely use their personal mobile devices to take business calls, as most people won’t want to carry two phones around. If your communication system has a mobile connect feature, an employee’s phone number can be transferred to whatever device he or she is currently using. And, best of all, the customer won’t know that the employee is talking on a personal device– they’ll only see the business phone number.

Collaboration Technology

As virtual communications become more and more common, you need to figure out the best ways for everyone can work together. You need a simple way for your team to share ideas, files and develop a real team vibe, even if they’re not in the same room. By using a cloud-based file-sharing system, you can make sure that everyone can access important information using whatever devices they’re working from — not to mention wherever their location happens to be.

It’s the inside jokes, the teasing, the drinking of endless cups of coffee, and the late-night brainstorming sessions that create a team, not the mere fact of working together. This is one of the biggest challenges of virtual offices. However, by using chat and video conferencing, your team can create a rapport that will translate into a cohesive group working together to reach a common goal.

Keeping Employees on Task

You may be wondering how you will know that your employees are really working and not watching the latest cat videos on YouTube. However, the same technology that gives your employees plenty of distractions gives you a window into what they’re doing. Through cloud technology, you can reach your employees at any time of day through chat, voice, or video calls. A quick look at your file systems shows you exactly which files each employee accessed at what time and how long they worked on each document. If your goofing-off radar is on high-alert, you can set up call recording so you can make sure employees are actually spending their phone time helping customers, not discussing weekend plans with friends for hours on end.

So, if you’re paying rent but many of your employees work remotely or would prefer to work remotely, take a minute to consider creating a virtual office. Your employees, customers, and bottom line will thank you.

For more information on the technology needed to start a virtual office, contact a Vonage Business representative.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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Two men and a woman reviewing documents in an office.

Using business communication systems can help create a more collaborative atmosphere.

Your small business can only produce fantastic products and provide stellar customer service through business communication systems if everyone is working on the same team. And as anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows, communication is essential to working together. While it’s not likely your staff is going to argue about who needs to take out the trash (although the break room refrigerator may be a touchy subject), you need to make sure you are providing the tools and processes to help make sure every member of your staff is on the same page.

By the time many small-business owners realize there is an internal communications issue, it’s often too late to effectively address the situation. By proactively considering communication across team members and providing the necessary tools, your small business will have a competitive edge over your competitors.

Here are four ways you can bridge the communication gap with business communication systems:

1. (Almost) Face-to-Face Meetings

Emails are important. Phone calls are great. But being able to see someone’s facial expression makes all the difference when it comes to letting remote team members form relationships. This way, it’s easier to tell when someone is joking – or not. With video conferencing, you can avoid miscommunications and help employees develop a rapport with each other. This works if you have multiple offices or if you have employees who are working remotely.

2. Create a Collaboration Culture

With remote teams, one top challenge is effectively working together. When teams work together onsite, they typically use a conference room as a home base, with sticky notes, empty pizza boxes, and whiteboards full of chicken scratch, arrows, and asterisks to show for it. By using collaboration tools and web conferencing, your team can have a virtual whiteboard, calendar, chat, contact list, and many other tools to help bridge the communication gap, whether everyone sits in a single room or spans across the country.

3. Reduce Versioning and File Access Issues

One of the most important forms of communication these days is written communication. Teams often have to share documents and work collaboratively on a project. However, keeping the versions straight and making sure everyone has the access they need when they need it can be challenging, even for teams working in one location. This becomes even more cumbersome when teams work in different locations, sometimes resulting in missed deadlines, extra stress, and frustrated employees. By using file-sharing tools, everyone has access to the files they need to do their jobs, and no one has to worry about their colleague overwriting their work or updating an old version of a document.

4. Share Knowledge with Each Other

The skills employees need to do their jobs these days seems to change and evolve at a dizzying speed. To stay competitive, it’s essential that small businesses ensure each employee has the necessary skills to get the job done. One solution is using a virtual classroom to have an employee with the needed expertise provide training to teammates. This technology can also be used to bring in an outside expert to teach your team.

By using business communication systems, you can increase your company’s knowledge base, foster a culture of teamwork, and make collaboration more effective across the organization.

Contact Vonage Business for more insights on using business communication tools.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

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