A man using a laptop and a tablet.

Can a cloud solution help the environment? You bet.

Sustainability has moved beyond its buzzword status to become an important part of many companies’ cultures, and many businesses are using a cloud solution to help them achieve their goals. Environmental impact now plays a large part in business decisions and business processes, and the Harvard Business Review found that sustainability gives businesses advantages when it comes to attracting both customers and employees.

Technology, such as cloud business phone systems, can help businesses operate in ways that can lessen their environmental footprints—particularly since cloud systems don’t require cumbersome on-site PBX equipment. In honor of Earth Day, here are three ways cloud phone technology can help your company become more environmentally friendly:

1. Reduce Paper Usage with Paperless Faxes

Every paper fax that is sent affects the environment, since you need an endless supply of paper, seemingly constantly low toner, and a physical fax machine to get the fax from one person to another. With paperless faxes, you can reduce your paper usage and environmental impact by letting your employees send and receive faxes from any device. Your employees can even use paperless faxing to send documents while on the go. You can further decrease your impact by using electronic signatures for contracts and invoices instead of requiring employees and clients to print out forms.

2. Encourage Telecommuting

Every person in your office who switches to telecommuting is keeping a car off the road and reducing emissions. According to a WebEx survey reported on by FlexJobs, if all the workers whose jobs could be completed remotely worked from home even half the time, that would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons annually, save 640 million barrels of oil, and save $20 million a year on gas. The study also found that teleworking improved air quality, saved energy, reduced carbon footprints, and had less of an impact on transportation infrastructure.

A cloud solution makes it possible for remote workers to be just as productive as if they were in the office. Whether they plug their IP office phones into high-speed internet at home, or make calls via handy mobile apps, they can stay integrated within the office phone system wherever they’re working.

3. Use Video Conferencing

In-person meetings requiring air and car travel often happen so that everyone can meet face-to-face, yet driving and flying both have environmental costs. By using video conferencing and collaboration tools instead of in-person customer and employee meetings, companies can save money on travel and help the environment. Video conferencing can also be used to create a virtual classroom so that your employees don’t have to travel to trainings.

While making these changes with a cloud solution may not seem like it will make a huge impact, every little bit counts. And when your customers, vendors, and competitors see the steps you’re taking toward sustainability, they may be encouraged to become more environmentally conscious as well.

Visit Vonage Business to learn more about the environmental difference you can make with cloud technology.

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

A smartphone, tablet, and pair of glasses on a desk.

Statistics indicate that remote worker productivity is much higher than many realize.

When considering whether to allow employees to work from home, business owners often wonder whether remote worker productivity will be sufficient to advance the company’s goals. With no supervisor physically present to ensure the work gets done, how can the company really be sure that its remote workers will be focused on the task at hand? Will the temptation be too great for them to end up just playing Xbox all day?

With telecommuting on the rise — Gallup recently estimated that 37 percent of American workers have now worked from home — some business leaders may be concerned about how to best address this growing trend while ensuring productivity doesn’t take a hit. Fortunately, statistical data indicates that remote workers can often be incredibly productive and satisfied at work, sometimes even more so than their in-office counterparts. Companies may be able to reap the benefits that work-from-home arrangements deliver for the four following reasons:

1. Fewer Interruptions Mean Greater Focus

According to a recent survey from TINYpulse, 91 percent of teleworkers report they are more productive when working remotely. With fewer interruptions throughout the workday, they can settle into a state of sustained concentration and work more effectively on their projects. Compare this with the traditional office setting where, according to The Washington Post, each office worker is interrupted or switches tasks every three minutes and then requires an additional 23 minutes to regain their focus. This de facto interruption culture can negatively affect the morale of office workers, who might mutter into their cups of coffee about how they can’t get a moment’s peace. This is not so with teleworkers, however, who may enjoy a greater ability to concentrate on their work and tend to make the most of it.

Additionally, a flexible working environment and increased autonomy help workers optimize their productivity. Teleworkers may be able to arrange their tasks in a way they find most effective, cycling through their to-do lists with ease. Although it is true that telecommuting newbies working from home must contend with distractions in their environment and learn the ropes of working well in that setting, by and large, they are able to stay on top of their work and meet deadlines.

2. Remote Workers Understand the Importance of Collaboration

Perhaps partly because they are not located in an office where collaboration opportunities are automatically woven into the workday, many employees who work from home understand the importance of proactive collaboration and accountability as active team members. Remote workers say that they regularly stay in touch with their supervisors, if on a somewhat less-frequent basis. A generous 34 percent of respondents to the TINYpulse survey report that they are in touch with their supervisor once a week, while 31 percent say that they check in once per day and 21 percent note that they check in multiple times per day. This actually lines up pretty well with how frequently most remote workers say they would prefer to be in touch, so it appears they may be satisfied with this arrangement.

Remote worker productivity is typically highest in cases when both the supervisor and employee have a clear, shared understanding of what needs to get done and fewer check-ins are needed to keep the work moving. Interestingly, 92 percent of teleworkers say they are happy with the way they receive feedback from their supervisors, so it seems both remote workers and their bosses are communicating effectively in this setting and likely use a variety of tools to do so, from video conferencing to email.

3. Remote Workers Feel More Valued at Work

When employees have the ability to work from home, they may be able to more comfortably balance their professional and personal obligations. For example, parents might find it easier to get their children to doctor’s appointments and caregivers may be better able to tend to older relatives. When employees experience greater independence and improved work-life balance, they typically report higher levels of employee satisfaction.

According to the TINYpulse survey, teleworkers say they are happier at work compared to their in-office colleagues. They frequently also feel more valued at work. Increased job satisfaction contributes to greater employee retention in the long run. Employers, who know well that it costs more to hire and train a new employee than it does to retain an existing one, should find this metric attractive when considering their ability to keep top talent and preserve their budget.

4. Inclement Weather Isn’t an Obstacle

Companies offering teleworking programs may be able to stay productive in the event of inclement weather, since nothing prevents employees from taking care of their work safely from home, even if a storm is raging outside or the public transit system is experiencing issues. This reduces liability for the company while simultaneously creating opportunities for productivity that simply did not exist before. Yes, teleworkers are going to have to stay home and actually work on those TPS reports instead of running outside to pelt their friends with snowballs during a major snowstorm. However, those same employees will likely appreciate not having to experience the frustration (not to mention wasted time) involved with a difficult or treacherous commute. Instead of bundling up and trudging out into the elements, they can simply make a cup of hot cocoa, sit down, and get to work.

Teleworking may be a new frontier for some companies, but it’s one that may offer significant promise in the form of greater productivity, increased job satisfaction, and more proactive communication among staff. Company decision-makers who have not yet explored the benefits of allowing their employees to work from home might find that it is not only worth their while, but also takes their business to a whole new level.

Find out how Vonage Business can work with your organization to boost company-wide productivity.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

Twitter

A woman works from home and drinks coffee at a desk.

Is the virtual workforce right for your organization?

Virtual offices are extremely popular right now, and for many good reasons. For one, a virtual workforce can be a powerful talent recruitment tool. It’s not uncommon for top performers to rank telework as high or even higher than salary when listing their priorities, and teleworking aids recruitment further by opening up the talent pool to candidates located throughout the country.

Working from home has been known to increase employee job satisfaction, boost productivity, and lower turnover costs. Virtual offices are also often cheaper to run, as they require lower overhead costs associated with office space and utilities. And there are many other tangible benefits of having an intangible office. However, being a virtual company isn’t yet a perfect fit for all companies or industries. Here’s how to determine whether it’s right for your business:

Can Your Business Thrive with a Virtual Office?

Some businesses flourish with a virtual workforce, while others may face challenges in adopting such a model. Certain industries, such as health care and IT, have found that telecommuting is an excellent fit for their needs. It allows employees such as engineers or developers to enjoy greater productivity while working on their own. These are professions that require strong attention to detail and might be significantly hindered by distractions in the office, such as overly chatty colleagues. Virtual offices do a great job of future-proofing startups and small businesses, who tend to find the flexibility and low cost especially helpful at that stage of their growth. Larger businesses are also capitalizing on virtual offices more often, particularly when starting branches in new locations.

Businesses with a significant creative function often find that a virtual office is a good match for them, as there is less of a need for face-to-face conversations or in-person review of a physical work product. Marketing organizations in particular tend to thrive in a virtual setting for this reason. When it comes time to compare notes with colleagues, virtually located professionals can take advantage of conferencing and collaboration technology that allows them to share their screens with one another and join a conference on demand.

Sales, IT, project management, administrative, customer service, and education or training roles also tend to thrive in a virtual office since it supports independent work especially well. In those cases, any internal collaboration needs that employees have can be met with cloud-based unified communications services that enable them to message or exchange files with one another throughout the workday.

However, businesses or specific business units that require a great deal of in-person customer service or team collaboration may decide that a virtual office doesn’t quite fit the bill where those activities are concerned. They may still rely on a physical office or a combination of traditional and virtual office settings to do their work.

What to Keep in Mind When Setting Up a Virtual Office

If your business decides to set up a virtual office, there are a few steps and precautions you should take in order to ensure a smooth transition. First and foremost, it will be essential to have a clear and well-communicated teleworking policy in place before launching the virtual office. This policy should cover several aspects of the teleworking arrangement, including the following:

  • A clear explanation of the criteria determining how teleworking privileges will be granted
  • A description of how many days per week or month will be worked in the office versus a remote location
  • An outline of teleworking employees’ general working hours
  • An overview of the business’s expectations of remote workers

It’s also important to make sure that as teleworking gets underway at the company, staff members understand the performance goals they must achieve in their new virtual office environment. Most businesses find that when a significant percentage of their employees work remotely, managers concern themselves less with the amount of time their staff spends working than the actual results they achieve. Even so, supervisors may find that it’s a bit of an adjustment to oversee their staff when they’re no longer physically located together in the same brick-and-mortar office, so they should make sure they have the training they need to properly carry out their responsibilities in this regard.

Teleworking employees often report they are more productive when working from home. Terrific as that may be, teleworkers can sometimes feel isolated from the life of the company when working alone. Some businesses address this concern by proactively arranging regularly scheduled virtual events or meetings in which the staff or various teams share information about what is happening at the business, or they create virtual water cooler spaces where employees can engage in the same kind of casual workplace banter they would at a traditional office. Others secure co-working space for some of their employees so they still have the benefit of social interaction as well as networking and professional events where they may make useful contacts or engage in professional development that benefits the company.

A virtual office can be a great benefit to many types of companies of various industries, sizes, workforce configurations, and geographic locations. If your company has been looking for ways to cut costs, improve employee job satisfaction, and boost productivity, it might be worth considering the benefits a virtual workforce may offer. While it isn’t a fit for each and every business, teleworking can be a major asset to the companies that do choose to offer it.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can help your company.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

Twitter

A woman speaking on her mobile phone outside.

Remote workers can enjoy increased productivity through virtual communication.

Teleworking is experiencing a boom as businesses and their employees discover the benefits of flexible work-from-home arrangements. Teleworking improves productivity through virtual communication, aids in recruiting talent (particularly among millennial job seekers), reduces overhead costs associated with office space, and can even be environmentally friendly.

According to a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 68 percent of workers expect their jobs will soon be performed remotely rather than in a traditional office. Many businesses already offer such arrangements or are preparing to do so. However, in order to maximize teleworking’s benefits, businesses must make sure they have a smart policy in place. Here are five tips for doing just that:

1. Clearly Explain the Rules

When allowing staff to work from home, it’s essential to have clear rules. Not all roles are suited for teleworking, so businesses must first understand what teleworking employees want out of their teleworking arrangements, define which positions are eligible, and decide how often staff will be permitted to take advantage of this option. It may be wise to start by offering limited teleworking days and then expanding on them once it becomes clear that teleworking is going well. Employees can sometimes become envious when they learn someone else has a more generous teleworking arrangement than they do, so businesses should get out in front of that potential problem by clearly explaining the rationale behind any differences in teleworking privileges that may be granted to the staff.

Employees and their managers must also have mutually agreed-upon expectations for the teleworking staff member’s availability under this arrangement. Any team members with whom the teleworking employee collaborates must know how and when they can establish virtual communication with them — whether via a video chat, an instant messaging session, or a phone call — and when they can expect a response. As with any major initiative, businesses should define the goals their teleworking policy intends to achieve and track metrics related to those goals, such as productivity, reduced absenteeism, or employee satisfaction. Teleworking staff should also have clear individual performance targets that are tracked and reviewed on a regular basis.

2. Actively Foster Collaboration

Teleworking can boost workplace collaboration, but doing so requires thoughtful leadership and the right technology for the job. Employees who work from home sometimes feel left out of important business developments, wishing they were as “in the know” as their colleagues. This could lead to a fear that their contributions to the business might be overlooked, setting them back professionally. Remote staff may also feel that they cannot enjoy the same productivity as their office-based colleagues if they do not have access to similar technology tools at home.

Businesses must make sure teleworking employees feel like they are a part of the life of the company. This requires thinking carefully about how to best bring teleworkers into staff meetings and team events. For example, video conferencing solutions may be a good option to help teleworkers participate. If important company announcements are coming down the pike, it’s vital to ensure teleworkers are informed via the appropriate channels — whether that’s in private conversations with their managers or through a companywide email. Businesses can go a long way toward keeping their remote staff engaged by equipping them with teleworking and mobility solutions that help them stay plugged in to what’s going on at the company.

3. Ensure Proper Oversight

As much as businesses might like teleworking to be a “set it and forget it” type of arrangement, it’s usually a work in progress — especially in the beginning. When teleworking doesn’t go well, it’s often due to a lack of sufficient oversight, frequently because there has been little to no training for managers on how to monitor their remotely located staff.

Contrary to what you might assume, virtual communication can introduce challenges for some managers and their employees, since it becomes harder to understand the nuance of what a person is trying to say. Managers in particular need practical guidance on how to supervise their teleworking staff and how remote team members can best collaborate with their office-based colleagues. With proactive oversight, gradual adjustments, and the right technology features, a business can ensure its teleworking policy is successful.

4. Understand Teleworkers’ Unique Needs

Teleworkers are a unique class unto themselves when it comes to supporting both managerial and technical needs. Business processes that hum along seamlessly when everyone is physically collocated in the office may not work quite as well when staff is working remotely, requiring tweaks or adjustments. Remote workers may also face barriers to productivity that their colleagues in the office don’t encounter.

Check in with teleworking staff periodically, particularly after they have just begun working from home, to make sure they have everything they need to work efficiently and feel like a valued member of the team. This feedback can be helpful, particularly when you’re keeping an eye out for technology solutions that facilitate effortless virtual group collaboration in online meetings or video conferences with a single tap or click — even across devices, so colleagues can remain in touch on the go.

5. Consider How Teleworking Ties Into Other Policies

When businesses let staff work from home, they often find that teleworking ties into many other aspects of IT and operations, including BYOD policies, mobile device management, procedures on closing the office in the event of severe weather, and business continuity. IT managers should review how teleworking intersects with other aspects of how business gets done at the company and determine whether it poses any opportunities or challenges that must be addressed.

With a thoughtful approach to a teleworking policy, both businesses and their employees can enjoy the best of what it has to offer.

Interested in learning more? Find out how Vonage Business can help your organization make the most of flexible work arrangements.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

Twitter

A man sitting at a desk, using a smartphone.

Cloud solutions for business allow employees to work from anywhere.

Hiring is a lot like dating after 30: It seems like most of the good ones are already taken, and competition is fierce for talent that’s still on the market. And it can be hard to meet new people, unless you expand your search beyond those in close proximity to you.

Cloud solutions for business help to solve these challenges. By making the workspace increasingly mobile, cloud communications enable employers to widen their searches, find and hire the best people for the job, and retain those employees by offering something more and more people now want — the ability to work from anywhere.

Downshifters, Dads, and Disabled Workers

Fortune predicts that as more millennials mature into the next stage of their lives, they will soon be leaving cities in droves, opting for suburban or even country living. Add to that the tens of millions of people who already live in rural America, and you’ve got an enormous talent pool that may not be within commuting distance to your company offices. However, they are within telecommuting distance.

Remote work also appeals to parents, many of whom leave the workforce because they want to spend more time with their families or because the cost of childcare now amounts to an extra mortgage payment. Providing these caregivers with the technology and flexibility to work around their lives opens up a huge, untapped market of job candidates who might otherwise opt out of full-time work outside of the home.

Telecommuting has also created new job opportunities for disabled individuals, for whom traveling to an office might be difficult or even impossible. With the ability to work where they’re most comfortable, they can be just as productive and innovative as anyone else on your team.

Of course, this is not the extent of those who’d appreciate the opportunity to work remotely. Most everyone is yearning for a greater work/life balance these days, and they’re increasingly looking for employers who will help them achieve it.

Finding the Right People

Smart leaders don’t want to hire just anyone. They want to hire people who are not only qualified for the job, but also bring enthusiasm, passion, and dedication to their work.

Depending on a business’ location, this can be challenging. In smaller towns, the talent pool is often limited, particularly for highly specialized jobs. In larger cities, there are more professionals, but also more businesses seeking to hire them, many of which offer salaries and perks your company might not be able to match.

Location doesn’t matter for companies that hire remote workers. Not only can they hire from anywhere, but they also have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting top talent.

For example, Jenny Collister, founder of the Reef & Rainforest travel agency, said she believes that successful travel agents must be passionate about travel and adventure (translation: the kind of people who don’t like to stay in one place). To attract these wandering souls, she offers the balance and flexibility of being able to work from home or on the road. With a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system and mobile app, her agents can even help customers plan trips while on trips of their own.

“I like offering flexibility to my staff,” Collister said. “Some employees embrace it, and others like more structure, so we try to maintain a balance that ensures that our customers are fully served during work hours and often beyond.”

The Value Equation

Having a remote workforce doesn’t just help companies find and hire the best talent, but studies confirm how productive these employees can be. For employees, working remotely can help meet their professional and personal priorities. There are some employees, particularly millennials, who may value work/life balance and flexibility more than a big paycheck. With the high cost of daycare, some parents may offer to work for less if they can work from home. Of course, remote workers should expect to be valued and compensated as any in-office employee would. But the remote work model sometimes offers negotiable flexibility that can appeal to both employer and employee.

Mark Krassner, founder of Knee Walker Central, has built a successful business with a team of remote workers spread across the country—all of whom are tied together by a hosted VoIP phone system. This arrangement affords employees an attractive level of flexibility. In fact, several of them have relocated their home offices without missing a beat. With cloud solutions for business, all workers need is an internet connection in their new location, and they’re up and running. Krassner also points to how productive his remote team has been for the company.

So yes, hiring these days can be a lot like dating. However, there’s one big difference: In the case of hiring, long-distance relationships actually do work.

Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about cloud solutions for business.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A man speaking on the phone, sitting at a desk at home.

When the office is closed due to the weather, you and your team can follow these productivity tips.

When the weather outside is frightful, driving to work isn’t so delightful. However, in the digital age, corporate leaders no longer have to choose between losing productivity and asking people to venture out in unsafe weather.

Letting employees work from home on particularly wintry days is a great way to keep everyone safe and try telecommuting if you’ve been reluctant to allow employees to work remotely on a regular basis. And, you’ll figure out who can get work done outside of the office.

With the right technology and these productivity tips, even telecommuting newbies can do their job successfully from home. Share these tips with your team or use them to get your own telecommuting plan in order.

1. Find a Suitable Workspace

If you don’t telecommute on a regular basis, you might not already have a dedicated home office. You can technically work from anywhere you get a wireless signal, but some areas of your home may be better than others. For instance, nap aficionados might want to avoid working in their bedroom, lest they be lulled into an increasingly horizontal position. And TV fanatics would do well to stay far away from that black hole of procrastination.

Think about your ideal working environment. Do you focus better when it’s library-level quiet or with just a little background noise? Or, are you so accustomed to cubicle life that it’s hard to focus without hearing 10 different conversations at once? Do you prefer a neat and orderly office space, or would your desk at work make you look like an ideal candidate for an episode of “Hoarders”? Now, determine which space in your home would offer most of the comforts of work.

2. Stock Up on Supplies

When the weatherman predicts more than a flurry of flakes, skip the bread and milk and make sure you’re well-supplied with everything you’d need at work. What do you need on hand to work productively? An old-school computer, pen, and paper? A not-so-old school fridge of Red Bull? If you work with sensitive information that you aren’t allowed to access using a personal computer or mobile device, talk to your manager about bringing your work laptop home when inclement weather is expected.

3. Limit Distractions

Setting up an appropriate workspace might help you avoid distracting yourself, but unless you live alone, you may also need a plan in place to keep other people — especially little ones — from interrupting you. If your kids, spouse, parents, roommates, or neighbors are shut in with you for the day, it helps to set some ground rules up front.

You might even consider making a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on the door when you really need to concentrate. Let your loved ones know when you’ll take your next break so they’re less inclined to bother you with questions and requests. If all else fails, buy some noise-cancelling headphones.

4. Ensure Your Internet Connection Is Up to Snuff

Not all internet connections are created equal. Before you start telecommuting, make sure you have the bandwidth to use any necessary apps, platforms, or business collaboration tools, such as video conferencing. Of course, if the weather is particularly bad, you may lose your home internet connection. However, if you still have cell service, you can keep working using a mobile hot spot. If you don’t know how to do it, your kids can probably show you — or your trusty friends in the IT department.

Using a mobile hot spot all day can eat up mobile data, so you may have to beef up your plan or stop letting your kids stream Netflix from your phone. Most cell providers will let you scale data caps up and down as needed.

5. Save All of Your Work in the Cloud

Unless you back up your computer every day, storing work data on your hard drive is just asking to lose it. All it takes is one virus, one computer malfunction, or one misplaced device, and it’s gone forever.

By making a habit of saving everything on a company-approved cloud-based server you not only protect data from being lost or stolen, but you can also ensure you can access it from anywhere and on any device. So, if you unexpectedly need to work from home, you’re good to go.

These productivity tips will help occasional telecommuters prepare to work from home. However, if you decide to make it a more regular thing, they’ll need more than a quiet place to work. They’ll need technology that keeps them connected, productive, and able to collaborate with colleagues.

Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about cloud-based tools for your team.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

Smiling man and woman standing at laptops, in front of chalkboard.

Employee engagement strategies can help reduce job-hopping, so you can retain your team members.

Employee engagement strategies are often met with eye-rolls and hushed groans as people lament the ensuing awkward team-building activities and overused metaphors. However, despite these common stereotypes, employee engagement is vital to a company’s success. Employees who feel valued and invested in their company are more apt to work harder and more likely to stay.

In today’s business world, employees are now more inclined to job-hop than ever before. According to NY Daily News, employees in the 55–64 age range have a median tenure of more than 10 years, while millennials notch a median job tenure of just three years. With 75.4 million millennials now in the workforce, according to Pew Research, organizations are starting to see the growing importance of employee engagement. With that in mind, here are five ways that engagement may be lacking in the workplace and corresponding strategies to right those wrongs:

1. Maintain Effective Communication

Few things in life make a person feel more disconnected than a lack of communication. Unfortunately, in today’s business world of telecommuting, flex hours, and digital correspondence, it’s never been easier to feel like you’re working on a secluded island — without the perks of sand, sun, and sangria. All too often, communication is left at a basic level of email or instant messages. While these methods are surprisingly efficient, they lack the robust, personal touch of a genuine, in-person conversation.

To solve this issue, all that’s needed is a little more planning and some unified communications technology. A move to the cloud introduces a host of collaboration tools to help businesses keep their employees connected. Instead of relying on the typical email chains and chat windows to discuss important group ideas, add a dash of agility and personality with a more full-featured meeting. Schedule regular “catch-all” meetings in which remote users join via video conference and onsite folks pile into the same room for an old-fashioned get-together. Take it a step further and share your screen or desktop to make the in-person experience that much closer to reality. Doing so will boost engagement by bringing a personal touch to the often cold online communication you’re used to.

2. Keep Things Professionally Chill

Want to know why people look forward to clocking out at the end of the day? It’s because they simply have more fun at home than they do in the office. While you may never be able to make the office as enjoyable as a Saturday-night “Game of Thrones” binge, there are a few things that will help reduce the sometimes stark difference.

The idea is to create an office atmosphere that is less “Walking Dead” and more “SpongeBob Squarepants.” Okay, maybe not that bubbly, but you get the picture. When employees know that it’s okay to have fun at the office — be it shooting the breeze over a game of pingpong or simply playing a game of poker at lunch — they’ll instantly feel more at home and, as a result, more deeply engaged.

3. Encourage Feedback

While the first entry in these employee engagement strategies dealt directly with office communication, there’s still some work to be done by taking that communication to the next level. In general, humans feel more engaged with a community — work, in this instance — when they feel like they have a voice. In other words, people want to know they can influence change.

For this reason, feedback should be encouraged and accessible, and the results should be made known to all. We’re not talking about the “Place questions or comments here” sign above the wastebasket, either. Honest, intentional dialogue with employees about their thoughts on the workplace will encourage participation and a sense of ownership.

4. Invest in Relationships

If feeling like you don’t have a voice is a quick way to nurture discontent, feeling like no one is there to listen will surely sink any hopes of engagement. At its core, the need for relationships is one of humankind’s most basic desires. It’s no different in the workplace.

As such, take the time to get to know your employees on a deeper level than their first name and number of kids. There are few things more engaging than knowing the people you work with genuinely care about your well-being both inside and outside the office.

5. Shift Your Focus

It’s surprisingly easy to disengage when the only thing driving your daily office life is the number at the end of the annual budget report. Fortunately, this one’s easy to fix. By simply shifting the focus from project or budget success to people success, employees will stop believing the work they do is the only important thing they bring to the table.

In the end, employee engagement is all about making it easier for an employee to get motivated to come to work every morning. By increasing communication with new technologies or a culture change, injecting a little fun into otherwise mundane aspects of office life, and creating an atmosphere more focused on people than products, you can begin to turn the tide on waning employee engagement.

Contact a Vonage Business representative to learn more about keeping your team engaged.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A remote employee types on her laptop.

Working remotely is becoming more common and more productive.

As the mobile workforce continues to grow, telecommuting programs are becoming an increasingly important aspect of modern business operations. More people are flexing their telecommunicating muscles than ever before due to maturing technology behind the scenes and a shift in the definition of traditional offices.

To prove this point, one need only look at a 2015 Gallup poll in which 37 percent of U.S. workers reported taking advantage of telecommuting opportunities over the past decade. This figure represents steady growth and a seven percentage point increase since 1995. The poll also recognized a change in the way people use their newfound flexibility. Rather than seeing the bulk of telecommuting use outside of business hours in addition to traditional hours, the split has become almost dead even for those doing so within the regular nine-to-five as well. This means today’s employees have preferences when it comes to working remotely — and luckily, with cloud-based communications, they have options.

Though you could nerd out over these fancy statistics all day, these numbers simply highlight the need for well-developed telecommuting programs (and the cloud communication solutions to support them). So, how do you go about building such a thing?

Step 1: Establish Expectations

The first step toward building a successful telecommuting program is to lay out expectations for both the employees taking advantage of the program and the organization offering it. Users must fully understand the expectations of the organization while they pump up the jams in their home office. An organization must have a clear vision of the purpose of telecommuting in its own culture and employee workflow, and communicate this purpose to their employees.

For smaller businesses, establishing user expectations can often be left up to individual managers who know the exact parameters of each user’s specific job. While Janice’s TPS reports could easily be done from her humble abode, Jennie’s sensitive data analytics might require more onsite attention. For larger companies, detailing user expectations should take a more general approach for each job category. Regardless, as you build your employee expectations, it’s typically a good idea to think over the following items:

  • Work environment expectations: Does each employee have an isolated, distraction-free workspace?
  • Communication expectations: Does each employee have phone forwarding, high-speed internet, and virtual private network (VPN) access?
  • Availability expectations: Are employees expected to maintain business hours when telecommuting?
  • Planning expectations: How far in advance should telecommuting days be planned?

When it comes to expectations from an organization’s point of view, these should simply be an outline of what the company sees as the value telecommuting should bring. In laying out this vision, you’ll be much better able to assess the productivity of your program and how the above user expectations should be shaped.

Step 2: Preparing Your Infrastructure

With a comprehensive plan of what your program will look like from both a user and organizational perspective, you can begin to deploy your world-conquering telecommuting program. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal here should be to facilitate a seamless transition from the traditional office to remote workplace. After all, Janice knows how to whip up a mean TPS report, but she simply needs a system to enable her to work as effectively at home as she does in the office. Making telecommuting easy from a technical standpoint will enable your users to more easily meet the expectations outlined above.

To get you started, here are some typical pieces of infrastructure you’ll need to support a successful program:

  • Remote accessibility for internal systems: This is usually in the form of a VPN or virtual infrastructure.
  • Mobile hardware: Depending on the job requirements, this could take the form of a laptop, tablet, or even just a smartphone.
  • Communication software: This should cover the ability of the user to communicate through voice and video. This category includes tools such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), virtual meetings, and instant messaging systems.

These three key components of telecommuting infrastructure will provide the framework with which your remote users can connect, collaborate, and communicate effectively. Consider a unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solution, which typically packages all this functionality for ease of use and deployment.

Step 3: Manage from a New Perspective

Due to the flexibility it offers, telecommuting is clearly a growing trend with some very tangible benefits. That being said, a successful program requires a slightly different management approach. Since you give up some transparency and visibility of users when telecommuting enters the picture, you’ll need to rely more heavily on effective communication and, ultimately, trust.

Fortunately, that same infrastructure discussed earlier will allow you to maintain open communication across the board. For example, cloud-based communication services would enable Janice to schedule and hold company-wide meetings to drive home the importance of that cover sheet — all from the comfort of her home office. By using shared workspaces such as screen-share or video conferencing, Janice could even collaborate with the team back at the office without losing valuable face-to-face time. Such services simply remove any barriers to being just as effective remotely as a user would in a traditional office setting. Due to the high level of communication and transparency these services provide, Janice’s position can be managed virtually.

In the end, telecommuting is steadily rising as a preferred alternative to the traditional office. By carefully considering expectations, supporting infrastructure, and management strategy, your telecommuting program will be ready to usher in a new era of pajama-empowered productivity.

Are you interested in boosting productivity with your remote team? Speak with a Vonage Business consultant to get started.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

On Day Three of Telework Week, we’re going to chat about how Vocalocity Desktop can help you stay connected from your desk at work or your laptop at home.

Wonder why our Vocalocity Desktop won INTERNET TELEPHONY’s Product of the Year award in 2011? Well, it’s our most multi-tasking feature to date, it helps you get so much more done in less time, and it gives you unprecedented visibility into your caller with each incoming phone call. But if you’re thinking about teleworking and switching between your desktop and laptop, how can Vocalocity Desktop benefit you?

One of the great features about Vocalocity Desktop is that it’s customized to your individual log-in and can be installed on any computer. We’ve made the basic platform FREE for all Vocalocity customers, so all you need to do is take a few moments to download the application and then sign in using your Vocalocity account information.

Vocalocity Desktop automatically synchs with your phone extension, meaning that with each incoming call – whether you’ve got your phone set to ring your desk phone, cell phone, or home-office phone – the Desktop app will pull information from your default plugin no matter where you are!

Let’s see how this works. So, I’m working from home today and I’ve installed Desktop on my laptop. I’ve also set my cell phone to call forward, so it’ll ring with each incoming business call since I’m not at the office.

  1. I have my Vocalocity Desktop set to open to Outlook with each incoming call, but you can customize Desktop to open any of our available plugins.
  2. When I receive a business call on my Vocalocity Mobile app, Desktop automatically pulls up the caller’s information from Outlook! I take regular notes about my calls in MS Outlook so I can stay up to date about my conversations no matter where I am.

To learn more about Vocalocity Desktop or its supported plugins, visit the product page or call 1-877-862-2562.

All Features

Looking to make your phone system even more powerful?View our series of VoIP features.

See All Features

Making
Global Calls

Reach out to international clients with affordable international calling rates.

View International Rates