April 10 2017 Digital OfficeRemote 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 August 14 2013 ArchivesWhen you started your small business, you had high hopes for its growth. As success moved from business strategy to reality, it became clear that you would need to expand. Expanding can be a hard, grueling process – unless you’re growing within a cloud PBX phone system. With plain old telephone service, adding extensions or new offices can be an arduous process that requires an on-site technician and lots of your valuable time. Because Vonage Business Solutions’ (formerly Vocalocity) voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) business phone system is hosted within the cloud, small- to mid-sized business (SMB) owners can add extensions or whole office locations to their phone system with a click. Additionally, users can order extra phones online within Vonage’s Admin Portal. But, what if you are expanding your service to a market in another state? Not a problem. Our cloud business phone system has a portfolio of features specifically designed for teleworking. With our VoIP technology, employees can plug in their phones from any place they have Internet, so SMB owners can have on-location staff in any market they serve. Not only does our business phone system help SMBs grow efficiently, it provides a foundation conducive for growth. Our cloud business phone system includes features that help SMB owners run the administrative arm of their office, e.g. Unified Inbox, which helps users manage their voice, fax and email messages from a single inbox in their email client. Also, we have uniquely designed our system with customer relationship management plug-ins, so your customers always receive the best service possible. As a VoIP service provider, we’re more than just a phone service; we’re your business partner – helping you grow and growing with you. For more information on how Vonage is helping to power SMB businesses, go to Small Business VoIP – Fit for the Fortune 500, read our many Customer Success Stories, or ring us at 1-844-324-0340. About Chris RabbuChris Rabbu is the Vice President of Marketing, Lead Generation at Vonage Business Solutions, the fastest growing provider of cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems for business. He resides in Atlanta, GA and is working on his tennis serve when not dreaming up ridiculously effective marketing campaigns. August 12 2013 ArchivesWhether you find yourself relaxing with friends and family this Summer or the unfortunate victim of a weather event, it’s great to know that with the flexibility Vocalocity provides, you’ll never be out of touch. Here are a few of the features that make staying connected on-the-go easier than ever. Never Miss a Call Vocalocity business VoIP phone service includes a ‘Never Miss a Call’ feature, which allows you to decide how your incoming calls are handled. Calls can be automatically routed or forwarded to different locations such as a voicemail account, a mobile phone or any other phone number. You can even set it to simultaneously ring these other devices. Check out this quick article to set up this feature and visit your Vocalocity user portal to make updates at my.vonagebusiness.com. Plug and Play Cloud VoIP Technology All of our phones are plug and play, meaning that you can just unplug your phone from your regular office and take it with you. Just plug it in to any broadband Internet jack and you’ll have the same professional appearance from anywhere – across town or around the world! Vocalocity Mobile VoIP If you are unable to bring your office phone to your current location or power loss causes your computer not to work, you can use our mobile application to manage many features directly from your Android or iPhone. Make calls with the caller ID of your business line so you still look professional and don’t have to give out your mobile number. You can also access voicemail or listen to calls you have recorded with the Vocalocity mobile app. Click here to download the mobile app to your device, or just search your App Store or Marketplace for “Vocalocity.” To see the complete list of free features included with your extension, click here. Share these tips with other businesses and earn up to $2,500 for each new company that takes advantage of switching to Vocalocity, the best phone system for business. Simply telling others about Vocalocity can mean a great special for them and a nice bonus for you. About Chris RabbuChris Rabbu is the Vice President of Marketing, Lead Generation at Vonage Business Solutions, the fastest growing provider of cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems for business. He resides in Atlanta, GA and is working on his tennis serve when not dreaming up ridiculously effective marketing campaigns. November 5 2012 ArchivesLast month, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) published their October 2012 Small Business Economic Trends. Based on a survey of small and independent business owners, this report reveals that the majority of surveyed business owners now feel just as much uncertainty about growth as they have all year. As cited on page three of the report under “Commentary,” small business owners said that among the top problems, these concerns caused them the most worry for 2012 growth: Energy Costs Finding Qualified Employees Competition from Large Businesses How Can a Phone System Help Relieve Economic Stress? Whether you’re a retail store located on Main Street or a branch of a large insurance agency, Vocalocity’s hosted phone system can actually help reduce energy costs, help you beat the competition from large business and connect with qualified employees all around the country. Reducing Overhead Expenses You probably already know that because we offer cloud-based phone service, it means you get to save money on bulky fax machines, a closet full of PBX equipment and a costly maintenance technician. But you may not have thought about the energy saving opportunities that VoIP can also offer. Now this doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you operate an office, why not try a temporary work-from-home arrangement? By working from home once or twice a week, you get to save on overhead expenses by turning the lights and AC / heat off and saving on gas getting to and from the office. Your employees can take their office phones home with them, and you can monitor their activity using our intuitive Reporting and Analytics tools from the new Admin Portal. Your office won’t skip a beat and you’ll save four to eight days a month on energy expenses. For a more thorough consideration of using VoIP for teleworking, check out our page on the features and benefits of using cloud phone service to work remotely. Connect with Qualified Employees, Wherever They Are You put out a job description and the perfect candidate replied….but he / she lives in Boston and your office is located in Buffalo. The candidate plans to relocate within the year, but you need top talent now. Rather than lose a qualified employee because of communication issues, some businesses are electing to hire remote employees and use Vocalocity’s phone system to connect, monitor and train candidates no matter where they’re located. But don’t take our word for it, watch Julie Clarke of Reef and Rainforest talk about how the company has hired top travel agency talent from all over the world (at minute 2:50). By using softphones and SIP-compatible phones, the core administration team in Portland operates the day-to-day office while qualified scuba specialists from Brazil to Florida and beyond stay connected with Vocalocity’s cloud phone system. They’ve been able to expand their business, save money and still operate competitively with the big guys. Competing with Large Businesses Let’s take a positive view on being “the little guy.” You work in or operate a small office, or you’re a sole proprietor. Because of this, you have a strong and up-to-date view of your market and you can take a more hands-on approach with your customers and vendors. By having a micro-business in a global economy, you’re able to leverage the tools of a big business while keeping the passion for your industry that made you get started in the first place! But that’s the tricky part – how do you maintain that small business service without spending all of your time on marketing and sales tactics? By getting a Local / Geographic Number, you can have an inexpensive phone number for any area in the U.S. or Canada. Establish a local business presence anywhere you want without having to open up another branch. Use this number on marketing materials like print ads, TV ads or radio spots to attract local business in your key markets. Use a Virtual Receptionist to manage call volume and establish a big business identity. Even if you’re a sole proprietor running your burgeoning consulting business from your home office, a Virtual Receptionist can create departments for “Support” “Accounting” or “New Business” to make you look like a multi-person office. By using CRM integrations (available with the free Vocalocity Desktop application) you can set your QuickBooks, Outlook, LinkedIn or other supported business tool to open when your phone rings. Support your customers quickly and efficiently by viewing all of their information within seconds and create a big-business support presence. Need more ideas? View a more complete list of features that help you give that big business presence (on a small business budget). Ready to learn more about how hosted phone service from Vocalocity can help reduce your business concerns? Give us a call at 1-877-862-2562 or contact us to learn more. Or, if you’re an existing customer, stay tuned! We’ll be offering a series of posts that give you tips and tutorials on how to get the most out of your existing phone system. Or, visit the new and improved Support Portal to find helpful resources to get started right now. About Dave MorrisDave is a content strategist and writer at Vonage Business Solutions, working with teams across the company to build communication programs that enable our customers and assist our prospects. He enjoys living in Atlanta and is an avid gardener, restaurant enthusiast and live music fan. March 9 2012 ArchivesWell, it’s the end of Telework Week and we’ve had a lot of fun sharing stories about how Vocalocity’s VoIP business phone service can help you stay connected – no matter where you are. One of the initiatives that Vocalocity supports is our internal Teleworking Program. Did you know that we actually won the Clean Air Campaign’s Telework Catalyst Award in 2011 for our innovative, earth-friendly program? It’s true – with our formalized teleworking program, our employees annually save about 78 minutes of productivity each day they telework and save the metro-Atlanta region a combined 115,000 miles of vehicle traffic. That’s a lot of emissions and traffic congestion reduced from the city! Meredith Roth is a business VoIP representative with Vocalocity who teleworks from her home once a week. She takes her laptop and plug-and-play phone home with her, and simply sets up her mobile office the next morning. It’s as easy as plugging in her phone to the Internet jack at her apartment and she’s ready to start taking calls! We had a short Q+A with Meredith about how teleworking has maintained productivity while ensuring a better home/life balance. Q: How long have you participated in the telework program? I have been participating in the telework program about a year now and it is absolutely fantastic Q: How long does it typically take you to drive to work? How much productivity do you think you save by not having to drive to and from work? I’m usually in my car about 40 minutes for a round trip commute. I am about 30 minutes more productive because I am able to start the day earlier in the morning and work a bit longer in the day by not fighting the morning and evening traffic congestion that plagues Atlanta. Q: Tell us a little about your teleworking routine at home. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? What about when you’re done for the day? To set everything up in the morning it takes about five minutes. Once everything is plugged in, I’m able to start the day from my living room couch. Everything works just as if I were working from the office. I’ve got the same direct dial, same extension number, and same voicemail. This enables me to be accessible to my customers despite not being physically in the office. When the day wraps up, I pack up my Vocalocity phone and laptop in a very averaged sized laptop case and put it in the car for the following day. Q: What are the biggest benefits of teleworking in your opinion? There are quite a few benefits that come to mind for teleworking. I would say that my top three are Increased Productivity Convenience Reduced Gas Expense Q: As an employee, do you have any tips for a prospective customer or a business owner thinking about getting VoIP to work from home? My tip for any prospective customers looking to implement VoIP for their home office would be make sure they have an adequate internet connection such as DSL, Cable, or Fiber, and to invest in a comfy chair. Other than that, it’s a no brainer.