As companies entice applicants with phrases like “telecommuting,” “remote work,” and “flex time,” it tasks IT departments with making this perk a reality. Of course, an effective policy and management style helps, but without the proper technology and tech support, remote work doesn’t stand a chance.
How can your IT department help enable remote work? One essential role for IT is investing in the right communications technology. To adequately support remote work at your company, your IT department needs to invest in a chat tool, a video solution, and a mobile-friendly phone system.
Invest in Multiple Communication Channels
Email, phones, chat, and video conferencing may seem like overkill, but it’s a necessity. Different channels fulfill different communication needs for remote workers.
Chat imitates the informal, “water cooler” socializing that takes place at the office. Email is bland, formal, unobtrusive, and democratic—perfect for communicating announcements and reminders to large audiences. Phone calls are perfect for communicating complex information accurately and quickly. And video puts a face to fellow employees, which enhances collaboration and team-work in meetings.
This graphic, from our ebook “Communication Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Workers,” illustrates the strengths and purpose of each remote work technology. For a more in-depth guide on which communications technology to use when communicating with remote workers, check out our free ebook.
An internal chat tool is an easy sell to executives because it benefits both remote workers and office employees. In a survey performed by the chat leader, Slack, they found that offices using their software hold 25% fewer meetings and experienced an 80% increase in team culture and transparency.
When selecting an internal chat tool, find an affordable, cloud-based solution with document-sharing capabilities, strong security, and the right integrations for your company.
Also find a solution that’s fun and entertaining. Yes, fun and entertaining. Remote workers need to make connections and socialize. Features like adopting a famous alias for the day, or inserting emojis and gifs into conversations will improve remote worker engagement.
Creating channels / sub conversations also connects remote workers with fellow employees. For instance, your dog-loving employees can create a channel to share funny videos and photos of their dogs. Or women and/or other minorities within the company can create channels for networking and support.
Finally, communicate these chat capabilities to your employees. Educate. Build enthusiasm. Start a funny poll, send a list of all the subgroups your remote workers can join, send an email explaining how to pick a celebrity avatar, or send fun articles like “9 tricks on Slack that will make your work day more fun.”
Video is a must for remote work. Because remote workers can’t be in the same location as their customers and coworkers, they need a solution to meet and collaborate. The more immersive the experience, the better, and that’s why a video solution is best. Video projects employee personalities so that co-workers can more readily make connections and build working relationships.
To pick the right solution, calculate the number of potential users and cadence. Ask what they will use video conferencing for—e.g., sales demos, internal meetings, customer onboarding—and what features they’ll need to accomplish those interactions. You’ll find that many remote workers will ask for collaborative features like mouse-control, screen sharing, and a whiteboard function.
Along with features, invest in a solution dedicated to enabling easier collaboration. In other words, don’t let your IT team mistakenly invest in webinar technology.
Webinar software serves a different purpose than what your remote workers need. A webinar product is video conferencing that specializes in presenting information. (Often to large groups of attendees). While it’s common for webinar software to include features like polling to increase audience engagement, the focus is always on presentation—not collaboration.
Webinars are in some ways antithetical to collaboration and building individual relationships. In order for a presentation to go smoothly, webinar software enforces a structural hierarchy. In this hierarchy, the presenters wield all the powers and attendees possess few means to contribute. Such an imbalanced environment damages an effective and intimate collaboration.
Instead, find a video “meeting” solution specializing in collaboration. Remember this distinction between meetings and webinars, because a lot of products on the market blur the line between between the two. Tell your IT team to ignore webinar-focused solutions and only pursue products focusing on collaboration.
Ease of Use
Unlike formal presentations that take place a few times a month, meetings occur daily. And as a daily routine, your remote workers need a quick, intuitive, and easy video solution. Many solutions will offer lots of enticing bells and whistles, but often those features bog down the solution’s speed and efficiency.
Also avoid products that require accessories or first-time attendees to download or install plugins. Or solutions that require you to manually set up meetings each time. At the office, to join a meeting, all you need to do is walk into the room. With the right video solution, joining a meeting is even easier than walking into a room. So invest in technology that allows remote workers to join meetings with a few clicks of their mouse.
#3. Hosted VoIP Phone System
Despite the rising popularity of video communication, the phone still remains key in the office and for remote work. Why? First, video isn’t always possible. Second, spontaneous or unplanned video conferencing can be too invasive for remote workers. So when video isn’t appropriate or possible, the phone works best.
The most effective telecommunications solution for remote workers is Hosted VoIP. Not only does Hosted VoIP benefit the entire company, especially those in the office, but it also offers unique benefits for remote workers. So when selecting a Hosted VoIP provider for the entire company, pay special attention to items that support remote workers: a robust security, a hot-desking feature, and an excellent softphone.
Your IT department needs to find a Hosted VoIP provider with end-to-end encryption and secure provisioning. Let’s be honest, your IT team already worries about the VPN security that hosts your remote workers. Give them one less thing to worry about when it comes to supporting remote work.
Keep in mind that remote work isn’t necessarily a full-time gig. In a recent Gallup study on the State of the American Workplace, they found that 37% of employees would change their jobs if they could work where they want “at least part of the time.” Today, many employees routinely work a few days remotely and a few days at the office.
If some of your company’s remote work is done part time, find a Hosted VoIP provider with a hot-desking feature. Here’s the tip: most Hosted VoIP providers today offer hot desking, but they’ll charge you extra for it. So save your company money by finding a provider that doesn’t charge extra for their hot desking-feature. (Find companies with “all-inclusive features”).
Most companies invest in headsets for the office, but what about remote workers? Well employees working remotely prefer to rely on their cellphones and computers. Which means you need to find a Hosted VoIP provider with an excellent softphone solution—and at minimal cost.
As you well know, a chat tool, video conferencing, and Hosted VoIP system are not cheap and easy fixes. You’re probably thinking, “our IT department doesn’t have the budget for this!” But don’t get discouraged. To save your IT team from headaches and budget problems, try to find some sort of unified solution.
Jive and LogMeIn are now offering the Connect PRO Bundle as a significant first step toward a unified solution for companies. The bundle is designed to simplify and extend customers’ UCC (unified communications and collaboration) solutions by combining GoToMeeting’s cloud-based video conferencing solutions with Jive’s cloud-based telephony solutions to offer more value, savings, and — most importantly — more valuable connections for remote workers and a mobile workforce.
Phones and video collaboration. The Connect PRO Bundle has two the of the three tools you need to support your remote workers, and you can’t beat the price.
GoToMeeting was built for collaboration. It includes empowering features like mouse-control, drawing tools, audience view, and a webcam preview, and it’s the most intuitive and user-friendly video conferencing solution on the market. You can join a meeting with a few clicks! No downloads or accessories required.
Jive is unique because they offer all features for one single price. So you won’t pay extra for a hot desking feature—or any other feature! Along with transparent pricing and a feature-rich offering, Jive Mobile is one of the best Hosted VoIP smartphone apps on the market. And to give your remote workers even more communication options, at no extra charge, Jive Web turns any web-enabled device into a softphone.