The world is awash in the second wave of Covid 19, further accelerating the move towards remote work. At the bows of virtual communication, you have different tools that slice through the waters of time, space, and isolation to empower work. Thanks to the internet, even a major disruptor like Covid 19 need not becalm your enterprise operations and bring them to a dead halt in business waters. Thanks to VoIP communication technologies you have access to a variety of tools that obviate the need to be physically present to run a business. You can do it from anywhere and all the time using the VoIP platform and synthesize your operations into a virtual enterprise. Lockdowns and restrictions pose no challenges as far as communications and collaborations are concerned. However, virtual communication poses its own set of challenges.
This set of challenges even prompted Eric Yuan of Zoom to offer advice for remote workers making use of virtual communications all day long, even late into the night, as published on CNN. To quote him, “It is incredibly hard to abruptly pivot from a social, in-person work environment to a world where we only see images of faces on a screen. My personal record is 19 Zoom meetings in a day. It’s a record that some may be able to beat, but I’ll admit it was a struggle to make it through.” According to him, Zoom was not intended to replace in-person interaction and that virtual communications do lead to issues that can be resolved with some practical tips. It is interesting to know what he recommends but before that a peek into VoIP communications and what it entails in the current environment of virtual communication.
Virtual VoIP communication channels
VoIP communication may be a term not everyone is familiar with but you do know about IP PBX and call center software. These are prime examples of tools used in virtual communication. If you have unified communication, so much better since it unifies all the following into a common dashboard for easy control and use.
- Phone: You have the standard IP PBX with its set of call transfer, direct inward dial, CRM integration, contacts, and others. The beauty of modern IP PBX is that you can plug in standard PSTN phones through ATA, SIP phones and also use a softphone on desktop as well as mobiles through which you can manage audio video calls, conferencing, email, chat, SMS and fax
- Chat: you could have chat as a stand-alone solution, possibly on your website, a mode of VoIP communication that many people prefer over email or voice.
- Email: Though not strictly in the realm of VoIP, email is part of the communication package and easily accessible through the UC platform.
- Video chat, conference: This, perhaps, is the most widely used and popular tool, made even better when based on WebRTC. If so, you can talk and hold conferences as well as present shows within the video and exchange documents. That feature also makes it a perfect intra-office collaboration tool.
VoIP and remote work
With all these tools at your command, you do not even require your employees to gather in an office to work. Virtual communication facilitates remote work, saves time and energy, and expenses too. You can easily set up rules to transfer incoming calls to the most capable person regardless of their location and you can let everyone stay connected in a virtual online office environment. Importantly, all communications are secured and within the official VoIP communication channels. Employees need not use their personal phones. It also means all calls and transactions are logged in the CRM to ensure continuity and easy access by anyone in the chain. It is cost-effective and offers a seamless experience. Still, there are challenges to remote work based on VoIP communications.
Challenges in remote work
Remote work using virtual communication does facilitate smooth flow but you do face challenges:
- Collaboration is not quite as seamless as it is in an in-person environment. 20% of people found this to be a hurdle.
- You lack the feel of being with colleagues and loneliness can overcome you unless you adapt. 20% of those surveyed by buffer.com found loneliness an issue.
- You could face more distractions at home and this could interrupt work as 12% of those surveyed indicated.
- It is difficult to stay motivated when you are alone.
- You could end up doing more work. Work could stretch out too late at night and this takes a toll on personal relationships as well as health.
- Remote workers state they missed vital body clues inherent in one-on-one interaction. In an office environment, 93% of communication is non-verbal and 55% is body language. You also miss the “socializing” at work factor.
However, with a little thought and a bit of strategy, you could overcome these issues to make better use of VoIP communication and improve remote work productivity.
Recommendations for virtual communications
Based on his experiences, Eric Yuan of Zoom has the following suggestions that could make a difference to your virtual office work.
- Do not insist on a daily online video meeting to kick start the day unless there is something really important to discuss.
- If you are working remotely then take short breaks.
- Curtail duration of online meetings
- Wherever possible, use chat and email – this means remote workers can concurrently carry out other tasks even as they are engaged in the chat.
- Define work hours. Extend work time only when necessary, not as a routine.
Then there are other recommendations worth your consideration.
Define roles clearly so that there are no communication gaps and customers or work does not remain unattended. You could carry out periodic reviews to refine task allocation to two or three team members who interact best with each other.
Define communication channels for team members to use. For instance, video conference could be the go-to VoIP communication tool for team interaction as the first choice and chat as the second. For interaction with customers or vendors, you could use any others like email or SMS, or voice. In an office, one team member would contact another one whenever needed. However, for virtual work, you could have more defined strategies such as a scheduled time to get together to talk except when it is an urgent matter.
Employees know everything goes on the record. However, they may wish to have private conversations so you could allow sandboxed communication for private meetings and talks that are outside the logging facility.
Use analytics and reporting features of VoIP communications to know of bottlenecks and work to resolve them.
VoIP is a great tool but, being so persistently available 24×7, can also lead to issues. These, however, are not unmanageable if you chalk out a plan on how to work in an online virtual environment.