We have all felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased frequency and severity of winter storms. Recently, as our economy has opened back up, near full employment has contributed to a severe worker shortage. Consequently, I see help-wanted signs everywhere I go. The impact of all of this on businesses large and small has been unprecedented and has really tested owners, CEOs, and managers. But, the good news is Cloud PBX technology was available to help us manage these changes.
How and where we work has changed dramatically for many professions. We have seen healthcare and its delivery changed forever through telemedicine. For instance, schools went virtual. Conferences and trade shows did too. Sales appointments, team meetings, employee coaching, and mentoring all went virtual. Gone were the meet & greets, wine & dines, and business travel. We were all suddenly in survival mode, trying to develop new ways to achieve our revenue goals. Or, in some cases, we just tried to minimize the impact of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and other complicating factors like extreme weather.
When the pandemic hit, Cloud PBX, often referred to as hosted VoIP service, was one of the fastest-growing industries globally. According to research available here, the cloud PBX market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 23.17% during the forecasted period of 2017 to 2023.
The Bad News
The bad news is, as with most emerging technologies, many business leaders had been slow to embrace it. And, their hesitation was rational. Managing a remote workforce is challenging. Questions about accountability and productivity were top of mind. Let’s face it; we are most comfortable with what is familiar. Have you heard these or maybe said them yourself?
“It’s the way we have always done it.”
“We do business the old-fashioned way.”
“We don’t need anything fancy.”
“My employees would never adjust.”
The Good News
Well, the pandemic was a catalyst for changing that mindset almost overnight. Office workers scrambled to ready space in their homes. Small business owners and IT professionals scrambled to acquire the technology to allow their employees to work remotely. At the time, it was to be temporary. We just needed a few weeks to “flatten the curve,” remember? That seems so silly now. Little did we know that the workforce would be forever changed. According to Pew Research Center, before 2020, only about one in five employed Americans worked from home. As of December 2020, 71% worked from home or remotely. And, 54% of those say they’d like to continue working from home even after the pandemic is over.
The What and the Why of Cloud PBX
What is Cloud PBX?
Like the NUSO platform offered by Mastor, Cloud PBX is a feature-rich, virtual phone system that provides a secure and reliable business phone solution through the internet. It is also commonly referred to as Hosted VoIP. In the past, most businesses relied on a physical phone system of their own installed at their site. But today, through cloud technology, a hosting provider houses the equipment in a secure data center(s) and sells access to individual customers through subscription-based services.
Why Cloud PBX?
Now, gone are the days of failing equipment, outdated software, and discontinuation of support for your investment. In the world of Cloud PBX, software upgrades are automatic and included in your subscription. So, your monthly investment is essentially future-proof. And most providers offer a comprehensive set of features for basic users, and enhanced features are available for road warriors, remote workers, and executives looking to maximize the technology. In addition, the solution is scalable as your business grows. New technologies do not require a wholesale platform change. Here is a short video to further explain What VoIP is.
By using Cloud PBX technology, employees are free to make and receive calls, chat, and collaborate from anywhere with a good internet connection, even utilizing Wi-Fi. Employees can be set up with VPN connections for their laptops. And, when a storm system approaches, they can make plans to work remotely. Unfortunately, the technology can’t solve the challenges of production environments where employee presence is required on-site. But, for many businesses, a large portion of their workforce can be very productive from any location. And your business can continue without interruption.
Little to No Capital Investment Required
In the past, replacing or upgrading your telephone system would have required a substantial capital investment. But today, most costs are billed monthly. There is a very little upfront cost for hardware. Many providers, including our partner, NUSO, offer plans that include the telephone itself in the monthly service. More information on these plans can be found here. Essentially, your expense becomes easy to budget. It scales as you grow. You no longer need to worry about equipment failure and warranties in this scenario. Replacements can be shipped pre-provisioned and simply plugged in upon arrival. Adding new employees is fast and easy. Through the use of Apps (mobile and softphone), Mastor can have a new user up and running the same day.
Managing Accountability and Productivity in the World of Remote Work?
It’s an age-old question for employers…how do I know my people working hard if I can’t see them working? More than any other, I feel this has been one of the largest obstacles holding bosses back from adopting remote work as the norm. But, when the pandemic hit, many were forced to face the reality that it was the only way to keep their business running. Fortunately, the best Cloud PBX platforms come with user reports that make tracking inbound and outbound calling activity easy to monitor. Here is just a sample of the type of reporting available with a few clicks:
Total Talk Time by DID/Extension
Reports like this can be filtered by employee and/or time period
This report tells you when the most activity occurs daily and can help plan staffing needs
A simple dashboard gives you a window into total business activity:
As you can see, with these robust reporting capabilities at the ready for managers, they can hold employees accountable and easily manage their productivity. In the past, this type of window into activity came at a heavy price that was out of reach to most small businesses. The Cloud PBX technology of today builds it into the monthly expense for even the smallest of companies.
Cloud PBX and its Impact on Employee Retention and Recruitment?
By the Numbers
As mentioned earlier, according to a poll taken by Pew Research Center, before 2020, only about one in five employed Americans worked from home. As of December 2020, 71% worked from home or remotely. And 54% of those said they’d like to continue working from home even after the pandemic.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, with the re-opening of the economy and what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic behind us, we are facing unprecedented challenges in recruiting new employees and retaining the good ones we have. Having tasted the benefits of remote work, employees have a newfound confidence in their abilities to be productive in a remote setting. Now they are demanding their existing employers and/or their potential new employers offer them the flexibility of remote work. Training new employees is expensive. So, offering this type of flexibility whenever possible is the definition of a “Win/Win .” HR managers are no longer limited to hiring local individuals or enticing prospective employees to uproot their lives. They are free to scour the country to find the best available talent.
Recently, new polling has given us insight into just how the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way workers feel about their jobs. It shows that the option to work remotely is essential to recruiting the best talent, especially during a tight labor market.
As you can see, the bottom line for business owners is that if you aren’t building this type of flexibility into your workforce where possible, you will not be able to recruit from a pool of the best available talent. Many of them won’t even apply.
Full study available here.
The Challenge of Teamwork and Building a Culture in a Remote Workforce
Today, one of the biggest challenges of the new remote workforce has been supporting teamwork and collaboration among colleagues. Supporting and building a corporate culture is so integral to our success. But, it can be difficult without the daily face-to-face interaction (the proverbial “water cooler” chatter) that comes with the traditional office environment.
Fortunately, today’s technology can make employees who have never met in person feel like old friends if utilized to its fullest. For example, video calling, web-based video conference calls, screen sharing, chat, and SMS have minimized the impact and, in many ways, improved productivity for employees. For instance, they can chat with a coworker while on a call or virtual meeting. This has taken multi-tasking to a new level. Gone are the days when a phone call turned into a voice mail or an email had to be sent to communicate. Instead, chat and presence are instant and offer a level of productivity to our communications never before seen.
But, creative HR Managers and CEOs have come up with ways to build their teams and their culture virtually. Everything from Virtual Team Trivia, Zoom Happy Hours, Virtual Escape Rooms, and many more have been used to help employees feel connected to each other instead of feeling the isolation that the quiet basement office might create. Here are some great team-building ideas from WWR (We Work Remotely).
Hopefully, it has become pretty obvious that, because of the multiple challenges presented to all of us in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, the way we work and the way we run our businesses has been forever changed. Because of this, companies that are nimble and have adjusted to these rapid changes have flourished in the face of this adversity. Unfortunately, if you are still trying to operate in a pre-pandemic world, there is a good chance your competition is gaining on you or, in some cases, has sped right on by. If you are still waiting to adapt, the train is at the station, and you have a responsibility to your business to buy a ticket and get on board.
So, if you are ready to board, Mastor has been helping businesses large and small for more than 30 years. We offer a comprehensive review of your communication needs. And, With our partners at NUSO, We will provide you with a best-in-class Cloud PBX solution that will take your business to the next level. Reach out to us today at 314-997-9000 or click here! We can’t wait to meet you!