Why Hybrid Working is So Much More than Just Remote-First

As of early June 2021, less than one-third of U.S. office workers (about 28%) are back in their physical buildings―and many who are home want to keep it that way.

A survey found 39% of U.S. adults would consider quitting if they’re not given flexibility about remote work. There’s a long list of reasons behind this desire, including lingering concerns over safety and health, looming childcare issues, and the sheer fact that many feel they have proven they can do their jobs just as well remotely.

This isn’t to say employees don’t miss face-to-face time with colleagues. In fact, another study found 67% of workers want more in-person time with coworkers. It’s no surprise then that one in five employers had already moved to the hybrid model in the spring and almost half had plans to do so by the summer.

When we think about hybrid, we often picture employees either sitting at home or commuting to the office. But there’s a wide range of hybrid options in between, including coffee shops, shared workspaces and even checking email from your hotel room while on a family vacation. And while the focus for the past year and a half has been primarily on remote workers, we think it’s time for companies to give a little love to the office space again.

How can you make it easier for office-first people to work in a hybrid environment? The right unified communications solution makes all your hybrid workers happy, especially those who have made the physical office their home. Not sure where to start? Check out these four tips from our expert team.

1. Give Them Space

Just because an employee is back in the physical office doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned about their health and safety. In fact, many people who’ve been in the office the majority of the time since the pandemic hit have probably become quite accustomed to an empty and quiet office space. The return of hybrid workers will be just as much of an adjustment for them as it will be for those who’ve been at home.

Social distancing should remain in effect as much as possible to ease the transition of hybrid workers back into the physical work environment. Everyone can still get the full benefit of face-to-face meetings, team collaboration and casual conversation without making office-first workers feel like their space has been invaded.

2. Give Them A Permanent Home

While it may make sense for people splitting their time between remote and in-office work to hot desk, office-first employees should have a dedicated workspace when possible. They’ll benefit from being able to come in every day knowing everything they need to do their job is right where they left it, and they won’t have to worry about whether or not the area they’re working in has been properly sanitized.

This may seem like a small gesture, but it can go a long way in saying “thank you” to office-first workers. Hybrid workers will also know exactly where to find their office-first coworkers on the days they come in, making it easier for them to work together on projects and collaborate.

3. Make It Feel Like Everyone Is Back In The Office

It may be a while before everyone is back in the office all the time (in fact, who knows if the day will ever come). But managers can make it feel like everyone is in the same room with the right unified communications technology. An all-in-one solution that lets colleagues communicate and collaborate across regions and time zones knocks down virtual walls.

MiCollab from Mitel, for instance, gives employees a single application for voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing and collaboration. Collaborative workspaces keep everyone connected. Team members can share notes, files and status updates on projects just as easily as if everyone were together. Outlook and calendar integration lets people know who is available and where they are at any given time. Both planned and impromptu meetings are more productive with such features as desktop sharing and document collaboration.

4. Transform The In-Office Huddle Room

Videoconferencing is a great way to keep face-to-face interactions going for the hybrid workforce, but now businesses can take it to the next level and transform the in-office huddle space with a single, unified communications solution. With MiTeam Meetings, you can connect your laptop to the video hardware already in the office conference room and get all the benefits of MiTeam.

Coworkers can use the multi-pane view for up to 16 attendees or the active speaker view to focus attention where it needs to be at any given moment. Colleagues can meet both in-person and virtually, share notes and store files. The best part? The team can return to the same workspace in the next meeting for quick access to persistent chat logs, important documents and more. It’s a powerful yet simple way to keep office-first workers connected and engaged with hybrid colleagues, meeting after meeting.

While remote work will continue, it’s been center stage for well over a year now. It’s time to put the spotlight back on in-office workers and make sure they have the tools required to be productive and happy as they workforce shifts to a hybrid model. Unified communications technology keeps everyone connected and engaged―from home, the office and everywhere in between.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

Read more...

3 Essential Steps for Planning Your Path to the Cloud

With summer here and restrictions being lifted, you might be thinking a trip of some sort is in order. Once you figure out where you want to go, you’ll probably start taking a closer look at the best way to get there. Planes, trains and automobiles are good options to get further, faster. But maybe you’re not looking for speed, and are more interested in a hiking, cycling or sailing journey that gives you more opportunities to enjoy the view along the way.

The concept of planning a journey is familiar to almost everyone. The task can be a little daunting for extended or complex, multi-stop trips, but in general, we understand how to get from here to there. 

The same is not typically true for businesses that are planning their path to a cloud-based communications system. It’s generally accepted that all roads eventually lead to the cloud, but choosing the optimal path to get there is an unfamiliar task for most businesses. This is not a journey they’ve taken before, so the options to get from here to there aren’t inherently obvious. 

The paths to the cloud are as diverse as the crisscrossed highways, railroads and airways you can take across the nation. Since each business is unique with its own personality and communications system requirements, the path to the cloud will be different for each business. And it will be structured to meet the unique communications needs of the business along the way. Some organizations are unencumbered and can go directly to the cloud, while others may require a more scenic route.

While each business must follow their own path to the cloud, there are three key steps every business should take.

1. Assess Your Communications Needs For Today And Tomorrow

To help determine the right path to the cloud for your business, ask yourself the six questions below. The answers to these questions will help you develop a strategy for modernizing your communications systems that fits the way your business works today, and the way you would like it to work tomorrow.

  1. How do my employees collaborate?
  2. How does my organization handle customer interactions?
  3. Do our systems integrate well and do they improve efficiency?
  4. Are we taking advantage of our system by staying current with all the new features available, or are we behind on updates?
  5. Do we need to move to the cloud to improve efficiency, or can we do more with what we have?
  6. How are we prepared to harness cloud technologies when it’s time to make the move?

Don’t forget to update your modernization strategy as your requirements change. This will ensure your communications system continues to be a strategic asset that sharpens your competitive edge as your business grows.

2. Understand The Cloud Options Available

It’s important to remember that shifting your communications capabilities to the cloud is not an all or nothing decision. And there isn’t just one type of cloud. Understanding the basics of each approach to cloud communications will help you choose the right communications solutions at each stage of your journey:

  • public cloud is an online service that’s fully hosted and managed by a public cloud provider. It functions a bit like an apartment complex. Each business that rents cloud space has its own, secure space within the larger infrastructure. 

    With a public cloud, you can easily add new communications features and functions whenever needed, and you don’t need to spend time or money installing, managing, maintaining or upgrading servers or other hardware on your own premises. These benefits make public cloud a great option for small businesses and startups that don’t want to invest in full-scale network management and IT staff. 

    • A private cloud provides communications services within the confines of an internal, private network that’s protected from outside intrusion by a firewall, most likely your own company’s firewall. 

    A private cloud is the best option for companies where security is a major concern because you have full control over who and what can access the information within your private cloud environment. However, you do need to take on responsibility for detecting, protecting against and mitigating the risks associated with potential data breaches on the network.

    • A hybrid cloud combines public and private cloud features to provide the best of both worlds: Security with scalability, and less complexity with more control. 

    A hybrid cloud is a good choice for businesses that want the benefits and control of a private cloud as well as the flexibility to deploy and manage unified communications applications and contact center features in the way that makes the most sense for their business. 

3. Choose A Technology Partner To Help Navigate The Way

While solo travel is definitely a trend, most journeys are smoother when you travel with a co-pilot who can help you navigate all of the twists and turns along the way. You’re even less likely to run into unexpected hurdles and delays when your travel partner has been to the destination before. Your journey to the cloud is no exception.

Working with a technology partner such as 4Sight Communications, gives you access to trained experts who can help you smoothly navigate all the different paths to the cloud. We have a deep understanding of the pros and cons of the different cloud options and can recommend migration strategies and solutions based on where your business communications system is today, and where you need it to be tomorrow. 4Sight is fully prepared to answer your questions, and to partner closely with you throughout your journey to the cloud and beyond.

Here’s a very brief overview of some of the strategies and solutions we will discuss with you to simplify your journey to the cloud:

  • software assurance program that provides easy access to the latest communications capabilities, ensures software versions are always current and compatible and keeps security fixes up to date. Your communications system is proactively monitored for performance and remains standards compliant. And your teams have access to online training to help them work more efficiently.
  • Applications and integrations that let you seamlessly add collaboration and contact center features and functions to your existing system.
  • Subscription payment models that make it easier to get current and do more with existing systems, and to migrate to the cloud, with predictable costs.

Get More Information

For more information about how you can start planning your journey to the cloud, read the eBook You Can Get There From Here: Profiles of a Cloud Migration Candidate.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

Read more...

How Great Communications Lead to Great Customer Experiences

Like me, you’ve no doubt enjoyed some truly awesome experiences as a customer as well as some you’d rather not remember at all. If you think back to those experiences—good and bad—you’ll very likely find that your communications with the organization in question was central to your experience.

The words people use when they communicate with us as customers, their tone, written or verbal and the channels they use all influence our perception of the experience. And that experience determines how much we’re willing to spend at a business, our recommendations (or lack thereof) to friends, family and colleagues and whether we’ll do business with that organization again.

According to the 2020 Microsoft Global State of Customer Service report, 90 percent of customers consider the quality of customer service when deciding whether to remain loyal to a brand. And 58 percent of customers won’t hesitate to end the relationship if their expectations for high-quality customer service aren’t met. 

A positive customer experience has an even greater impact on business. A recent Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report says that 92 percent of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer experience.

You Have The Apps Needed To Meet Customer Expectations

If you haven’t updated your business communications system with integrated, cloud-based apps for voice, data and video communications and collaboration, now is the time to do that. Without these apps, it will be extremely difficult to deliver experiences that will meet customer expectations and keep them coming back to your business. 

While third-party apps are often used as a quick-fix solution for messaging and video communications, they aren’t a long-term solution. There’s simply too much risk these disjointed point solutions will lead to a disjointed customer experience. 

When your communications and collaboration apps are seamlessly integrated with your existing communications system, you have many more opportunities to impress customers with your flexibility, responsiveness and commitment to meeting their needs.

Integrated, Omnichannel Communications Let You Get Personal With Customers

In today’s era of digital communications, your customers expect to be able to connect with your business using their preferred channel—whether that’s voice, email, messaging, web chat, social media or video. 

While we tend to focus on messaging, chat and social media communications these days, voice and email aren’t going away any time soon. In a recent study of 2,500 business professionals across five countries, 97 percent of respondents said these traditional forms of communications are among the communications methods they use most frequently on a daily basis. And speaking with your customers helps you deliver a more human experience that strengthens the connection and shows you want to engage with them. 

The key is to deliver omnichannel communications in a way that allows your teams to smoothly switch between channels as conversations with customers evolve. Maybe a conversation starts with messaging or web chat, but a voice conversation is needed to streamline and accelerate the back and forth. Or maybe you need to spontaneously switch from a voice conversation to a video conversation so customers can show you what they’re talking about. 

The only way to seamlessly shift between channels during conversations is to use fully integrated communications and collaboration apps. If you have to stop using one app, then launch a different app to switch to a more appropriate channel for the conversation, there’s a risk the conversation will be dropped. There’s also a risk customers will become frustrated with the experience and abandon the conversation—and your business. 

Connected Teams Meet Customer Needs Faster

Delivering a great customer experience is a team sport. Whether your staff are on the front line, communicating directly with customers or working behind-the-scenes to support customer-facing colleagues, they all need the ability to instantly communicate, collaborate and share knowledge. With these capabilities, dispersed team members can quickly and easily join forces to meet customer requirements and expectations no matter where they are, or what device they’re using.

While your teams probably aren’t on the road as often as they used to be, they are very likely working from a much wider variety of locations than they were in the past. This fact needs to be completely invisible to customers. No customer wants to hear the phrase, “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” then find themselves having to engage in a subsequent conversation at a later time to get an answer.

When staff can seamlessly connect and collaborate with their co-workers during a conversation with customers, no matter what channel they’re using, your business comes across as more responsive and helpful. This level of integrated team work is only possible if you’re using a single app that provides voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing, mobility and collaboration capabilities. 

Happy Employees Help Make Happy Customers

It’s easy to see how customers can become frustrated when their customer service experience is sub-par. But, it’s equally important to recognize that your staff can also become frustrated if they don’t have the tools and technologies needed to effectively serve and support your customers. They want your business to be successful, and they want to play a role in building that success.

Once again, think back to your own experiences. I’ve certainly spoken to customer service representatives who have expressed their frustration or disappointment at the limited options available to help me get the information or services I needed. You probably have too. In the end, you’re both frustrated and disappointed. 

Conversely, I’ve also had experiences with customer service representatives where I’ve thought, “wow, you can do that—awesome.” The person was happy, cheerful and able to make connections across internal departments, and sometimes global geographies, to ensure I received the information I needed and had a great experience. 

There’s no question about which experience you want your teams to deliver.

Modern Communications Systems Meet Modern Needs

If you’re using a Mitel MiVoice communications platform, it’s easy to upgrade to a modern communications system that meets modern needs. All of the integrated, cloud-based apps you need to deliver more efficient and helpful customer service experiences are ready and waiting for you. 

It’s simply a matter of updating your system to include apps such as Mitel MiTeam Meetings. This integrated solution seamlessly connects to your existing infrastructure and is an ideal replacement for the disjointed third-party apps you may be relying on today.

To learn more about which apps make the most sense for your business and customer service goals, contact 4Sight today. 

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

Read more...

Is Hybrid the Future or Just a Temporary Solution?

When all non-essential workers shifted to remote work last year, many employees thoroughly enjoyed the extra time at home. With our commutes gone, we had more time to spend with our families and for self-care. There was finally time to work out or read that book sitting on our nightstand. We saved money too, as our need for gas, dry cleaning and eating out all but disappeared.

But then the honeymoon ended. All of a sudden, we found ourselves wishing for just a few minutes away from our kids or spouse. The workday seemed to drag on forever as the lines between work and home blurred. Depression and mental anxiety set in as we longed for the social interaction we all need and crave as human beings.

As fully remote work begins to phase out for many, the new norm is hybrid―the flexibility to mix up our workdays between home, the office and anywhere in between. The question now is: Does hybrid have the legs to become the true future of work or will it (like its remote sibling) become a temporary, fleeting solution?

We think hybrid is here to stay, and we have plenty of data that shows it’s a long-lasting trend. Here are three reasons why and three tips on how to make sure your business is ready for the long haul.

3 Reasons Hybrid Is The New Norm

1. Employees prefer the hybrid approach: When polled, the majority of employees said they prefer the flexibility that comes with the hybrid model. But just how badly do they want it? One survey found a resounding 75% of workers would be willing to give up at least one benefit or perk in exchange for the freedom to choose where they work. Additionally, more than 25% of employees would be willing to part with significant benefits such as cash bonuses and healthcare benefits in order to have this flexibility.

2. The C-suite is committed: Executives are also on board with hybrid, with 79% of the C-suite reporting they plan on letting employees split their time between remote locations and corporate offices if it fits their job role. More than three-fourths (76%) of execs are also likely to issue a stipend to employees who work from home or a co-working space.

3. It’s better for business: Since the majority of employees want the hybrid work model to stay, it follows that companies offering this flexibility will benefit from higher employee engagement. More engaged employees have a positive impact on business performance. A recent Gallup analysis compared companies in the top quartile for engagement with those in the bottom quartile. Businesses ranked in the top for employee engagement saw gains in profitability (23%), customer loyalty (10%), sales productivity (18%), overall employee well-being (66%), quality (41%) and lower absenteeism (81%) when compared to those with the lowest employee engagement.

3 Ways To Keep Hybrid Workers Happy

With all signs pointing to hybrid becoming a long-term solution well past the honeymoon phase, businesses need to start adapting now to make sure they can keep hybrid workers happily humming along for years to come. It all comes down to the three Cs: culture, communications and collaboration.

1. Create a hybrid-friendly culture: It may be hard to predict exactly the right culture required to fully support a thriving hybrid environment, but smart businesses will begin to make changes now and then adjust as needed. First and foremost, the culture must be focused around choice: the ability to choose where (and, in some cases, when) employees work. The mindset of working nine to five sitting in a cubicle should be cast aside. If a team member is more productive working from six in the morning to two in the afternoon on remote days, why not allow it? When employees have support from the top ranks to take ownership of how they work, you’ll find in most cases work gets done faster (and to a higher level of quality).

2. Provide the necessary tools for communications: Executives are already planning to invest in hybrid work. Wisely, the top area in which they plan to invest is tools for virtual collaboration, with 72% of executives stating as much in PWC’s US Remote Work Survey. Team workspaces, real-time instant messaging and desktop sharing keep employees connected whether they’re at home, in the office or a local coffee shop. Be sure to look for communications technology that offers a single experience across multiple devices, so it’s easy for employees to switch between work environments without any hassle. Mitel Teamwork, for instance, provides a consistent experience from desktop to mobile. Users can even start a conversation on one device and seamlessly continue it on another.

3. Collaborate to stay one step ahead: Hybrid is unchartered territory for many employees and managers. The best way to ensure your business can quickly adapt to the changing needs of all staff is to encourage collaboration at all times . Fortunately, your communications technology can help you accomplish this with voice, video and chat capabilities to keep everyone connected. A flexible and scalable solution gives companies the agility needed to implement changes on-the-fly, so you can rest assured you can make hybrid work today and well into the future.

Companies may not have a crystal ball to predict what the workplace will look like in five years, but the data strongly suggests all signs point to hybrid. Make the right investments now in the culture and communications technology needed to become a leader and reap the benefits of a happy and healthy hybrid home for your employees.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

Read more...