At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses were instructed to move to a remote working model where possible. Work from home technology enabled the switch to work from home, but do businesses now need to go back to their offices?
That presented a huge challenge for many businesses who had to implement work from home technology virtually overnight. There would be no face-to-face meetings for months, home workers and remote teams had to learn to communicate using video calls and conference calls, and businesses had to implement secure systems to enable remote workers to function.
Office space stood empty as remote employees continued to work from home.
For those businesses with credible business continuity and disaster recovery plans, putting in place those interesting ideas in the disaster recovery box became a reality. For others, the adjustment was more difficult and time-consuming.
Foxhall Solutions Remote Working Technology
Our customers using 3CX and Yeastar IP-PBX systems were able to move to a remote working scenario quickly, efficiently and without much cost.
They have moved IT and telecoms services to home offices and many are carrying out face-to-face meetings through video conferencing.
When it became obvious that businesses had to move their staff to remote working, Foxhall Solutions advised customers of options available to keep lines of communication open between them and their clients.
Is Work from Home Technology a Permanent Solution to Remote Working?
The short answer is, yes. Many businesses, including enterprise-level organisations have found that not only is it perfectly possible to function on a remote working scenario, but it actually has several benefits.
Some businesses have reported that the productivity of remote employees has actually increased while they have worked from home. It’s important to note here that there is an additional level of HR support, management, and training required to make this happen)
With the need for lengthy commutes gone and a greater degree of flexible working possible, many remote employees have reported that their work life balance has improved.
With team members working from home, the need for permanent office space may become redundant. Several well known brands have dispensed with their own office space in favour of a remote working model. They have reported that the saving on expensive office space has more than outweighed the cost of establishing work from home technology and systems to support and manage remote employees.
What Communications Technology is needed for a Work from Home Solution?
We’re going to look at VoIP in this blog and the technologies that you will need to establish telecoms for your business to operate remotely.
First of All, Don’t forget Cyber Security in your Remote Working Setup
Remember that remote employees will be logging in to remote systems, so having strong cybersecurity in place is crucial. You will need a clearly defined plan to manage access, passwords, authentication methods, and so on. This applies not only to computer systems but to your VoIP setup as well. We can help you with this, so simply get in touch.
VoIP Work from Home Technology: Options and Possibilities
Online Configuration changes:
Foxhall’s 3CX and Yeastar systems are fully accessible through secure Internet links. That means that we can take a ‘pre-COVID-19’ backup of the system configuration. We can then alter call flows and voicemail targets to better match ‘emergency’ needs – with remote working staff taking responsibility for different aspects of the business from their home offices. After the pandemic has passed, we can restore ‘normal’ service in a couple of minutes using that backup file. Notably, all these changes can be done while observing social-isolation rules.
Voice-mail to e-mail:
Making all business voicemail go to a particular e-mail account is a simple change. That way you can see the call details and listen to the messages using the e-mail app’ & media player on your home-office PC or laptop.
Divert calls to home or mobile:
All phone numbers associated with our systems are able to be routed to an extension, groups of extensions, or even ‘bounced’ out to mobiles and/or landlines. A ‘carrier level divert‘ can be put on a number so that diverts happen before the calls even get to your business phones, but it may be more convenient to divert from your own phone system because you can then configure a different in-hours and out-of-hours call route.
While call diverts placed on your Direct Dial Inward (DDI) numbers will route calls back out to you, that isn’t the best way to do it! Diverted DDI calls will bypass any call groups (Sales, Marketing, Support, etc.) and just ring a single remote working number. In addition, the divert is a call from your phone system, and as such, it will be your business that is charged for the diverted call from your customer! Outbound calls made by the home-working staff member also need to be accounted for – which may be difficult if the phone in use is a personal home phone or mobile.
Take your desk-phone home:
A VoIP handset may be used at the business, or for remote working from a home office. Minor security changes need to be made to allow the phone to connect back through the Internet to the office phone system, but once established, it becomes part of the office system, as though it was there. Having the ‘extension’ at your home office allows you to be part of the same call groups and queues that run at the business. Calls between extensions use the Internet and are free of charge. This also allows you to place outgoing calls through the business ‘trunk lines’ and therefore there are no accounting or staff expenses issues.
Soft-phones on PCs and laptops:
A software phone app can be loaded onto a PC, Mac, or laptop – as a ‘clone’ of your business extension phone. The soft-phone will use WiFi or Ethernet to make or take calls to or from your phone system through the Internet. The laptop/PC’s mic’ & speakers may be used, or you might like a headset (corded or cordless), instead. Apps like this will ring in conjunction with your desk phone at work, and your extension’s membership of ring groups and call queues, etc. will still be valid. Internal calls between extensions are free, and external calls go via the business phone lines and make call billing simple. These apps are already an integrated part of your 3CX or Yeastar system solution – so implementation costs are minimal. A soft-phone app’ on a laptop is an ideal remote working tool for road-warrior sales staff too …
Simultaneously ring your mobile:
Our 3CX and Yeastar VoIP platforms will allow the configuration of a mobile number as part of the extension user’s profile. At the tick-of-a-box, we can make the call split to ring both the extension phone and the mobile number associated with it. This is especially useful if the user’s home broadband service gives us VoIP connectivity issues (see below) – or the user is literally – mobile.
VoIP apps on mobile phones:
App’s for Android or Apple iPhones may be downloaded from the respective ‘stores’ to provide a remote extension for 3CX or Yeastar systems, on your mobile phone. The app’ may be configured (using a QR code), to be a clone of your work extension and therefore act just like the Soft-phone as described above. It is possible to use these apps to make or take calls through both WiFi and 4G/5G mobile data networks. The 3CX and Yeastar (Linkus) mobile apps provide the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective, and most flexible way to get the functionality of the office phone system, out to your remote users. Again, these apps are an integrated part of your 3CX or Yeastar system solution.
Future DR planning:
Pushing users out to remote work in home offices on this scale has shown us that not all broadband services are created equal! Some ISP’s have ‘SIP-ALG’ features enabled in their routers which inhibit the use of remote VoIP extensions, and those ‘features’ can’t be disabled! Future DR planning should include ‘quiet-time’ testing of remote extensions at home offices to detect where problems are going to arise. In cases where problems are found, you may elect to change broadband provider or just the home router, or use 4G/5G mobile data to support your remote working next time there is a need – but be prepared and have a plan.