With employees, managers, and business owners all reaping the benefits of remote work, it is likely that the 9-5, Monday to Friday, the in-person work environment will soon become the exception and not the norm.
According to a 2020 survey of public employees in Brazil, 65% said that they would ask for permission to telework in the future. Similar sentiments are shared by employees around the globe. Remote work offers financial savings to both employees and employers, as well as many mental and physical benefits to remote workers. Remote work also benefits the environment.
With that said, there are downsides to remote work. We are social beings, and remote work separates coworkers for long periods of time. This can cause isolation, extreme independence, and a lack of collaboration and unity in teams.
In order to minimize the drawbacks of remote work and fully embrace the remote work business model, you’ll want to follow these four best practices.
1. Optimize Your Business Phone Software
Even before the remote work boom, many companies were updating their business phone systems and switching from traditional PBX or legacy systems to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In the years from 2010 to 2018, the VoIP industry grew from 6.2 million business lines to 41.6 million. Due to the many advantages of VoIP such as unlimited calls, lower costs and advanced features, it is estimated that the VoIP market will reach a valuation of $194.5 billion by 2024.
If VoIP was important for business communication before, it is even more so now for remote teams. The following VoIP features are particularly useful to remote teams.
To get more of an in-office collaboration feel for your remote team, video conferencing can be a great tool. It’s offered with many business VoIP solutions or can be purchased as a standalone feature. The number of participants can range from less than 10 to hundreds. Many video conferencing solutions also include helpful remote team features such as whiteboarding, screen sharing, chat and breakout rooms.
This somewhat rare VoIP feature allows you to send messages to teammates with pictures, videos and other attachments. MMS messaging can make communication amongst your team more rich and personal.
Softphones are, in a way, the heart of business VoIP. Softphones allow your workers to access all of the features of your business communication platform from anywhere. Whether team members are in a home office with a desktop or at the airport with a cell phone, they will be able to place and receive calls, send texts, or video chat from their work number. This protects employees from having to give out their personal cell numbers to clients and ensures professionalism. Softphones also help remote employees with work-life balance as they can easily set up work calls to go straight to voicemail while still receiving calls to their personal number.
Virtual extensions are another way to help remote workers stay connected using their personal devices. When a customer dials a company’s main number and then dials the virtual extension, they are seamlessly connected to the employees device. The virtual extension will have its own voicemail box as well so that employees can keep work and personal messages separate.
Finally, virtual extensions can be used to create a local presence. Companies can obtain a local phone number in a specific target area that will forward to the actual business or employee location.
2. Use Team Collaboration Software
Team collaboration software allows employees and managers to chat, share files, organize tasks, and, of course, collaborate in the cloud. Many team collaboration solutions also include features like video chat and project management.
There are many options for team collaboration software. Some solutions offer free limited plans and others cost around $20 per user per month. What you choose will obviously depend on the needs and budget of your business, but for remote teams, some kind of team collaboration software is essential.
Make sure that your team knows how to use the software and that they are in regular communication. Most team collaboration platforms let you set up different chat groups for different projects so that you can keep conversations organized.
Chat threads should be positive and somewhat lighthearted. Morale is important in any office but especially in remote teams that might be more susceptible to loneliness and lack of motivation. Make use of the fun emojis most team collaboration platforms offer, celebrate victories, and show appreciation to your remote team members.
3. Introduce New Employees Virtually
Speaking of morale, make sure to introduce new employees on a video call so that they feel immediately connected to their new co-workers. It might even make sense to set up several video calls with different departments or groups so that they can get to know more people in small, intimate meetings.
When your employees can speak to each other face-to-face, there is more trust that is built, and this is necessary for meaningful collaboration. While the video format is not a perfect replacement for in-person contact, it is the next best thing. And for remote global teams, it is the only feasible option.
Virtual meet and greets are also a great way to check in on the well-being of your existing employees. You can usually get a better picture of someone’s mental state when you can see their face and at a casual meet-and-greet, there won’t be as much incentive for facades. If you notice that one of your employees seems especially stressed or anxious, it might be a good idea to follow up with them privately and offer support.
You can use these virtual meetings not only to give employees a chance to meet each other, but also to get the creative juices of your team members flowing. Plan some fun virtual team-building activities to get your workers in a relaxed and collaborative mindset. This will likely lead to some creative problem solving when everyone gets back to work.
4. Consider the Hybrid Remote Work Model
Collaboration and unity are needed to some extent for all teams, but some teams require more collaboration than others. If you are operating a business that requires high levels of collaboration and creativity, a fully remote work model just might not be possible.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between a fully remote or fully in-person office, you can have the best of both worlds with a hybrid office. A hybrid team will spend some amount of time in the office and the rest of their time working remotely. This could mean your team works in the office anywhere from once or twice per month to three or four times per week.
With a hybrid office, you still get many of the perks of remote working. Employees spend less time commuting and the business can save on overhead if it’s only operating a couple of times per week. Alternatively, you could divide your workers into small teams and alternate the days they use the office so that you can downsize to a smaller space.
The advantage to the hybrid work model is that it allows employees to have some in-person time together to strengthen social bonds, share ideas and figure things out, and then to finish the nitty-gritty work independently at home. The disadvantage is that you lose out on some of the big remote benefits like not needing an office, and being able to hire from anywhere in the world.
Every business is different and no one understands the needs of your business the way that you do. Whether you decide to move towards a fully remote, hybrid or even a fully in-person work environment, these best business communication practices will help your team members to stay engaged and unified in their mission.
Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP. As an entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, Reuben brings a wealth of hands-on telecom and business communication experience. His expertise is in helping small to mid-size business owners build, maintain, and scale their communication infrastructure.