Chances are, the workplace has permanently changed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Many of your employees that already work from home won’t return to the office after a vaccine. Several tech giants have announced that employees can work from home indefinitely and most in the Fortune 500 will follow suit. Remote workers and telecommuting from home is likely to be the new normal.
While working from home delivers many benefits (no commute, greater flexibility, easier childcare, lower fixed costs) it also carries disadvantages (cyber risks, loss of employee collaboration and innovation, reduced communication and connection).
Reimbursement for Home Office Upgrades and Expenses
To combat the negatives of a virtual workforce, many tech companies have adopted Unified Communications combining voice, chat, SMS, video and audio conferencing. In addition, employers are also starting to reimburse for home office expenses and upgrades for several reasons.
- In a recent Aon survey of around 1,400 U.S.-based companies, more than 1 in 5 say they are helping to pay for their employees’ home-office equipment.
- A recent survey by Mercer, found 33% of companies reimburse for laptops, 14% pay for office furniture (standing desks, chairs) and 10% pay for home internet bills
Three states: California, Illinois and Massachusetts legally require reimbursement for remote workers. These laws were created before the Coronavirus, but are likely to expand and become expected by future employees as a necessary benefit.
Many human resource consultants are upgrading employee handbooks and beginning to promote these benefits to new hires.
- Shopify and Twitter provide $1,000 for remote employees to setup their home office
- Basecamp offers $1,000 for employees to upgrade a home office for virtual work.
At first glance, reimbursement of home office technology sounds expensive and unnecessary, but businesses are finding that employee comfort and productivity are critical to collaboration, communication and getting work done.
Auditing Home Office Technologies
Start with evaluating your technology ecosystem both at the office and in the home of your employees. If your IT department already tracks laptop serial numbers and age of hardware and software, expand the list to include everything deployed in the home office. Compare the gaps and number of workers affected. Breakout internal vs external communications and answer the below critical questions.
- What tools will workers in the office collaborate and interact with remote employees?
- How will employees access secure servers, company data and cloud applications virtually?
- Do workers have dedicated office phones or do they rely on smartphones only?
- Do you have an enterprise subscription to a video conferencing platform? Are employees using it, or setting up meetings with free/personal accounts?
- What is the quality of customer service and sales communications?
- Can virtual demonstrations and video conferencing replace face to face meetings with clients?
Send out a company-wide email asking for home network speeds, providers and hardware. You may be surprised at the gap in performance and employees that have insecure networks and decade old modems and routers.
While existing networks can be cyber secure with Virtual Private Networks and updated passwords, an employee with a 20mps internet connection is going to have difficulty. Bandwidth intensive applications can include video conferencing and even simple tasks while connected to a VPN.
Consider the ultimate corporate end of year gift: Ruckus WI-FI for the home. Ruckus Unleashed includes smart home and enterprise wireless features into an easy to install package. A separate personal and home office network can be set up to provide additional security. c2mtech as a Ruckus Networking Elite Solution Provider has installed Ruckus for executives and in new housing developments.
Supporting BYOD Smartphones
Many employers supported the bring your own device trend in the workplace pre-pandemic. Wireless networks were upgraded and open floor offices and coworking spaces adopted hot desking to allow for shared workstations. Although several companies are allowing workers to pick up IP phones from the office and install at home for higher quality communication, smartphones still play a critical role in B2B communications.
Cloud VoIP systems have enhanced existing tools to support applications for smartphones that allow for secure unified communications. Mitel’s MiVoice as an example, extends enterprise phone features for smartphone users via an app. Companies that deploy Mitel office phones can deliver a secure platform for chat, video and audio conferencing. Seamless and easy to use, MiVoice can even forward calls from business phone numbers and share access to voicemails and business contacts.
Another consideration for employers with high performing sales teams and customer service reps? Cell phone signal strength and reliability of mobile networks at the home. Many companies are receiving call analytics and finding that dropped calls and low quality connections are becoming a problem. Consider SureCall, a cell boosting, passive DAS system that is carrier neutral and affordable for home office environments.
Why Unified Communications for Remote Workers?
Combining phone, audio conferencing, video conferencing, chat and file sharing, UCAAS delivers a seamless package of integrated tools for collaboration. Affordable for employers and easy for employees, Unified Communications is also secure and well-suited for the work from home movement.
Hardware options include IP phones to smartphone applications. Transform how your office and remote team gets work done with a migration to VoIP and adoption of a UC platform.