According to the Office of National Statistics, half of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. But despite the many benefits of doing so, the main disadvantage of working away from the office is the lack of human interaction. Jamie Coombs, Group Professional Services Manager atAltodigital discusses what small businesses can do to overcome this.
Many small businesses are reluctant to use video meetings, believing them to be just for larger enterprises which means they are losing out. Small business employees these days often operate remotely, at home and on the road and are the ones that could really benefit from more face-to-face interaction.
As a result, many organisations still insist on regular team or company meetings. However, when employees are located across the country, paying travelling expenses can prove costly. The answer could be to replace some of the meetings with a video conference. For example, we at Altodigital now hold weekly sales meetings but only meet face-to-face once a month, an arrangement that works perfectly and saves on travel costs and time.
The availability of fast, inexpensive broadband is doing much to change this situation. Now companies of any size can hold a virtual meeting at any time. And because of the simplicity of the technology, it doesn’t require an important conference to justify its use any more. Quick one-to-one conversations can be held this way too.
However, it is still crucial that small businesses evaluate exactly what they want to achieve before implementing a video conferencing system. Will it want to involve several people on calls in one room or focus on more remote requirements? It’s also worth remembering that good wi-fi is now essential.
Skype for Business is a popular choice for small businesses, but video conferencing applications embedded in a VoIP bundle should also be considered. Skype has many advantages, not least that it is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office applications, so users can share files and make presentations on the call. But while it can be ideal for internal calls, its reliability during external meetings is often questioned.
However, a business deciding to use video more may also see this as a chance to move entirely to VoIP. Hosted providers can often offer a bundle deal inclusive of a large volume of calls and IP to IP calls are often made free of any charge. VoIP adoption also stops the need for traditional telephone infrastructure so there are no long-term hardware lease or maintenance charges. Researchers at IDC have estimated that a VoIP system can deliver a 30 per cent reduction in telephone-related expense and at Altodgital we have customers cutting their bills by at least 25 per cent by migrating to VoIP.
So, it seems that including Skype for Business or another application within a VoIP bundle is probably the most economic choice for a small business. But whatever the option, it should be easy and quick enough to become part of everyday communication.
In fact, for some organisations, working this way has eliminated the need for a central headquarters. Instead it has facilitated the rise of the virtual office - possibly the ultimate cost-cutting arrangement.