5 Ways UCaaS Helps Hybrid Work From Home
Two seismic shifts in the workplace have happened over the last two or three years, both related to the pandemic. The first, driven by lockdowns was a move to work-from-home and remote working. The second was a move to e-commerce as businesses saw foot-traffic fall away as malls and retail outlets closed.
Both required that businesses take a close look at their communications strategies.
While work-from-home and remote working are common, and there are significant advantages to the remote worker, it has been recognised that the social and synergistic benefits of office working are lost. Hence, there is an increasing trend towards hybrid working, where the worker spends most of the time working remotely but works from the office for part of the time.
Most businesses had a piecemeal approach to communications, driven by history and by functional area. Different business areas used different technologies and often legacy systems were still in use, even if an attempt had been made to adopt an integrated approach, usually based on VoIP.
Many businesses addressed this issue by creating a Unified Communications (“UC”) strategy, with the intention of moving to single or linked technologies that would meet all their communication needs.
The pandemic meant that a gradual approach quickly morphed into an immediate need.
However, it usually transpired that the communications infrastructure demands, particularly supporting remote work and working from home meant capital expenditure that was not affordable.
The rise of the “as a Service” models for service provision came to the rescue. If the capital expenditure could be turned into operational expenditure, it could be affordable. Hence the development and supply of “Unified Communications as a Service”, UCaaS, where a service provider supplies and manages the infrastructure for a regular fee.
What is UCaaS and What Does It Cover?
UCaaS is a service provided by a supplier that supports a centralised system offering integrated communications services to an organisation. It is a service delivered using cloud-based technologies.
Most businesses have communications requirements in all or most of the following areas:
- Enterprise telephony;
- Internal and external local and remote meetings (audio/video/web conferencing);
- Unified messaging;
- Instant messaging and presence (personal and team);
- Mobility; and
- Communications-enabled business processes.
If they are provided by using different technologies, then this can lead to incompatibilities and increased support costs. There is also the great risk that communications in one medium need to be copied in another to reach all recipients, but are not, leading to missed and misinterpreted communications.
UCaaS is provided by a service provider who supplies the hardware and software infrastructure, and operates and maintains it, usually from their data centre.
Having defined it, how it works and who supplies it, here are five ways UCaaS supports hybrid remote working and working from home:
Voice is still the most used communication medium, and any UCaaS needs to support it. VoIP is the most common implementation because it provides significant cost savings and operational advantages. Having it as part of a UCaaS implementation removes the need to buy VoIP infrastructure.
As much as we moan about meetings, they are still the lifeblood of many organisations. The UCaaS environment must provide local, regional, and International virtual meetings with audio and video support. Remote working usually means that group meetings are held using collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams which support desktop and file sharing during presentations.
While email remains a major communication medium, instant messaging is common. SMS, MMS and instant messaging using WhatsApp are typical messaging clients.
The advantages over email are immediacy, in that messages are delivered immediately in real-time. A further advantage is that most smartphone users prefer mobile messaging to email, so a messaging component is an essential part of any UCaaS solution.
Working remotely demands better collaboration and communication between team members and colleagues in general. Presence, or more commonly, the ability to know if someone is online or not, is a necessary part of the UCaaS solution.
Some think it is an invasion of privacy, but presence can extend to knowing what someone is doing. A business advantage is that a worker can see that someone may be “unavailable”, but “disturbable”.
Remote workers and road warriors in general want to use home networks and WiFi services in public places such as hotels and malls so they can work from virtually anywhere. A UCaaS solution should allow for connections from anywhere, anytime, subject of course to acceptable security protocols. It should also be device agnostic, in that remote workers can connect from desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart devices.
In summary, a UCaaS service must equip a business with a single platform for all its communications needs. It enhances productivity, collaboration and communication.
It is also cost-effective. A UCaaS solution is funded from operational income and is cheaper than a business establishing its own UC platform from capital expenditure.