General

It’s that time of year again, and it’s important to Ubi.

Christmas can be difficult.

It’s that time of year again when we look forward to meeting with family and friends, and appreciating our health and happiness. This year, because of the continuing pandemic, it might look a little different, but for many it will be the same, if not worse than usual.

For some, Christmas can be a very difficult time of year. I think of those people that are homeless, or are suffering from loneliness, poverty, long term illness or the loss of a loved one.

Ubi isn’t a big business – there are just 11 of us – but we feel strongly that it’s important to help our community where we can, and we have been doing so every year since we started trading over a decade ago.  We like to focus on small, local charities and community projects, and we sometimes mix this with national causes that we relate to. Our contributions are not big enough to change lives, but we hope they make some difference.

This year we are very pleased to have continued to help a fantastic small charity called Jay’s Aim who provide free defibrillators together with educational training and screening for heart conditions. Their website tells you more and we are going to continue our support with them throughout 2022.

We have also just delivered a car boot full of supplies to the Exeter Food Bank who do an amazing job helping to feed people in the Exeter area. This has become a Christmas regular for us and we will continue to support them every year.

And we are very proud of four members of the Ubi team who grew truly remarkable, and somewhat dodgy moustaches as part of Movember 2021, raising over £600 for this ground-breaking men’s’ charity. If you feel like adding to our sponsorship, or would just like to have a look at the moustaches, then please follow this link.

Our main sponsorship this year is in Crediton where we are contributing towards buying a motorised wheelchair for 11-year-old Imogen Leyman who has Cerebral Palsy. The wheelchair costs £16,000 and will enable Imogen to visit beaches, go out in the countryside, and help the entire family to enjoy a more expansive life. We hope that our help will make a difference. Please follow this page to find out more about Imogen and her wheelchair.

I want to thank all the team at Ubi who fully support our work with these charities. 

As I said earlier it’s the time of year that is important to everyone at Ubi.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Ubi, the environment and Ecologi

Ubi, the environment and Ecologi

It’s not often that I find myself ahead of the curve. In fact, this may be the first time.

The environmental impact of our lives is currently coming under more scrutiny than at any time in our history. And quite rightly so.

For many years I have been concerned about the impact Ubi’s trading has on the environment, from the manufacturing of the products we supply to our business mileage, to the power usage of cloud servers and our own office heating. However, it has been almost impossible to find out the exact environmental cost of this.

It does seem remarkable to me that we are provided with documentation on electrical safety, running requirements and details on the recycling and disposal requirements but not on the environmental cost of manufacturing. I believe that all newly manufactured items should come with an environmental impact certification which would help us gauge the true cost of change, but this still seems a long way off.  

It was while wrestling with these questions, rather than sitting on our hands and waiting for things to change, we decided to see if we could assess our impact and off-set it. And then we found Ecologi (or Offset Earth as they were known at the time).

Ecologi, in their own words, was “created so businesses can actually take on the climate crisis” through tree planting and investing donor contributions in into a broad range of carbon capture projects. Such activities can be tied to the commercial operations of your business, allowing you to offset against these.

Since joining in 2019 Ubi’s contributions have paid for the planting of 2,624 trees (and counting) and helped offset over 425,000 business miles – a figure which is considerably more mileage than our team have clocked up in that time.

The scheme is only now being picked up by the bigger corporations – including tech giant Nokia who started working with Ecologi only just this year. Still, better late than never.

Recognising that protecting the environment has even greater urgency, we have increased our commitment to Ecologi’s programme this year and are now planting at least one tree for every new handset, cloud licence, mobile connection, system, router, data switch or new fibre line. And in 2022 we plan to go further by inviting all our customers to join us in adopting a commitment to this initiative – it’s surprisingly affordable and of course the trees will be growing and helping benefit the environment for many years after the products from us have visited the recycling station themselves!

So why have I been ahead of the curve? Well, Ubi were one Ecologi’s earliest partners. When we joined, they had less than 300 business partners and they now have over 8,600. I encourage all businesses to look at Ecologi and think about getting on board to help limit our collective impact on the environment – https://ecologi.com/.

Help … my local supplier is no longer local!

Help … my local supplier is no longer local!

People buy from people, don’t they? Well perhaps they do but usually people buy from people and the business they represent. Buying from the right people, in the right business is critical, and a key part of the purchase is almost always the expectation of an ongoing good working relationship with the person and company that you have chosen.

Ubi is in its 11th year during which time we have partnered with all sizes of companies, and I can categorically state that the very best partners we have, and indeed ones that we have stayed with are independent, small to medium businesses. The key reason for this is that they have always provided us with a level and continuity of support that is personal, professional and of an extremely high standard. We know them, and they know us, and we get on. And because of their support for us we are able to offer better support to our customers. The big national businesses that we work with just cannot match the support levels of smaller businesses.

” … and after a couple of years the original name will disappear, by which time the staff you know will have left.”

So, what could happen if one of your smaller supplier partners were bought by a large national enterprise with say 600+ employees? Well I suspect that initially you would be told that nothing will change, the company name will remain, your account manager will stay in their role, the support will be even better (perhaps because they are bigger and have a NOC- i.e. a National Operations Centre?), and maybe the services on offer will be enhanced.

But history shows that things will change. Staff may be disgruntled at being 1 in 600 rather than 1 in 35, new company procedures will come into play, the local office may be shut to ‘rationalise and streamline’ support, the accounts team function moved to Head Office, and after a couple of years the original name will disappear, by which time the staff you know will have left. And what are you left with? Possibly a long contract with a business that you didn’t chose (nor would have) and potentially a knock-on effect on the smooth running of your business.

National businesses buy local businesses for many reasons, often because they see opportunities to expand their reach, increase their turnover, or add to their products but also, they do so because they know they can enhance the profit margin by reducing local headcount and centralising many functions such as accounts and service support. It’s very common. There is nothing wrong with it but in my experience whenever a good quality local business has been sold to a national concern the service, empathy and support deteriorates.

I can’t recall ever hearing reports of service levels at a business really improving after a national company bought out a local one! It just doesn’t seem to happen.

If your local pub is bought by a national chain, then it could be a big disappointment but since you are unlikely to be contractually obliged to drink there it may just mean a longer walk to a pub you like. However, if you are in a long contract with you chosen local supplier for business-critical applications such as voice communications or IT support then any drop in support standards could have a direct impact on your business for a number of years. Unfortunately, the contracts in the Telecoms & IT industry can be notoriously difficult to extricate from – some last for as long as 8 years with year-on-year compounded price rises which means the negative impact may be a lengthy, costly one.

So, if your business is based in the West Country and your local telecoms or IT supplier has just been sold to a substantially sized national company then it may be worth talking to Ubi. Based in Devon and covering the South West of England (with no desire or plans to go any further) we are 100% independent, and very focussed on providing excellent support. We believe that contract flexibility is crucial in today’s business environment so that you can be comfortable that you will only be paying for exactly what you need, when you need it.

Which all means that if you feel our people are the right people to buy from you can also be happy that the business behind our people is the right business to work with.

About Ubi

If you have concerns about the level of service you’re currently receiving from your telecommunications provider, then talk to Ubi.

Since 2010 we’ve been making it easy for businesses in the south west, like yours, to talk. We give you great technology combined with great service – everything we do is about making it easier for you to operate.

Does that sound fair? Contact us today.

A hybrid working policy that doesn’t require serious expense or complexity

A hybrid working policy that doesn’t require serious expense or complexity

A few things to consider if you are migrating from temporary working from home (WFH) to permanent hybrid working.

Just a few years ago working from home was not an option for most people. This was party due to a technological lag that meant WFH whilst still being fully part of the office was not possible, and partly due to widely held inherent company culture where home working was a looked upon with a lack of trust. And to be frank it was often only senior management and company owners who allowed themselves the benefit of home working.

I’ve always found this a little odd, after all if you can’t trust one of your staff to work when they say they are how can you trust them to do a good job at all? And why should they be less trustworthy than you? I figure that the truth behind this is that many owners and senior management enjoyed the perks of less interruptions, more room to think and being able to pop into their garden for a sneaky 10-minute break without being caught out, and perhaps they just didn’t wish to share it.

The working from home culture shift

How things have changed! Companies have been forced to engage WFH just to keep functioning in these remarkable times, but far better provision of broadband and the capabilities of cloud mean that working from home for most is now feasible, staff can be managed and their performance measured at the same or often better levels than pre-pandemic times.

Staff can be fully connected for voice and data, calls can be routed just as though they were in the office, call volumes measured in real time and call recording can be achieved on desk phones, soft phones and even mobiles to allow full auditing. So owner and manager trust issues can be allayed.

The Practicality of Working from Home

But for those that work at home the practicality of the working environment is often ignored even though it can be a bigger issue than ones concerning technology.

Trying to work at the kitchen table or in an upstairs spare room with a data lead running down the hall to your internet router isn’t great. Particularly when the doorbell rings, the dog barks and you trip over the lead, lurching your laptop almost off the table as you rush to the door. And if you have children at home then you may end up taping a lead temporarily around the house to avoid multiple trip events. Ugly, frustrating and probably not something those people in health and safety would approve of, but OK in the short term.

Options for your hybrid working policy

So, what about long-term moving from enforced WFH to a proper hybrid working policy in the office and at home?

Laptop Softphone

The truth is that technology can help you out here. It’s important that your most common place of work is set up correctly so if like me you prefer using a desk phone then I recommend having one at the location you work at most (subject to all the issues mentioned hereto) and then use a softphone elsewhere. Some in my industry advise a portable tablet style office phone but even though it sounds simple to pick up your tablet phone and take it home with you it’s just another device to lug around with you 2 or three times a week. And they are very expensive. So instead, I’d recommend it’s simpler and more cost effective to run a softphone on your laptop and have it twinned with your desk phone so that they operate as one extension. Alternatively have no desk -phone at all and simply run with the soft phone – no additional items to carry, no long cables at home and perfect calls.

IP DECT Handset

If at home you are not working in the same room as your internet router then a soft phone on your laptop with a decent headset will mean you can make, receive and transfer calls perfectly. Alternatively you could use an IP DECT (portable) handset running over your wi-fi or, since IP DECT handsets are often rather pricey, it’s also possible to connect a standard home portable handset via a nifty converter that plugs into your home router.

IPECS one

And if your home broadband is flakier than a statement by Matt Hancock, but you have good 4G then you can run a phone system app such as Ericsson-LG’s IPECS-one on your mobile phone which will run your mobile as an extension of the office phone system.

Noise Cancelling Headsets

Technology can even help with the barking dog and noisy children – noise cancelling headsets such as the Athena HSD2 will muffle out background sounds so that your voice isn’t drowned out by some of the more distracting home sounds.

Individual needs will vary within your hybrid working policy

For a hybrid working policy to work well you need to consider everyones’ individual circumstances and invest accordingly. None of these options are in themselves expensive but if you insist on unilaterally running exactly the same set-up for the sake of simplicity then inevitably you will come up against objections and inefficiencies. The beauty of these options is that it is simple to mix and match them so that everyone finds the style that suits them and feels their needs have been accounted for, which ultimately will give you the best chance of a happy, efficient team, and that’s bound to benefit your business.

For more on my thoughts on Flexible working, read my blog from last year: Flexible working – it’s as important for a businesses as it is for a gymnast.

[Photo by Nordwood Themes on Unsplash]

Ubi partners with Jurassic Fibre

Ubi partners with Jurassic Fibre

We, at Ubi, are very pleased to announce a new partner to our growing list of outstanding telecoms providers – Jurassic Fibre!

By building a pure fibre broadband infrastructure, Jurassic Fibre is on a mission to provide businesses with better connectivity regardless of their geography – a goal we (at Ubi) have in common with them. Also like us, they have a keen focus on providing clients with the very best level of service.

All in all, this partnership between Jurassic Fibre and Ubi is one based on shared goals and values, making it a good fit all round.

With Jurassic Fibre’s broadband, Ubi can deliver incredibly fast pure fibre broadband to more locations across the South West. Customers will benefit from:

  • free installation when you sign up to a 24-month contract.
  • 100% fibre service- no old-fashioned copper connection
  • Great speed and a more reliable connection
  • business grade support 7 days a week
  • quick and simple installation from our South West based team

Being based in Exeter means Jurassic Fibre has made the South West region a priority for the company in building its digital infrastructure, which will deliver greater connectivity and broadband speeds for businesses and communities many more locations.

If you’d like to know more about Jurassic Fibre’s broadband offering through Ubi, please call us on 01626 839 839.  

‘Rocket Speed” fibre broadband for the UK! Really?

‘Rocket Speed” fibre broadband for the UK! Really?

Is ‘rocket speed’ fibre broadband really about to be delivered ‘like fury’ in the West Country?

Last week BT announced that they were going to build the UK’s full fibre internet infrastructure ‘like fury’ due to changes in OFCOMs stance, and that this would result in them starting to provide superfast fibre to 20 million properties by the mid 2020s, meaning we could all benefit from superfast broadband connections. The Government say it’s going to be ‘rocket speed’.

Great news you’d think. Well perhaps not so good as it may at first seem.

BT is already in the middle of a countrywide fibre upgrade, due for completion in 2025, a key part of which was the provision of superfast broadband to 99% of homes and businesses, with every property in the UK entitled to at least 10Mbps broadband.

So, what has changed?

A couple of key items have been slid under the carpet.  

The Government has dropped their own stated promise from 100% of homes to 85% of homes, with the final 1% now being regarded as not being financially viable for supplying with fibre. So, there’s a good chance that if you are in a rural area, currently with poor provision that may well continue into the next decade!

Also Ofcom has decided not to impose price caps on full-fibre connections provided by BT Openreach  which leaves it open for BT to charge higher prices, hence making the roll out more viable for BT, but probably more expensive for all of us.

Fortunately, OFCOM has insisted that BT will not be allowed to apply geographical pricing, so this means that the price for the service in rural areas with less demand and higher infrastructure investment must be the same as in cities where the cost of delivery is lower and size of market greater.

If you are lucky then you may be able to access services from an alternative provider, such as Jurassic Fibre or City fibre but critically for the West Country the government believes that some 30% of the UK will have no alternative to BT and it doesn’t take much business understanding to expect choice to be greatest in cities, but unavailable in rural communities.

There are alternatives to copper or fibre for rural areas, such as mobile network 4G, Point to point wireless through suppliers such as Airband or Gigaclear, or satellite, but these are often more expensive and services such as satellite can have problems with latency.

The good news is that 70-85% of us should be benefiting from true fibre into our homes and businesses by the middle of this decade but in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset some 400,000 people could still be without fibre at the end of the decade, and that has serious implications on home working, student learning and the rural economy.

So BT’s news is a re-hash of old plans, which have been watered down and dressed up as new investment and which benefit some, but which in reality puts back the installation of fibre broadband for a significant proportion of us. Pity.

Small business customer service and delivery – Big v Small

Small business customer service and delivery – Big v Small

In a choice between Big v Small, choose small.

Big v Small is a classic, isn’t it and forever has been so? From David v Goliath to Wrexham v Arsenal in the FA Cup or Finland v Russia in the war of 1940, to todays’ Big Tech v local business, Big v Small is the everlasting encounter.

And I would always opt for small.

Big has big claims; they are in the big league, employ the big cheeses, have big offices (and lots of them), enormous purchasing power, they know it all, they will be around for a long time and are financially stable, they understand you, and of course, they are also your best of friends. Or at least they say they are, but in today’s age of connectivity it is surprising just how disconnected one can feel from Big.

Big may know your analytics, where you shop, your credit score, your online habits, where you live, what demographic you are in, who you work for and even who you may be interested in ‘linking’ with, but I’ve never met a single big company that truly knows me.

In these estranged times, ask yourself how satisfactory it has been communicating with one of your ‘Big’ suppliers, be that your mobile supplier, insurance company, bank, supermarket, delivery company, or perhaps the holiday company you booked with and are now trying to re-arrange the holiday or have a refund? Have you ever spoken to the same person twice, or are you even able to talk to someone? From Airbnb to Amazon or BT, just getting a number to talk with someone is tough.

The beauty of talking with someone is that issues and queries can inevitably be dealt with more efficiently, often within the call. And the beauty of dealing with Small is that you will usually be talking with someone who knows you, your business, who wants to handle the query you have      and who will be there to speak with you again. Small businesses know their customers, connect with them at every level, and are adaptable and flexible.

Small knows that if they don’t provide support and service levels, their customers may well walk over to the dark side (!) to Big, so they work hard at service. Big thinks everyone should be working with them, and big has worked the algorithms.

But Big also knows how they like to deal with financially challenging times – they rationalise to being smaller, fewer offices, more centralisation, less local presence, Big moves back to its’ big office. But of course, Small doesn’t – it often is rooted in the local economy, so it adapts, works harder at being better and mops up the disenfranchised Big customers.

So for me, it’s always Small over Big. You should give it a try.

Ubi celebrates 10 years of helping businesses communicate

Ubi celebrates 10 years of helping businesses communicate

The last 10 years have seen huge changes in the working environment, none more so than over the last year.

And telecommunications company Ubi, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has kept pace, supporting its clients and growing steadily over the decade.

Ubi was established by David Collins and Dennis Hobday in December 2010. Both came from careers in the telecoms industry, but they felt they had more to offer, focusing on customer service and decided to establish their own company – Ubi. They initially worked with Baytek Office Solutions, based in their office, supplying their customers with telecommunications services.

David says although it was a leap from paid employment they felt confident that the business would work. He adds: “I never thought about the business failing, we were fortunate to launch ‘under the wing’ of Baytek and we were very grateful to have that relationship – it was a huge help at the time.”

After a couple of years Dennis decided to leave the partnership, and David continued as the sole partner, building a team around him. The Newton Abbot-based company now has nine employees, and clients in a range of sectors including hospitality, education and B2B professional services, across the south west.

David says the industry has seen many changes over the decade – perhaps the most significant being the move to cloud-based services.

“When we began, cloud-based technology was available, but the broadband was not high enough quality – we have seen that improve and it is now good enough for cloud.

“High quality cloud-based technology has been more important than ever, with people working remotely during the pandemic.”

David adds: “We moved to cloud ourselves in January last year, looking back, it was very timely as it has enabled us to be able to work remotely and to effectively support our clients throughout the pandemic.”

Many of Ubi’s clients are in the hotel and hospitality industry, with Ubi providing services like hotel telephone systems, or guest wi-fi. One of the first things the company did during the first lockdown was to offer support to its clients, reducing their monthly bills wherever possible.

“We knew how hard this would hit our hospitality clients, so we contacted them all and offered to pause any the services that we could, to help them. For us it’s about relationships and the level of customer service and care we offer to our clients – we’re not in it for a quick win.”

Flexibility is key to customer relations for Ubi, with short term contracts and minimal tie-ins for their clients. David adds: “We have never insisted on long contracts, and I believe that we have kept customers because of this approach.”

And how does David feel the workplace will change – post pandemic?

“I think, that where businesses are able, we will see more flexible working, people combining working from home more often with office-based work. Most businesses will retain an office, but I anticipate they will be smaller, more flexible premises.

“We know that lots of people have been able to successfully work from home, but for most, I believe a combination of office-based and home-based work will be the new way of working. There used to be a lot of mistrust around people working from home, but I think this last year has proved that is completely unfounded, with many people actually becoming more productive. I think there is also a lot of ‘Zoom fatigue’ with people craving face-to-face interaction.”

Looking back, what advice would David give to himself? I’d say, “Follow your instincts a bit more and also, from the early days, perhaps don’t be quite so optimistic with budgets!”

[Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash]

Cancel Amazon! How using Amazon exploits all of us

Cancel Amazon! How using Amazon exploits all of us

I’m not sure what is going to happen in 2021, but I know what I will not be doing.

As 2020 comes to its end and we all try our best to forecast 2021 it’s more difficult than ever to know exactly what we can expect both in our business and personal lives.

I do, however, know there is something I will not be doing, and that’s buying anything from Amazon, or indeed using Amazon in any way if I can avoid it.

Is it time to cancel Amazon?

I can hear my IT colleagues jumping up now and highlighting that Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) are used throughout our industry to deliver services and so I accept I may have no choice – for example Netflix uses AWS. I’m sure that some of the companies I order from online use AWS, but I have no control over that. But to sum up, where I can, I will choose to not use Amazon.

Why you should stop using Amazon

It’s true, at Ubi, we’re dependent on technology, providing outstanding levels of service across, phone systems, cloud systems, guest wifi, and much, much more.

It may seem odd that I’m in the technology sector but spurn one key provider, however I feel that my business and personal life is better off for avoiding Amazon.

Why am I taking such a bold stance? There are a number of reasons but, overall, it’s a matter of perceived fairness based on what’s emerged regarding the company’s performance and tax contributions in the UK.

This year, the company declared they would pay as little as £14.3m on 2019’s £14bn turnover (but on an undisclosed profit and a ‘low’ margin). When it was realised this didn’t look good publicly, they announced they were paying £293m in direct taxes, which happened to include all the usual PAYE/NI and business rates. Let’s see if HMRC will let me take that into account when I try to negotiate down my own company’s annual corporation tax bill this year.

If we assume that their ‘low’ net margin is only 3%, they would have made a profit of £420 million on their £14billion turnover, which I calculate equates to almost £80m corporation tax due. So, in their declaration they were £66m short; about equal to the annual salary for over 2,000 NHS nurses. Never have we needed healthcare more than now, so what better reason is there for Amazon to pay the same amount of tax as any other business in the UK has to?  

Simplification this may be, but these are the numbers.

And remember, these figures are before the massive 35%+ growth Amazon have been experiencing in 2020. If the company changed their policy to honestly pay corporation tax at the standard 19% on their true, unabridged, unmolested profit figures I would potentially support them in running a PR campaign to say how they fund 2,000 nurses!

But you and I know that they won’t do this because they do not want to pay corporation tax at the standard rate. Is it really that much to ask? From the outside looking in, it appears all Amazon wants to do is trade in our country and use its infrastructure to the fullest, take peoples’ money and trouser every penny of profit. In my opinion, you’d struggle to find a company less interested in community; theirs is a one World Amazon-first view.

Cancel Amazon and support local businesses

So, while I’m clearly advocating against Amazon, what is it am I advocating for? In a word, “local”.

As a marketplace that shows you the numerous options, Amazon is great. So, use Amazon to “showroom” or source a product/service you want, but then look to buy it elsewhere (from other suppliers on the internet or an independent on the high street).

Never make the assumption that because it’s on Amazon it will be cheaper. I have found multiple items for my home and business, from paint stripper to electricals, on Amazon that I end up buying at my local independent suppliers at the same or even a lower price. As consumers (either in business or day-to-day) we need to shop smarter – studies have shown that a pound spent with an independent local shop goes further than it does in the hands of a multinational corporation.

This approach genuinely works and has led me to using or working with some fantastic independent businesses who offer far more than online payment and next day delivery. Since thinking about my buying habits in this way, I haven’t spent a penny or bought even a single item from Amazon.

In 2021 let’s make sure we use Amazon to our advantage and not theirs.

I’d love to know your thoughts on Amazon and if you feel as passionately as I do about local business. Get in touch and contact us

[Photo by Ben Garratt on Unsplash]

Flexible working – it’s as important for a businesses as it is for a gymnast

Flexible working – it’s as important for a businesses as it is for a gymnast

It used to be that the only job with a prerequisite of flexibility was gymnastics. Those of us old enough will remember marvelling at the performances of the Russian gymnast Olga Korbut or Romania’s Nadia Comăneci who between them won 15 medals including 9 golds across multiple events spanning 3 Olympic games. They were ground breakers who were world class across all areas, winning medals in balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercises, vault, all-round and team.  It didn’t matter what they were asked to do, or what piece of apparatus they were required to use they excelled. They were years ahead of their competitors and had the skills, flexibility and adaptability to flourish. Alongside their talent ran an extremely harsh training regime, and a level of determination and hard work, without which they would not have achieved such incredible success.

How flexible working works.

Successful businesses have for many years adapted to changes to the marketplace and by doing so remained relevant, competitive and in demand. Those that have failed to adapt have either gone out of business or been taken over by a competitor – remember Woolworth’s, BHS and Athena, and international brands such as Compaq, Commodore and Kodak all of whom either gone completely or been reduced to niche trading.

All of these businesses either had no desire to change so chose to ignore long-term trends and falling sales or couldn’t adapt due to their business model being based upon traditional long-term financial commitments and high borrowings. They were as inflexible as an icicle whilst their business dripped away.

Today our challenges are more immediate; we simply have to adapt. Never has change needed to be made so quickly and by so many across so many sectors. But the good news is that the technology exists at affordable prices to enable businesses to become truly flexible by making the necessary changes.

The changes that make flexible working possible.

Home working is now here to stay and there are multiple ways of ensuring that your staff can be fully productive and monitored at home. A simple home set up of a laptop and phone is possible in almost every home now. Common complaints such as ‘my router is too far away from where I work to have a desk phone’ can be overcome with either a trusty, long cat5 cable, or utilising wi-fi phones or softphones for laptops with headsets. Even the thickest internal cob walls can be sidestepped using good wi-fi access points correctly located.

What if flexible working isn’t possible?

If employees have poor landline broadband then alternatives such as good 4G with external aerials, point to point broadband, or bonding a couple of broadband lines together can be adopted. And if all this fails then modern cloud or IP telephony will allow calls to be forwarded, potentially at no cost, to home numbers or mobiles without giving away personal numbers. If it’s set up correctly your customers will have no idea that they are speaking with home workers. And mobile apps that run alongside cloud telephones or modern IP based phone systems also allow your staff to be part of the office system whilst on their mobile.

Flexible working won’t affect productivity.

Combining cloud telephony with other services such as Zoom will mean that you can have meaningful face-to-face video calls (when you wish to!) whilst utilising the better telephone call handling that systems offer for everyday conversations.

Don’t worry about not being able to see if staff are working – most phone systems will highlight if a remote user is on the phone as if they were in the office. Furthermore, simple, cost effective software is available that will provide you with comprehensive information on call volumes, peak times, etc. And if you wish to be able to monitor how clients are being dealt with then call recording is easy to enable and can be a real benefit.

Flexible working makes your business more resilient.

So all this technology means that you can comfortably move staff home with the knowledge that your communication can be as good, if not better, than on your business premises. But maybe more importantly in these times, the flexibility this kind of technology also gives your business makes it more capable to adapt to changes as you need to in response to market fluctuations and/or customer requirements.

In the last 6 months we have gone from everyone except key workers to work from home, to work in the office if you can, to definitely work in the office, and now back to work from home again. In such a changeable environment you need to make sure that you work with a communications partner that allows you to change your services at short notice and without penalty or a new commitment to an inflexible 5 year term (or even longer!). We hardly know what’s in line for 2021 let alone 2025 so make sure you choose a technology partner carefully and avoid old style ‘tied in’ suppliers.

If your business wants to become as flexible as Olga or Nadia then you will have to put in some hard work to ensure it’s right, but hopefully the result will mean your business makes it to a gold medal standard.

[Photo from index by Jana Müller on Unsplash]

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