The agile workplace – operators need to take the lead
Businesses have quickly moved to enable remote working. Having taken this step, it seems likely to stay for many and to become fully integrated into the business environment. Operators need to adapt and adjust voice services while integrating to commonly used business tools to support and enable this transition.
COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on office life
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge adjustment in work practices. According to one report from EAE Business School, the “number of companies with staff working from home has risen to 88%, compared to 4% before the health crisis.” This is a huge shift. Even in countries where working from home was accepted, it was far from common – EAE notes that “the EU members in which working remotely is most common are Luxembourg, Finland and Malta, with a level of 8%.”
Not anymore. And, despite the end of lockdown in different countries, this shift is likely to continue, perhaps for many years. As such, businesses are seeking ways to help their employees adapt while preparing for a more distributed future. Already, there’s much discussion about future work models, with suggestions that new hybrid patterns will emerge – say working from the office two days a week, and from home for the remainder of the time. This is likely to have a profound impact, in many ways.
For example, some workers used to commutes, may take the opportunity to move further away – perhaps reversing the gravitational attraction that many large urban areas have enjoyed for so long. Why live within daily commuting radius of a large city, if you can move away to a more attractive area with lower house prices?
Operators must support businesses with the right tools and the right integrations
Businesses will adapt, for sure – but they will also expect their service providers to help them make necessary adjustments. And, this creates an opportunity for operators. Of course, broadband networks will face new demand and operators will have to think carefully about how they roll out new fibre deployments – but mobile communications will be an essential element in the evolution of work habits and practices.
That’s because, while adoption of tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has surged, the distributed workforce has not always been able to obtain the best experience from such platforms. One reason is the gap between, say urban and rural coverage. That gap won’t be closed any time soon. Put simply, broadband is not universally available and can suffer from highly variable performance. As a result, many have been unable to enjoy a consistent video or collaboration experience, with connections dropping, frames freezing and more. Voice remains – and will for some time – as the common denominator and the essential component of such meetings.
So, businesses need to use a diversity of tools to ensure that their teams can connect, from any location and with mixed media, with voice as the default when performance limits demand it. While universal high-speed connectivity is part of the solution, it’s a long way off. We have to make do with what we have for now.
Consequently, operators should be seeking to connect business platforms to their voice and mobile networks. A user in a remote location may not be able to participate via video, but they can still usefully do so via an audio connection via mobile.
Similarly, VPN services – which can sometimes be seen as legacy tools – can unify distributed work forces and maintain the internal communications environment. There’s certainly a lot of life left in these old dogs! Operators should be looking again at mobile voice VPN solutions to ensure that organisations can adjust to new levels of distribution, whenever they need to.
Priorities for the new normal
Operators, then, have two clear priorities. First, they will inevitably invest in extending fibre and high-speed mobile networks. That’s a given, but it will take time. Second, they must take advantage of the tools they already have – existing voice networks, VPNs, advanced call handling solutions – to connect business solutions and users, so that distributed teams can function seamlessly.
What’s needed to meet this challenge is a clear vision of how to unify existing business voice assets and services, while enabling exposure and integration with whatever platforms and solutions business have adopted. Operators can make the clear proposition that they can enable any user, with any device, to connect, even if high-speed access is unavailable. They can support businesses with new hybrid models today, even while building network extensions for the future.
That’s where we excel. At Gintel, we can help you simplify your voice architecture while enabling integration across services and platforms, so you can deliver a more flexible service suite to meet the new challenges of the COVID-19 (and soon, we hope) the post-COVID environment. If you want to take a long, hard look at your business voice portfolio, talk to us and we’ll help.