Working from home – general
In recent years virtual office solutions have become more and more popular with an increasing number of businesses and offices using at least one of the many services on offer.
And of all of the virtual office solutions available, one of the most powerful and most popular has to be Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, technology.
This incredibly useful and versatile service has a range of far reaching implementations that, together with other technological innovations, is driving virtual office solutions.
An overview of VOIP
VoIP in its simplest form is the process by which a sound – i.e. your voice – is digitalised and sent via your internet connection to a recipient.
This can be utilised by companies in various ways, but basically means that a business can make long distance phone calls free of charge.
Extras like video capability and extensions can be added to a VoIP system, making it incredibly versatile and easy to tailor to suit an individual business.
Enabling remote working
As effective communication is one of the main obstacles to overcome when developing a more mobile working situation, the fact that VoIP offers a comprehensive solution means that it makes remote working a real possibility for many businesses.
Employees can work from wherever in the world that they want, without incurring extra charges for making long distance calls. Plus, the employer knows that they can reach their staff easily, quickly and cheaply, helping the business to run smoothly and efficiently.
As VoIP covers this basic need for good communication, it means that companies can take on a whole host of other virtual office solutions, transforming their workplace into the office of the future.
As VoIP becomes more and more common – and this is almost guaranteed to happen as old-fashioned telecoms systems become obsolete – it will become easier for companies to expand globally while still maintaining a team spirit and shared goal.
The nature of a VoIP system also makes it incredibly easy to add new extensions or to move the location of an extension if an employee has changed offices.
This will help to reduce the costs of expanding and reorganising your company, so you can make it work as efficiently as possible all of the time.
Once you’ve got your VoIP system set up, you can easily integrate it with other virtual office solutions as well as other technologies.
For example, VoIP gives you the opportunity to have a ‘click to talk to a member of staff’ button on your website.
You can also combine VoIP with email so that users can access their voicemail through their email clients, or set up a system where VoIP can be used on mobile phones, further reducing the cost of communication.
VoIP is an incredibly flexible service, with systems ranging from the simple to the complex.
It gives companies the opportunity to expand and contract their communications systems as circumstances allow, all while saving a lot of money on calls and helping to integrate your virtual office services.
By enabling this ease of growth and globalisation, VoIP technology is helping to increase the demand for other virtual office solutions and therefore driving the technology that will help to push everything forward.
This might well mean that, before we know it, almost all office communications will work on a VoIP platform, allowing limitless growth and flexibility and allowing companies to have offices and staff wherever in the world they want.
In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a working life before the advent of the internet. While personal computing was around for a number of years before the internet really took hold, it has now become so much a part of most people’s working lives that it’s difficult to envision life without it.
While there are a number of obvious ways in which the internet has changed the ways in which we work, there are some less readily apparent impacts that computers and the worldwide web have brought about in our workplaces. It’s also worth noting that while many of the changes will be in office-based work, there are plenty of ways in which other types of work have been irreversibly altered by the internet and its attendant services.
The ways in which we communicate have changed in the working lifetime of many of the people in most workplaces. Speak to anyone over the age of 30 and they are likely to remember the likes of intra-office memos, post with compliments slips and faxed correspondence.
These days, just about all of those types of text-based communication have been replaced by email and the huge volumes of email traffic and changes in use of postal services can attest to just how large a change that has been. A study by the Radicati Group forecast that this year daily worldwide email traffic would top 500 billion messages per day. At the same time, Royal Mail noted a fall in mail volume of 4 per cent in 2011 alone, a trend that is likely to continue.
In addition to text communication, the internet has revolutionised the way we communicate verbally. Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, powers services such as Skype and Google Hangouts that allow people to videoconference using free and widely available software that’s easy to download and install. This is not only cutting costs for telephone calls, but also allows people to reduce travelling expenses by offering ways to hold meetings online rather than in person.
The virtual workplace
The electronic means of communication, together with more widely accessible cellular data and smartphones, means that the workplace is now able to run virtually rather than being fixed in a single location. Online collaboration tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox and shared calendars mean that projects can be undertaken remotely and shared online for colleagues to contribute.
For those who work out in the field, the ability to search on the go can be a lifeline. Rather than carrying around heavy portfolios, the new generation of sales reps, account executives or even engineers and architects can turn up on site with a laptop or smartphone and access all the information they need to demonstrate to clients, finalise plans and place remote orders.
The ability to work remotely is also altering the way that companies organise their physical workspaces. Gone are the days when workers inherited their own office when taking on a job, replaced instead by hot-desks providing space to charge a laptop and a network connection for those who are in the office to take up minimal space and do what they need to do before packing up and moving on again.
The internet has completely changed the way in which most people work. Whether it’s a garage uploading information on cars they’ve inspected for the MOT or remote working by medical professionals viewing patients through HD video links, there is scarcely a walk of life that hasn’t been touched by the advances brought about by internet technology. The pace of change is unlikely to slow either, and as we grow more accustomed to the tools that the internet affords us to work differently, we will continue to expand our view of work and how it looks.
Many small businesses often do not have the in-house resources available to take high volumes of calls. Unfortunately this can lead to dissatisfied customers, loss of business and a rather stressful work-life. If you have found yourself in this situation, then why not consider outsourcing your administrative workload to a virtual receptionist? In this article we will explain five of the ways a virtual receptionist will benefit your small business.
1. Increased efficiency
As a small business owner you will know just how time consuming mundane paperwork tasks and other admin activities can be. Outsourcing these tasks to a virtual receptionist will enable you to focus on more important elements of your business, such as sales, admin or how to improve efficiency. You will have more time to focus on what you to best, whilst your virtual receptionist answers emails, handles your invoices and schedules your meetings. Whilst benefiting from better time management, you will also have the peace of mind knowing your virtual receptionist will never miss an important call.
2. Quality customer service
The virtual receptionist you work with will have been trained in customer service and have the necessary skills and experience to ensure they can fulfil the role to a high standard. Each phone call they take for your business will be handled in a professional manner, ensuring your customers are always completely satisfied with the service they are receiving. Whilst providing exceptional customer service for your business, a virtual receptionist will also be able to take calls beyond regular office hours.
Although running your own business is extremely satisfying, at times it can also be very stressful. A virtual receptionist will provide support that you can rely on. They will ensure that your business is organised at all times, by keeping paperwork up to date and passing on phone and email messages as they receive them. The thought of not having to manage everything on your own can be quite comforting!
4. Cost effective
Outsourcing your admin tasks to a virtual receptionist will eliminate the expense of employing a full time worker. For small business owners in particular, this can work out extremely cost effective as they will usually pay a set fee for the virtual receptionist package, rather than an hourly rate. Outsourcing your workload will also prevent you from needing to pay holiday or sick pay, like you would if you hired a full time employee. There is also no need to worry about office space or purchasing equipment, as the virtual receptionist will work from a separate location, using their own equipment.
5. Increased professionalism
If you work from home, you may find that it is hard to separate your work life from your personal life. By hiring a virtual receptionist to take your calls you will no longer have to worry about being disturbed by clients after hours or at the weekend when you need some personal time. Not only that but it will also make your business look better established and more professional. This is very beneficial for businesses that have recently launched and are looking to make their mark on the industry.
Whether you have recently set up your small business and want to make it appear more reputable, or are simply struggling to handle high volumes of calls by yourself, outsourcing your work to a virtual receptionist is the solution you have been looking for. Not only will hiring a virtual receptionist improve your customer service, but it will also increase your business’s efficiency. You will be able to put your skills to better use, swapping boring paper work tasks for planning and developing new business strategies.
By Megan Hunt
I’m Ian Marshall, the founder of Office Answers, and I am keen to provide useful articles on the subject of running a business from home. Office Answers has over 300 small business customers using our virtual office services and they all have less than five employees, with many of them being one or two people in start up phase. Through talking to these customers, and working from home myself for many years, I have picked up on many ideas on the pros and cons of running a business from home, and some of the technology that is making it easier to run a professional business in this way.
The aim of setting up this blog is to capture these thoughts in a way that others may stumble across them. As the number of articles grow I hope there is something you find useful and please feel free to add comments to any of the blog pages.