The U.S. mobile worker population will grow steadily to 105.4 million in 2020, according to a forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC). By the end of the forecast period, IDC expects mobile workers to account for 72% of the total U.S. workforce.
If your communications infrastructure is not set up to handle the needs of mobile workers, your business could be missing out on gains in productivity and employee loyalty. Since adequately equipped mobile workers can do their job anywhere, they can perform on the go without having to wait until they get back to their desk to implement certain tasks. A study conducted by Staples found that 76% of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time on work and report being more loyal to their company since telecommuting.
Here are six ways that you can leverage your VoIP telephony system to enable workforce mobility.
Mobility-enabling functionality of VoIP
IDC places mobile workers into two categories: office-based, which means the worker primarily works in an office environment (this includes telecommuters who have home offices), and non-office based, which includes workers that work in the field or in non-office environments.
For office-based employees who need to move around a big campus or complex like hospitals, schools, cattle ranches and other facilities, some helpful features to enable or add to your VoIP telephone system include:
Hot desking – Included with most modern IP PBXs, this feature allows you to log into the IP phone at any desk and transfer your personal extension and all of your personal settings onto that phone.
Follow me – This is a feature that allows someone to call a single phone number and have that number ring either on their office desk phone, mobile phone or any other phone they choose, depending on where they are at the time.
DECT or VoWi-Fi – Most DECT phone manufacturers like Yealink, Grandstream, Sangoma, VTech and others offer DECT cordless phone systems that are compatible with VoIP phone systems, bringing users the best of both technologies: a secure, plug-and-play cordless DECT technology along with the rich feature set and robust functionality provided by the IP PBX.
Wi-Fi voice or voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) is another mobility-enabling technology that has the same backend hosted, cloud, or SIP trunk services as any wired voice-over-IP (VoIP) network, but with the endpoints connected through a wireless Wi-Fi network rather than Ethernet cabling. Free from the need for Ethernet jacks, Wi-Fi enabled IP phones can roam around anywhere within the range of the Wi-Fi network. For more information, see our recent guest-authored post about Wi-Fi voice.
Refer to our previous article to see a range of cordless phones from various manufacturers that use either DECT or VoWi-Fi.
For telecommuters or non-office based workers, some useful mobile-enabling features include:
SIP client on the employee’s personal phone – Both Android and iOS mobile phones have many free SIP clients available for download from their respective app stores. A SIP client allows workers to register their mobile device on the company SIP server (that is, the IP PBX) via a data connection or Wi-Fi and have the internal extension of their office desk phone ring on their mobile phone. Companies can also provide a worker's mobile device with a unique internal extension, essentially supplying the office with an additional telephony endpoint. With the appropriate network configuration and security, this extension can be used from anywhere in the world as long as the mobile phone is connected to the internet.
Unified Messaging – This feature provides a single interface for accessing all types of electronic messaging including email, fax, text, voicemail and others. All of these messages can be sent via email, thus giving users only one interface to check for all of the messaging services. Since workers receive emails on their smart phones, they can easily retrieve their work voicemails while away from their desk and be productive at otherwise idle times, such as while waiting in line. For more on this, see our previous article on voicemail-to-email.
Presence Technology – When workers are mobile, you can’t just look over at their desk to see if they are available. Presence technology allows the “status” of workers to be communicated to other associates remotely. This can be highly customized to include anything from “on a call” or “in a meeting” to “do not disturb” or “crossing my fingers” – anything that can expressed in XML format is possible. Status indicators can be automated so workers don’t have to spend undue time updating them. It is also easy to deploy. For more information, consult our blog post about presence technology.
It is always necessary to take the appropriate precautions to keep your network secure when enabling or adding any new application or appliance. Some security precautions for mobile workers we listed in a previous article about SIP and workforce mobility include:
- The use of VPNs to connect mobile phones that register with the SIP server through the internet.
- The employment of the appropriate firewall configurations on the edge of the corporate network that will perform deep inspection of packets to verify their source and type.
- The implementation of measures to avoid toll fraud from users of internal extension numbers on their mobile phones.
- The configuration of encryption for all voice communications to eliminate the possibility of eavesdropping, either from inside or outside of the corporate network.
For more information about securing your network, check out our article on How to hack-proof your VoIP network.
Forecasts indicate that almost three quarters of the workforce in the U.S. could be mobile by 2020. Enabling mobility in the workplace and among remote workers is no longer an option. The good news is that with a VoIP phone system, facilitating worker mobility can be simple and in some cases involves activating features that already exist on the IP PBX. Helping your customers enhance their worker mobility will allow them to reap dividends in employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty.
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