Posted on April 8, 2021 by Casey Houser
Our new e-book, Managing Remote Teams, is coming to a close. With the release of Chapter 6 that we’re announcing today, this marks the penultimate topic in our collection. In this next-to-last chapter, you can read all about remote team morale and how you can sustain a positive work atmosphere while employees are spread across the country.
Did you know that many studies show overall work performance and productivity being much higher when employees work remotely? And are you aware that morale can drop in that type of workplace atmosphere because of lack of personal interaction and feelings of loneliness?
You can make a difference for your team by implementing a few key tasks throughout the day that engage your team and keep life fresh and unpredictable between scheduled deadlines.
Lighten Existing Meetings
If you already meet with your remote staff in daily or weekly meetings, you might want to consider taking a few minutes in those meetings to include non-work topics.
To boost remote team morale, you could ask about what your colleagues’ have planned for the weekend. Tell them a story about an interaction you had recently when running an errand. Share a tidbit about your hobbies, and ask about theirs.
These types of conversations can lighten the mood and make work feel less about process and more about camaraderie. You’re in it together, so you should be able to share fun stories together.
Recognize Team Members’ Special Events
Take some time, also, to recognize the important events that happen in your colleagues’ lives.
Something as simple as saying “Happy Birthday!” in a group chat can make the workday better. You can also recognize anniversaries and novel family events like expecting a child.
Say congratulations or send a gift. Your entire department can help decide which gift(s) to purchase and increase your spending potential.
These types of interactions go a long way toward making people feel appreciated beyond the work they do as employees for your company.
Meet Outside The Workplace
Finally, our e-book chapter 6 notes that meeting outside the workplace can keep life interesting for everyone involved. Remote team morale can get a huge boost when employees know they will have a destination where work won’t be a priority.
You could initiate a bi-yearly get together for coffee at a downtown cafe. Or plan a larger journey that groups everyone together at a picnic site.
No matter the location you choose, workplace issues can be set aside so personal interaction can move to the forefront.
Check Out E-Book Chapter 6
If you want to read more about remote team morale, check out Managing Remote Teams E-Book Chapter 6. Then stay tuned to our blog for the announcement of Chapter 7, which will wrap up everything we want to address about remote team management and operation.
Sign up now to gain immediate access to all our printed chapter so far. You will read about topics like creating blueprints for business expansion, hiring new employees, and addressing internet security. Moreover, we talk about managing workplace expectations and keeping motivation and morale high while keeping the whole of your business organized. There’s something for every manager and employee to learn.
Posted on March 30, 2021 by Casey Houser
This past weekend, our COO Lon Baker, had the distinct pleasure of being featured with show host Nathan Mumm on the weekly technology podcast TechTime Radio.
The show’s lighthearted banter brings in audiences looking for a refresher of all things tech. Mumm and friends spoke with Baker for a few minutes about recent updates in the VirtualPBX platform and our stellar customer service that has made us a leader in the communications market for more than 21 years.
“What is That? Like Virtual Peanut Butter and Jelly?”
Episode 41 of TechTime opened with a brief poke at our company’s name in its first round of advertisements:
“Have you heard of VirtualPBX?”
“No. What’s that? Like Virtual peanut butter and jelly?”
“VirtualPBX provides affordable business phone plans…”
Clearly we’re not a provider of virtual sandwiches. We are able to take a joke, though, and out of the gate, TechTime Radio established itself as not taking life too seriously with this short exchange.
The advertisement set the stage for what later would be a more down-to-earth conversation with Baker who spoke first about what makes
VirtualPB&J VirtualPBX the best among its broad range of competition.
Breadth of Experience
“We have a breadth of experience both from a customer perspective as well as from a technology perspective. And that’s allowed us to keep growing with customers,” Lon said when asked about VirtualPBX’s leadership in the market.
All the members of our staff definitely pride themselves on having a wide range of experience to draw from as they handle customer concerns. Beyond our individual know-how, we have instant access through our phone system and our other online communications systems to reach experts in their specific fields.
When we need information broad and specific about how customers will want to access our features, we can go to Lon Baker. Similarly, we can find information about the intricacies of phone servers and hardware from Len Cacioppo, our vice president of operations, and we can handle complex customer service issues with an individualized touch by seeking out Jeff Weinstein, our director of operations.
These are only a few highlights from our experienced staff.
“She Said, ‘I Remember You.’ It Was So Nice!”
Host Nathan Mumm addressed the customer service at VirtualPBX by recalling his onboarding experience with the VirtualPBX Softphone after having already used our phone service. TechTime Radio has used our product with success and recently began using our new softphone with its update that includes Business SMS and Video Conferencing.
He talked about how his customer support representative remembered him from a previous encounter and that it was “so nice!” to speak to someone who recalled his individual situation. He said it was phenomenal that the support staff was able to turn an ordinary onboarding experience into one that’s personalized for the customer.
Baker responded promptly, “That’s actually one of the keys. We bet on that. Everyone talks about technology, and what we bet on is customer service.”
Mentioning Our Latest Award Win
Finally, Mumm also mentioned our win of the 2021 Product of the Year award from TMC and Internet Telephony Magazine. This is our eighth straight year of winning this particular award, which is something that doesn’t come without effort, Baker pointed out.
“We work very, very hard for those awards, and we’re constantly trying to improve the overall user experience. The overall customer experience is what got us the edge in that award,” he said.
Listen to Our TechTime Radio Interview
You can hear more from Mumm and Baker by tuning into the full show that’s hosted on YouTube.
The week’s rundown includes discussion about the sticker price of popular gaming chat platform Discord, what it was like to play King’s Quest in the early days of home computing, and account ownership and rights on major social media platforms.
The episode overall ranges from the light (pb&j) to the heavy (account suspension), so there’s a little something for everyone if you’re interested in tech. Have a listen today on YouTube or find TechTime Radio on podcast stores at Apple, Google, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and Listen Notes.
Posted on March 4, 2021 by Casey Houser
The traditional business arrangement of a managed PBX or managed VoIP service is for a service provider to offer a middle ground between an on-site PBX and a cloud-based hosted phone plans. It turns out that, at VirtualPBX, we act as a managed VoIP provider some of the time and a cloud-based provider at other times.
Your definition of what category we fall into has everything to do with your needs as a business. If you’re an entrepreneur that uses only 300 calling minutes every month, we probably fall into the cloud-based service provider category with our Business Phone Plans, but if you’re a sprawling multi-national corporation, we could work as your own managed VoIP servicer.
What Does Managed VoIP Try to Achieve?
The “middle ground” noted at the beginning of this article references both on-site PBX services and fully cloud-based phone plans.
Providers of on-site PBX plans have historically relied on businesses owning their own private branch exchange servers and purchasing their own phones. Since PBX servers are what control the inbound and outbound connections of phone calls, the server would run at a business’s office.
Conversely, cloud-based phone plan providers have allowed businesses to simply plug their phones into the internet to gain access to inbound and outbound dialing. Customers here typically also purchase their own phones.
Managed service providers tried to reach a midpoint with these two styles of service by helping businesses with initial costs.
Businesses could, for example, rent a PBX server from the phone company. They might also rent phones for a small monthly fee. Or they could expect to receive maintenance services on any hardware that they kept at their places of business.
There is a lot of variability in what mix of services have been provided. Some phone plan providers offered all of these types of options; others only a few. VirtualPBX has found itself, with a lot of planning and a little bit of luck, in a position to cater its abilities to the needs of every customer that it works with.
VirtualPBX as a Managed VoIP Provider
Think back to the entrepreneur that uses only 300 calling minutes per month. That individual might be bootstrapping their business and working on many aspects of sales, marketing, and product development every day. Their time allotted for phone calls is probably minimal, so a small allotment of minutes and a good Voicemail box and Auto Attendant will do them wonders as they grow as a company.
Now consider that a large multi-national company might need services like Priority Support or a custom retail delivery setup to get them running quickly as they open new locations. Those types of extra services are available through our stock plans and through custom setups that we’re happy to provide.
Each of those examples is dissimilar to one another, however, in the way that they make VirtualPBX appear. Are we a simple hosted VoIP provider, or do we go the extra mile to offer managed VoIP services?
Your choices and your needs as a business answer that question.
Serving Your Individualized Needs
This type of variability in business styles is why we have several phone plan types. We have created enough options to suit the majority of businesses that seek our services.
Yet we also know that not everyone falls into a cookie cutter shape, which is why our Custom Voice Solutions helps us build you a phone plan that works well for your individualized situation.
Get in touch today for a Free Demo to take a personalized tour of our phone system and see how we can help you.
Posted on February 2, 2021 by Casey Houser
All team members at VirtualPBX work remotely at least part-time, and many of us have amassed several decades of work-from-home experience. Our new e-book about remote team management compresses those years of knowledge into a handful of helpful chapters that can be useful to your whole team.
Today we have launched Chapter 1 of Managing Remote Teams – the first in a series that will be offered on our website in the coming weeks. The first chapter discusses the history of remote work and the benefits for businesses that choose full- or part-time remote work environments.
Why Go Remote?
In large part, companies will want to pursue remote work because it can save them money and because it’s accessible. Both those attributes work hand-in-hand to give businesses incentive to let their employees work from home.
There’s a historical precedent to remote work. Did you know that IBM had a large percentage of its workforce working remotely in 2009 and that, during that time, it saved hundreds of millions of dollars annually?
Your own remote team management doesn’t have to mirror IBM’s style. Yet you can take heart that other companies have paved the way and done so with lesser conditions than modern tech now provides everyone.
Benefits of Modern Tech
Since that time, broadband internet access has become more commonplace, and new gadgets like smartphones have taken over the consumer and business landscape. Think about the last time you went without your phone. It has become a part of your life, and your mobility as a worker has improved because of it.
Increased access to digital technologies support what IBM was pioneering in the previous decade. Now any business, large and small, has the ability to go remote because the tools necessary to do so are widespread.
Better Work-Life Balance
Remote work also helps your employees live more fulfilling lives.
Studies show that employees who have the freedom to work remotely are substantially happier with their jobs and their lives overall.
On-the-job performance may also increase when you allow individuals to work from home. Employees often are able to concentrate better and find atmospheres to work that are less distracting and more conducive to completing daily tasks. In this way, remote team management is improved automatically by simply allowing for the change in workspaces.
Bolster Your Remote Team Management
The first key to managing a remote team well is knowing how the history of remote work has taken shape. It pays to be knowledgeable about the ways in which your own company can benefit from remote work’s past.
Our e-book expands on these topics to give you a deeper sense of how work-from-home situations have evolved over the past decade. Within only a few pages, we hope to show you that remote team management can be simpler than you expect and that, no matter your industry or company size, your business, and your employees can benefit from remote work.
Download our e-book today for a quick, convincing read that can get you started in thinking about the switch to a work-from-home culture.
Posted on January 7, 2021 by Casey Houser
Throughout much of 2020 and into the early days of 2021, teachers have relied on remote learning to connect with their students, and they’re consistently looking for new resources for remote learning to make this process easier within a society still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At VirtualPBX, our role in this process has been to assist educational facilities by providing them with the tools necessary to keep their school systems running. This can result in educational advisory groups like Collaborative Learning Solutions (CLS) using our phone system to keep their staff connected while they work remotely and while that staff works remotely and on-site with schools and educational departments.
We’re happy to continue to provide groups like CLS with effective communications tools that keep their operations running smoothly through changes in the workplace. As the state of education further takes shape across the U.S. and globally, we’re refining our services to match the needs of all businesses in this group.
Remote Learning, or Reentering the Classroom?
School closures, and initialization of remote learning, began in earnest in the U.S. in March and April 2020 when COVID-19 exposure started to spread worldwide. Since that time, many schools have remained fully closed or have moved to partial online learning for students.
The beginning of the spring semester in 2021 shows much of that same picture – states and counties divided on how to proceed but hopeful that traditional classroom learning will return before the end of the school year.
- KDVR in Colorado reports that some districts in the state have already brought students back to the classroom. Many districts support hybrid models that either stagger in-person student attendance (for instance, Monday/Wednesday for half of students and Tuesday/Thursday for the remaining half) or bring students back to classrooms in phases (such as elementary students returning one week and high school the following week). Some districts combine staggering and phases, and most appear to plan for a combination of virtual and on-site instruction for the foreseeable future.
- Proposals in California, reports Calmatters, suggest that some students may return to schools in late January and early February. It prioritizes the youngest and most vulnerable children as those who would return first; then other populations are expected to follow in subsequent weeks.
- Fox19 explains that Ohio governor Mike DeWine hopes all children in the state can return to full in-person learning by March 1. Meanwhile, KYMA reports that school districts in Arizona are proceeding with distance learning for the first couple weeks of January and will reassess that strategy in county school board meetings throughout the month.
Mixed Approaches to Education, and VirtualPBX’s Response
What’s clear from the approaches of all school districts is that they value the health and safety of students and teachers above all else. Teachers are also clear about their need for resources for remote learning as they show hesitation to begin in-person learning, in full, while COVID-19 cases have hit their highest daily totals since the pandemic began.
VirtualPBX’s work with CLS shows a similar pattern at the level of education administration. CLS works with school boards throughout California and the U.S. to coach teachers and develop curricula, and it has been that organization’s plan to listen to the needs of individual school boards as they work with those educators. This includes concerns about COVID-19.
Nearly all the staff members at CLS work from a different location because they visit a range of school districts. VirtualPBX allows callers to reach those individual staff members as they work from any location, and it helps CLS remain flexible as the needs of its own staff and its clients change. Employees have the option to use their extensions to accept inbound calls, and they can complete outbound calls just as easily to complete appointments and match the schedules of school boards in their areas.
New VirtualPBX Features for Remote Work
We accomplished a lot in 2020. It was a big year for new features and product releases, including:
- Video Conferencing
- Business SMS
- Multiple Auto Attendants
- Zapier Integration
Both Video Conferencing and Business SMS, in particular, were given priority not just because of wide-ranging appeal, but because they make great additions to the communications capabilities of any company that has remote workers.
Our Video Conferencing feature works as a direct replacement for established competition like Google Meet and Zoom, and our Business SMS feature gives employees the opportunity to keep in touch with brief messages, which are often all that’s needed to report a status or get a co-worker’s attention.
Not all companies will have a need for all our new features, but those that do, especially those that are working remotely, will find a lot of utility in these capabilities.
Flexible Work in a Changing World
It makes sense that a world experiencing considerable, rapid change requires a communications system capable of supporting those changes. We do our best to assist educators by providing them and their supporting businesses with resources for remote learning and remote engagement.
Not all school district have the same plans in place for resuming traditional learning. Virtual classrooms will continue in most places at least into spring. This means that companies like CLS will have a lot on their plate for handling a variety of shifting education concerns and handling tasks as simple as in-person meetings with the sensitivity that those situations require.
Business phone plans help keep organizations connected so they can address these issues. We hope our assistance helps educators stay on track and school systems remain safe to keep children learning both inside and outside the classroom.