Posted on April 2, 2020 by Casey Houser
Of all the situations the VirtualPBX remote team faces in managing its Business Phone System, being a work at home mom may be the most stressful. But after interviewing two of our staff members about how they handle that reality, we learned that their challenge may also be among the most rewarding.
We asked our Marketing team member Jennifer Merrigan (and mother of Jade, who is one-and-a-half) and Services team member Kathy Melendez (and mother of Apollo, who is three) to reflect on how they balance work and parenting.
Their answers provided much valuable insight about the nature of remote work and the mental fortitude necessary to stay as productive as they are.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a work at home mom?
Jennifer: By far, the most challenging thing is that my child is completely dependent on me.
I have to get creative about where I work and, importantly, how I work. I try to get smaller tasks done when she’s awake and playing. And when she’s napping, I try to focus on more in-depth tasks.
Kat: The most challenging thing is to work around the baby needing their mother.
The child will always want their mother, whether they’re with a babysitter or at home, and of course them being at home makes it even more apparent. What I’ve always tried to do was take my child to daycare.
Part of the difficulty now, in dealing with COVID-19, is to manage at home without the break that daycare provides. It’s important to find a space where you can stay isolated, like a coworking space, but now that daycare is inaccessible and coworking spaces are closed, I have to find different ways of working from home with a little boy who wants to see me every five seconds.
How do you find time to work and be productive throughout the day?
Jennifer’s daughter, Jade
Jennifer: I use hyper-focused bursts of work and energy to accomplish my tasks. Often, I only have 10 or 20 minutes to finish something small, so within those spaces, I do everything I can to complete as much work in as short amount of time as possible.
This requires that I consciously divert attention to my work or my child, instantly, as necessary. It also depends on scheduling to a certain degree. I know when playtime or naptime will regularly happen, so I plan as much as possible.
Every day presents something new, so I need to have a flexible schedule and a flexible mindset to handle everything that comes my way. There’s a lot of preparation that comes into it.
Kat: Being a work at home mom can require you to lean on others for support.
I have two older kids and an oldest niece that sometimes help take care of Apollo. If they’re not around, I do my best to juggle my primary methods of customer contact at VirtualPBX: phone and online chat.
When it’s possible, I try to use the phone when I know I have space to myself. Then when I need to pay more attention to my child, I’ll take time in online chat.
How do you deal with stress?
Jennifer: I try to make time for myself.
Every day before dinner, I unwind by doing a quick workout. This helps me stay fit, and it can help me mentally by releasing endorphins. It’s a nice change of pace from the scatter of the work day.
My husband, Jesse, will usually take Jade and give her a bath while I unwind. We can then put her to bed and take some time in the evening to really relax. I like to catch up on reading and watching shows online.
Kat: I like to take my child for walks. We’ll go around the block during my breaks at work.
Exercise after work is done can also help a lot. I also like to drink herbal teas; they help calm me down and release some of the stress.
What’s your best tip for mothers who are now working from home?
Kathy’s son, Apollo
Jennifer: My biggest tip for work at home moms is that you should have the mentality that you’re still going to the office to work.
Have a routine. Get dressed in what you would normally wear to the office. Go to your “office,” wherever that may be – a separate room, your kitchen, the living room.
My routine is to wake up at 6, get dressed for the day, have breakfast with Jade, and check my emails before starting today’s tasks.
Without my routine, I would procrastinate a lot. Your routine will depend on your job; try to work out something that fits your situation.
Kat: Be organized. Make sure you have a dedicated space for your gear. It’s not like the office where your computer and phone stay at your desk. Your home will get messy or disorganized. Try to prevent that as much as possible.
Also, take advantage of the time you have when you’re not working. Get enough sleep at night.
Any final takeaways for work at home moms?
Jennifer: Try to stay positive. Even in these tough times, I try to make the most of my situation.
We used to take Jade to a clubhouse where she could play, but it’s been closed, so we made our own little splash pad for her to play in.
I really appreciate that we can still have fun.
Kat: Enjoy your kids and everything they offer. In all the mess of coronavirus, the hectic nature of suddenly working from home, the huge changes in routine… it gets intense.
I try to be prepared to make work as easy as possible. And I look for the good moments with my kids both inside and outside of work hours.
Posted on February 11, 2020 by Casey Houser
Today’s blog post was written by VirtualPBX COO Lon Baker, whose expertise with the VirtualPBX Phone System makes him an excellent pick for the discussion of Kari’s Law and its implementation.
In 2013, a tragedy took the life of Kari Hunt Dunn. Out of this tragedy arose Kari’s Law, which was passed in 2016 by the U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 408-0 and followed with unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate.
Kari’s Law requires that all phone systems be able to recognize “911” to reach emergency services – without requiring the user to dial a prefix. VirtualPBX has always provided this capability for all its VoIP users across the U.S. and is proud to partner with Intrado to ensure customer safety and security through reliable and accurate E911 services.
No More “9” for Outside Line
Kari’s Law requires phone systems to be configured in a way that allows people to call 911 without dialing any additional number, code, prefix, or post-fix, regardless of location or device.
It has long been standard practice for private phone systems to require the dialing of an extra digit to reach an outside line. An internal call could be completed by dialing the extension “555”, for example
But to dial an external phone number that begins with those same digits — like 555-1234 — “9-555-1234” could need to be entered.
Dunn’s fate was tied to this phone system requirement when, in need of emergency services at a hotel in 2013, her young daughter was unable to complete a call to 911 for her. Kari’s Law removes the need for extra dialing when an emergency call must be placed.
What Businesses Must Know
VirtualPBX is continuously improving its E911 implementation to meet and exceed industry best practices and legal requirements. Our phone system is in full compliance with the fundamental requirements of Kari’s Law.
Other businesses that deploy multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) will want to be aware of the following dates:
- Existing businesses must comply with the requirements of Kari’s Law by February 16, 2020
- Enterprises with fixed MTLS phones are to comply with the new requirements by January 6, 2021
- Businesses with non-fixed MLTS devices on- and off-premises must comply no later than January 6, 2022
Kari’s Law and the Future
While Kari’s Law is just the latest of important E911 communications legislation to be passed, there will certainly be future protections laid out in law in the years to come.
VirtualPBX will remain dedicated to working with its partners to stay compliant with all communications standards as they arise.
Posted on January 28, 2020 by Casey Houser
All models of the stages of business growth eventually discuss the topic of expansion.
This is exactly what it sounds like: the point where your business has established itself in a market and is primed to increase its reach. It’s a point where you might decide to add more employees, seek more revenue by finding other markets to expand into, or add another office across town.
This stage requires commitment to realistic goals and the addition of support channels like a business phone system. Let’s look at two perspectives of this stage and the role a professional phone system plays in getting you ready to face it.
The Success-Growth Substage
Back in 1983, the Harvard Business Review published a study of various small business growth stages.
It remarked that, within five primary stages, a small business can reach the Success-Growth substage. In that substage, the company will need to lean on its cash reserves to develop greater management capabilities while remaining profitable enough to keep its growth afloat.
Growth and Maintenance
Similarly, the FusePhase blog notes that, in its discussion of the four stages of business growth, that businesses can reach an Expansion (Maintenance) phase.
“This is the stage when your hard work seems to be paying off,” it says before pointing out that up-to-date financial records are important here because – you guessed it – hiring additional staff in order to scale the business will become a primary concern.
The Role of a Business Phone System
Where does a phone system fit into all this?
No matter which set of business growth stages you subscribe to, it’s inevitable that your growth from small- to medium-size business (and again from medium-size to enterprise) will attract more attention from customers. You will need to reach beyond online chat software to handle their concerns.
Allowing customers to speak to a live sales representative can offer a more personalized purchasing journey than an online form can provide. Likewise, a live customer support network can help easily smooth troubleshooting tickets.
Businesses in the growth stage don’t have to spend a lot of money to gain this presence. VirtualPBX Per Minute Plans offer expanding companies the chance to add unlimited users to their phone systems while gaining features like Auto Attendant and Ring Groups to route inbound calls to all their new hires.
You can boost your growth stage today with a new phone plan from VirtualPBX. And when the time comes, you can upgrade plans when your business reaches yet another expansion point toward enterprise status. Your midsize business will thank you now, and your enterprise will continue to see benefits when it moves beyond the present tipping point.
Posted on December 17, 2019 by Casey Houser
This week’s blog will take a look at an often-requested topic of discussion: how to answer the phone at work.
Of course, there are many approaches to the practice – ranging from professional to Buddy the Elf (who we admire for his creativity and expeditious approach to office procedures). Your own office likely has its own rules for how to say “hello” to incoming customer calls.
We’ll provide a few examples here for your own exploration. Feel free to add them to your office script or incorporate them into your own freestyle method of handling calls on our Business Phone System.
How to Answer the Phone Professionally
In order to create a consistent image, many businesses have their employees follow a standardized method of answering the phone. Their approach for how to answer the phone at work prioritizes consistency and professionalism in order to best address customers.
This can be an excellent asset when used properly. Consider what a business of your own size might say to an inbound caller.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs may wish to answer the phone in a standardized, professional manner to make themselves look more established then they actually are.
Image is everything, so why not emphasize that strength? You can try either of these scripts to fill the room with your presence:
Hi. This is Stephen from XYZ Corp. How can I help you today?
Hi. This is Stephen from XYZ Corp. How can I direct your call?
Although these scripts are short, they carry a lot of weight. Each one introduces the caller to the speaker (Stephen) and company name (XYZ Corp.), and each one gives the caller some type of direction (either to state their purpose or to determine the direction in which their call needs to be routed).
Many of these same types of qualities can be found in the Auto Attendant Phone Script Examples blog where we list additional scripts for use in your automated teller. You may want to consider use of the Auto Attendant, depending on your business’s situation. Whichever style of call handling you prefer, however, there’s no substitute for direct, dense messages that let the customer know you’re able and willing to assist them.
One sentence can make you appear capable of handling any task your larger counterparts are already trusted to handle.
Midsize and Large Firms
Larger businesses demand call routing that works efficiently. When an auto attendant isn’t in use, a live receptionist can make proper use of Ring Groups and a well-placed script to give customers a quick path to the proper departments.
How to answer the phone professionally in an enterprise? Try this:
You’ve reached BIG Corp – your source for paper and ink. This is Stephanie. How can I direct your call?
Thank you for calling BIG Corp. This is Stephanie at the reception desk. How can I help you today?
In both these cases, the script gets to the point and offers the customer essential information about the person and office they’ve reached. The scripts here are snappy and personable. They should be effective at giving the caller a sense of place and at giving the receptionist a good starting place for routing the caller to an appropriate location.
Creative Ways to Answer the Phone at Work
The scripts we’ve introduced here can be molded to fit your own business. You can include or omit persons’ names, company names, and stated locations. Furthermore, you can be as formal or informal as you please.
We do hope that you’ll always focus on the customer. They’re the most important part of the “How do I answer the phone at work?” discussion since they’re the ones seeking information from you.
That said, we’re completely fine with you loosening your tie a bit. Kick off your shoes. Or put on some elf shoes and try to answer the phone like Buddy the Elf.
How to Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf
Buddy, from the movie Elf, is shown answering a phone at this father’s office with this line:
Buddy the Elf. What’s your favorite color?
Buddy’s direct. He introduces himself without stammering. He engages the customer without skipping a beat.
It’s an excellent script. While it may not have worked out in the movie – since Buddy is swiftly removed from any area with phones – you can find some redeeming qualities in his no-nonsense approach to customer interaction.
Be Direct but Creative
We hope that you can also find some holiday cheer in your inbound calls this holiday season.
We’d certainly love to hear about your own use of the line, “What’s your favorite color?” But you don’t have to be that ridiculous to make your customers smile.
Maybe ask callers how their day is going. Or start your script with a little of your own playful humor.
If you stay on-point, you can give customers a bit of a laugh while also giving them quick access to your business. What are your creative ways of answering the phone at work?
Posted on November 26, 2019 by Casey Houser
Today’s blog post will offer something a little different — it will be supported by our competitors’ opinions about the best VoIP phones of 2019 and 2020.
Many of the phones we offer in the VirtualPBX Store have made their way to other review sites. That gives us a great opportunity to show you that praise these devices have received outside our borders.
Don’t only take our word for it. See what they have to say.
The Balance Small Business – Polycom VVX Series
In its article this year, The 8 Best Office Phones of 2019, which was updated as recently as Nov. 21, 2019, The Balance Small Business noted the entire Polycom VVX Series as a great pick for businesses with employees who telecommute.
The VirtualPBX Store offers more than a dozen VVX models to suit the demands of businesses of all sizes. In particular, The Balance Small Business reflects on the 3.5-inch touchscreen display and video capability available on these models.
The review points out that employees “might be in remote locations, but this doesn’t mean [they] don’t need to periodically hold meetings or otherwise meet face to face.” Executives are able to take advantage of the VVX 400’s 12 lines and speed dial buttons to easily reach other employees.
TechRadar – Yealink SIP-T46S
TechRadar also pointed out, in its Best IP Phones of 2020 review, that a large screen and intuitive display can work well for midsize firms.
We found it funny, but definitely appropriate, to see TechRadar’s observation that “this Yealink IP phone is great option if you’re seeking a phone with a big and useful display that’s operated with buttons rather than using your greasy fingers.” How often do you consider the impact a touchscreen will affect your productivity? Sometimes grease happens, and sometimes it’s a huge win to have a button to press.
The Yealink SIP-T46S confirms the extensibility offered by this model’s USB ports, which can accept a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongle to open the main unit to a wireless headset or local internet.
TechRadar also added that the T46S’s 16 lines and “fantastic call quality” help open this model to the midsize business crowd. Executives in this market may find themselves with more than one SIP account and speaking to other employees, managers, and company stakeholders on a daily basis – all of which demand clarity of voice.
The Best VoIP Phones of 2019 and 2020
The reviews we profiled here are just a few of those available in a crowded search for “best VoIP phones.” Our hope is that these two picks can help you narrow down the choice in finding new phones for your office.
There are multiple models available in the VirtualPBX Store within the Polycom VVX series and for other Yealink models as well. Take a look through what we offer, even through the refurbished models, and don’t hesitate to ask the VirtualPBX Sales Team what phones would fit best at your business.