Posted on July 13, 2021 by Casey Houser
Even if you’re not aware of the term hybrid work, you’re probably aware of how it manifests in business.
Hybrid work is the joining of at-home, remote work, and on-site work. We’re seeing this type of model become a popular choice for our customers and in the broader business world as our Business Phone Plans get put to use.
Let’s take a quick look at how it may take shape at your business if you haven’t already started a hybrid work structure of your own.
The Demand For Flexible Employment
The COVID-19 pandemic started a recent surge in remote work and has changed many aspects of our lives in the past year and a half.
We saw in April 2020 that many businesses closed their office doors or were forced to do so because of government regulations. Then, when businesses started opening up again, many took the route of remote work because it was easier and safer for their employees.
As we enter the second summer of the pandemic, many regulations have been lifted, and companies are eager to get back to normal. However, they can’t remove themselves from the circumstance that remote work put them in – for better or for worse, both managers and employees saw that remote work was possible.
Hybrid Work as a Compromise
When business leaders think of normalcy, they most likely consider a time before COVID-19 was ever-present. They think of employees coming into the office and not working from home.
Yet we know that the flexibility of working from home has had some positive impacts on the lives of employees and on the operations of businesses overall. Consider our customer 1st Classic Limos that used its phone system to stay operation during the worst struggles of the pandemic.
Business leaders know they can’t remove the positive experiences of working from home, so many have begun to start a compromise in what we’re discussing today: hybrid work.
Hybrid work is the mixing of work from home and work in the office, and in the best of times, it can allow businesses to complete all their operational tasks without sacrificing employee happiness. The handling of physical materials can happen in a central location, for instance, while sales and marketing efforts can take place from remote locations.
Still, the use of the hybrid work model is not without its controversy.
Ups and Downs in Hybrid Work
One of the most high-profile controversies surrounding hybrid work at present concerns Apple, which The Verge reported began with Apple CEO sending a notice to employees that they would need to return to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
Deirdre O’Brien, the senior vice president of retail and people at Apple, backed up this announcement by stating that his company believes “in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future.”
Apple employees pushed back with their own letter – citing the inclusivity and flexibility that fully remote work offers – but were ultimately denied for a broad request to continue full-time remote work. Instead, Apple will reportedly handle all upcoming remote work requests on an individual basis.
Crafting Your Own Hybrid Work Model
The controversy surrounding Apple may put the concept of hybrid work in a bad light. There are probably good points to both sides of the argument about whether fully remote work is appropriate in the long term at Apple. You will need to have a discussion at your own company about which type of work model fits best.
A CNBC article points to three important elements of any hybrid work plan.
First, you will want to create clear expectations so everyone knows how to proceed in the future. Although not everyone will agree with a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday approach like at Apple, it’s still important to draw clear lines to create a standard of work.
Next, it is essential for managers to spend time with their employees. CNBC recommends one-on-one meetings between managers and employees at least once a week. This can help bridge the gap between what’s getting done at the office and at home, and it can allow managers to see how a hybrid work is affecting their work-life balance.
Last, both employees and managers should remain accountable for their work no matter the location in which it’s completed. Employees should expect to complete their objectives when they’re at home the same way they would when they’re at the office. Managers, CNBC notes, can be held accountable when work isn’t completed because they are responsible for providing training and development as the workplace evolves.
Beginning Your Own Hybrid Work Plan?
VirtualPBX can help you put your best foot forward when establishing a hybrid work model at your own business. Tools like Business SMS and Video Conferencing available on many of our plans can keep your entire team connected from any location.
We have helped many companies stay steady throughout the switch to remote work. We’re primed to keep you steady while having employees venture back to the office a few days a week.
Posted on May 18, 2021 by Casey Houser
VirtualPBX has excelled in the communications industry for more than 20 years, and this past week, our COO, Lon Baker, was invited to the SaaS District podcast to explain how our company came into being.
In short, Lon explains to host Akeel Jabber that VirtualPBX has been able to keep pace with its larger competitors by listening to customers’ needs and by paying attention to trends in the overall market. VirtualPBX has remained agile and willing to take chances – two characteristics that have proven effective over decades at promoting our growth and the quality of our products and services.
The History of Lon Baker
Lon didn’t start with VirtualPBX as our company was formed. In fact, he told Akeel in their SaaS District conversation, he was heavily involved in a startup he described as a “distributed help desk system.” He and his partner were trying to bring a type of cloud-based service to businesses before there was widespread use of cloud servers.
This effort in the 90s included the use of a VirtualPBX phone service that allowed customer support agents to take calls from remote locations. This was remote, distributed work before public access to broadband made it possible for nearly anyone to work from home.
Bootstrapped Since Day One
“We have been fully bootstrapped since Day One,” Lon continues to say about VirtualPBX as he talks about his transition into the role of company COO. He also calls VirtualPBX a “mid-tier player” that is growing in its breadth of services. However, he emphasizes that all VirtualPBX employees work remotely and that we use our own phone service to make that possible.
This use of our own product is reflected in how customers have adapted to, for example, situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. “When COVID his last year, most of our customers seamlessly transitioned because our system was designed for that. They didn’t have to think about it,” Lon said.
SaaS Before There Was Saas
The solid infrastructure that VirtualPBX now offers to its customers was created in a garage. It created a new type of service – software-as-a-service (SaaS) – before it was popular and before it was regarded as a possibility.
“We were SaaS before there was SaaS,” Lon noted in the SaaS District conversation. “Pac-Bell, which was our phone company back in the day, said [what we were doing] was impossible.”
“We built our first system in a garage in San Francisco, pulling in T1 lines [from Pac-Bell]. Pac-Bell had no idea what we were gonna do and swore [the end goal] could not be done.”
This type of approach, by going after the supposedly unachievable, carried over from Lon’s days with his own company, into VirtualPBX with its beginnings in a garage, and through the present day where VirtualPBX is reaching beyond itself by keeping an ear to trends in the market.
Listening to Trends
“What are your peers choosing?” Lon asks in the SaaS District podcast.
It is this question that drives VirtualPBX as a company and gives it direction. Then managers like Lon can think about which industries they want to pursue, such as remote work, and which others they may need to leave behind.
“When it comes to growth strategies,” Lon continues, “it really is looking at what industries are growing and not worrying about the industries that aren’t growing.”
This has urged VirtualPBX to pursue new features like Video Conferencing, which helps businesses improve their remote work capabilities. Meanwhile, we have committed to our voice service and have developed Business SMS as a key feature because they are extremely important to the overall future of work.
“We think that voice and texting are really the bigger players in the market,” Lon noted. “Texting especially. As new generations enter the workforce, they more embrace texting and asynchronous communication.”
Hear VirtualPBX on SaaS District
You can listen to more of Lon Baker’s insights about VirtualPBX and the communications industry by hearing his entire conversation with Akeel Jabber at SaaS District. Or find the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or YouTube.
You can also read more about Lon Baker at his LinkedIn. Stay tuned to our blog for more conversations between Lon and other podcasts that cover the latest in business communications news.
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.