Posted on September 27, 2016 by Dan Quick
Normally, talking about the two powerful foes who duked it out on national television makes you think about Monday Night Football. Not this time. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you probably know that Monday night was the first presidential debate between the two major-party candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The popularity that both of these candidates have is historically low and a lot of that is based on the public’s general mistrust of what they have to say. This has led to a bevy of debate fact-checking services across the web and, unsurprisingly, that is creeping its way into the office today more than ever. That’s why we figured we’d go over how to talk politics at work without getting fired.
Fact Checking at Work
The problem with deciding to take your debate fact checking to work is that politics it right up there with favorite pizza toppings and sports teams as topics most likely to cause a disagreement. Obviously, disagreements are fine and often encouraged in the office as they are typically responsible for an improved final product when moving from project to project. Disagreeing over politics in the workplace is a good way to flirt with disaster at the office, especially when it concerns the two least-liked major party presidential candidates in history. Seeing as how we’re the hosted business communications ally for distributed and remote workforces, we thought we’d make this how-to guide on discussing politics for the times that you are in the office, as well.
Debate the Debates and Keep Your Job
Remember, just like the candidates, by sticking to your game plan and not getting lured or baited into deviating from your path, you can make it through this political cycle unscathed. Use these tips to make sure your paychecks aren’t tied to the success of your favorite candidate.
1. Know Your Stuff
The biggest challenge facing a lot of the world today has nothing to do with politics, and that is that we have access to an indigestible amount of information out there and no clear guideline on how to use it. For starters, never use a headline to frame your argument. Instead, read whatever headlines trigger a reaction to gain a better understanding of the context. Better yet, follow-up with some related reading to make sure your facts are accurate. For extra credit you can always go to Snopes or Politico to lock in the facts with their research.
2. Know Your Audience
I get it, emotions run high in a political debate and you may be keen to jump into discussing your favorite ups and downs. Settle down there, trigger. Are you about to engage with people who are open and receptive to that conversation, or are they just in line to toast their bagels? A little self-awareness will be key to not pressing coworkers into uncomfortable situations.
3. Know Your Limits
Trolling on the internet is something that no topic, culture, interest, or hobby has been unaffected by. Do you know why that is? Because people like to stir the pot and they sure don’t need the internet to do it. If you have a coworker who is looking to troll you, beware and better yet, back off. This should go for anything, but I like to quote Mark Twain to help remember how to deal with trolls, “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
4. Know The Risks
I file this one under the category of weighing the risks against the rewards. Sure, everyone from the top of the corporate food chain to the newest hire fresh out of college will be affected by the course of the country over the next four years, but not all of them will be your best debate conversation buddy. If you happen to come across a conversation that finds your boss or CEO on the opposite side of the political spectrum to yourself, it’s time to really consider if now is the time to hop in to correct his or her facts. Look, I’m the last one in the world to tell anyone to roll over and be disingenuous to their beliefs, but that is not the same thing as refraining from fighting every battle. Because, discretion is the finer part of valor, after all.
5. Know Where You Stand (or don’t!)
Okay, maybe this doesn’t apply to most, but for the folks out there who aren’t clear on the topics, issues, candidates, or on even if there is an election going on at all, there exists a special set of rules. The first and most important thing to remember is that there is no shame whatsoever in not being the most well-read political wonk in the room. Frankly, that’s a dubious honor, anyway. Having a legitimate academic curiosity on the topics is enviable and something to be encouraged. If you find yourself just starting out on the subject, try to focus on asking more questions than not. Conversely, if you are in the debates pretty deep and you encounter someone seeking information, be patient, be kind, and try to make sure they understand what they want to know, not how you want them to vote.
Is Today the Company’s Last Day?
Hopefully not. In the highly likely event that you plan to return to the office at a later date, it would be in your best interest to make sure the political discussions go as smoothly as possible. Remember, while losing your job over a political discussion is a distant and worst-case scenario, it is possible to have a bad conversation that could have been avoided by following these steps.
Have you seen or been a part of a political dust-up at work before? Tell us about it on Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to hear if these steps could have helped avoid it. Also, let us know if you’d add anything to the list and maybe we’ll include it following the next debate!
Posted on September 7, 2016 by Dan Quick
Who doesn’t love some good old James Brown, right? The Godfather of Soul is an appropriate place to start with this blog today because VirtualPBX Office Plans are kind of like the Godfather of VoIP, too. And much like James Brown’s new bag, the VirtualPBX Office Plan redesign is something worth singing about, too.
Office Plan Redesign from the Bottom Up
Right off the bat, you’ll see that the new look and feel of the updated vConsole seems familiar. It should because the award-winning interface of Dash, and Dash Unlimited were definitely part of the inspiration for this massive overhaul. What made the Office Plan redesign challenging was that, unlike Dash and Dash Unlimited which we created from scratch, Office Plans have already been built to suit the needs of our customers who are currently using them. This meant that we had to work carefully to include, and in many instances improve upon, all of the functionality of the platform that thousands of organizations rely on each day.
Change Isn’t Always Easy
Since working to shape the development of the Office Plan redesign, it has become immediately clear that usability and satisfaction spike way up shortly after users familiarize themselves with the new system. This has been a terrific and desired outcome, obviously. That said, some users will still prefer to stay with their tried-and-true vConsole interface. For them, we have the perfect solution! During this open beta testing period of the new Office Plan redesign, we built in a nifty toggle feature. Simply open up the vConsole as you normally would, and at the top of the screen you’ll see a banner welcoming you to try the new interface.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
While the option is totally all yours to stay on the vConsole or try the new Office Plan redesign, I enthusiastically encourage you to give it a shot. The praise and positive feedback that we’ve received should convince you that it’s worth at least a few minutes. Plus, seeing as how you’ll be able to toggle back and forth for a while, you aren’t immediately painted into one or the other just yet, either. Sure, we plan to eventually make a total update to Office Plans permanent, but this is just the beta period, and so you can actually have a decisive impact on the final look of the finshed product.
Be Part of the Team
Want to know what else is coming down the line from our dedicated and talented engineering team? Look no further than the updated, public-facing VirtualPBX product roadmap. From here you can see what all we have in the works, or at least most of it (wink-wink), and can comment and make suggestions right from there. Or if you like, you can always feel free to join the conversation by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook, because you never know when your idea will be the next big thing!
Posted on September 6, 2016 by Dan Quick
Working from the road can be a drag during long periods away from home. When life happens, though, working from the road might just be the best thing to do for your family life. VirtualPBX understands that better than most because not only do we make an array of VoIP products and features designed specifically to empower employees to be productive away from the office, but we also use those products to accomplish that ourselves.
The connection between work and life is more fluid today thanks to advances in hosted communication technology than it ever has been. This infographic showcases just a handful of the situations that used to create undue complications between employers and their employees but that, thanks to VirtualPBX products, have found mutually beneficial compromises.
Posted on August 31, 2016 by Dan Quick
As much as we’d try to be the go-to answer for every technological need that any business has, we can’t even be the answer to all of our own needs! That being the case, just like our customers, we need to look to third-party developers to see what helps. For the occasional standouts, we’ve created this series of blog posts to help you share in the benefits we’ve enjoyed from our favorite Tech Tools.
For this edition of Tech Tools, we’re looking at a new bit of software that is useful for people pursuing higher education. RefME is the single tool I wish I had in college. By integrating into all aspects of your research-paper-footprint, RefME makes source citations in the arduous and meticulous APA or MLA formats easy.
Bibliographies Are a Breeze
RefME takes the exhaustive, detailed, and often confusing world of literary citations and simplifies it with a few elegant solutions. First they have a Chrome extension that basically does all the work for you for digital sources, but more interesting is how they work with citing physical books. Because students today can’t be expected to bother with typing the book information themselves (gasp, the very notion indeed!), RefME has a slick camera integration that covers that. Simply by using the app to scan a book’s barcode and choosing the format you want the reference to be in, RefME searches the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to produce the necessary citation.
With three degrees and two of them in journalism, I can think of a few, choice, two-word phrases to describe my reaction to this. Seeing as how this is a family company, however, I’m going to go with these, “Time Saver.”
Build Your Toolbox
This isn’t the first Tech Tool that we’ve introduced you to, and it won’t be the last. To make sure you don’t miss any of the killer tips and tricks we’ve found to help smooth your day through technology, make sure to follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to always stay in the know.
Posted on August 12, 2016 by Dan Quick
With over 10,000 athletes in Rio for the XXXI Olympiad this summer and only 28 different sports, there are bound to be some broken hearts and dreams out there. However, for the athletes who walk away from the closing ceremonies with some valuable hardware dangling from their necks, it doesn’t take a record-setting amount for their Olympic medal count to swell their hearts with pride. We’ve been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some incredible recognition, and much like the countries that the athletes in Rio represent, which is something that fills our entire team with elation and encouragement.
Years of Training
For most Olympians, their trips to Rio represent the culmination of a lifetime of commitment, even if for some that only means a lifetime of fewer than two decades. We’re in the same boat. We are approaching an anniversary and we’re pushing the big 2-0. While young by most standards, our founding in the 1990’s represents effectively the origin of VoIP for business as it’s known today. And because we’ve dedicated everything we do to improve our products and the experiences our customers have while using them, we feel a similar sense of validation and achievement whenever we’re recognized for our hard work.
You Can’t Win ‘em All
Okay, it seems like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky can, but for the most part winning and losing go hand in hand. That’s okay, too, because obviously learning how to do both with grace is an important part of sports. Plus, as difficult to believe it as it may be, we don’t win everything (pause for gasping reactions to roll through the audience). For those times when we come up short, there exists an opportunity to learn how to make the most of the situation and find the little victories. For one, we’re proud that our commitment to our customers’ success creates relationships that supersede any fancy plaque or award. Evidence of that is nowhere more apparent as it is in our customer testimonials or in the terrific rating we have on Consumer Affairs.
But That Won’t Stop Us From Trying
Ultimately, no matter how the chips fall on race day, it’s these endorsements from those we serve that will always mean the most to us. That being said, however, we’re always going to keep striving to boost our own Olympic medal count whenever we can. After all, a little healthy competition is what drives innovation, and we definitely want to stay in the running.