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Summary:

Even though corporate telecommuters can leave the sterile cloth walls of their cubicles, they can’t escape the long arm of the conference call. This means that corporations launching a telecommuting program need to carefully consider how their remote workers will communicate via telephone. There are several […]

Even though corporate telecommuters can leave the sterile cloth walls of their cubicles, they can’t escape the long arm of the conference call. This means that512100_18129236 corporations launching a telecommuting program need to carefully consider how their remote workers will communicate via telephone. There are several choices:

  • VoIP
  • Plain Old Telephone Systems (POTS)
  • Mobile
  • Hybrid

It’s important that remote workers have a business line that rings separately from their home phone. This post is going to look at these options for corporate telecommuters.

VoIP
Corporate-grade VoIP solutions like Asterisk and Cisco Unified Communications enable corporations to extend their VoIP systems out to remote users. Depending on the VoIP backend, it can be as easy as remote users plugging their corporate-issue VoIP handsets into their home broadband routers to make them available on the corporate PBX, regardless of their physical office location.

Extending your corporate VoIP solution to remote workers has the following benefits:

  • Corporate management over all employee VoIP phones.
  • Corporate security over all employee VoIP phones.
  • Standardized telephone billing.
  • External customers and partners are provided with a consistent telephone experience, whether the employee they are calling is a part-time or full-time remote worker.

However, extending your corporate VoIP solution to remote workers has the following dependencies:

  • Experience, trained and certified staff to manage the implementation, operations, and security of a VoIP telephony solution.
  • Potential need for additional network hardware and security.
  • Support staff in place to help remote users on IP telephone configuration issues.

skype_logoVoIP phone systems are also gaining ground in the consumer and mobile computing market, which opens another set of options for equipping corporate telecommuters with VoIP communication:

  • Roll out Skype or Gizmo5 to remote workers. While both these desktop VoIP clients are popular, they don’t have the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to be first-line communications tools.
  • Roll out Vonage to remote workers. While it is low cost, you can expect quality issues.
  • Sign up your remote workers for VoIP phone service from their local cable provider. However SLAs may vary and the local cable provider may or may not have a business-class offering that it is appropriate and budget-friendly.

Plain Old Telephone Systems (POTS)
While corporate-grade VoIP systems are gaining in popularity for economic reasons, there are still many corporations relying on telephone systems using traditional landlines. Since these systems lack the robust features of VoIP telephones, corporations with remote workers have the following options:

  • Relying on corporate voicemail boxes for offsite workers to receive calls from customers and partners. This could result in a lag on their response time and productivity.
  • Releasing home phone numbers to external clients and partners. This may cause some confusion or send the wrong message. In addition, some employees may not want their personal landline and/or mobile phone numbers released to external customers and partners.

One of the keys to a successful telecommuting program is having the infrastructure to support the remote workers so they can be responsive to company business. Companies still using POTS may have to get creative to ensure their remote workers are always accessible via telephone.

Mobile
The mobile phone is the first number to call for many web workers whether they be corporate or independent. When choosing whether to roll out mobile phones as the primary telephone contact for corporate remote workers, there are a few things to consider:

  • Are mobile phones part of the corporate culture?
  • Are remote workers expected to pay for the phones? Will there be a corporate standard for mobile devices of will the users choose and buy their own mobile devices?
  • Your support staff will need to be skilled in mobile devices.
  • There are additional network security considerations for smartphone access to the corporate VPN.

Hybrid
Even corporate web workers may not stay in the same place the whole time, whether it is their home office, favorite coffee shop, coworking center, client site, hotel room or even favorite poolside. Therefore, corporate telecommuting programs may need to consider a hybrid telephony solution for their remote workers that includes both landline and mobile phones.

Corporations leaning towards a hybrid telephony solution for remote workers should keep an eye on Google Voice, which Charles covered recently. They could also consider Grasshopper, a business-grade VoIP solution, which Charles also covered.

Build the Better Remote Worker Telephony Solution
Outside of the technological considerations for rolling out telephones to corporate remote workers, companies need to consider budgetary constraints and whether they want to burden their remote workers and accounting staff with the processing of expense reports. The considerations in this post show that rolling out corporate telecommuting isn’t the turnkey affair it is for independent web workers.

What considerations should employers take into account when rolling out a remote work telephony program?

IP Telephone Image by sxc.hu user dhaake

  1. You have to be careful when using Skype in the work place these days. Sure the price is right but their inability to get a grip on the SPIM/SPAM seriously undermines their effort to appear reliable and secure. There is nothing more embarrassing than hosting a conf call on Skype and having porn contact requests pop up in a screen share. We’re on the verge of dropping them all together, see this article for more info: http://www.2fatdads.com

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  2. [...] Telephony Options for Corporate Telecommuters WebWorkerDaily – ‎Aug 28, 2009‎ This means that corporations launching a telecommuting program need to carefully consider how their remote workers will communicate via telephone. … [...]

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  3. [...] business. It’s not professional to use one line for both, especially as there are plenty of telephony options available that can make it possible without a big [...]

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  4. Weather you choose a hybrid or a mobile phone sticking with VoIP telephones will always help knock some of that bill down and will enable you to keep in contact with any and all of your employees or customers, nation wide to world wide.

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