This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) technology revolutionizes your ability to manage distributed teams by adding remote work communications tools to your tech stack. UCaaS solutions have several important communication tools for remote workers to enhance the performance of and facilitate an increasingly remote workforce. Here are six UCaaS features to use to improve productivity, increase engagement, and leverage distributed teams more effectively.
There are several important reasons to consider a unified communications system. However, they can be expensive and not every company needs full unified communications functionality. If all you need is a reliable way to connect a small remote team, consider a virtual phone system like Grasshopper as an alternative. Grasshopper provides affordable voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP)-based dialing and several calling features that are very useful for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Here are the six best communication tools for remote workers that come standard in the best UCaaS solutions:
1. Meeting Recording
There’s a lot of value in recording meetings. Meeting recording is a feature usually included in paid plans for standalone video and audio conferencing solutions like Zoom or hybrid VoIP, as well as full UCaaS providers, like RingCentral.
Meeting recording is instrumental for distributed teams as more and more employees migrate out of the office. Additionally, since not everyone lives in the same geographical region, recording meetings gains extra value when local times aren’t friendly to specific conferences. With recorded sessions, employees unable to attend for whatever reason can quickly catch up on important company information and team meetings.
Meeting recording technology usually comes in two forms:
- Local recording: This saves your meetings to a local drive (such as your computer) or server. In some cases, this is offered with the free software version since you won’t be using up a provider’s cloud-based storage. After downloading to your device or local server, the files can then be uploaded to cloud-based solutions, like Dropbox, Google Drive, or even YouTube, making them easy to share with your remote workers.
- Cloud-based recording: Cloud recording usually comes in UCaaS and standalone video conferencing software paid plans. This type of meeting recording is more easily shared since the provider typically grants a link employees can click on to view recorded meeting content from any internet browser. It will have set storage limits in terms of size and number of days, as well as additional costs for more space.
If you aren’t sure how to take advantage of this feature, we encourage you to check out our article on how to record and share online meetings.
2. User Presence
When you have a remote workforce, you can’t just walk down the hall to a coworker’s desk to ask them about a project. Fortunately, most UCaaS providers, including those that rank among the best business phone systems, like RingCentral, 8×8, and Nextiva, have a feature that enables you to track employee availability, called “presence.”
User presence is usually broken down into six categories:
- Do not disturb
- Be right back
- Appear offline (or invisible)
Has a coworker gone to lunch? A simple “away” status lets everyone know. Do you need uninterrupted time to focus? Set your status to “do not disturb.” On a call or in a meeting? UCaaS platforms will automatically update your status as “busy.” Presence can even show when employees are taking paid time off (PTO).
User presence settings allow you to see the status of remote team members, which is why it’s among the most essential communication tools for remote workers. This UCaaS feature has a myriad of potential uses that make it easier for teams to collaborate and gives managers a way to track employee productivity and down time.
3. Conversation Channels
We explored conversation channels in our UCaaS feature spotlight on Microsoft Teams Channels, and the technology is also available from other providers, like Slack. Conversation channels are a means distributed team members can use to communicate about projects.
These can be overall channels where general aspects of a project can be discussed, or they can be very topic-specific. In any situation, they serve as virtual brainstorming and huddle spaces for employees where work processes, issues, and tasks are ironed out.
Conversation channels facilitate collaboration and organization and provide a one-stop shop for team members who need to communicate about a particular project. They also serve as repositories of information as well, acting as virtual meeting minutes.
For example, if you need to review decisions that were made about a particular task, they will be available in the channel message history. Providers like Microsoft Teams and Slack provide both public and private channels that allow you to decide the level of transparency needed for the workspace as well as the ability for users to send direct messages.
4. Breakout Rooms
Breakout rooms are found in the best video conferencing tools, including the communication tools for remote workers found in UCaaS solutions. This feature lets video call participants “break out” into a smaller meeting for things like huddles, workshops, or lectures. For example, during an all-company video conference meeting, individual teams might want to break into smaller, team-sized virtual meetings during a pause in the larger meeting.
A breakout room is completely isolated from the main meeting―anyone participating in the primary meeting will not hear what goes on in the breakout session. As a result, this provides a nice option for remote teams to have important side conversations. It could also be an important feature for sales teams who need to break away (or let clients break away) from an online sales presentation to discuss options or offers.
Platforms like Zoom allow you to create up to 50 separate breakout sessions to collaborate in smaller groups. RingCentral Video (a standalone RingCentral product that can be used for free) also allows up to 50 breakout rooms during a video conference.
RingCentral MVP unified communications users also have access to its video conferencing and breakout rooms beginning in the second tier plan. If you use Microsoft Teams for collaboration, breakout rooms become available with the Business Basic plan, which costs just $5 per user, per month.
5. File Sharing & Storage
When teams go remote, it’s critical that team members have access to important files. Files that need to be shared with remote workers may include meeting recordings, documents and folders, video presentations, or various business applications. RingCentral and other unified communications providers allow you to manage file sharing directly from the admin dashboard.
You can also facilitate file sharing access for distributed teams to (and from) your organization’s One Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive files. UCaaS file sharing even allows you to decide whether uploading from local sources is permitted for remote workers who need to upload presentations, signed contracts, proposals, documents, and other files.
6. CRM Integration
Customer relationship management (CRM) integration connects your CRM with your unified communications platform. This enables record sharing and permits dialing directly from either platform’s user interface. Since the data from your CRM will then appear in your UCaaS software, agents will have all the information they need about customers before reaching out for lead generation and nurturing or taking customer service calls.
Advantages of a UCaaS for Employee Communications
As the name implies, unified communications as a service, or UCaaS, is all about communication. In addition to the voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) telephony features that are often much cheaper than traditional landlines, these solutions also present you with team chat, video and audio conferencing, and project management features. UCaaS grants communication inroads with customers and fosters better collaboration in-house through communication tools for remote workers.
When using technology like video and audio conferencing, employees can collaborate similarly to traditional face-to-face meetings. Additionally, team chat software offered by a UCaaS solution or an individual vendor, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, also grants a means to send text messages to colleagues quickly.
This kind of omnichannel communications functionality improves productivity and increases success and customer satisfaction. Based on a study performed by Research Live, 90% of retail leaders feel that seamless omnichannel communication is the key to customer experience, leading directly to better business success.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are communication tools for remote workers available on mobile devices?
For the most part, the UCaaS communication tools you can access via softphone, browser, or other PC software can be used from mobile devices. Furthermore, many are native to UCaaS providers’ mobile apps. For example, with Nextiva, you’ll have access to user presence under their “Team Presence” menu as well as team chat, file sharing, and conversation channels.
What’s the difference between ‘busy’ & ‘do not disturb’ status?
While both will convey to a person trying to reach you that you’re engaged, only the “do not disturb” state will halt incoming notifications. If your status is set to “busy,” you’ll still receive notifications. Once you’re ready to be reachable again, you’ll get the notifications that weren’t sent while the “do not disturb” status was active.
Are the recordings I make with my UCaaS provider HIPAA compliant?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) states that all recorded conversations with patients must be protected. The degree to which the provider protects recorded data varies from provider to provider. We have a list of HIPAA-compliant video conferencing solutions so that you can find the one that best fits your needs.
Businesses with remote employees or fully distributed teams need underlying technology to manage work processes and support collaboration and communication. Fortunately, several key UCaaS communication tools for remote workers facilitate these essential business needs.
UCaaS tools add efficiency, increase productivity, allow for effective management and accountability, and are very easy to implement into everyday business. Plus, they’re a must-have as more and more employees work remotely.