This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
User presence is a feature that shows the status of connected users and co-workers within a communications platform. Presence technology is a unified communications as a service (UCaaS) application that recognizes when a specific IP address, user profile, or device is active on a network. It allows users to change and display their status in real time: available, busy, do not disturb, away, be right back, or appear offline. In this article, we explore how user presence status transforms how teams interact regardless of location and time zone differences.
User Presence Benefits for Small Businesses
Presence in the digital world supplements physical office presence and offers mobile and remote work opportunities. It improves real-time connectivity between people by resembling the feel of an in-person interaction that builds a sense of inclusion and interaction between people. With real-time statuses, communication is more efficient, and it’s easier to avoid playing chat or phone tag.
Unified communications (UC) enhances the power of presence technology when integrated into a suite of business phone features. This leads to better, real-time collaboration, complete with automatic status monitoring that updates colleagues regarding who is available online.
Here is a list of contact presence benefits for small businesses:
One of the chief benefits of user presence is visibility. With the rise of remote work and mobile teams, colleagues must understand when a co-worker is available and when they are not. For managers, it’s a way to track telecommuting and remote workers. A status notification lets others know if you’re online or away and even has the option to set a return date and include contact details of alternative colleagues.
There are plenty of ways to communicate with each other, such as phone calls, messaging, and video conferencing. Unfortunately, this also means with more platforms and channels, there are also more distractions. A digital presence status solves this challenge by allowing users to mute notifications with a “do not disturb” status. With muted alerts and colleagues informed you’d prefer not to be disturbed, users can better focus on work.
Email has become a staple in business communications, but it’s not always the most efficient communication method. Presence facilitates faster collaboration by showing team members’ statuses, so colleagues contact only those available for immediate response. Messaging coupled with an online presence is powerful as it makes it easier to determine when it is appropriate or timely to communicate with whom.
Digital work has challenged coordination and collaboration, with users developing a tendency to work in silos. User presence features assist in building a friendlier environment among team members. Without presence information, a busy colleague unable to immediately respond to a message may be seen as unresponsive, leading to internal frustration. With presence features, you know when someone is available, so reaching out is done confidently.
User Presence Statuses to Use
Statuses, also sometimes called “states,” indicate your availability to colleagues or customers who are trying to reach you. Different UCaaS service providers offer this technology across other communication channels, not just team chat. Below are a few presence options to consider:
This status establishes that you’re online and available to communicate. In a work setting, colleagues are available for anything work-related, like assignments, chats, video or audio conferences, or file transfers. Some providers, like RingCentral, allow you to adjust your calendar presence and sync your presence settings with your calendars to let others know if you’re in a meeting.
Typically, this is the default setting on most UC platforms. This is particularly useful in cases where you need to set a meeting and want to know who is available to join.
This is a status for those unavailable for immediate communication. For example, when you’re on a call or a meeting, you may use this status to inform people you are occupied. Some providers, like Microsoft Teams, will do this automatically when you use the service for a call or conference. The “busy” state won’t prevent notifications from popping up on your user interface (UI).
While this might seem similar to the “busy” state, “do not disturb” is different in purpose and how it handles incoming communications. This is the status to use if you want to focus on your screen by muting all notifications. Some providers, like Google Chat, offer a drop-down menu with options for how long to remain in this mode. Depending on the platform, you may also routinely set this status when you need to focus on tasks.
“Away” is a status automatically set when you leave your computer long enough to go into sleep mode. However, it’s possible to be set manually at the end of a shift or planned leaves. There is also a “last seen” option to let others know the last time you were available. On Nextiva, the yellow presence icon indicates the user is online but has been idle or away from their computer for more than 10 minutes.
This status is used when you need to leave your desk for a short time. This could be used for lunch, a short break, or an appointment out of the office. This state is beneficial for those looking to be proactive and who would rather not wait for their computer to automatically set to “away” when sleep mode engages.
This is used when you wish to appear that you’re not logged into your device. For example, select this state if you’re looking to check up on projects or browse channels without being contacted by colleagues.
From a co-worker’s perspective, you’ll appear offline and unavailable for communications. This option is a variation of the “do not disturb” status. Any messages you might have received while you appear offline will be delivered when your status is “available.”
Some team chat programs also have an “Automatic” setting that automatically sets your status as “away” when there’s no activity. For most providers, this happens when your computer enters sleep mode. This is useful if you’re stepping away from your desk for a long time. When you return and the software detects activity, it’ll set your state as “available.”
In the case of RingCentral, the “invisible” setting, which is manually set, is used when you want to appear as if you’re offline.
How User Presence Works With Different Providers
The experience of setting presence status on various UCaaS platforms varies. For example, not every solution provides slash commands, and some don’t have drop-down settings. Here’s a quick rundown of how presence technology works in three different voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) providers offering UC solutions:
Presence status improves internal collaboration, resolution of simple tasks and queries, and boosts productivity. User presence status provides you and your team with multiple options for communicating with co-workers. With remote work becoming the norm, use this feature to ensure that communications remain streamlined. Consider VoIP and UCaaS providers, such as RingCentral, Nextiva, and Google Workspace.