General Manager, Strategy & Commercial - Symbio Enterprise
August 29, 2022
With the hybrid office set to be the future of the workplace, organisations are looking to provide a seamless transition between home and office to improve the way they communicate internally and with customers. Unfortunately, the significant adoption of cloud collaboration platforms at the start of the pandemic left many businesses with an array of mismatched communication tools that lack integrated calling capabilities to support a truly unified hybrid working environment.
As the impact of the pandemic waxes and wanes, many Australian employees will continue to spread their work hours between home and the office. This winter’s Omicron wave and flu infections saw the occupancy rate of Melbourne offices drop from 49 per cent in June to only 38 per cent in July, according to the Property Council of Australia. Meanwhile, the occupancy rates fell from 55 per cent to 52 per cent in Sydney, 64 per cent to 53 percent in Brisbane and 71 per cent to 64 per cent in Adelaide.
As people move between home and office, the way they connect has a big effect on their productivity. Equality of employee experience is one of the key challenges of the hybrid office. Rather than thinking of home and office as two separate entities of the workplace, the key to success is to take a unified approach.
‘‘Providing a unified and universal employee experience is the biggest challenge in a ‘work from anywhere’ environment,’’ says Greg Round, general manager for enterprise strategy and commercial with communications software provider Symbio.
‘‘Whether sitting in an office or working from anywhere, staff don’t want separate applications for meetings and chat, for calling and for their contact centre. They want a single application from which they can collaborate on meetings, chat to colleagues, see the status of others and, importantly, make and receive calls.’’
Many businesses still have phones on desks, with maintenance and support agreements on complex premises-based telephone systems. They may also have meeting rooms with systems that don’t integrate effectively or support voice calling. As a result, such businesses are failing to offer universal access. They are also missing out on the benefits that cloud solutions can bring to their voice services – such as resiliency, high availability, scaling and security.
Embracing this ‘unified’ hybrid office model requires a change in mindset.
‘‘In the hybrid office and a true work from anywhere environment, ‘unified communications as a service’ brings an extra dimension to that unified experience by ensuring that your people’s access to these powerful tools isn’t limited by their location,’’ Round says.
Despite the range of communication channels available, Round says demand for voice services remains strong. Employees continue to turn to voice to communicate with suppliers and customers, while contact centres experienced a rise in call rates during the pandemic, with people still preferring to pick up the telephone to discuss sensitive and complicated matters.
‘‘The value proposition of unified communications as a service has always been the productivity and collaboration boost which comes from eliminating fragmentation and the ability to integrate voice with different collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex products,’’ Round says.
“The demand for voice calling and contact centres isn’t slowing down any time soon. We’ve all become very familiar with using chat and collaboration tools over the last few years but, when something is urgent, complex or of a sensitive nature, we find that most people still prefer to pick up the phone.’’
Enterprise and government telephony has traditionally been siloed systems, relying on on-premises hardware with maintenance support contracts and physical handsets on desks. Organisations took an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to their office-based voice services, even as they embraced unified tools and cloud services in other areas.
For the hybrid office to be truly unified, an employee’s voice service must also seamlessly follow them between locations, just like their other communication and collaboration tools, while maintaining integration with critical business systems.
‘‘Organisations no longer want to treat voice as an isolated workload, they want their voice services to enjoy the benefits of the unified cloud collaboration environment, which has been so beneficial for their other key business systems over the last few years,’’ Round says.
Choosing the right cloud telephony platform requires looking beyond just ticking the box with voice calling availability within collaboration suites, to consider the organisation’s unique voice requirements in terms of complexity of features and integration with other business systems. Symbio specialises in transitioning customers to cloud calling and offers valuable insights to support its customers in this selection process.
‘‘The ideal outcome in today’s hybrid office is to enhance the cloud technology we adopted during COVID to also support our businesses’ calling and contact centre requirements.’’
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