How cloud communications supports the new hybrid hub-and-spoke model for tech companies

How cloud communications supports the new hybrid hub-and-spoke model for tech companies

Much has been made over the last year about the death of the traditional office. For technology companies, the future is not so simple. Though purely remote work may have advantages—among them, cost savings and productivity gains for some types of tasks—not all of the work of tech companies can be done from employees’ homes. From hardware and software production to sales presentations, many critical functions still tether workers to physical plants and offices.

But instead of considering remote work as an all-or-nothing proposition, many technology businesses are looking at a more nuanced model: hybrid hub and spoke workplaces. The concept is a hybrid work model built around regional hubs, creating a distributed network of physical office locations to anchor in-person tasks, while also maintaining the flexibility of remote work when possible.

As we examined in a recent in-depth dive into hybrid hub-and-spoke workplaces, there can be quite a few advantages to adopting such a model. But the complexity of connecting the full office network creates risks and challenges that must be addressed in order for the adoption of hybrid hub-and-spoke models to pay off.

Why UCaaS is necessary for hybrid hub and spoke to succeed

During the earliest coronavirus lockdowns, when most non-essential workers had to do their jobs from home, many reported challenges performing tasks that require communication and collaboration with colleagues. According to the Global Work-from-Home Experience Survey, conducted by the Global Workplace Analytics, workers reported a 26% decrease in satisfaction with such tasks when working from home compared to the office.

Hybrid hub-and-spoke has the potential to erode communication satisfaction and efficiency even further because the resulting workplace structures will be even more disjointed than in the days when everyone was forced to work from home.

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The need to enable communications for geographically distributed plants and offices and to provision portable tools for work-from-anywhere employees has the potential to result in a patchwork of systems and processes that can make connecting complicated and costly—two enemies of streamlining.

But RingCentral’s cloud-based UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform supports the requirements of hybrid hub-and-spoke companies in ways on-premises and standalone solutions simply can’t.

Supporting expanded workplace networks

For organizations looking to build in the flexibility and resiliency of hybrid hub and spoke, the immediate challenge is enabling communications across their new networks. These are growing pains Mobica, a software services firm based in the U.K., had to overcome as it provisioned sites in the U.K., Poland, and the U.S.

“Due to the phenomenal rate at which Mobica has grown, the communications infrastructure at each of its sites tended to be localized, rather than centralized, so we had different communications hardware at each of our locations and lacked integration across the various solutions,” said Tony Healy, Mobica’s Chief Information Officer.

Relying on individual local solutions can slow the process of bringing new locations on board—due to the need to reinvent the wheel with each new provider—and also make hub and spoke more costly. But switching to RingCentral allowed Mobica to sidestep these pitfalls.

“Where we used to have to do the best we could with a variety of different platforms across our sites, with RingCentral, we now have the total package in a single solution,” said Healy. “The benefits we’re already seeing are enormous.” – Read more

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How to prevent video conferencing fatigue: Make online meetings more productive

Online conferences and in-person meetings are fundamentally different from one another.

Working from home has transformed from a highly sought-after job perk to a bottom-line expectation.

Employees who used to travel from meeting to meeting are now relying on video conferencing technology to interface with customers, vendors, and team members. Free from the hassle of traffic and interoffice travel, these people are filling their schedules with back-to-back meetings supported by digital technology.

Until they burn out.

It turns out that scheduling back-to-back virtual meetings all day actually reduces productivity. This is true even for people whose pre-pandemic workday involved hours of back-to-back meetings.

Employers everywhere are starting to ask, “What’s the difference between video conferencing and in-person meetings?”

It turns out there’s plenty different. Employees whose jobs depend on productive meetings need to treat online meetings differently than in-person ones. For many businesses, preventing video conferencing fatigue is the best way to mitigate the risk of workplace burnout.

What is Video Conferencing Fatigue?

Video conferencing fatigue, also called virtual communication fatigue can drag productivity down for entire teams. It is caused by prolonged, excessive use of platforms. This kind of fatigue presents itself in several ways:

  • Lack of Focus.
  • Chronic Irritability and Frustration.
  • Reduced Input.
  • Headaches and Migraines.

Each of these symptoms can take a serious toll on anyone’s quality of life, and they will rapidly decrease the productivity of teams that rely on digital meetings and video conferences. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to combat video conferencing fatigue the moment it starts setting in.

1. Lack of Focus: Signs and Solutions

People lose focus in real-life meetings, too. But in a digital environment, it becomes a much more difficult problem to deal with.

In the office, it’s relatively easy for someone to catch up after losing focus for a moment. At any given moment, there are numerous side-conversations going on, and ample opportunity to communicate contextual clues silently.

In the digital environment, getting back on track after a momentary lapse in focus is hard to do. The more it happens, the harder it becomes to remain focused. In the end, it becomes a cyclical, self-reinforcing problem.

The digital medium adds additional layers of complexity to the problem. In a real-life meeting, it’s perfectly acceptable to look out the window for a few moments to gather your thoughts. In a digital video conference, looking anywhere other than at the screen indicates a lack of interest.

This is an especially tough problem for employees who need to interact with customers. Every customer believes (rightfully) that they deserve your absolute and undivided attention. They don’t appreciate companies that can’t deliver.

There are several things that employers can do about team members who appear to be losing focus during digital meetings:

  • Keep Meetings Organized to Schedule. The better organized your meetings are, the easier it will be for your team members to balance and prioritize their attention to them. It’s important to accept that not every attendee needs to pay attention to every second of every meeting. Schedule presentations in a way that allows people to organize their time around the subjects being discussed – rather than letting meetings dictate their schedules to them.
  • Enable Closed Captions. Some people have a much easier time reading than listening. With the right video conferencing software, you can enable real-time closed captioning during digital meetings. Giving attendees the ability to turn off their sound and read the discussion in real-time can offer much-needed breathing room for meeting-heavy enterprises.
  • Include Virtual Time Off. Employees who have to travel from meeting to meeting throughout the day get to enjoy small mini-breaks in between meetings. Whether it’s a quick coffee in the break room or a drive from one office to another, the day is essentially paced by the time between meetings. Schedule meetings with some downtime between them, and don’t be afraid to take a break right in the middle of longer meetings, if necessary.
  • Allow Attendees to Block Cameras. For meeting attendees, seeing the speaker’s face helps improve focus. Seeing their own face, on the other hand, is a distraction. It’s not something that adds value to the meeting experience. Encourage meeting attendees to block their cameras when not speaking, and try focusing more on screen-shared content using an extension like RecTrace.

Video Conferencing Fatiguesource

2. Chronic Irritability: Signs and Solutions

In-person meetings are relatively simple operations. You get everyone into a room, have the host present the subject, and then start discussing it. Unforeseen complications are rare, beyond the occasional projector mishap.

The digital meeting environment is significantly more complex. Network glitches, dropped connections, spotty Wi-Fi, and badly timed software updates can all get in the way of an online conference.

To make matters worse, many of these problems are highly technical in nature. The average non-IT office employee simply doesn’t have the expertise to troubleshoot the dreaded, “Please check your network connection” error message. – Read more

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7 tips for building a crisis communication plan for your business

Problems are inevitable in business, and, unfortunately, that includes really big problems. 

No matter how robustly you’ve built your company, you simply cannot foresee every major challenge coming your way. We are all vulnerable to something happening unexpectedly.

When a crisis hits—whether it’s a major problem in your production line, a workplace accident, or a serious social media gaffe—your priority as a business owner is to do all you can to contain the damage and prevent the situation from degenerating into a bona fide dumpster fire.

Emergencies are chaotic by nature. Confusion spreads, wires get crossed, and people end up unsure about what to do or who should do it. This is why it’s so crucial to establish well-defined protocols in advance to guide your communications response to a crisis. 

Enter: The crisis communication plan.  

In this post, we’ll outline the essential components of a crisis communication plan and guide you through steps for building one yourself. We’ll also look at some examples of how other companies have reacted to crises (with varying levels of success!).

What we’ll cover

Let’s kick things off by looking at what a crisis communication plan is and why it’s a good idea to have one.

Need to get a jump start on creating your communication plan? Download this free communication plan template:

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What is a crisis communication plan and why do you need one?

The purpose of a crisis communication plan is to set the communications guidelines that your company will follow when it suddenly finds itself in the middle of a crisis. 

These guidelines will define what actions should be taken when a crisis first hits, who will be responsible for those actions, and how information should be disseminated to customers, employees, investors, the general public, the media, and any other relevant stakeholders as events unfold.

When a crisis occurs, various people connected to your company will be thrown into a state of doubt and left wondering how it will impact their needs and interests. It’s your responsibility to ensure that they aren’t left in the dark any longer than is necessary. Following a predefined plan will make sure that your communications response to a crisis is swift, decisive, and accounts for all affected parties. 

Failing to act promptly and keep your stakeholders informed can significantly exacerbate a crisis. Mismanagement increases the likelihood of lawsuits, job loss, profit loss, fractured employee morale, and can lead to a major loss of trust in your business.

But if your response to a crisis follows a coherent strategy—in which well-prepared spokespeople disseminate crucial information quickly and accurately to the appropriate audiences—you’ll have more than a fighting chance of preserving your company’s reputation.

Clearly, preparing for the worst with a crisis communication plan is all part of sensible business leadership. It’s like an insurance policy: hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but it’s good to know it’s there if something does go wrong.

So now let’s look at what components you should expect to find in any effective crisis communication plan. 

5 essential elements of a crisis communication plan

Your crisis communication strategy should incorporate the following key elements:

1. A crisis communication team

A crisis plan should specify the people within your organization who’ll be charged with the responsibility of gathering information and orchestrating internal and external communications when things start to go south. 

The crisis communications team should include your senior management team as well as any social media or web managers who can monitor external conversations to better gauge the mood among customers and other stakeholders. The better you understand how people are reacting to the crisis in real time, the more accurately you can prioritize your responses.

Everyone’s role within the team should be clearly defined. For example, it should be obvious who’s responsible for collecting insights, who’s responsible for internal communications, and who will act as spokespeople for your different audiences. This leads us to the next point… – Read more

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