Dave Reynolds, Managing Director of Xelion UK, looks at the opportunities for the channel presented by the boom in home working
The pandemic has accelerated multiple social trends: the cashless economy, online shopping and, perhaps, seeing your in-laws less often! But the one having most impact on business is home working.
Staff were required to show the boss they were hard at work in the office, so that he or she could admire their commitment and keep an eye on slackers, with everyone staying at their desks until the boss got up to leave.
There were more forward-thinking businesses that questioned whether these were compelling reasons to maintain large office blocks, to provide parking and to pay city centre weighting salaries when the technology existed to allow staff to work productively from home. But, generally, established working practices, including round-trip commutes of 100 miles or more, were accepted uncritically because ‘that’s the way things have always been done’ – even if, until the mid-twentieth century, spending several hours a day travelling to and from work would have been impossible and unthinkable.
Breaking the spell
Modern voice and data communications already provided the means to break down traditional working patterns, to deliver a better work-life balance and to reduce overheads for employers. It took the pandemic to break the spell of conventional thinking.
In a recent survey of almost 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors (IoD), 74% said they plan to maintain the increase in home working, with more than half planning to reduce long-term use of workplaces. The critical development in communications technology that has facilitated this boom in home working is hosted telephony.
A hosted telephony service allows users to communicate easily with each other free of charge, whilst also providing a professional response to outside callers. Remote and home workers have access to the company phone system just as if they were in the office and, with ‘presence’ technology, can see who is online and if their line is engaged.
Every business evaluates the cost/benefit of investing in technology, and with hosted telephony these are compelling, in terms of increased staff flexibility, efficiency and productivity.
Channel resellers need to embrace the rapidly changing hosted market being driven by customers in response to the pandemic.
Adoption of collaboration tools keeps growing, with many businesses opting for free online tools such as Zoom or MS Teams, bundled in an Office 365 subscription. To counter this, the channel needs to get ahead of the curve and work with customers to determine their needs and put together multi-platform solutions to suit those requirements. Channel resellers need to be able to provide an ‘a la carte’ menu of voice and data solutions to facilitate remote teleworking.
Because of the pandemic, businesses have been making ‘distress purchases’ of cloud products. Channel resellers should work with customers and help them plan longer term strategies to support flexible working and steer integration between platforms to turn a short-term gain into a long-term customer relationship.
That is why at Xelion we have placed great emphasis on an open platform architecture that our channel partners can configure to their unique customer needs. This puts the channel partner back in control, allowing them to differentiate themselves by building their own comprehensive unified communication proposition. By providing a hosted telephony platform that puts channel resellers in the driving seat, Xelion enables the comms provider to offer customers a service tailored to their needs that they will not be able to find elsewhere.
Users benefit from the Xelion Desktop App, a single application designed to be the central hub for all business communications that can be used as a full softphone client or linked with all major handset manufacturers, and a standardised user-interface and UC experience across all devices – desktop, mobile and tablet.
The developments accelerated by the pandemic are breaking down the working patterns of the last century. Gradually, going to the office will become meaningless, because the office will be where you happen to be. Workers will visit a central location for large conferences and meetings, but very few people will keep a permanent desk in an office building.
If businesses benefit from reduced overheads, workers will also benefit from a better work-life balance. No commuting means better productivity and more time for childcare and the gym. The wasteful use of energy for business travelling, with its cost to the environment and the quality of life in our cities and towns, will also be reduced. A networked working world could be the pandemic’s silver lining.