The best remote
work tools
to enable
small business

Author: Gary Hilson

The adoption of remote work arrangements by small and midsize businesses (SMBs) shows no signs of stopping. According to the Verizon SMB Outlook and Technology Adoption Study, 62% of SMBs transitioned employees from on-site to remote working in the last year. To help facilitate this change, the study found that 77% of SMBs have invested in remote work tools and other technologies that support connectivity.

Even though 60% of SMB decision-makers said they have struggled to fill open positions due to labor shortages, remote work remains popular with SMBs, particularly those that have invested in and embraced remote work tools. According to the SMB Outlook, the top reasons remote work remains popular with SMBs are:

  • Increased access to a broader pool of talent: One-half of SMBs surveyed said they have hired non-local staff.
  • Improved morale and collaboration: When companies invest in and embrace remote work tools, 56% of those surveyed indicate employee morale is higher and 62% say collaboration has improved.

Remote work also remains popular with many employees, with improved work-life balance, flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere among the key benefits cited. However, some have found it more difficult to communicate and collaborate than before.

As the SMB Outlook noted, SMBs still face important challenges, including supply chain disruptions, declining sales and increased costs. This bottom-line pressure further raises the stakes regarding investing strategically in communication tools for remote workers.

Choosing collaboration tools for business

Communication is the foundation of collaboration, whether on-site or remote, which means it's critical that employees have access to tools that allow them to seamlessly communicate and collaborate wherever they are working. Investing in a unified communications platform (UC) is a great place to start since it can support voice calls, SMS messaging, email, instant messaging and videoconferencing. Staff can collaborate seamlessly with fully featured messaging, file sharing and task management.

Other benefits of an integrated UC platform include simplified IT management, security protections and the ability to integrate leading business applications, including Salesforce, Google Workspace and Microsoft Office.

Robust calendaring is also an important communication tool for remote workers as it provides transparency about who's available and when, making it easier to schedule online meetings and collaboration sessions. Effective online collaboration is essential as SMBs embrace hybrid work where some employees are in-person and others are off-site. Combined with messaging, calendaring is one of the most important remote work tools because it can be difficult to keep everyone in the loop when your business is spread out across different locations.

According to a recent survey, companies that deployed a cloud UC platform experienced an average of 46% return on investment within 11 months.

Other benefits cited included:

  • Revenue gains
  • Improved employee productivity
  • Increased customer and employee satisfaction

Selecting communication tools for remote workers

SMBs with distributed staff who have customer-facing roles should think about employing a mobile-first business grade phone system.

This type of system assigns one number that can simultaneously ring multiple compatible devices such as cell phones, desk phones and even PCs. This translates to fewer missed calls and more opportunities for your business to connect to your customers. With this type of solution a business number can simultaneously ring multiple compatible devices, such as mobiles, desk phones and even PCs, and it means fewer missed calls and more opportunities to connect for your business.

This phone system provides multiple benefits to both the business and to employees including:

  • Calls are routed to the right people: An automated system answers incoming calls and allows the caller to select the department or person they wish to speak with. Plus, with advanced features, incoming calls can automatically be routed to the first available person within a predefined group of users.
  • Your employees have the right information: Integrations with customer relationship management software and other business applications can provide a quick snapshot of important details about contacts while on a call, saving time and improving productivity.
  • Caller ID: Caller Line ID Delivery can allow one phone number to display for outbound calls regardless of who made the call. This protects your staff's personal information while also confirming brand and business identity.
  • Easy to manage and deploy: Planning and configuring the system, installing new desk phones and deploying the app to smart devices can all be done quickly and easily and don't require complicated network reconfiguration by your IT team.

Implementing security policies when using remote work tools

The Verizon 2021 Mobile Security Index highlights the negative impact remote work has on cyber security for both SMBs and large organizations. Additional research supports this in that 97% of respondents believe that remote workers are exposed to greater security risks than traditional office workers.

One of the main reasons for this is the use of personal devices as communication tools by remote workers. Research suggests almost one-half of SMB staff use their own devices, known as bring your own device (BYOD). Having BYOD security policies in place are important to protect your network and your bottom line—almost one-third of organizations that had a mobile device-related breach described the measures needed to resolve it as "difficult and expensive."

Managing your remote work tools

One of the simplest ways to deploy and manage communication tools for remote workers is to use a managed service. UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) replicates the availability, reliability, resilience and security found in enterprise-class platforms to make collaboration more efficient for on-site and mobile teams regardless of the organization's size.

UCaaS enables SMB's to improve operational efficiency and customer experience by seamlessly integrating apps like voicemail, instant messaging, presence and mobility capabilities so employees can communicate and collaborate whether they are in the office, at home or on the go.

For SMBs, making the right decisions about remote work tools is critical, particularly given current challenges including labor shortages. A small business is 42% more likely to lose staff than a large company due to technology frustrations around remote working. Partnering with a trusted provider can help you make the right investments at the right time.

The IDC MarketScape positioned Verizon as a Leader in the Worldwide UCaaS Service Provider 2021 Vendor Assessment for SMBs.1"

Learn more about how Verizon can help remove collaboration barriers and make teams more productive with secure, scalable unified communications.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.

1 IDC, IDC MarketScape: Worldwide UCaaS Service Providers for SMB 2021 Vendor Assessment, Doc #US47452421, February, 2021.