Remote Work Highlights Value of Unified Communications

After months of having many employees working remotely, federal agencies have learned to think in a new way about resilience.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies primarily thought about resilience in ensuring the continuity of operations and services in the wake of a disruptive event.

Today, agencies realize that resilience is about more than disaster recovery and business continuity. It is about ensuring that employees have access to the tools and resources they need to do their jobs no matter where they are working.

To learn more about this understanding of resilience, GovLoop spoke with executives from Avaya Government Solutions, which provides unified communications and collaboration tools to offices and call centers across government.

Required: A seamless work environment

The shift to remote work gave many agencies new insight into the resilience of their operations.

Agencies that adopted collaboration tools to support telework in pre-pandemic days had a relatively smooth transition, said Jeff Lunsford, Area Director, Civilian Federal Sales, Avaya Government Solutions. But others were overwhelmed, including some call centers, he said.

Agencies scrambled to provide employees with the right tools, but those tools, if they were different from what employees used in the office, often involved a steep learning curve, which could hurt productivity.

That is why Avaya designed its Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) tools to deliver the same functionality and the same user experience no matter which device employees are using. That consistency shortens the learning curve and creates a more seamless work environment.

It’s the same principle behind car design, Lunsford said. “It doesn’t matter what car you rent, the gas pedal’s always on the right,” he said.

Improving on normal

This seamless work environment is not merely a temporary fix to the challenge of remote work. Once agencies begin taking full advantage of UCaaS capabilities, they likely will not want to go back to the so-called normal way of doing business.

Here are four benefits that UCaaS tools can bring to organizations or teams:

Improved engagement. Although it’s fashionable to talk about “video fatigue,” there is no doubt that employees are more engaged on video versus voice calls, said Steve Sturiale, Account Manager with Avaya Government Solutions.

Expanded collaboration. In a traditional office environment, people tend to collaborate best with those nearby. A virtual environment changes those dynamics, making it easier to incorporate a more diverse mix of talent, Sturiale said.

More input from key stakeholders. Senior leaders or subject matter experts often will say they don’t have the time to join an in-person meeting and offer feedback. But a 15-minute video conference? That feels more doable, Lunsford said.

Mitigation of communication stovepipes. Many organizations have learned to work around cross-department communication incompatibilities simply by talking in person. Once they put UCaaS in place, they will find that they can collaborate more efficiently and effectively, said Sturiale.

Such benefits could pay off in the long term, as the pandemic reshapes the workforce. Although workers will be returning to the office, “many [CIOs] expect that the percentage of remote workers will never return to pre-COVID levels,” Lunsford said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, “The New Government Workplace Takes Shape.” Download the full report here.

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