Social Distancing and the Remote Worker

You can not turn on the TV or Radio or Podcast to know that our lives are changing due to Covid-19.  The old adage that it's better to be safe than sorry has blanketed our lives.  The new term "social distancing" and "self-quarantine" is picking up new believers everyday.  Okay, life is strange and a bit scary.  What are we going to do about it?
 
The workforce is changing to a more tech-savvy bunch who want to be less tethered to a traditional work environment anyway, so let's take advantage of the scary times to move forward with working remotely. Some want the freedom to work from the local donut shop in the morning, the local coffee shop in the afternoon, and the home office in between. Though these desires can prove impossible for many businesses because their communication network will not allow remote workers to remain as efficient as needed, Metropark has built a powerful communication platform that makes working from anywhere a breeze for any businessEspecially, those interested in Social Distancing.
 
If your business can adopt a social distancing policy and allow some of your employees to work remotely, there are some things to consider.  Working remote from the office in a home office provides many benefits including the obvious fuel/commuter savings and the flexibility of setting your own schedule. However, some home offices don’t get off the ground properly, so being successful in a home office requires creating an office space that promotes efficiency in a non-traditional work environment. Consider the following tips to get started creating a professional work space to maximize your personal productivity and provide greater revenue for your business: 
 
Make a List of Your Critical Home Office Needs
Before claiming a corner in one of your rooms and calling it an office, make a detailed list of your most basic needs for your home office. This is called your 'Critical Needs' list. It should include items you must have for your office -- a desk, computer, fax, telephone, etc. Metropark can make this very simple for you since many of your work tools can be unified into your browser along with your mobile or deskphone.  Consider the space needed.  If you are a graphic artist, for example, you may need both a small desk for your computer and a larger table or work space for your artwork. If you are a consultant, you may need additional space for several locking, fireproof file cabinets. When making your list of critical needs, it is important to think about all the ways in which you plan to use the space.
 

Choose a Dedicated Area for Your Home Office Space
Once you have made your critical needs list, you have a better idea of how much space you will need for your home office and you can choose a dedicated area for office space. Ideally, the office should be in a quiet area with some level of privacy. This is especially important if you share the house with a spouse, children, or even a roommate…don’t forget your barking dogs or nosey cats. With that in mind, a spare room with a door may be best because it can help filter noise from the rest of the house. Alternatively, many of your meetings can be done with Metropark's Boomea video meetings, but if you will be meeting with clients in your home office, it may be more efficient to choose a room near the front entrance of the house. 
 
Get Creative: Balance Workspace and Storage Requirements
Often, a home office has a limited amount of space and can feel cramped even with only a chair and desk. Maintaining a professional office space is dependent upon good organization -- that means planning a space that has plenty of room for storage (files, supplies, etc) and ample area to spread out and work. You may have to get creative. For example, consider building your own desk that uses file cabinets as the base with a wood or laminate countertop. You may also have to store files in another room. Keep in mind: the general rule of thumb is that any files or supplies that you use frequently should be easily accessible -- the goal is to create an organized office space that meets all of your basic needs.
 
Brighten Your Home Office with Proper Lighting
If possible, choose a space for your office that allows plenty of natural light. This provides a good foundation for a bright working space that can then be enhanced with more direct lighting. If your office lets in little or no outside lighting, the access lighting becomes even more important. Start by providing general, overhead lights that fill most of the work area. Next, consider adding task lighting, or desk lamps and floor lamps that can give concentrated lighting to your work area. Finally, regardless of the type of lighting available, make sure that your computer screen is positioned so that it prevents a glare from occurring. The object is to create balanced lighting that minimizes eye strain.
 
Use a Business Phone for Your Home Business
One of the many benefits of working from home is having reduced overhead. However, the initial savings from sharing a phone line with your home and business can ultimately cost you. A home phone is less professional and may allow clients to question the legitimacy of the business. A common pitfall of using a home phone for business is having the same voicemail message from both family/friends and business -- it can confuse customers. Likewise, when sharing a phone, you risk having a child or other family member answer a business call, giving an unprofessional impression. It is best to use a VoIP business line, something easily attainable with Metropark Voice Exchange. With MPVEX, the home office phone line is now a direct link to your customers from the business phone system. If you need to talk or transfer calls to another person in your business, it’s now extremely easy -- especially if they are on their MPVEX Nimbus Softphone traveling down the road. Additionally, if your business requires faxing, make sure you don’t have a highly priced second phone/fax line. MPVEX Faxboxes will be the obvious winner in your home. 
 
Invest in the Right Home Office Equipment
Getting started using the right equipment in your home office is essential and phones are not the only must-have piece of equipment. Invest your money in sound purchases -- a good desk with proper work space, a comfortable chair that can provide back support, computers with efficient memory and performance, a fast Internet connection, and any other specialized equipment, tools or software that is key for performance in your area of expertise. 
 
Separate the Professional from the Personal
When working from home, it is important to keep your personal life from spilling over into your business life (and vice versa). If you are just starting out and building your business from your home office on up, setting up a business bank account is the first step in helping you avoid mixing personal and business expenses. If you are setting up a home office in addition to your 'brick and mortar' office, you are probably already keeping records separate. To further reduce confusion, try to store personal checks, records, and even mail in a room separate from your office. Fully segmenting these two parts of your life may also help at tax time. Tax deductions related to home offices are increasingly scrutinized and in terms of meeting IRS definitions of a home office, the more you can prove that the office is a separate and dedicated area, the better.  As social distancing becomes a more normal way of conducting daily business, keeping personal and business things separated will become a very natural experience. 
 
Utilize Formal Processes and Procedures in Your Home Office
Your business may already have a formal employee handbook or a published list of office rules but determining a formal system of operations for your home office is very useful. This includes everything from standardizing record-keeping and paying invoices, to logging time with customers and mileage for business trips. Keeping a few formal procedures in place for standard business functions will ensure your office stays organized and that information is available where and when you need it most
 
These procedures can also be very useful with non-businesspeople living in your same space.  They will need to know when it's appropriate and when it's not appropriate to interrupt your business time.
 
Establish Office Hours
Flexibility is a key benefit of working from home. Yet, you're still required to put in your time. Setting a typical schedule for working in your office will help you stay focused. Perhaps even more important, keeping standard office hours (for the most part) helps your clients know when you are available and can be reached. After all, you may do much of your creative work during non-traditional business hours, but your clients are likely keeping a more traditional schedule and may need access to you within that time frame. Setting office hours can also help minimize distractions and unannounced calls or drop-in visits from well-meaning friends and family. 
 
Keep Time: Hang a Clock in Your Home Office
Once your office hours are set, don't forget to hang a clock on a wall or place one on your desk - anywhere it is clearly visible. While this may seem laughable (or obvious), the truth is that when working from home, it is easy to forget about time. Before you know it, you have worked a 14-hour day for the third day in a row. Even though your work is at home, there still comes a time when you have it to call it a day and shut your office door. 
 
 
Benefits of a Remote or Home Office
 

  More Work, Commute Less 

  Scale Up or Down Quickly

  Deduction of Home Costs on Income Taxes

  Flexibility of Working Hours

  Reduction in Overhead Costs

  Freedom to Test Business Ideas

 
 

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7 Reasons Why You Should Move To The Cloud

 

  Reduced Costs

Cloud providers typically charge based on the features, storage, number of users, time, or resources a company uses. With that in mind, your company can choose a package that suits your budget and requirements. The old model involved setup and ongoing maintenance of on-premise data center infrastructure. When you shift to cloud computing, you will only pay for the services procured.

  Flexibility

Mobility has become a core component to conducting business today. Having the flexibility to work from home or any location other than your office isn't just a luxury, it's a necessity. Cloud services allow you and your employees to complete their tasks when it's most effective or efficient for them. It also allows your clients to be cared for and managed with a much higher level service.

  Scalability

The traditional way of planning for growth is to purchase and keep additional servers, storage, and licenses. It may take years before you actually utilize the resources and gain a return on your investment. Scaling cloud computing services is easy. You can get additional functionality, features or storage space whenever you need them. On the flip side, you can turn off any services that may no longer be needed in the event you may need to scale back.

  No Need for a Backup Plan

A cloud service provider is responsible for one thing above all else... providing a solution that is always there for your business. So making sure that your data is backed up, protected, and available is there responsibility, not yours! The savings from not having to purchase backup infrastructure, storage, emergency support, and contingency plans in the event of a disaster could save you thousands of dollars and days of a good night's rest.

  Data Security

Investing in the latest security technologies is becoming more and more expensive. Also, staying current with all of the latest security measures and policies is next to impossible. Cloud services provide highly available and redundant systems so in the event of a failure or security issue, backup systems can take over to make sure you stay in business. Not to mention, teams of security experts and analysts can provide a level of physical and virtual security just not attainable in most organizations.

  A Wide Range of Options

Cloud services have wide ranges of options and features that can be tailored to your business’ needs. For instance, if you are looking for software, you will have hundreds of options from different providers. You can choose the service providers with the best features and rates for the service that your business needs.

  Improved Collaboration

Cloud services like PBX in the Cloud and collaboration services like Boomea can provide a new level of communication and flexibility for individuals and teams. Users and teams can share data and collaborate on projects remotely just as easily as they can in the same location. Field workers can easily update and share real time data with employees in the office. Better communication can speed-up daily tasks, lesson errors, increase efficiency, and keep overhead costs at a minimum.

For more information on how Metropark can help your business move to the cloud fill out the form below and we'll setup a time to chat! 

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The Doorstep of 5G

 

It may sound like its a ways off, but we are all standing on the doorstep of the new 5G world.  Metropark Mobility is poised perfectly to be your guide to 5G.

When the Wright brothers invented the airplane, it fundamentally altered how we experience traveling. It wasn’t just about speed. Yes, it was great getting from St. Louis to Miami in less time. But flight also gave us the thrill of defying gravity and soaring to new heights.

Flight became a new “user experience” for every traveler: the space-age feel of the airport; the visceral rumble in the chest as the turbine engines fire up; the press of G-force as the plane accelerates down the runway; the flutter in the stomach as the plane leaves the ground; the exhilaration of bursting through the clouds cruising at 30,000 feet.

Just as the airplane fundamentally changed the traveling experience and set off a chain reaction of innovation, so too does 5G promise to alter the nature of our digital experience.

Some hear “5G” and just think it means faster connection speeds. However, it goes beyond that. As it matures, 5G is expected to alter the very DNA of our user experience in dramatic, exciting ways—from leisure to healthcare to retail to manufacturing to finance and beyond.

To imagine what’s coming, it helps to look back where we’ve been. How would your business be faring if you never adopted any mobile technology beyond the 2G world? It’s like opting to keep the abacus instead of upgrading your team to computers and spreadsheets.

 

So what does the timeline to 5G look like?

 

In terms of capacity, our main 5G partner AT&T has invested over $27 billion in the spectrum technology over the past five years. And as a result, we have 60 megahertz of deployable spectrum, which includes First Net’s (the network we’re building for first responders) 20 megahertz of prime nationwide spectrum for public safety and secondary use.

Today’s mobile devices and personal electronics typically use sub-6GHz frequencies on the radio frequency spectrum. But, as in our metaphor of traffic and commuting, these frequencies, or data traffic lanes, are getting increasingly congested as the number of devices proliferates.

5G will be able use new spectrum bands with significantly more depth making those lanes wider where needed (like urban areas with dense data traffic).

Part of the 5G experience will be fueled by mmWave (millimeter wave) technology. 5G will be transmitting, in part, on shorter mmWaves in the 24-300 GHz range — a section of the spectrum that hasn’t been used before for wireless and mobile devices. 

 

 

Just as the airplane fundamentally changed the traveling experience and set off chain reaction of innovation, 5G promises to alter the nature of the digital experience for business. We like to think of 5G as the first network built with the business user in mind.

Metropark is working with the 5G innovators to ensure that our services and solutions are 5G-primed. In other words, they will help businesses be ready to take advantage of 5G technology and combined with Metropark IoT Framework, businesses are much further along than most.

Link to this article: The Doorstep of 5G

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7 Ways VoIP SIP Trunking Can Change Your Business

 

Businesses are rushing to adopt VoIP / SIP Trunking. By the end of 2019, it has grown to a $10 Billion industry (with a B). So why exactly is VoIP SIP Trunking adoption growing so fast? The fact is that more and more business leaders are realizing SIP Trunking can offer huge benefits to their companies.

Here are seven major ways that SIP Trunking can help businesses:

Cloud communications and unified communications have gone mainstream: VoIP SIP Trunking makes it easy to deliver and manage cloud communications services and migrate from the PSTN to VoIP with its amazing features.
 

Rapid Return on Investment: VoIP SIP Trunking has a negligible CAPEX requirement meaning that, as businesses can maintain the same features they receive with their local PBX, they will quickly recoup the benefits of switching.
 

Leverage ubiquitous broadband availability: VoIP SIP Trunks are delivered over IP and are available wherever broadband is. With broadband availability spreading across the US, more businesses will be free to take advantage of VoIP SIP Trunking.
 

Faster geographic growth: By using networking to combine voice and data, VoIP SIP Trunks can better connect distant business locations to expand a company’s geographic voice and data system.
 

Reduced call cost: SIP Trunking can dramatically reduce the cost of making and taking calls, with Gartner reporting that adopting SIP Trunking can half a businesses’ telecommunications cost.
 

Unprecedented mobility: SIP Trunking can help tie together mobile devices and remote workers by enabling a blend of on-premise and cloud-based services, creating a best-of-both-worlds solution.
 

Scalability at peak times: Unlike traditional POTs and T1/PRI lines that require planning for peak call times, SIP trunking offers the flexibility of on-demand scalability.
 

These are all big positives for businesses and so far an estimated 75% of all companies have adopted VoIP SIP Trunking service and are currently realizing these benefits.  

As more Analog / TDM T1 lines are replaced with broadband-capable infrastructure, safe projected estimates are that VoIP SIP Trunking adoption will rise to over 95% by 2024.  This increadible growth to almost full adoption in the next few years is a huge leap and presents a massive opportunity to offer customers streamlined migration from their legacy systems, if they are to take advantage of this explosive growth in demand.

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