Whether you’re a sole trader or part of a larger team, working from home has its benefits. You can fit your work around the school run and let your inner night owl spread its wings after years beaten down by the 9-to-5. You don’t even have to survive on the god-awful instant coffee they have in the office.

But don’t take our word for it: the Institute of Leadership and Management surveyed managers from across the country, and saw  an increase of 84% in employee productivity and loyalty when flexible working arrangements were introduced. Given these findings, it’s no surprise that 94% of UK-based organisations now offer work-at-home options to their employees.

The office exodus comes with its own problems though. Sure, your workers are ‘extremely diligent, hard-working and organised’ (the CV never lies), but how can you ensure that they use their time properly? How do you communicate clearly and quickly with your workers? And if the office is understaffed, who will be there to take calls?

Internet phone systems, otherwise known as VoIP, can bring workers together in a virtual office space whether they’re spread out across town or across continents. Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows employees to work from home and still maintain close contact with colleagues by uncoupling the phone number from the office landline. Workers can take their number with them wherever they work best without compromising productivity.

Let’s take a web-development agency specialising in mobile app development. The project manager, Paul, is always on the move, meeting with clients, attending technology conferences, jumping in to the office only to liaise with the media team. But the chief programmer (let’s call him Steve – they’re always called Steve) needs to zone in for the long haul - he can’t concentrate on coding when office phones are ringing all around. He prefers to work from his home desktop. The artistic developer, Sarah, also prefers her studio at home, where she can draft the website layout when she’s at her best, usually at around 8pm. She’s freelance and sends all her work remotely.

Paul could quickly lose control in a highly-specialised team such as this. But he need not fear: with an internet phone system he can call Sarah to update her on what is required and set clear expectations whether from his office or home phone using the same number. She will always know who’s calling, since Paul can assign his number flexibly to multiple phones and keep in touch from anywhere. As a third-party Sarah has a handful of projects on the go - but with VoIP phone systems she is no less a part of the team.

A quick conference call brings him and Steve in contact with the front-end web developer and the client’s social media team to discuss search-engine optimisation, all without Steve having to leave the lab. What’s more, Paul can organise this just as easily whether the client is in Clapham or California, thanks to cloud technology. Compared with landline systems, internet telecommunication offers superior clarity and consistency (not to mention being cheaper), wherever you are based.

Gone are the days clock watching in the office waiting for enquiries. Take any call anywhere by creating a virtual contact centre with VoIP. Call forwarding allows the call to be automatically transferred to your home phone if no one picks up at the office. Calls can even be assigned to different members of your team from the main number. This distributed contact centre allows queries to be efficiently and slickly processed to their relevant departments (even if the solution is to ‘turn it off and on again’).

Flexible working is the way forward for businesses in the UK. And with VoIP phone systems like those offered by GRIP Communications there’s no reason the home office can’t offer the benefits of a traditional one. Whether your team is spread out, you employ agents on flexible contracts, or have specialised queries in need of rapid response, VoIP brings the office home. Starting from just £2.99 per month per phone, the savings on transportation and overhead costs could also go a long way. And you don’t have to worry about your mug getting stolen again.

For guidance on flexible working and homeworking, ACAS has published a useful guide: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/7/r/Homeworking-a-guide-for-employers-and-employees.pdf

GRiP Communications is a UK based VoIP Service provider providing high quality affordable business telephone systems to organisations with one phone or many. All you need is an internet connection.

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