Posts by Category

Cropped shot of a little girl using a laptop with her mother at home
Using technology to create work-life balance

Leveraging technology for better work/life balance

There’s no doubt about it: Work-life balance is essential for today’s employees. People have a widespread desire to address both personal and professional responsibilities. And everyone needs a little time to relax and unwind.

A survey from project and resource management company MavenLink also found a majority of employees of all ages – 62% – believe work-life balance is the most important part of a successful work culture. (1) Happy, healthy, and well-rested employees tend to be more productive, after all.

How can your company use technology to create and improve its employees’ sense of work-life balance?

Give them tools to automate repetitive tasks

Some of your staff’s most important responsibilities involve repetitive work, from creating budgets to organizing projects and allocating resources. However, the many computations and calculations involved are often best left to an application or program. Human error is inescapable, and can easily be introduced into these efforts despite the best efforts of staff and supervisors.

Tools as simple as spreadsheets and budgeting software can help employees complete this kind of repetitive but important work more quickly and with fewer opportunities for error. This modest investment can cut down on the time your workers spent on such tasks, helping them avoid late nights and early mornings. It also removes a potential source of worry that can follow them home and disrupt their work-life balance. Learn how to work smarter and get more done with Webex in 2020.

Use tech to improve mindfulness and health

Technology doesn’t need to specifically address a professional responsibility or task to help improve work-life balance. Locating and vetting resources, then sharing them with staff as part of an employee wellness program, can provide benefits inside and outside of work time.

There are a number of potential apps that employees can use to address self-care needs and improve quality of life. Those interested in diet and exercise can use a variety of free meal and activity trackers, for example. Providing information and encouraging use without requiring it can help create a supportive and accepting environment. This shows staff that their employer cares about them and recognizes they lead lives where work is important, but not the only thing they want or need to address in their lives.

Another option to consider when it comes to these resources is apps that support mindfulness and a sense of presence. Forbes contributor Jaspar Weir, the founder of TaskUs, an outsourcing company, highlighted how his company uses the Headspace app to promote meditation. (2) Creating a sense of peace and presence in the current moment can help employees take a short break as well as better plan and complete their tasks for the day. Take instruction to Webex: stream live pilates lessons.

Empower them to use their calendars

Digital calendars are incredibly valuable tools for modern workplaces. A meeting organizer can easily check stakeholders’ calendars when inviting them to an internal meeting or discussion with a client. That’s not the only benefit digital calendars provide.

Encouraging staff to block off time for lunch and breaks in line with company policies can help them stay refreshed and organized throughout the day. It also provides a window to set up an appointment or check in with family and friends. With digital calendars already so prevalent, embracing this type of policy doesn’t require a major shift in organizational strategy. Employees just need to be encouraged to take advantage of this benefit early on.

Allow them to work from home

Technology has advanced to the point where professionals in many different careers can not only function but thrive when working remotely. Recent events have accelerated companies’ plans to expand work-from-home.

Solutions like video conferencing platforms connect staff to their colleagues, whether in the office or also working from home, in a much richer environment than is possible with conference calls or emails alone. The right video conferencing tool can even enhance collaboration and support recall through automated recordings and document sharing. Here’s more tips for WFH when everyone else is home.

Working from home has some obvious benefits when it comes to supporting work-life balance:

  • Staff can effectively work from wherever they are currently located. They may be at home, traveling as part of their jobs or even bringing their children to a travel sports tournament. As long as they have a computer and internet connection, they can perform capably in their roles.
  • Commuting is no longer a drain on time and energy. While staff still have to prepare themselves for the work day, they don’t need to spend the time and money required to drive to the office or make sure they get on public transit in time.
  • Employees can be present at their homes without having to take time off. A mild illness or appointment with a tradesperson doesn’t mean an employee can’t work. Caring for a sick child or training a new puppy requires some attention, but not enough to require many full days of time off. At the same time, these concerns often require a staff member to be absent from a physical office. With a supportive environment and the right technological tools in place, employees can make a seamless transition to working from home.

Technology offers crucial support for employers that want to improve work-life balance, from directly supporting staff as they complete complex tasks to allowing them to effectively perform in their roles no matter where they’re located. See more ways on embracing the rise of remote working.

Learn more about Cisco Webex video conferencing solutions and their role in enabling a better work-life balance: get started with a free plan today

References

(1) Work/life balance leads to successful work culture

(2) How TaskUs uses Headspace app to promote meditation

Learn More

Manage rapid growth with these internal communication techniques

Using a video conferencing tool to manage outside vendor communications

3 business communication barriers you can break down with video conferencing

GDPR versus flexible working & mobility

Read more
Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think about how you can fall in love with your meetings again. Cisco Webex Meetings brings teams together, for collaboration that leads to greater business outcomes.
Love your meeting!

Spread the love with meetings

Valentine’s Day is more than just a chance to show affection to a loved one. It’s also a big holiday for shopping and gift-giving, even for single people – sort of like a mini Christmas.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 45% of Americans over the age of 18 (more than 110 million people) identified as single in 2017, a record high. But Valentine’s-related sales have not suffered despite the huge number of singles out there.

On the contrary, they were estimated at nearly $20 billion in 2018, with average per capita spending of more than $143. And it’s not all on greeting cards or chocolates: Gift cards, jewelry, and even pet treats all do big business each February.

What this trend shows us is that there is a lot of love in the air on Valentine’s Day, not just for your significant other, but for everyone you love in your life—and people tend to want to share that through meaningful gifts. This year let’s spread that love even further, into one of the most historically despised, but necessary areas of business—meetings. That’s right, it’s time to start loving your meetings again.

Love it or leave it behind: Why only the best collaboration technology will do

As the Valentine’s Day numbers above illustrate, shoppers don’t skimp on buying something that they think will really impress a significant other or friend. In other words, they don’t usually settle for a second-rate gift. The same principle should apply to tools for team collaboration and communication.

Think of your organization’s current approach to keeping everyone in the loop. Do you have the right technology in place to bring your teams together and keep them collaborating wherever they are? Is it optimized to make the most out of every meeting or communication? Or does it make you want to break up with your meetings altogether?

Name any fundamental flaw with a meeting (too long, not focused enough, etc.), and subpar collaboration technology will only make it worse. Let’s look at five common day-to-day challenges that are preventing effective meetings.

1. Too much multitasking, not enough participation

The problem: Streaming a movie or TV show on Valentine’s Day? It’s possible that you’ll look at your phone or tablet at some point, even while the video keeps playing. The same thing happens all the time with audio-only conference calls, as participants are directing their attention elsewhere. “Sorry, I was on mute” is often code for “I missed what you said since I was checking my email.” Multitasking is hard and bad for focus.

The solution: Setting up a video conference is a proven way to reduce multitasking since it lets everyone be seen. It’s also a good idea for executives and leadership to set an example by not using other technologies during an online meeting.

2. “We could have just covered this in email”

The problem: It’s a common refrain after an unproductive meeting: “This could have been done over email.” But why don’t more meetings just get offloaded onto email? Because email is a very limited communication medium, and not all that efficient. If your inbox is as filled and cluttered as mine, messages can easily get lost and overlooked, plus hours or days can pass between responses. No wonder companies resort to meetings instead, no matter the flaws involved.

The solution: Taking advantage of real-time chat can be advantageous both during and after a meeting. It’s more streamlined and richly featured than email and lets participants get answers quickly and in context. Modern chat platforms also make it easy to search for old content, share files, and conduct digital whiteboarding.

3. The meeting is too difficult to join and engage in

The problem: Sometimes, issues crop up before the meeting even begins. The process for joining one can be needlessly complicated, with required downloads and PINs or limited device support, so that participants need to be in a certain location to join.

The solution: Modern collaboration technology can make it straightforward to get started with any meeting. Multiple devices are supported and joining is as simple as tapping or clicking a button when it’s time. Mute and audio controls also make it simpler for the host to keep things moving once the meeting does begin.

4. There’s uncertainty on who’s in the meeting

The problem: Imagine a conference call with a lot of people on it. Someone starts talking and you have only a vague idea who they are, having only perhaps seen their name in the calendar invite beforehand. Then someone else joins in and you don’t recognize them at all. These gaps can be a distraction in a meeting, especially if the topic contains sensitive information. Also, it’s challenging to get people to participate if you cannot address them by name.

The solution: Increasingly we are seeing AI coming into meeting and collaboration technology, allowing advanced capabilities like delivering instant profiles of meeting participants pulled from social accounts and other directories. Or voice and facial recognition so you can match the name to the face. Accordingly, the meeting can flow better and have better engagement since everyone has some background information on each person and everyone can be addressed by their name. As the use of AI evolves, meetings are only going to get smoother and more productive.

5. Remote workers have too much trouble connecting

The problem: More people are working outside of traditional offices, which is great for flexibility. However, it can be challenging for these workers to keep in touch if the meeting software they’re supposed to use doesn’t work well across devices or allow for easy collaboration.

The solution: Collaboration tools should work equally well on desktops, phones, tablets, and video conferencing systems, as applicable. That way, they can support remote and mobile workers who might take calls on the go, at home, or occasionally at a company office, too.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think about how you can fall in love with your meetings again. Cisco Webex Meetings brings teams together, for collaboration that leads to greater business outcomes.

Is today the day you fall in love? Let’s see, and try Webex for free.

Does Webex Meetings work with any popular learning management systems?

Webex Meetings has added Blackboard Learn to our already extensive list of popular learning management systems. With this integration, instructors can have the full Webex Meetings experience within the Blackboard Learn environment. Aside from being able to hold virtual classes for distance learning, instructors can also have office hours and ad-hoc meetings with students, and even message students – all within the Blackboard learning interface. These integrations give teachers and students a great way to connect within the environment to which they are accustomed.

Learn More

Webex Meetings and Microsoft Teams: Working better together

Webex Meetings January 2020 Update: New improvements and new integrations for the new year

Skip the trip with Webex Meetings

US Census Bureau

By the Numbers Look at Valentine’s

Read more
Communication is key to business. But too often, communication itself gets in the way of how businesses work. Whether it's aligning sales and marketing or coordinating on project workflow status, efficient and effective communication can be hard to come by. This is especially the case when companies are dependent on traditional conference calls, which can be limiting.
How video improves communication during any conference call

Top reasons why video conferencing benefits communication

Communication is key to business. But too often, communication itself gets in the way of how businesses work. Whether it’s aligning sales and marketing or coordinating on project workflow status, efficient and effective communication can be hard to come by. This is especially the case when companies are dependent on traditional conference calls, which can be limiting.

Communicating on strategy or instructions is improved with screen sharing software, which allows meeting participants to integrate video into the proceedings — the next best thing to being in the physical room at the same time.

Want to drive better internal coordination and collaboration while on a call? Consider these reasons for how screen sharing and video conferencing can improve communication.

Video reveals nonverbal expression

Body language and facial expressions matter. Yet these levels of communication are imperceptible on traditional conference calls. Video can make these nonverbal cues seen, which may help increase productivity and provide a better experience over other forms of communication.

When an office worker calls IT for help, for instance, the technical directions can become burdensome to explain over the phone. Also, with traditional calls, remote IT help doesn’t have actual visibility into the situation. Add video, however, and tickets can be resolved more quickly when IT can explain solutions by demonstrating the required steps or live trouble-shooting. These gestures are invaluable to helping a non-IT expert understand the instructions.

Video helps nurture client relationships

Communication in both sales and customer service is improved when video is integrated into processes. Video conferencing software can pay dividends early on in the sales process when reps can hold face to face meetings with prospects. This dimension of communication can help build trust and credibility — don’t discount the value of eye contact when listening to clients explain pain points or their company culture.

Video helps foster a better client experience, which can move the sales process along. Video also comes into play with customer service and retention. Having video on a quarterly or monthly update keeps the client relationship fresh, while also making it easier to explain performance metrics or other details.

Video facilitates creative team collaboration

It can be hard for a graphic designer to get their visual concept across when restricted to the format of the traditional conference call. While they may be able to see the image in their head, or even sketch it out on paper, the other meeting participants don’t have as great a level of insight, which can stunt collaboration.

Video can help solve this challenge by allowing creative team members to share their ideas and or workshop concepts with other attendees in real time and with the aid of a professional tool. A designer may use screen sharing to cast a video of them using a drawing program, while architects on a call could use a building modeling platform to collaborate.

Video provides indelible records

It can be difficult to record every word said on a conference call, even when meeting participants take scrupulous notes. There’s no such gaps or oversights when using the recording feature on a video call.

The preservation of video is a huge advantage to communication. Records-keeping processes are substantially improved and videos can provide reference for future users. For example, a video recording of a sales demo can be archived for training purposes. Besides helping provide ironclad history of instructions or strategy, video can also help with business continuity.

Video helps power remote workforces

Remote workforces are more the norm for businesses these days, from startups and small businesses to enterprise-level companies. Employers have been pressed with increasing expectations for flexible working arrangements, but they’ve also seen the inefficiencies such setups can lead to. Video-powered conferencing is a way to address those productivity drags head-on by giving remote, home-based, and traveling coworkers an engaging and easy way to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

Team members who are miles apart but working on the same project can use video to provide updates or otherwise coordinate on next steps. Video helps companies avoid some of the major pitfalls companies encounter with remote workforces. Managers who have video-based check-ins can better assess performance and help form bonds with a direct report who they’ve never met before.

Video improves onboarding

Onboarding is a crucial stage for both employees and clients. You want to ensure that new hires have the support and information to be productive, and that clients can realize value or return on investment. Information retention is improved with video, while sales reps or managers have a greater ability to course correct during the early stages of the relationship to avoid common obstacles. Familiarity is beneficial at such stages, but something that traditional conference calls can’t provide with only voice.

Video is a powerful and efficient channel for delivering communication. Businesses can leverage video conferencing and screen sharing in internal and external interactions. Interested in learning more about video features and the software needed to support such implementations?

Learn about our screen sharing solution or get started with a free plan today.

Learn More

How to share real-time data with customers through video

Improving patient diagnoses with video conferencing

Video conferencing and technology enables cultural change within Citizens Bank

 

Read more
4 way to use technology to grow your business
4 ways to use technology to grow your business

Increase your customer base

This is a good time to either own or work at an emerging business, as more operations find their footing in today’s digital-focused climate and carve out a space for themselves in their specific markets. According to recent Bank of America survey of small business owners, 73% of women and 66% of men plan to expand their business over the next 12 months.*

Having laid a stable foundation to establish your business, the next step is to grow and extend your reach. Tap into new markets, expand your customer base, and create new revenue streams to increase profitability. Cisco Webex provides a reliable communication platform to support your business goals and aspirations.

Latest SMB technology to increase profit

Resources may be tighter at a small- and medium-sized business compared with enterprises, but there are plenty of affordable ways to improve operations and expand your market footprint. In particular, the latest SMB technology can help organizations grow their business and rake in more revenue.

Keep an eye on these four technologies, in particular, to expand your business.

  1. Tap into social media

Social media is an important touch point for any business looking to engage directly with customers and drive more people to its products and services. Take the time to establish a presence on leading social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. These platforms are perfect for promoting new products, limited-time deals, and other enticing offers.

Growing businesses can also use social media to manage customer support tasks, addressing any questions or concerns users have in a public setting. It’s a great way to show potential customers the lengths to which your business will go to provide the best experience possible.

  1. Move to the cloud

It wasn’t that long ago that the cloud was viewed as a disruptive force in the business community. Today, it’s the status quo.

The cloud enables hands-off management of virtually any business process, as well as the scalability to expand functionality along with the organization. Even if your business is already using the cloud, there are likely more ways to take advantage of this technology.

With the sheer wealth of cloud-based services available, combined with their elasticity and reliability, moving core business processes to the cloud is a no-brainer for growing businesses.

  1. Ramp up your content marketing efforts

Virtually any organization that maintains a presence online conducts content marketing, whether they realize it or not. Running a brand website in itself is an act of content marketing. When done right, these efforts can raise brand awareness, increase your search visibility, drive high-intent search engine users to your site, and produce qualified sales leads.

There are a lot of different ways to approach content marketing: SEO-driven blogs bring users to your site, email campaigns nurture leads, and the aforementioned social media sites work to engage customers and promote content.

One important business tool that often gets overlooked is webinar software. Webinars are perfect for establishing brand authority in a particular field or market and directly engage with a large group of people, including both existing and potential customers. Demo new products, provide expert insights into the latest industry trends, or hold informational user group sessions – the possibilities are endless.

Cisco Webex Events makes it quick and easy to launch webinars supporting up to 3,000 attendees. SMBs can stream those sessions live to as many as 40,000 viewers, helping them grow brand awareness in new markets and expand their footprint.

  1. Take advantage of remote workforces

Thanks to the widespread availability of mobile devices, cloud services, and high-performance networks, businesses are no longer limited by the constraints of the traditional office. Flexible work schedules are quickly becoming the norm, with workers splitting time between their office, the road, or their homes.

Telecommuting enables SMBs to expand their talent acquisition efforts to new regions and markets and bring in the best employees possible. Remote workers can do their core job responsibilities from virtually any location, provided they have the technology and resources to stay in touch with office-based staff and other remote teams.

Video conferencing software that includes crisp HD resolution, an intuitive interface, and collaboration-building tools like real-time screen sharing allows remote employees to work together on shared projects anytime, anywhere.

Cisco Webex lets users record video conferences to share with team members who can’t attend them or want to go over the material covered at a large time.

The webinar capabilities discussed above keep remote workers in the loop and productive, as well. Use Webex Events to train your remote workforce, walking them through important onboarding materials, reviewing company guidelines, or bringing them up to speed on new product launches. Coordinate efforts with teams located on opposite sides of the country (or even the globe) to bring your entire operation on the same page.

Growing a business is far easier when everyone involved in its day-to-day operations has the tools and resources to communicate, collaborate, and work at the highest level possible.

Get started with a free plan today.

Learn More

4 screen sharing tips to manage a growing business without an office

Team collaboration tools improve communication from business leadership

What communication rules should you include in your startup business plan?

*Survey of small business owners

 

 

Read more
screen sharing on mobile device
4 screen sharing tips to manage a growing business without an office

It’s become more common for small- and medium-sized businesses to function without dedicated company offices. Whether employees opt to work from home, a branch office, or a coworking space, there is more flexibility than ever in how an emerging company structures its day-to-day operations. In fact, by the end of 2019, more than 2 million people could work out of coworking setups worldwide.

Not having a main office has a few potential drawbacks, though. For instance, keeping everyone in sync might become more difficult without a physical space – but it doesn’t have to. Thanks to screen sharing software that works on every major operating system as well as in web browsers, employees can enjoy rich collaboration that goes far beyond a traditional phone call or email.

Screen sharing is built into many web and video conferencing solutions, meaning that it’s possible to talk and walk through documents in real time from the same platform, from anywhere there’s an internet connection. If your business operates out of multiple remote sites or coworking or hotdesking environments, here’s what you need to know about screen sharing:

1. It’s possible to share your screen from a mobile device

Even though modern screen sharing has its roots in remote desktop software for PCs, it’s far more flexible than you might think. 

Regardless of which devices they’re currently using, employees can let others see what they’re doing with just a few taps or clicks. For example, someone on a phone running Android or iOS can natively share content from their screen for real-time collaboration in Webex.

Screen sharing sessions can be conducted across phones, tablets, PCs, and Macs – in other words, if it has a screen, it can probably do screen sharing. That’s good news for productivity, considering that workers are increasingly reliant on personal devices in the workplace. By 2022, the BYOD market is projected to be over 10 times as large as it was in 2014.

2. You can share the entire screen, or just one app or document

When you think about what screen sharing actually involves, maybe you envision walking a colleague or client through a PowerPoint deck or PDF. Although that’s certainly one of the central screen sharing features and use cases, it’s not the only one. 

Let’s say you wanted to show a video. In Webex, it’s possible to share just a multimedia player so that everyone could see it at 30 frames per second

Sometimes you might want to share your entire screen so that you can provide a guided walkthrough of a product. Other times, simply sharing a specific app or document might be enough. 

3. Screen sharing works well within video conferencing tools

Video conferencing software gives a team a virtual meeting room in which participants see each other face-to-face as if they were in the same space. With screen sharing, they can also work like they were side-by-side.

Like video calling, screen sharing is a form of real-time communication. Attendees can talk, see reactions and body language, and share their screen with ease.

In Webex, you don’t even have to worry about passing presenter controls to someone, as anyone can share their screen by default. Everything needed for real-time collaboration is right at your fingertips.

4. You can record a screen sharing session for later viewing

Not everyone can make every call, even if it’s an important walkthrough or screen share-enabled demo. Fortunately, straightforward recording makes this less of an issue.

The entire session can be recorded with just one button press in Webex. An .mp4 copy of the meeting is then emailed afterward and can be played back by simply clicking on the link. 

Screen sharing makes it more practical than ever to work from anywhere – no office required. Learn more about how Webex can help by starting for free today.

 

Read more
interview with video conferencing
Find the top talent with video conferencing

Is your SMB hiring the best available candidate for every open position? 

While you can’t always get the perfect fit for each role on the first try, organizations can miss out on top talent because of  solvable problems with their hiring processes. 

The possible issues include posting an inaccurate job description (which in turn draws the wrong mix of applicants), struggling to manage large amounts of recruitment data, coordinating interviews, and casting too narrow a geographic net for a position that could probably be performed from almost anywhere. Let’s dig into the second one, as it’s directly addressable by smart use of video conferencing technology.

The missed opportunity to hire remote candidates

Relisting a job in the same location will, predictably, attract a familiar set candidates over and over again. That can be good if you are seeking particular expertise in the local area, but it can also be limiting and costly, especially in the broader context of many employers struggling to hire qualified candidates, surprisingly affecting over half of SMBs in a worldwide survey

In 2018, the Manpower Group found that 45% of employers cited trouble finding candidates with the skills they needed, up from 40% the previous year and the highest rate overall since it began surveying employers in 2006. What was behind this increase? Changes in the labor market, certainly, but also the fact that technology has reshaped, rather than replaced, many in-demand roles. Plus, one-third of employers have not been able to attract enough applicants for their openings.

While some roles really do require a local presence  – for example, a firefighter or police officer working in a specific geographic precinct – others are much more flexible than they appear and could benefit from a geographically wider search. According to Global Workplace Analytics, ½  the U.S. workforce holds a position theoretically compatible with telecommuting

Opening a job search up to candidates in  multiple locations, who are willing and able to work remotely, can help SMBs alleviate the talent crunch and select from a broader pool of candidates. But remote hiring comes with its own challenges.

Distance can make the travel for on-site interviews cost-prohibitive for SMBs. Meanwhile, applicants might struggle to form a clear perception of the company’s culture if they are only interacting via the traditional communications channels of phone and email. This is where a video conferencing solution can make all the difference in connecting you with top talent.

How video conferencing software supports a modern hiring strategy

Conducting introductions and interviews over video has numerous advantages over doing them in-person. While these video conferences might not replace on-site meetings entirely, they do provide more flexibility when recruiting and interacting with candidates.

Less travel, fewer costs

A Webex meeting with high-quality video and audio can be set up between multiple participants, regardless of their respective physical locations. That saves a lot of time and money that would otherwise be spent simply trying to get everyone into the same room. SMBs in particular can struggle to keep travel expenses under control due to highly manual processes and outdated tech, so every reduction and simplification on this front helps.

All of the detail, none of the inconvenience

An online video meeting captures details such as body language and facial expressions that wouldn’t come across in other forms of communications. Moreover, with high-definition video feeds, it’s like participants are in the same room despite being far apart. Video conferencing delivers this extra clarity that is useful in evaluating applicants.

Easy meeting setup, simple participation

With Webex, starting a meeting and then participating in it is very straightforward. Attendees can join the conference from a PC, mobile device, or standards-based video conferencing system. Interviewers and applicants don’t even have to download a dedicated app, since they can view the entire meeting within a web browser. 

A closeup look at your company, plus a walkthrough of the role

Video conferencing offers a great forum to virtually showcase your business  and explain the position you’re hiring for. Candidates get to associate more than just a name with your company, plus you can give them a general sense of what your office looks like. Built-in Webex features such as screen sharing allow for even more detail, as you can walk through a presentation or conduct an assessment in real time. It all adds up to fuller context for everyone involved in the hiring process.

As you think about how to update your hiring strategy for the new reality of remote work and overcome difficulties finding the best person for each opening, video conferencing can help. Try Cisco Webex for free today to get started on the path toward more flexible hiring.

 

Read more