Guide for Conference Calling During Coronavirus
With the coronavirus sweeping the globe, conference calling will be a key tool in maintaining vital communications among company associates, stakeholders, and external customers and suppliers. The Center for Disease Control is recommending social distancing, working remotely whenever possible, and avoiding large gatherings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 illness. For many businesses, having most or all employees work from home can cause a major disruption in work culture and daily flow.
Fortunately, we at 24Conference provide teleconferencing technology that can enable a functional and thriving collaborative workforce, even in the midst of these turbulent times.
While many still consider face-to-face interactions to be superior to teleconferencing, that is increasingly no longer the case. Particularly in the face of a highly contagious virus, teleconferencing provides two key benefits over face-to-face business interactions, especially when it’s implemented strategically:
1. Protect Yourself, Your Employees, and Your Family From COVID-19
The best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to avoid exposure, and the best way to avoid exposure to the virus is to limit contact with other people. Especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) is still working to fully understand the transmission method and rate of COVID-19, it’s the current best practice to implement social distancing, or essentially isolating yourself to avoid exposure.
Teleconferencing allows for collaboration between employees, business-to-business interactions, and even international communication while all participants remain safely isolated in their own homes. Preliminary data from the WHO suggests that unlike seasonal influenza which is often transmitted through children, COVID-19 is more frequently spread between adults and from adults to children. Based on this information, working from home wherever possible is one of the key ways to combat the spread of the disease throughout the population. Since ceasing all work for the duration of the pandemic is not an economically feasible option, teleconferencing while working from home is the safest and most productive alternative.
The majority of COVID-19 cases present as asymptomatic or with only mild symptoms, but it can become a critical or even deadly illness in older adults or for those with underlying health conditions. Even if you and your coworkers are low-risk, it’s important to mitigate the spread of the disease to avoid unintentionally spreading it to older relatives or high-risk individuals with whom you interact regularly.
2. Reduce Fear, Anxiety, and Distractions in the Workplace
In the current climate of uncertainty and fear of a contagious illness, it can be difficult for employees to focus. Between washing their hands the recommended every 30 minutes, flinching every time someone in the office coughs or sneezes, and scrambling to find childcare for school-age children who may now unexpectedly have several weeks off from school, there is little time and energy left to accomplish actual work.
Teleconferencing allows parents to be home with their children as schools and daycares close for the foreseeable future, and have peace of mind that they aren’t potentially being exposed to COVID-19 each day when they go to work. Although working from home can certainly be a culture shock, it allays fear of infection and stress over childcare while still allowing employees to earn their regular paychecks.
So, what is the best way to implement teleconferencing for your company? Follow a few simple steps to make the switch to teleconferencing easy and stress-free:
1. Ensure That All Employees Have the Necessary Equipment
Depending on your company’s scope and function, the necessary equipment can be as simple as a cell phone to dial in to a conference call, or it can include items like a computer, reliable internet connection, and functional webcam for video calls. Investing in these basics for your employees ensures that work can continue relatively uninterrupted while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19.
2. Invest in Teleconferencing Technology
Our conference calling service allows you and your employees to schedule virtual meetings by emailing the participants with the time, date, phone number, and passcode to join the call. If your company is large or has multiple divisions, you can set up sub-accounts so that each department has a unique passcode. You can also opt to receive metrics from us, such as which departments are using the service, how long their calls are, and how many people attend each call.
3. Organize Your Teams and Share Effective Teleconferencing Strategies
Once your teleconferencing service is in place and you have sub-accounts for each department as necessary, give your employees and particularly team leaders guidance on new protocols and how to effectively use teleconferencing. It may be necessary to supplement conference calls with group instant messaging to provide real-time updates to team members in between calls, or for quick and informal conversations. Instant messaging can also be used in conjunction during a conference call for side conversations or questions that do not demand the attention of the entire group.
If you find that your employees are not fully engaged in conference calls (i.e. they mute themselves the whole time, multitask, or do not contribute to the conversation), consider switching to video conferencing. The added visual aspect provides a stronger connection between team members and increased accountability.
What kind of teleconferencing services are available?
No matter your virtual meeting needs, we at 24Conference have a suitable conference call option available for you:
Our popular per-minute plan is free to set up and there are no cancellation fees or monthly minimums. Simply pay for what you use, on a per-person per-minute basis, which is billed after the call has been completed. We provide free online conference call monitoring, emailed reports with links to call recordings immediately after each call, and live customer service. Participants can mute themselves as needed and with our online Live Conference Viewer, you can switch between lecture mode and conversational mode with just one click.
To increase the level of professionalism in your conference call, we have trained operators who can help your calls run smoothly. Operators will dial each participant so they just have to answer the phone instead of calling in, and then introduce each new person that joins the call. Operators can manage question and answer sessions as well to avoid having multiple people speaking at once and keep the call organized and on schedule.
This service is particularly well-suited for high-level calls such as legal conferences or sales presentations, and we can also arrange for multiple parties on the call to be billed separately.
Local Access Teleconferencing
Our local access conference calling service can be used in many US and Canadian cities for a toll-free virtual meeting. No reservations are required since our conference bridges are open all the time.
We also offer international conference calling services. You can provide toll-free numbers to participants in 90 countries, or have one of our professional operators dial out to your meeting attendees. As with our other services, no reservations are required and you can pay as you go.
Flat Rate Teleconferencing
Our flat rate conference calling service allows you to make unlimited calls, with the monthly rate depending on how many conference lines you need for your business. For larger companies and in times like this with the coronavirus pandemic forcing nearly all business interactions to be virtual, this package can save you significant amounts of money. The flat rate option also makes budgeting easier, since you will know in advance how much the service will cost you per month instead of being billed by the minute after each call.
Our video teleconferencing service does not require any special software or equipment. With a computer, internet connection, and webcam, you can bring your conference calls to life. Share your desktop or presentation slides to everyone on the call for visual aids or just make a call more engaging and personal by video chatting.
This service is packed with helpful features like file sharing, chat, polling, and built-in audio and recording. You can use either the VOIP audio feature or ensure crystal clear audio by using our conference calling service in conjunction with the video service. The program works with any computer operating system that can run Adobe Flash Player so that all your employees can easily access the service.
As with our audio-only teleconferencing service, you have three payment options: a flat rate for unlimited usage, a pay-as-you-go plan, or a professionally hosted conference with one of our trained operators, which has a base fee plus a per-person per-minute cost.
Additional Benefits of Teleconferencing and Working From Home
Many companies have been making the transition to have their employees work from home over the last few years, even before COVID-19 became a threat. This is because there are many benefits to both businesses as well as to employees, such as:
Employees Are More Satisfied and Less Likely to Quit
Commuting to work is often a big factor in job dissatisfaction. There’s nothing worse than wasting hours each day sitting in traffic, and when employees can work from home, they have more free time, spend less on fuel, and reduce their carbon footprints significantly, which helps contribute to a positive outlook towards their job.
It’s Better For the Bottom Line
When employees work from home, there is no need to allocate a huge chunk of a business’s funding to renting or buying an office space. Since there are fewer people commuting to work, it reduces strain on city infrastructure and alleviates traffic, which benefits everyone. As such, many states even offer grants and other incentives to companies who make the switch to having employees work from home.
When employees work from home, there are often less distractions than in an office setting. Employees can also save money and be healthier by making and eating meals at home during their breaks instead of going out to eat or filling up on doughnuts in the break room. Additionally, when employees are already set up to work from home, it can help decrease interruptions to the flow of business when someone has a minor illness or injury that would have prevented them from coming into an office, but is not so severe that they can’t still get some work done while recovering at home.
How to Ensure a Smooth Transition to Working From Home and Teleconferencing
It’s possible that many of your employees have never worked from home and are unfamiliar with the technology and etiquette necessary to successfully make the transition. By providing clear instructions and tutorials on how to use our teleconferencing service and a set of expectations for things like timeliness and dress codes while working from home, you can clear up any confusion and uncertainty and make the transition easier. Some specific items to cover with your employees include:
Instructions For How To Use The Teleconferencing Service
You can disseminate this information in a variety of ways, whether you have an in-person training before making the switch to working from home, or you send out a video tutorial or step-by-step instructions for success. At 24Conference, our services are designed to be super simple and easy to use to make this stage as painless as possible.
Send Out Conference Call Information In Advance
The pre-conference call email should include the time and date of the call (including time zone conversions if necessary), the number to call and any codes needed, and whether the call will be audio-only or also include video. Send out any supplemental materials and an agenda of what needs to be covered in the call so that employees can prepare their material in advance for the meeting and deliver it succinctly to the group.
Announce a time limit for the call so employees can plan out their days, and then stick to the time limit. Build in time for questions and comments at the end of the call, and record the whole meeting so that anyone who missed it or who needs to review the information can have access to it. Send out a reminder email just before the call to ensure everyone is on time.
Set Conduct Expectations for Working From Home
These can include guidelines like what an acceptable response time is for company emails, dress code expectations for video calls, and other relevant details that may be different from what is expected in an office setting.
Overall, the pandemic could usher in a new era for businesses and organizations. It will be a time of transition of processes and cultures. But in the right context, the new systems could become a turning point in how companies increase productivity, improve employee morale, and add to profits while keeping everyone in a safer and healthier environment. Give us a call at 877-254-2424 and we’ll do our best to help you navigate these unchartered waters.