The way we work has changed more quickly and more completely this year than any of us could have imagined. But while the demand for remote working may have been driven initially by necessity, many firms have rapidly discovered there are in fact huge benefits to be gained from a more flexible setup, from improved productivity to reduced costs for business travel, mostly powered by Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

As we settle into what is often themed the ‘new normal’, it’s becoming obvious these online collaboration tools are here to stay. But this means companies will need to put long-term solutions in place, likely integrating an existing PBX or Cloud Phone System with Microsoft Teams through Direct Routing to ensure they can remain in touch with employees, partners and customers wherever they are.

The boom in demand for Microsoft Teams

Communication and collaboration services have seen huge increases in demand in recent months, driven by the boom in home and remote working. According to the Office for National Statistics, 46.6 per cent of the UK workforce worked from home in April, with 86 per cent of these doing so as a result of Covid-19. This was up from just over a quarter in 2019.

With this sudden need to keep in touch from outside the office, many firms found themselves looking for new solutions. And Teams, with its inbuilt integration with familiar tools like Office 365, was the obvious choice for many.

On March 11th, just prior to the start of lockdowns around the world, Microsoft reported 32 million active daily users of Teams. By March 18th, this had jumped to 44 million, and by the end of April, it was up to 75 million daily users. And as these tools become ever more embedded into the way employees collaborate and keep in touch on a day-to-day basis, the amount of time spent using them will only continue to grow.

It’s become increasingly clear that the solutions businesses have put in place to get them through the unique circumstances of 2020 are far from a short-term solution. For many firms, the days of having every employee on-site at all times are gone for good.

The need for a long-term flexible working solution

One survey conducted by O2 prior to the lifting of many restrictions found almost half of workers (45 per cent) anticipate permanent changes to their organisations flexible and remote working policies post-lockdown. And despite efforts by the government to encourage workers back to offices from the start of September, scenes of largely empty train stations suggest many people still aren’t convinced.

Therefore, it’s vital that businesses are planning for the long-term. And when it comes to communications solutions like Teams, this means ensuring the software is fully implemented throughout all parts of the business and employees are encouraged to make it their go-to option whenever they want to keep in touch, and whoever they need to reach.

Integrating your existing Phone System with Teams via Direct Routing

However, while Teams may have changed the way employees keep in touch with each other, workers may now be wondering why they still have to use legacy technologies for external communications. Given it has become so easy to use Teams to connect instantly with a colleague, whether by voice or video, it’s reasonable to ask why they can’t do the same for other contacts.

Having to switch between a modern integration to a legacy phone network can feel strange to employees who’ve become accustomed to Teams, not to mention the additional costs and complexity involved. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing.

This allows you to connect your Teams app directly to the traditional phone network, combining your existing telephony with Teams’ user experience. This means you can ensure all your communications can be handled through a single platform.

For example, this means no more switching between a Teams headset and a standard telephone handset for internal and external calls, leading to a more simplified unified communications system.

If your firm has already used Microsoft 365 and adopted Teams for its internal connectivity and you’re assessing up for a long-term future with the software, you should definitely be considering Direct Routing as a way to streamline your operation in a mixed environment of office- and remote-based staff.

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