Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

Flexible Work Environments: Today’s Workforce Wants Them

The standard 9-to-5 job is no longer the norm, it’s the exception. People want to be able to work when they want, where they want without sacrificing productivity. In order to do this, your business needs to utilize a variety of communications tools that allow for real-time communication between employees, teams and customers, no matter where they are that day.

Below are four communications tools I rely on, and your business can benefit from implementing, to stay productive and get work done whether you’re in the office, working from a coffee shop or on a flight.

Email Access from Anywhere

Can you imagine conducting business without email? It seems impossible in today’s world. Email allows you to communicate and share information with people across the world. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was able to work from my hotel room, from the back seat of my Uber, and while waiting for a delayed flight at the airport all thanks to email access on my cell phone. This type of flexibility and mobility wasn’t available a few years ago, but now I can’t imagine working without it.

Instant messenger/Chat

Instant messaging (or chat) is to email what a phone call is to sending a letter. It allows for real-time communication between employees and customers. If your business doesn’t currently use a company-wide instant messaging system, you’re missing out on an easy and effective communication channel. There are a ton of free instant messenger options out there, but for more advanced features and usability, you may need to pay a small fee (worth it!). An added bonus, many solutions come with mobile apps so you can chat with co-workers even when you’re away from your computer.

Business cloud phone system

There are times when email and instant massager aren’t enough; you need to actually speak with a colleague or customer on the phone. Business cloud phone systems, such as Nextiva, allow you to take your business phone with you anywhere. There’s no need for two different phones or to provide people with an office and cell number anymore. Think of your phone number as any “anywhere” number when you have a cloud phone system. People can call one number and reach you in the office, on your home office phone or on your mobile device via the Nextiva App—really any device that has your number assigned to it. Even if you don’t have the mobile app, you can forward calls to a device of your choice based on a schedule or number of rings.

Online project management system

If you frequently collaborate on projects with different team members or departments, an online project management system will be a game changer. Emails are easy to miss, but housing all communication related to a project within a single system (Asana and Slack are popular, low-cost options), ensures nothing is missed. You can receive alerts for projects you are a part of when team members comment or add attachments. You can create tasks and sub-tasks that need to be completed for a project and they will all be housed within the larger project, keeping everything organized an in one place. Also, assign tasks to different team members and set due dates to keep people accountable and on track. Since the project management system is hosted online, you can access documents and see progress anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Moving everyday work systems to the cloud has not only cut down on expensive IT costs, but it enables employees to be productive wherever and whenever they want.

What is your favorite communications tool to use when working outside of the office?

Four Ways to Make Employee Peer Reviews Effective

9-5 peer reviews smallMany employees and managers alike quake with fear when they learn that their company is implementing a system that involves peers in the performance review process. Employees see writing reviews as a waste of time, even as they foresee co-worker conflict in their futures. Recognizing that peer reviews are not typically accurate, managers see them as an unnecessary complication to an already-stressful process.

The good news is that well-designed peer review programs can add value to performance reviews. Here are four ways to make them effective.

1. Choose Appropriate Reviewers for Each Employee

On the surface, it seems kinder and gentler to allow employees to choose the peers they want to write their reviews, but this approach can go wrong in two primary ways. At one extreme, friends give gushing praise to each other. At the other end of the coin, co-workers become overly-critical in an attempt to appear fair. Either way, you cannot fully trust the feedback that you receive to be accurate.

As a manager, you are in the best position to choose the right employees to review the work of their peers. Naturally, your decision needs include peers who regularly work together — and whose work may be affected by the employee who is under review. You also have to consider interpersonal relationships. While you don't want to choose a best friend, you also don't want to select a clear competitor.

Whomever you choose, make sure that everyone understands that your choice is as confidential as wage and salary information. Without confidentiality, the peer review process can easily lead to significant morale issues.

2. Provide Reviewers with Detailed Guidelines

Not all employees are managers; they probably have little experience and training to accurately review a peer’s performance. Avoid essay questions in favor of a set of multiple-choice questions that you want them to answer. Their choices can range from "Exceptional" on the high end, and avoid overly-negative terms for the low-end score. "Needs Improvement" might be as negative as you want to go. Then, make sure that they clearly understand the precise definition for each point on the scale.

Just as important, make sure that all employees understand the overall purpose of their peer reviews. While they may provide managers with new insights into their employees, they cannot directly affect any employee's official performance rating.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Employees are not privy to each other's job descriptions or to the expectations that you may have set forth. It is your job to review each employee's performance. You are the only one who should look at issues like accuracy, speed and errors. Peer reviews should enhance the process by focusing on the factors that you cannot witness on a daily basis.

In other words, the questions on your performance review should not overlap with those on the peer review forms. Co-workers are in the best position to provide meaningful feedback when rating attributes like the following:

  • Ability to solve problems on the fly
  • Natural leadership abilities
  • Willingness to help other employees
  • Ability to interact effectively with employees at all levels within the organization
  • Consistent display of motivation for the job

4. Keep Peer Reviews in Perspective

No manager can constantly observe all activities on the floor, so peer reviews are a good way to help managers gain insight into what's happening when they're not around. But they should not receive too much weight in the formal performance review process. Positive or negative, they might say more about managers' successes and failures than they say about employee performance.

Peer reviews can enlighten your insights about your employees, but they cannot — and should not — carry as much weight as the assessment of the immediate supervisor. In fact, it is best to avoid the temptation to roll the peer rankings in with your own rankings, which are typically more objective.

Peer reviews can be invaluable in helping you address the future direction of your employees. For example, negative reviews pertaining to interpersonal skills or attitude can help you formulate a plan to help an employee improve in these critical areas. Just as important, positive feedback on leadership  and motivational abilities can help you work with employees to identify how they can move upward within the organization.

Peer Reviews Have a Bad Rap

In their original form, employee peer reviews were typically blatantly unfair, wasting time and often causing disharmony within the ranks. With finesse and forethought, however, peer reviews can add a valuable new dimension to the review process.

4 Tips to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Next Conference Call

9-1 Conference Call smallAs workforces become increasingly remote and colleagues are no longer located in the same office, conference calls are now a large part of every day life (that we often dread). For anyone that has participated in a conference call lately, they know this is how they typically unfold. But why succumb to this fate? With a little effort and planning, you can improve the effectiveness of your conference calls. Stop wasting valuable time and increase your company’s productivity with these four steps. Keep them in mind when planning your next conference call.

These steps may seem simple and obvious, but they will change the way you communicate with your colleagues, vendors and customers.

Have a clear leader for the meeting that schedules the call, maintains the balance in conversation and directs questions to the appropriate participant(s).

Defining the leader before the conference call starts will save everyone time and frustration during the call. It will cut down on confusion of who should be speaking when, who will be providing follow-up and action items at the end of the meeting, and who to reach out to for any questions regarding the topics discussed.

Have a clear objective for the call.

This may seem obvious, but think back on recent conference calls you were on. Was the objective of the call clear before it began? This should be step #1 when planning a conference call.  No one wants to feel like they’re wasting their time on a conference call that has no clear direction, focus or purpose.

Define the topics of discussion.  

An agenda (especially one sent before the call) is key to keeping everyone on track and reduce the amount of time wasted on discussions that do not relate to the objective of the meeting. In short, stay on topic and everyone will be very appreciative.

Be mindful of others time.

Punctuality is very important. Start the meeting on time, end the meeting on time (or early), and treat the meeting with the same importance you would an in-person meeting.

Take additional topics of conversation off-line.

Going off track is easy to do, but can quickly derail the entire meeting. Be mindful of the objective of the call and topics of discussion outlined by the leader. Take these additional conversations and topics off-line, especially if they are only relevant to a few people on the call. Everyone will thank you for saying, “We can take this off-line and finish this conversation later.”

We’re always looking for ways to simplify business communication and increase your company’s productivity and efficiency. Nextiva offers an affordable conference call feature, aptly named Meet-Me-Conferencing, that will meet your conferencing needs and improve your company’s communication. Visit to learn more.

Shared Call Appearance: Make & Receive Calls From Multiple Devices

Cloud-based phone systems are feature-rich and provide endless opportunities to improve your business’s internal and customer communication. While some features may seem basic, they can revolutionize your productivity and efficiency. One of these features that is often underrated, but deserves more attention is Shared Call Appearance.

Shared Call Appearance is a useful feature available with all Nextiva Office® plans that allows your phone number to be assigned to multiple phones/devices. This means you can have a phone at your office, your house, the Nextiva App on your smartphone and a phone at another location that all have your number assigned to it, and you can make and receive calls as yourself from any of these devices. You can also apply someone else’s line in your company to your phone to make and receive calls as them.  This feature is useful if you work out of multiple offices, or need others to have the ability to make and receive calls on your behalf. Below are additional business benefits of the Shared Call Appearance feature.

  • You work out of multiple offices: If you’re constantly jumping between one of your business locations and another, and occasionally work from home, this feature ensures you can make and receive calls from your phone number on multiple devices.
  • You want others to be able to make calls on your behalf: This is very practical for Executive Assistants, receptionists and other team members who you’d like to have the ability to make and receive calls using your specific phone number.
  • You want a specific team to use the same phone number: If you’d like a team that doesn’t make and receive a high volume of calls to have one phone number that they can all use and can see when someone else is currently using the line.

Do you use Shared Call Appearance? Is there another feature you can’t live without? Share in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about Nextiva’s cloud-based business phone service, please visit

5 Ways to Improve Your Internal Communication With Cloud Phone Service

Effective and efficient internal communication is key to business success and an enjoyable work environment, but the execution is not always as easy as it seems. Keeping appropriate team members informed and ensuring communication is seamless between employees, departments, and different locations takes a significant amount of dedication, effort and communication tools.  Luckily, technology, and specifically cloud-based unified communications services, have streamlined processes and made it easier than ever to stay connected and communicate within your organization.

Nextiva Office® is a robust cloud-based suite of products that will improve your internal communication. Below are five key features within Nextiva Office that will change the way your team communicates.

The Nextiva App

With features such as chat and Presence, it is easy to communicate with team members when you’re in the office or working remotely. Additionally, you’ll have your business phone at your fingertips so colleagues can reach you anytime without having to call multiple numbers to track you down.

Group Paging

Sometimes an email just won’t do. The Group Paging feature allows you to initiate a one-way call to multiple users. You can easily broadcast information to a group of people from the convenience of your office phone.

Call Forwarding

Reduce your colleagues’ frustration and wait time by automatically redirecting, or forwarding, calls to a third party destination, such as a phone number or extension based on circumstances you specify, when you are away from your office phone.


With the more advanced version of Voicemail-to-Email, Voicemail-to-Text transcribes your voicemails and sends them to you via email or SMS depending on your personal preferences. You’ll be able to quickly reference information mentioned in the voicemail when working with coworkers on a project. Also, easily share the message with colleagues to reduce issues that arise from miscommunication.

Quick Call Transfers

Quickly transfer calls and call team members in different locations or home offices via an extension. You no longer have to dial a full 10-digit number or ask the customer to hang up and call the other location’s direct number.

What tools do you use in your business for effective internal communication? 

3 Benefits of Using Auto Attendants for Your Business Communication

8:7 Auto Attendant Benefits smallThere are a variety of ways to route incoming calls to specific departments, teams, groups of employees, or individuals. The most common ways to route calls is by an employee answering the phone when it rings, via a live receptionist, or through an Auto Attendant. All options will help a caller get to where they need to go eventually, but utilizing an Auto Attendant with your phone system will significantly improve the likelihood they reach the correct destination the first time. Not only does this improve the customer experience, but it also saves your company from wasting precious time that can be better spent on other tasks and projects.

So what exactly is an Auto Attendant? Think of it as a virtual receptionist. An Auto Attendant presents the caller with an audible greeting (that is customized for your business), which offers the caller options to select. Once an option has been made, the call will be redirected to the chosen destination.

Auto Attendants are an invaluable feature of cloud-based business phone systems, and we’ve highlighted three key benefits below.

Top 3 benefits of implementing an Auto Attendant at your business

1. Your own virtual receptionist:

Gone are the days of needing someone, whether a dedicated receptionist or team member, to answer the phone and route calls to the appropriate destination. With cloud-based phone systems, such as Nextiva Office®, you can program callers’ options and route calls automatically to the specified destination.  

2. Increase team productivity:

How many times has a customer called your office when they meant to call your location across town, or you answered a call that was meant for the Billing department? By understanding your customers and what they commonly call in about, you can customize your Auto Attendant to include these options and significantly reduce the amount of times your team answers a call that is not related to their job responsibilities. Reducing the amount of time wasted on these calls will increase your team’s productivity (less interruptions!).

3. Significant cost savings:

Eliminating the need for a receptionist or team member to route calls saves you significant operating costs and human resources. The money previously spent on these wages can be reallocated to other areas of your business that will propel it forward.

All Nextiva Office plans come with the Auto Attendant feature. To learn more about how Auto Attendants and other cloud-based features can improve your business communications visit

Five Customer Trends That You Need To Be On Top Of

8-6 customer trends smallHere are five ways that customer expectations may have grown beyond what your company is providing. If you aren’t keeping up, the question becomes how quickly you can get up to speed, and the answer to this can make or break your bottom line and your survival prospects. So check out the list and see where you stand.  

1. Customers expect extended hours: hours that you’re open, hours that you provide support.  This may mean 24/7 or as close as you can get. For example: For its advertising clients, Google now not only offers support in 42 languages, it does so nearly around the clock, and offers English language support English-language support 24/5. That’s pretty good, considering we’re talking about B2B, non mission-critical support.

Customers also expect more flexibility and options during traditionally “off” hours. For example, if you’re in foodservice, consider letting customers order from either the dinner or lunch menu in the mid-afternoon, and consider offering a cold sandwich menu available late in the evening after the kitchen has closed but your bar is still open.

2. Customers expect self-service–well-designed self-service–to be an option: No matter how good your human-delivered customer service, customers expect self-service options as well. Self-service, which includes everything from web-based e-commerce to IVR (interactive voice response telephone systems) to concierge-like self-help touch-screen menus in public spaces to passengers printing their own boarding passes at home before traveling, is a powerful trend in customer service, and companies that ignore it, pursue it reluctantly, or violate the basic laws of its implementation will be left in the dust.

3. “Fast enough” isn’t, anymore:  Does your company still refer to internal documents with obsolete standards like “We strive to respond to Internet inquiries within 48 hours.  Maybe such a time frame made sense a few years ago (I actually doubt it, but maybe), but today, such a response time is the equivalent of 36 years in Internet time.  Your customer support standard needs to be response within just a few hours; after that, your customer is going to assume that you’re never going to get back to them. An intensified expectation of timeliness also applies to product and services delivery, an area where is obviously one of the leaders. Amazon’s example, and the twitchiness that apps and the Internet itself invoke, means that your company’s traditional definition of “fast enough” probably isn’t, anymore.

4. Social consumption is now the norm. “If I don’t have a picture of it on my phone, it didn’t happen”: Lisa Holladay, branding and marketing guru at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, tells me she’s heard this sentiment lately from young customers. This means that if business isn’t building opportunities for social sharing into the customer experience, you’re missing out on a chance to delight–rather than drive away–your customers. (Ritz-Carlton does this gently with the Shareable Experiences feature in their app and their #RCMemories “Let us stay with you” campaign; for an entirely different and kind of niftily over the top approach to this, you should also check out 1888 in Sydney, aka the “instagram hotel.”)

5. Customers are looking to blur the lines between the fun and the mundane: On the one hand, there’s a new expectation that fun, adventure, even ‘danger’ can be incorporated in potentially mundane interactions. Business travel is a great example of this: More and more travelers try to integrate some adventure, some local exploration, into what are ostensibly business trips. At the other end of this blurring of leisure and business, we have mostly given up on “fully unplugging,” so it makes sense to accommodate even leisure customers’ need or desire to work and keep in touch.  For example, it makes sense that some airlines’ long-haul flights now offer a “quick dine” option so passengers can quickly get back to work without the food tray being in their way, as it makes sense for businesses of all types to offer fast, no login required wifi and other tools to their waiting, “captive” customers.

5 Tips to Keep Working While Traveling from Stressing You Out

8-5 working while traveling smallI travel a lot, both for business and pleasure. Most of the time, I’m also working while on the plane, in the hotel room, and shuttling from place to place. It can be a lot to manage, trying to focus on the client meeting or conference I’m headed to a speaking engagement, while still taking care of my to-dos and ever-growing email inbox. But, fear not. I’ve found a few strategies that help me cope. Here are 5 tips to keep working while traveling from stressing you out.

Tip 1: Get Mobile

While I always have my laptop when I travel and work, but I wouldn’t survive without my mobile wi-fi and my smartphone. With these two items, I can work from anywhere, and I avoid the expensive hotel wi-fi. These tools allow me to develop content, read and respond to emails, make calls to clients on the road. Also if I need to map my way to a meeting and I can use my laptop in the rental car, and more. These days, there’s an app for just about everything, from GateGuru, which gives me the lay of any given airport, to Yelp, which helps me find the best place to take a client to dinner.

Tip 2: Let People Know You’ll Be Unavailable

When I don’t plan to check email or work (hello, sunny beach!) I let my clients and staff know I won’t be available several weeks in advance. That lets us come up with a plan to take care of any projects before I leave for vacation, and I don’t have to check my email, concerned that someone will need to reach me while I’m trying to relax. Also be sure to use an auto responder to tell people how long you’ll be away and when you are back in the office.

Tip 3: Work Around Your Travel Schedule

I know, I know: traveling gets you off your game. Your schedule gets all whacked out when you’re on a plane for half a day, wasting hours on flight delays, and then spending odd hours at a conference. I find a new work schedule while I’m traveling. I like to get work done on the plane that doesn’t necessarily require wi-fi. But if the plane does have wi-fi, I will respond to emails too. When I’m at the hotel, I work early in the morning. I still manage to get quite a bit of work done, even though I’m breaking up my schedule.

Tip 4: Plan Travel Around Business Opportunities

I recently went on a book tour for my book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Rather than flying from one end of the country to another, I lumped my appearances into geographic proximity so that I minimized my travel and could visit several cities that were relatively close to one another. I can’t tell you how much this cut down on my stress and I snuck in a family visit and dinners with friends too. 

Tip 5: Seek Out Business Contacts

If you are going to a city for a conference, look through your LinkedIn list and see who you know in that city. Going out for coffee with a contact you’ve never met in person provides you with opportunity to help one another. It’s those serendipitous conversations, I find, that often lead to business referrals.

Traveling can be stressful, even for a veteran at it like me. Find ways to maximize your time, get work done, and still have time to relax.

Cloud Backup & Storage: Your Business at Your Fingertips

Imagine this scenario: It’s 8pm on Sunday night and you are presenting the results of a special project to your boss in a 9am meeting on Monday morning. You open up your computer after a relaxing weekend and realize you forgot to email yourself the presentation to review the material and make last minute adjustments. The file is on the desktop of your office computer, and you start to panic. If your business utilized a cloud backup and storage service, you would be able to log in to your account, download the file and get to work. The stress and anxiety you’re currently experiencing would be an emotion of the past.

Backing up and storing your files in the cloud allows you to access them from anywhere, on any device. The days of forgetting a file on your desktop will be a distant memory.

If you’ve thought about moving your files to a cloud-based storage service but haven’t committed yet, now is the time. Companies and employees now demand a more mobile and flexible work environment, and a cloud-based backup and storage service connects remote workers and allows employees to access their files from anywhere.

Not only will team projects be easier to manage, but you’ll increase team productivity and reduce time wasted sending each other files and working on old versions of presentations, projects, etc.


  • Backup business data on a schedule, on-demand or automatically based on your preferences
  • Securely transfer data from one device to another or between team members
  • Share files across devices, teams, departments and locations
  • Real-time sync so any time you add a new file or save changes to data, it syncs across all of your devices
  • Give users access to read only, read and write, or full control based on their role within the team, department or company

Still not convinced? Test out Nextiva Drive for FREE and experience the benefits of our cloud backup and storage service firsthand! Visit to get started.  

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