Unify Blog

By Mark Vogel, Education Specialist at Unify

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When people think of remote working, working from home, flexible working, “anywhere working,” (call it whatever you please) the stereotypical picture that pops into everyone’s head is a middle aged person with bedhead in his/her pajamas and slippers on a conference call, on mute, dealing with screaming kids, dogs barking, door bells ringing, and the television blaring in the background.

While these typical scenarios are undoubtedly alive and well, please allow me to tell you my story on how being an “anywhere worker” helped me overcome severe herniated discs  (L4,L5,)  and back surgery without causing me to take a sick day, waste a vacation day, or go on disability over the course of 13 months.

My name is Mark Vogel and I am a 25 year-old- marketing manager from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ever since I was a kid (and still today) I’ve enjoyed  living an active lifestyle whether it is playing ice hockey, snowboarding, mountain biking, or weight lifting. I’ve also had my fair share of injuries over the years consisting of broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions, but I never had any back problems.

In February 2016 I was (ironically) traveling from Philadelphia to London UK for a week long business trip. I had flown on a Friday night so I could meet up with a friend to attend the Arsenal vs Hull City football (soccer) match, do some London site seeing, and adjust to the time zone to rid myself of any jetlag and be ready to participate in a tradeshow on Monday.

Well somewhere in between sleeping awkwardly on the 8 hour flight from Philadelphia to Heathrow, lugging a heavy backpack around the airport terminals, cheering for Arsenal at the Emirates, riding the London Eye, visiting Buckingham Palace, and eating fish and chips, I managed to mysteriously suffer a back injury.  I woke up Sunday morning in debilitating pain to the point where I couldn’t stand up straight and my body looked like a human question mark. I was completely crooked and in rough shape, but I still managed to make it through the tradeshow and my meetings.

When I arrived back in the United States I immediately saw my doctor who diagnosed me with a pinched nerve and prescribed both muscle relaxers and physical therapy to ease my pain. However, the pain persisted and actually became even more unbearable.  Long story short, I went back to the doctor with results from an MRI that came back positive for L4- L5 herniated discs.

Quick anatomy lesson:

Discs are the cushions between a person’s vertebrae that allow the spine to flex and bend. They can also act as shock absorbers. When one of these discs is damaged, it can press on a person’s nerves which may cause pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the neck, back, arms, and legs.

In my case I had a severe lumbar lateral shift, lower back pain, and radicular pain radiating down the back of my left leg from my glute to my calf. On top of those complications, I physically could not sit for more than 10-20 minutes or stand for more than 30 minutes on a good day. The only moderate form of relief I would get would be lying flat on my back. But regardless of what position I was in I couldn’t get rid of the throbbing and burning leg pain and tightness.  I was referred to an orthopedic spine specialist and a neurologist to get me on the right track to recovery. With me being in my mid 20’s the doctors and I wanted to try everything we could to avoid going down the surgical path.  My regimen consisted of physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture 3-4 times a week in addition to disc decompression, epidural injections, and muscle relaxers/pain medication.  The combination of treatments only offered temporary relief.  After month 11 my symptoms starting getting worse to the point where the doctors and I mutually agreed that it was time to get the surgery.

All of that aside, me being an “anywhere worker” allowed me to cope with my injury in ways that simply would not have been possible in a traditional 9am-5pm office based job. I would like to highlight 4 key examples below.

  1. For starters and as I stated above, I could not sit for more than 10- 20 minutes so I would not be able to endure the morning and evening rush hour commute to and from the office.
  2. Being an “anywhere worker” meant I was able to easily transfer positions throughout the work day while still being able to answer emails, join conference calls, share my screen to collaborate with colleagues, and complete my work. All while being able to have the freedom to take a break and lay down when needed, again very difficult to do in a more formal office setting.
  3. Although I couldn’t get on a plane and travel, I was still able to change out of my sweats and put on a shirt and tie to join and host video conferences with customers.
  4. Above all being an “anywhere worker” allowed me the flexibility to schedule my doctor’s visits and physical therapy sessions around my work schedule without asking my manager to grant me permission to leave the office for an hour or two.

 

When you do the Math, my regimen required me to spend a little over a month away from work.  In an office based environment this amount of time off would be unacceptable and would have required me to burn sick and vacation days and possibly even mandated me to go on disability.

However, when a company provides its workforce with the proper communication tools, being remote or out of the physical office doesn’t mean that the employee is away from his/her work. Even as I was driving to my doctor’s appointment, standing outside the waiting room, or sometimes even while on the disc decompression table I was able to stay fully engaged on conference calls and respond to time sensitive information via text from my mobile device. Or I could simply set my presence to “unavailable back in an hour” and respond to my colleagues when I returned. And since my office and my home are the same place, I am easily able to start my day earlier or work later whenever necessary.

As I write this blog I am recovering from surgery. And although I am disappointed that the ultimate resolution required surgery, I am very thankful and fortunate that my employer Unify is a huge advocate of remote and “anywhere working.”  My colleagues and I are fully armed with the proper unified communications tools to work in any kind of environment and handle anything life throws our way.

Not only did my employer support me, but I supported them too. There was no financial impact to them in having to bring in a temporary staff member, and my colleagues didn’t have to bear the burden of my workload as I was still able to manage this all myself.  In fact, about 90% of my colleagues didn’t even know I was managing a back injury in addition to my work unless I personally informed them.  Using our communication and collaboration technology meant that it was business as usual (with some added pain).

So yes while the remote working visuals of working in a coffee shop, on a beach, or in your pajamas come with the territory, remote working also allows all employees including those who are suffering from an injury or illness to remain as productive if not even more productive than working in a traditional office environment-so long as they are backed with the proper communication tools to succeed.

That is my story and I would love to hear yours!

How has being an “anywhere worker” had a positive impact on your life?

Have you ever had to use a vacation day to go to a doctor’s appointment?

If your employer doesn’t support remote working or flexible work hours let’s have a discussion as to why not.

Thank you for reading.

 

P.S. I did just so happen to write this blog in my pajamas

#Remoteworking #Anywhereworker #Newwaytowork #Flexworking

About Mark:

Mark Vogel started as an intern with Siemens Enterprise Communications/Unify in 2013 while he was studying marketing and finance at West Chester University.  Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he has since become Unify’s Global Education Marketing Manager and has emerged as a subject matter expert in the education vertical.  He is responsible for the creation and execution of Unify’s education marketing collateral and campaigns that stems from analyzing industry trends and building rapport with university decision makers, students, and key influencers.  Mark is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and digital native who enjoys staying active, spending time with friends and family, traveling, and supporting the Philadelphia Flyers. Follow him on Twitter @MarkRVogel

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mobile Working

We’re expanding our award winning shared services center (SSC) in Sofia, Bulgaria. The SSC was originally intended as a 150 person service center providing finance support to 4 countries. It has grown now to a 325 person facility that provides multi-functional (finance, supply chain, IT and Marketing) services to 18 countries, 52 legal entities covering nine languages and multiple time zones. See our 14 vacancies in Sofia below:

Read more ›

Posted in Unified Communications

 

By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

As I hinted at in my March 17 blog, the Department of Defense (DoD) certainly recognizes the barriers to developing effective incident response: budget and resource constraints, outmoded IT infrastructures, unchecked technology evolution and the growing need for inter-service collaboration. These are all potential stumbling blocks and present a real challenge.

Ultimately, the DoD has a historical problem. The dispatch environment on DoD posts, camps and stations were simply not built for the digital world in which they must now operate. The lack of scalability and flexibility in these aged Emergency Operation Center (EOC) infrastructures is now hampering efforts to modernize and improve response. Add poor communications functionality and bandwidth limitations into the mix and the scale of the legacy problem becomes clear.

Of course, the EOC has changed over time too. We have seen various efforts to centralize on-base command and control/emergency response into a single facility. Success, it must be said, has been limited. Yet the ability to deliver a truly coordinated response certainly exists, and with today’s secure and virtualized technologies personnel don’t have to be in the same location to respond effectively.

A future vision, available today

Extensive though these challenge may be, they are not insurmountable with the right communications tools and approaches. For example, today’s modern dispatch systems are able to integrate all those multiple communications channels and devices – offering bridging solutions between radio, IP and satellite channels – without the need to invest in entirely new on-post infrastructures. And, of course, by bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily, complex operations run in stressful emergency situations can be seamlessly and smoothly managed.

Continuous communications

Operators can leverage technologies like SIP and WebRTC to bring communications together on a single touchscreen console or mobile device. They can push a button to talk on the radio; push another to talk on the phone; and easily add other buttons for specific operational requirements, such as to start an emergency conference call that dials out to critical personnel, asks them for a PIN and drops them into a conference.

Operators can, from a single console, easily join phone conversations with radio talk groups or push another button for intercom capabilities, whether it’s point to point or a broadcast announcement to everyone in the command center. In the case of a major event, these consoles can be programmed with a button that when pressed will dial every phone in building, base or municipality to play a message. The bottom line is that a single communications console eliminates the need for operators to struggle between multiple devices.

Emergency Command Center anywhere

IP communications also provide opportunities to instantly build an EOC at any location connected to the internet – simply by running the communication and dispatch console on a laptop or mobile device. In an emergency, users can even dispatch or control operations from home or another office. Removing physical limitations and barriers from command center operations through all-IP technology can drastically improve response time and operational flexibility.

Extending response capabilities

EOC operators have access to video from mobile units as well as presence information, screen sharing and texting on their single console. For example, in an active shooter scenario mobile security personnel with iPhones or Android devices can stream their video to the command center, giving command personnel live video from multiple angles.

To aid in evacuation or management, EOC personnel can screen share to the mobile devices to display building maps, exit routes or emergency protocols. Real-time unified communications are a must for situations such as these, and operators are now more strongly positioned to manage and respond to a wide range of threats and mission-critical events.

Now, let’s take a look at how federal priorities align with DoD emergency response modernization initiatives. Stay tuned for the next blog!

Posted in Public Sector

By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing

 

The diversity and proliferation of communications channels and devices requires growing numbers of ‘bridging technologies’ to ensure effective intelligence gathering and collaboration.

The speed of response, so critical in active shooter and similar time critical events, is hampered by legacy IT infrastructures and complicated dispatch environments while the need to integrate dispatch technologies into the wider command center environment uncovers a range of technical and operational integration issues.

Technology aside, an effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel.

As recent events at Fort Hood and San Antonio highlight, the faster the response, the more controlled the emergency. A modern dispatch solution — one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges — is critical to ensuing next generation safety and response on Department of Defense (DoD) posts, camps and stations.

From integration to interface

A typical Emergency Operation Center (EOC) dispatch position has multiple devices and consoles for communications. There’s a console for talking on radios (or portable radios), there’s a console for talking on telephone lines (or regular desktop telephones), and there are satellite communications, intercoms and paging systems. There are handsets, headsets and footswitches, gooseneck microphones, various external speakers, keyboards and mice all related to voice communications.

In addition, the typical operator faces a large array of screens and keyboards providing critical information related to the incident. It’s not unusual to see multiple screens facing a single operator.

In this type of environment, simplifying communications is critical. Switching between devices, from a radio console to a telephone console, or even from one mouse to another can take time, cause mistakes and can lead to disaster. Bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily makes operational sense in stressful emergency situations.

Many EOCs still run on outdated Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology for voice and radio traffic. In this older TDM world, command center personnel are tied to specific locations and expanding to remote users or disaster recovery sites is difficult and expensive.

Then there’s the often-overlooked question of usability. In purely practical terms, the ability to respond rapidly and effectively to an on-post incident depends on the effectiveness of the operator. In turn, the operator’s effectiveness depends on the kit they have in front of them – whether that’s a dedicated dispatch terminal or a software-based dispatch application on a secure laptop.

The usability of the interface therefore is crucial – the ability not only to consolidate the multiple screens, mics, telephones, but to create a single, easy-to-use interface with hot buttons, shortcuts and pre-configured pages to simplify the user experience as well as decluttering the space. Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge: How are you handling the proliferation of communication channels and devices?

 

 

Posted in Public Sector

If you are visiting Enterprise Connect this year, then make sure you leave ample time to discover everything that Unify has to offer.  You will find us right inside the door at booth 1061.

  1. We will bring your communications digital workplace to life:

We will take you on a journey of scenarios that you will be able to relate to – and see in action – discover how Unify can ease the pain of disjointed or aging communications, and show you a simple migration path to effortless collaboration and joined-up business processes – taking you to the cutting edge of communications technology.

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Posted in Unified Communications

I get involved, on a very regular basis, in events management. It’s a part of what I do and I really enjoy it. It has to be said though – I truly believe that alongside children, marriage and house moves it has contributed to those silvery flecks appearing in my hair!

It is stressful. Fact. Mind you, it appeals to my sense of ‘here is a project with a hard stop date, where I can look back one day later knowing I have accomplished something’. I am that swan, serene on the surface but absolutely frantic underneath where no-one sees.
I was, whilst standing waiting for my coffee machine to produce a mega-frothy-choco-coffee-chai-skinny-something during a rare break between audio conferences, thinking (scary!).

Way way back, when I was starting out in events, it was what can only be described as frantic. So much to remember to do, so many people to co-ordinate, so many arrangements to make – and (this is the funny bit) without ‘proper’ collaboration tools! Emails flying back and forth with text as long as ‘War & Peace’. Constant telephone calls that hit a busy tone or a voicemail, and that dreaded ‘your mailbox has exceeded it’s size limit’ALL… THE… TIME.. argggghhhhh!

Even audio conferences were tricky – IF available, which meant multiple calls / leaving voicemails / getting engaged tone and it could take maybe 20 calls to bring together one update on a project.
Often it was easier to get everyone in a room for a project update.

Easy did I say? Well, after having spent a week ascertaining when people’s diaries (still written in pencil in a physical journal) were free, then you all get into a room and have to go off to make calls to find out what had happened on the project since 2 days ago when you had all had calls with your teams or agencies!

Now, I know you are starting to wonder how long exactly mycofee machine takes to produce a frothy cup of caffeine.. as there was clearly a lot of thinking going on!

Today, well, I am lucky – as is anyone that works on projects of any kind. Audio conferences created within moments. ‘Presence’ showing who is available right now. Collaboration tools that share information 24/7. Document sharing, instant updates and reactions to appeals for information. Literally being able to access what I need when I need it – and to be able to share key information as it becomes available. Actually, not just lucky – I am thoroughly spoiled! (Don’t tell my boss tho!)

I guess what I am trying to say is that I recognise how incredibly productive I am now. Organising an event now as compared to ten years ago – well it is like comparing popping a kettle on a gas stove and waiting til the pot whistled to a rather swish little coffee machine that produces my caffeine fix within moments.

Plus, if I had access to Circuit 10 years ago.. I might just have a few less grey hairs…

UC Expo 2015

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Posted in Collaboration, Mobile Working, Virtual Teams