2020 has been a year like no other. Coronavirus forced businesses to rethink how they operate in a world where employees couldn’t be near each other. Fortunately most found a way to send their employees home to work, while still being connected to the office.
Many businesses are essentially Microsoft shops, running Windows 10, Windows Server, Microsoft Office and in recent years, that’s become Office 365. As part of Microsoft’s cloud services suite, they include Teams.
Microsoft Teams is a unified communications platform that includes instant message chats between staff, along with persistent conversations in Team channels and online meetings which includes video conferencing. voice, chat and file sharing. For a few more dollars per employee, per month, it’s also possible to use Teams as a voice provider, allowing you to make and receive calls using the same client you use for PC-to-PC calling.
With a configuration like this, an employee can essentially work from anywhere and for many businesses, configuring their employees to work from home was made much easier thanks to Teams.
Working from home for a couple of weeks was fine, most people can make do, but as the weeks turned into months, meeting online and having the flexibility to work from home, quickly became the new normal.
Now as our economy starts to open up again, businesses around the country are having discussions with employees about how they’d like to work in the future. While flexibility or remote working has been around as a concept for decades, it seems Covid forced businesses to making it work and now they have, some employees don’t want to come back to the office.
So assuming you’re able to come to an arrangement regarding working-from-home with the boss, let’s talk about you being setup for the long-term.
For the past couple of weeks, my desk has had a new addition, the Poly Elara 60 which combines with the Voyager Focus UC headset to create a serious mobile-first communications setup.
Professional with a hint of fun
The Poly Elara 60 is an interesting design. The right is where you dock your phone, the star of the show that powers the whole experience. The rubberised surface ensures it will never scratch your phone but also hides on of the best features, wireless charging.
Just by placing your phone down, it’s instantly being charged and I love that, it means if you do have to leave home, you’re leaving with 100% battery, even if it’s 3PM. This wireless charging is done using a multi-coil design which means it can also accommodate phones in the horizontal position.
The dock itself features adjustable angles, with 4 different lock-in positions. The most seamless is flat with the rest of the device, but more commonly, you’ll angle it to get a better view of your phone, and if you’re using your phone’s camera during a meeting, it also helps position the front-facing camera.
The left side of the device looks more like a normal IP-based phone, with a display at the top and a fairly standard number pad to dial phone numbers. It’s pretty rare for me to dial a new number these days, but it’s great to have physical buttons if you need them. Easily the most special button on the device is the purple Microsoft Teams button.
Clearly labelled to highlight this isn’t any ordinary phone. Once you have your phone connected via Bluetooth, you can push the Teams button and it’ll launch the Microsoft Teams mobile app on your phone. This sounds trivial, but I can’t think of another time when pressing a hardware button launched an app on my phone. There’s scanning NFC tags, or using voice, but never a hardware button on a 3rd-party device, very cool.
Once Teams is in the foreground, you can easily pick a contact to call, pickup the headset (if you’re not already wearing it), fold down the microphone and be on a call in seconds. This also works well for meetings.
While the device sits near your computer in your home office, it doesn’t actually connect to your PC in any way, this is all about expanding your mobile experience and avoiding those potential neck injuries from holding your mobile by tilting your neck to the side for hours.
Stand out features of the device
Poly Elara 60 Series is compatible with most Voyager and Blackwire Series headsets for improved call quality and excellent headset audio performance.
Microsoft Teams button
The Microsoft Teams button lights up when connected to a mobile phone, using the Microsoft Teams app. An LED ring around the button pulses to indicate missed voicemails, calls, chats and more. Press the Microsoft Teams button to launch the mobile app or with a long press you can initiate Cortana.
Adjustable viewing plate
Users can collaborate their way using an adjustable landscape or portrait viewing plate for audio, video, chat or web conferences—while charging their mobile phone.
Users stay powered up all day long with wired or multi-coil wireless mobile phone charging and built-in headset charging.
Colour LCD Screen
Call status, charge status, connected devices and customizable settings—including screen brightness—are viewable on the color LCD screen. And settings can be easily navigated using the up and down arrows and volume keys. The display is a 2.8″ IPS LCD running a 240 x 320 resolution.
Built-in Kensignton lock
To ensure Poly Elara 60 Series stays put at any work station, we’ve built-in Kensington lock compatibility—just slip a lock through the security slot.
No fumbling with navigation or trying to find songs—a single button on Poly Elara 60 Series lets users play music from their smartphone and pause or skip songs.
Poly Elara 60 app
Users stay up to date and can easily customize settings using the Poly Elara 60 Series companion app.
Multiple device pairing
Users can easily pair multiple devices—smartphones, PCs and tablets—to their Poly Elara 60 Series. Just one device can be connected at a time, but up to eight devices can be paired. So it’s easy to switch from device to device.
Full Microsoft Teams integration
The “dynamic line select” feature gives users the choice to dial out as a Microsoft Teams call or a smartphone call—plus Poly Elara 60 Series can receive both Microsoft Teams and smartphone calls.
Use Poly Elara 60 Series as a shared device at home or in an office environment. In Shared Mode, Poly Elara 60 Series automatically pairs to connect your mobile phone and headset providing a quick and easy way to get started.
Not everything’s perfect
One of my big gripes with the Elara 60 is the display is not a touchscreen. Instead you use the 3 buttons directly underneath the display to make your selections. For a normal phone, this is acceptable, but given how phone-focused this whole setup is, it makes sense when bringing some of the familiar touchscreen options along for the ride.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Poly Elara 60 is available now and is offered in versions with and without a headset. This is great for those who have already invested in a compatible headset, reducing the cost of admission.
In terms of where you can buy one from, head to Poly’s website to find an Australian retailer (there are 22 of them).
In terms of price, expect to pay around A$320.00 for the Poly Elara 60 for Focus (headset not included). The cheapest I’ve seen the Voyager Focus UC headset was A$283.51 from Catch.com.au. This headset is also available with its own charging dock that can be PC connected, which will cost you A$393.47.
When it comes to setting up your home office to be a more permanent working space, you definitely need a long-term, sustainable solution to taking phone calls and participating in video conferences that don’t put your health at risk. For too many of us spend far too many hours at our computers and like investing in a good chair, investing in great phone solution can be equally important.
The solution from Poly, ticks a lot of the right boxes, particularly given the prevalence of Microsoft Teams throughout Australian organisations.
One of my favourite features of this setup, is the ability to pair the headset with multiple devices. This allows you to wear the light and comfortable headset and take calls from your phone, or participate in Teams calls on your computer, particularly useful when you need to screen share with other participants.
I’ve always listened to podcasts on my phone and while I love Pocketcasts on the phone, I’ve always struggled to justify the Windows version of the app. Thankfully with this setup, I don’t have to and if I have my family approach me and need to pause playback, there’s quick access to media playback controls.
Dealing with the multiple channels of communication we have in 2020 is not easy, but thanks to the Poly Elara 60 & Voyager Focus UC that challenge is made dramatically easier. If you are considering a longer-term work from home setup, then I highly recommend you check out this combination from Poly.
- Turns your mobile into a desk phone
- Teams integration
- Wireless charging
- No touchscreen