If there is anything that the challenges of 2020 has taught us so far, it is that as a society, from school, shopping and work, we can take on virtually any task from home thanks to online connectivity.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, as mandated lockdowns around the world and other policies forced people to stay home, and everyone did their part to mitigate the spread of the virus, the disruption to the economy created its own set of challenges. Small business owners worried about the future of their stores and employees wondered how they were going to pay the bills.
Business owners and managers quickly responded though, searching for and finding safe ways to keep their business operations up and running. What many companies decided was to allow employees to work remotely, preparing their homes, IT systems and teams to work from home.
For most businesses, this was a new experience. In order to work productively, many managers previously believed that staff members had to be in the same room, brainstorming ideas, bonding, and collaborating on projects and sharing thoughts during meetings in the conference room.
This year many discovered that this wasn’t necessarily the case. 2020 saw unprecedented numbers of employees working from home, with companies running smoothly and without interruption. No commute, lack of business attire, and settling in at a home office became a way of life for many workers.
Some managers still aren’t sure if working remotely will work for their business though. If you’ve been kicking around ideas about how to transition your staff to working remotely or are seeking ways to make to move happen more smoothly, now may be the perfect time to consider integrating these five powerful products into your operations.
Most work teams have a wealth of knowledge they need to share with or communicate to others, and Google offers a range of products that help facilitate remote work. These include document sharing, email, chat groups, video conferencing, and Google Drive.
Google Drive lets individuals create community folders to house project documents. This tool is easy to use with employees simply dragging and dropping documents or photos into a shared folder. As edits are made and feedback shared, the document is automatically updated for the others in real-time.
Other features include being able to:
- Broadcast to large groups
- Coordinate project schedules
- Gain 27/7 access from any device
Most businesses, whether small, mid-sized or large, have a need for employees to reach out to one another for feedback, ideas and collaboration. Email can be less than ideal, as it:
- Forces employees to keep going back and forth between what they are working on to read and respond
- Is difficult to track as team members may be responding to a question at the same time so the responses don’t reflect the most updated statements or appear coordinated
- Can be a huge time waster. Studies have shown that employees can spend an average of 2.5 hours a day reading, responding, filing and organizing emails
Slack allows team members to communicate more effectively with instant messaging capabilities that mimic an in-person conversation.
Company leaders who need to share information often with the entire team will benefit from the announcements channel feature, a portal that allows management to post information so all employees stay “in the know.” Only managers have permission to post, so information can be shared with large groups without worrying about generating a large amount of responses for everyone to go through.
With remote workers, the need for video conference calls has skyrocketed. Zoom is one of the most popular tools for team meetings. Managers scheduling the event send a link to invitees that they simply click on to join the meeting. People can join either by voice only or using their computer’s camera, can invite everyone to see them and their workspace. Users can share documents and remote into their own computers during Zoom meetings, making it seem like you are all together in the office even though you are miles apart.
Zoom is also a handy tool for client meetings because you can share ideas just as if you were sitting across from one another. Creative industries may have a need to show product samples, textures or colors, for example. Some clients may also feel more reassured that a project is moving along if the work team is asked to connect with them face-to-face.
With features like calendar management, employee directories and customized discussion boards, Blink is a productivity and worker engagement tool that keeps everyone informed and on the same page. It strives to facilitate team building, so no one feels isolated while working alone in their home office. Teams can continue to feel bonded to one another thanks to collaborative information and idea sharing through news feeds, videos, tutorials, documents, training materials and more.
In addition, the analytics feature allows management to see how effectively the tool is working by tracking employee engagement.
At times, distractions may make working from home challenging. Children may need a question answered for their online class, the dog may be whining to go outside in the backyard, a delivery person may knock on the door in need of a signature or a neighbor may stop by for an impromptu chat. Kickidler is designed to keep the team on task by monitoring employee time and analyzing their productivity stats.
This tool keeps everyone fresh and focused so projects move along in a timely manner. While some remote workers will consider this an invasion of privacy, in fact, it is no different than a boss noting how often an employee is away from his desk or how much time she spends chatting in the breakroom with co-workers.
Greg Dewald is the founder and CEO of Bright!Tax, a 100% remote working tax services firm for US expats. Greg said: ‘We’ve always been a fully remote working firm, so we haven’t had to adapt so much this year. In fact, we find remote working increases productivity, without office distractions and with increased time for work without a commute. Employing the right remote working tools is essential though, depending on the type of business”.
These five tools demonstrate that while working remotely from may be challenging, it doesn’t have to be impossible.