Amid the COVID-19 pandemic many companies are finding that their workforce has abruptly shifted to a remote workforce. This shift can be challenging for many companies and stressful for employees who are accustomed to working in an office. In this article we will explore five tools for increasing efficiency when working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak: collaboration software, scheduling software, eSignature & Digital Transaction Management software, meeting software, computer hardware & internet access.
Streamlined communication, collaboration and transparency are three important factors when working remote. Having the necessary software in place to encourage effective communication, promote transparent project management, and conduct reliable meetings can be the difference between a successful remote work team and one that fails to meet deliverables. There are many options on the market for software that accomplishes these goals, here are a few:
- Slack is a collaboration tool that brings remote teams together. Slack’s instant messaging platform makes real-time communication seamless and engaging.
- Microsoft Teams replaced what used to be Skype for Business. This collaboration platform is Microsoft’s answer to an online meeting hub. What we like most about Microsoft Teams is it combines video conferencing, calling and document collaboration into one easy to navigate app. (At the time of posting this blog article Microsoft Teams is being offered for free for users working remote.)
- Google Hangouts is a professional business collaboration tool that gives users the ability to use both voice and text to communicate in real-time. Hangouts seems to work better with smaller teams from our experience.
- Project Management
- Asana is a web and mobile application aimed at helping teams organize, track and manage projects. Asana makes project collaboration simple with tools to help keep everyone working toward a common goal and completing projects on time.
- Monday.com was previously Dapulse and is a collaborative space that helps teams plan, organize and track projects all in one place. Monday.com has a sleek platform with visually appealing charts that help keep track of projects.
- Trello is a great collaboration tool built into a visually appealing app. Trello is fun and flexible with many uses both professional and personal. Great for a start-up or large family trying to keep appointments straight.
- Document Collaboration
- Google Docs is a cloud-based collaboration tool that allows teams of all sizes to create, share, edit and even publish documents and presentations.
- Zoho Docs make document creation, storing, editing, sharing and collaboration seamless. Zoho Docs allows users to store all their files like music, videos and spreadsheets in one place.
- Quip is a collaboration and communication tool for teams. Quip allows users to edit documents and spreadsheets in real-time.
Virtual meeting platforms are a necessity when working from home. These platforms allow for visual communication in a virtual meeting space. They also allow users the ability to share computer screens in real time for a collaborative meeting experience. The following software allows for both internal and external virtual meetings.
- GoToMeeting is great for large virtual meetings and is easy to get started. It also has the option to set up turnkey onsite meeting rooms with prepackaged equipment for those businesses that have a team of both location-dependent and location-independent employees.
- WebEx is an enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen share, and webinars. WebEx stands out because it integrates well with other applications like salesforce, Google Drive and Office 365.
- Zoom allows users to visually connect without having to physically be together. Zoom is easy to navigate and works well with very large groups. One thing we like about Zoom is the easy option for those without a video connection to dial-in to meetings from their phone. (At the time of this blog post Zoom has extended its free account to have additional features for users working remote.)
One challenge with remote teams is the ability to schedule internal and external meetings without the need for lengthy email chains. While collaboration software can cut down on the need for meetings, sometimes meetings are necessary. These scheduling tools make scheduling meetings quick and help keep you organized.
- You Can book me is a simple straightforward tool to help your team schedule online meetings.
- Calendly touts the ability to help you schedule meetings without the back and forth emails.
- Doodle is an online scheduling tool specifically focused on helping larger teams find the best time for a meeting that works with everyone’s schedule. After a time is identified the system will send out a calendar invite.
eSignature & Digital Transaction Management Software
eSignature and Digital Transaction Management (DTM) software can increase productivity and efficiency while reducing errors and cost. ZorroSign can help companies:
- Track completed work, enabling accountability of workflow.
- Centralize in-process and completed documents so users don’t have to check multiple sources.
- Reduce fraud with blockchain based audit trail, so users have full trust and confidence that executed documents will be legally binding globally.
- Execute documents and contracts anywhere, any time, and on any smart device.
Hardware & Internet
When working from home having secure computer hardware that can handle the type of work the employee does is very important. A data analyst, systems engineer, or graphic designer would each have very different hardware needs. Many people use laptops, so physically switching locations (from work to home) should not be too difficult. Just as important is the ability of an employee to have access to reliable and fast internet. Internet speed often varies depending on the location of the individual. In general, most people who work from home can comfortably conduct business with internet speeds around 25 Mbps. If the user is downloading very large files or needs to stream 4K content, 200+ Mbps or greater should be used. Unfortunately, in many locations outside of larger cities higher speed internet is not available. If an employee plans on working from multiple locations, a personal hotspot would be useful to ensure uninterrupted internet access.
Another consideration companies should take when relying on a remote workforce is security and privacy. Company issued equipment should have appropriate security software pre-installed. If an employee is using their own hardware then the company should have protocols in place to ensure sensitive data is protected. Companies should be concerned with cybersecurity and take steps to protect company equipment and information. A few tips for being cyber aware when working remote are to: secure your home network, encrypt sensitive files, dispose sensitive data securely, patch vulnerabilities when prompted, use multi-factor authentication to access systems, use a VPN, have MDM and EPM policies in place, and don’t open emails from unknown senders.
The bottom line is if you are not accustomed to working from home this can be a very stressful time. As you begin to navigate a new normal, having the correct tools in place to increase your efficiency will help reduce some of the stress you are feeling. Remember, when you are working remote, clear and consistent communication is very important. Using the tools and resources above can help you and your company succeed in the remote workforce environment. If your company doesn’t already have some of these tools in place, many of them are easy to implement with low costs. The right tools, with the right attitude and drive will make working remote through the COVID-19 outbreak fun, effective and efficient.