Before the pandemic, working from home was often seen as a benefit rather than a requirement. But once COVID-19 hit, many companies switched to a remote work environment first – a change that is now permanent in some cases.
Recent Gallup research data shows that on average, 52% of all workers, including 72% white-collar workers and 14% blue-collar workers, performed their work remotely for all or part of the time from October 2020 to April 2021. And 83% of employers think that teleworking has been positive for their business, according to a January 2021 report by the professional services firm PwC.
While a remote-first structure can present unique challenges, experts in workplace performance encourage business owners to anticipate common pitfalls.
âFocus on excessive communication and find ways to encourage people to work together rather than doing it alone,â said Thanh Pham, founder and CEO of productivity training company Asian Efficiency.
Whether your business is remote by choice or circumstance, think digital applications and tools in these five areas to optimize your telecommuting setup.
1. Instant messaging
Instant messaging software is increasingly popular in the workplace. A good system allows you to send individual messages as well as group chats – the virtual equivalent of going to your colleague’s office for a quick chat. You can also share documents and images with other members of your network.
Companies can create channels to host more permanent conversations between departments or employees who share common interests. And if your team communicates regularly with customers or contractors, you can offer limited access to specific channels for group collaboration.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are two of the best-known brands for desktop and mobile instant messaging. Slack and Teams offer free versions that anyone can use, while businesses can upgrade to premium accounts with more storage, features, and control.
2. Video conferencing
While messaging tools are great for quick updates and easy questions, video conferencing software allows you to host team discussions and deliver company-wide announcements face-to-face. . Virtual meetings eliminate the need for a flurry of emails and instant messages, and also lets you see everyone’s facial expressions and body language.
Zoom became a household name overnight at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone from businesses and schools to families rushed to find ways to stay connected during the lockdown. Other well-known brands include GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and Join.me.
Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Google Meet all offer free basic versions with upgrade options available, while Join.me users have to pay to host virtual meetings.
The flexibility of schedules and time zones can be one of the main assets of a completely remote business. However, quickly tracking everyone’s availability can be a challenge, especially when factoring in time zones and holidays.
You may already be familiar with Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, which sync calendars for everyone in your organization. When you add invitees to a calendar invite, the tool will automatically show you a preview of each teammate’s availability so that you can find a block of time that works for everyone.
If you primarily schedule meetings with people outside of your work organization, you might find Doodle or Calendly more useful for your needs. With Doodle, you create a survey of available meeting times, then invite your attendees to choose the options that best suit their schedule.
Calendly works the other way around: you create a calendar with your available times, then share the calendar link with anyone who wants to schedule a meeting.
All of these planning tools are available for free, with enhanced features available for paid accounts. (Outlook for Business is free for a trial month, after which it costs $ 5 per user per month.)
4. Project management
Project management systems help leaders and employees collaborate on business goals by breaking down big goals into smaller tasks and actions.
A good project management tool allows you to tag collaborators for each project, then define and assign subtasks to the individuals or groups responsible for that action. Sub-tasks can include deadlines as well as notes for quick reference. You can also designate custom privacy settings to ensure that certain projects are only available to people with the correct permission.
There are dozens of great project management tools out there today, many of which are only slightly different from each other. Popular names in this space include Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and Monday.com. All of them offer free versions with paid upgrades.
5. Data storage
Cloud storage stores your digital files online through a provider that hosts and maintains the servers that host your data. On your end, accessing your cloud storage shouldn’t be any different than ripping a file to your desktop, although downloading large files such as videos might take a bit of time.
Well-known cloud storage providers include Google, Dropbox, and Box, all of which offer free basic plans for consumers as well as paid plans for businesses.
Too many tools?
For a small business owner, decision fatigue can be a real problem, and evaluating new software takes a lot of time and energy. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep your team connected and organized, Google and Microsoft both offer comprehensive workplace management packages that combine most of these solutions and more for $ 6 and $ 5 per user per month, respectively.
More from NerdWallet
Katherine Fan writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]
The article 5 Tools to Help Your Remote Workplace Click originally appeared on NerdWallet.