Businesses and individuals are adapting to new ways of working in the Covid-19 pandemic era. Social distancing and working-from-home mean that people are turning to remote working software to continue work and to make life easier.
While remote working has been on the increase for a while, the pandemic crisis has forced the pace of change, many of which are here to stay.
“In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” (ONS, July 2020)
The new reality has brought many digital tools to the fore, new and old, to help bridge the work-home gap. Yet remote working can be challenging and for some it is still a new concept. No doubt many are relishing their new working environment but others are reporting some common struggles such as:
- Collaborating and communicating with others
- Staying motivated
- Technical problems, for example, with software, devices, connectivity etc.
- Distractions at home
- Switching off from work
More businesses, managers and employees are now looking for manageable yet productive digital solutions which are designed to help them work, collaborate and communicate with each other. There are many remote working tools out there such as apps and SaaS (Software as a Service) which go a long way to countering some of the challenges faced by lone workers and distanced teams.
Here’s our top software tools to help remote working:
It goes without saying that managers, employees and team members need to communicate regularly with each other about their work (projects, challenges, solutions, meeting deadlines). However, communication tools can also provide the regular and scheduled encounters with WFH colleagues which provide some degree of certainty and predictability in an otherwise fluid scenario. Some believe that these communications can also replicate office ‘watercooler’ moments which strengthen social bonds and provide opportunities for informal problem-solving,
Zoom – the popularity of this video-conferencing app has soared in recent months. Zoom is most commonly used for video or voice calls but it can also be used for webinars, messaging and file sharing. A free version is available as well as a paid one and it runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and via web browsers.
MS Teams – this is a popular video call platform particularly for users who have already bought into the Microsoft economy. You can make video and audio call as well as chats. There is a free version which most individuals will be happy with as well as a paid one which may suit organisations. It’s claimed that Teams clocked up more than 4.1bn meeting minutes across its education and business users in just one day in April, up from a daily average of 900m in early March.
It takes an average of 23 minutes to recover from a distraction, according to a University of California study. It seems a good idea then to get organised so that when you need to focus you are not distracted by calls, appointments and social media.
Acuity – is a cloud-based appointment scheduling solution. It works like a 24/7 online assistant to fill your schedule and enables users to manage their appointments online. Individual professionals have found this tool useful as well as small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Fans have said that it’s saved them hours of scheduling time normally spent going back and forth between clients. A useful feature is its calendar integration, for example with Zoom, so clients can be sent a Zoom meeting ID when booking appointments.
Toggl – a time-tracking app which aims to track how long it takes to complete a job. It works by running in the background while users work on tasks. The data gathered can break down your hours by projects, clients and tasks to see what’s making you money. Not only is it useful for freelancers to make sure they are invoicing accurately but it has become handy for all kinds of workers as a productivity tool. Team members can see how much time colleagues are spending on tasks while the report function gives valuable information about how much revenue is being generated by any particular project.
Toggl is free for up to 5 team members. If you’re an individual who just wants to know where your time goes, the basic free version is all you need. The more feature-rich version is available at a monthly subscription.
Serene – if distraction is your problem then this free productivity tool is for you. Serene blocks distracting websites and focuses you on the one goal a day which matters. It claims that multi-tasking is bad for productivity and that single-tasking is the way to increase productivity. The app asks you to define your single goal at the beginning of each day and it then then organises your work into short (20-60 minute) distraction-free sessions. Serene also offers to-do lists and ‘focus music’. However, this one is for Mac users for now, with a Windows version promised soon.
In truth, the following tools could just as easily sit under ‘Organisation’ but they are especially useful for collaborating with distanced colleagues:
Access to shared files is a big need when working remotely. Some larger firms may have Virtual Private Network arrangements but smaller businesses, freelancers and lone operators still need to store, access and share files.
Google Drive – you probably already know about this cloud-based application which comes free with every Google account. However, it offers more than just cloud storage. By making use of Google G Suite you can create documents (word, spreadsheets and presentations) but also make use of the real-time collaboration feature – useful for distanced staff working in different locations.
Trello – just one of the many online project management tools available. Trello is one of the better-known ones but Asana is also popular.
It seems likely that increased remote working is set to stay with businesses either adopting it wholesale or going for a hybrid working model. Whether you’re a business-owner, freelancer or employee, with these tools on your side you can make remote working more effective and achieve greater productivity.
The best way to support your business from home it to make sure that you and/or your employees have the right tools and know how to use them. It’s also important to remember cybersecurity because the protections you had in the workplace may not be in place at home.
If you need help, 360ict offers an excellent IT support service to set you up and then help maintain or troubleshoot any problems with your remote digital tools.