A few days ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 world pandemic. As a result, we have seen the rise in the number of companies across the world that are turning to remote working in an effort to #FlattenTheCurve and slow down the spreading of the virus.
Most of the companies don’t have extensive experience in remote working, making this transition period during the Covid-19 outbreak somewhat tricky. Organising the workflow, managing employees and teams can get very challenging, especially if we take into account that not all in-office habits and manners in executing tasks can be directly translated into remote working.
Over the years, .ME team developed a string of workflow practices and communication methods with the help of various tools and platforms, which has empowered our work culture. Not having all of our team members physically present in one country, prompted us to adjust early on to remote work and develop the best practices that allow our work to run effortlessly and as planned.
What matters, in the end, are results. To achieve desired results there should be a strong connection between communication, planning, tracking and storage. Regardless of our working situation, we all need access to files that will document our meetings, idea exchanges, track progress and finally measure success. In .ME, we also saw that we needed to react quickly to any inputs from the market, if we were to position ourselves as a business partner that is easy to work with, and that required choosing tools and shaping our organisational culture in a way that will support this.
With so many organizational tools on the market, sometimes it can get a bit hard to find something that fits your needs. So here are some of the most popular tools you can consider using:
We’ll go out on a limb and assume your company already has some form of storage. Unless work files are stored on a cloud somewhere, it might be tricky accessing them during the days you work remotely. Sure, you could always use remote desktop software, but that might prove to be costly, since the computers would have to be switched on during the entire remote work period. So what are the best cloud storage options on the market?
Google Drive is one of the most obvious choices. Maybe Gmail is already your email provider and you are well aware of its perks. But for those of you who don’t, Google Office Suite (G Suite) includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation creator, much similar to those tools by Microsoft. You can easily share files with your teammates and external collaborators. The Suggestion option is a really great feature that can come in handy when working on a document with others. This option allows real-time collaboration with others within the same document. On top of that, Google offers a lot more tools you can use to be more productive at work and bring much better results. For example, Data Studio automates reporting and thus will shorten the time you spend creating them
Dropbox is another popular solution where you can share your documents and all other files with your coworkers. The basic plan is free and offers up to 2GB of storage. Like with most of the cloud solutions, you can access your files from any device. It offers the online-only solution that will save your space, and they have also added a new option quite recently that will save hard drive space automatically – Smart Sync. If you need some help with setting up and using this platform, you can find some additional information on how to get the most value from their products so you can keep work moving. If you are a nonprofit or an NGO focused on fighting COVID-19, you can get 3-months of free Dropbox Business subscriptions.
Good communication is the key to success. For .ME team, open and effective communication proved to be crucial in the early days of our remote work. Nowadays, it is the foundation that allows the team to function efficiently. Oversharing, making sure that everyone is on the same page, and leaving nothing undiscussed are some of the cornerstones that will help you sail through the initial phase of the remote work.
Since you’ll be working remotely, face-to-face meetings will have to be organized online and everything that is not considered an urgent and super-important situation for a meeting will have to be communicated using text communication tools. At first, it might be tricky to get used to communicating in this manner, and sure it can be frustrating, but give it a day or two and communication will run smoothly.
Here is what we have chosen among the best tools for communicating with customers and each other:
Costs can grow rapidly when you need to make local or international calls frequently. The remote worker’s answer to this possible problem is Skype, which allows you to make unlimited audio or video calls (and even conference calls), as long as you have a stable internet connection. Last year Skype doubled the number of people that can simultaneously be on a video or audio group call. Now you can have up to 50 people in a call, all at once.
You can use Zoom to enable close collaboration between team members now that everyone is working from home. It allows you to hold online conferences (or webinars) of over 100 people. It works great on all devices, from smartphones to tablets to the desktop. Video recording features are also available. It’s free for meetings of up to 40 minutes with limited attendees. There are paid plans for those with bigger needs and those plans are quite affordable. However, they recently made their video conferencing tool free for any K-12 schools in Japan, Italy and the United States affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Due to the current situation, Google decided to roll out free access to their advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally. As they have stated you can have:
- Larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call
- Live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain
- The ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive
These features will be available free of charge until the 1st of July 2020.
Since you can’t call all your teammates every time a problem arises, you will also need to integrate some tools for text communication. No, just emails are not sufficient. There are many tools that you can use for this purpose but one of the most popular for businesses is Slack. It’s a team messaging application designed to make communication with colleagues quick and easy, regardless of the platform they are on. Many companies use it instead of (or in addition to) emails, and if you need to make a quick call, you can do so easily. Another great thing about slack that puts it in front of all others is the fact that you can integrate other popular productivity tools, such as Google Drive, Asana and Trello.
Whatever tool you end up using, remember that there is no such thing as over-communication when working remotely. You need to elaborate on the ideas and have everything written down. Use emojis from time to time cause that’s how you express your emotions in the online world. 🙂
Did you know that for every billion dollars invested in a company, $122 million is wasted on inefficiencies? Taking this into account, project management tools are important for staying up to date with assignments and not leaving money on the table.
But if your team has never used a project management tool, because you were all together in one office and there was really no need for it before, it might be a good time to start using it now. Here at .ME, project management tools are a key ingredient for structured and well-organised work. All our tasks are assigned to the person responsible for its completion or review. We have a clear picture of our progress, and a great way to avoid possible pitfalls due to an unforeseen error in organisation.
With a project management tool, the organisation of your team and its tasks will be effortless. At any given moment, you’ll be able to see what tasks are in progress, which are in the backlog, and what is being reviewed. What’s more, these project management tools allow you to attach documents, set dates and have peace of mind – nothing will get overlooked.
Here is what you can use to help you better manage your internal processes and projects:
This is a project management tool more suitable for those who appreciate graphics and visual elements. In Trello, you can create bulletin boards and add boards that represent the tasks you have to carry out or have assigned to you. Trello is very flexible and can be used for anything from managing personal activities to activities related to your business and projects.
This is a project management solution with an attractive and robust design. It’s best to use it for specific projects where it is necessary to collaborate with others. It has a Board management feature based on the Kanban system and allows you to view your work with a visual progression similar to Trello.
This is another great project management tool and by using it you can leverage Agile Scrum and Kanban workflow management practices to build products (mostly software). This platform will notify you whenever a new operation is carried out. You can also have the opportunity to take advantage of their Cloud service which allows storing all the fundamental documents for that project, making them more available for those who must carry out several operations for that same project.
Maybe your company has a check-in system, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you are tracking the effective working time, maybe you don’t. But when a sudden change like this arises, it is easy for employers to fall out of focus and be less productive. Time Tracking tools such as the ones listed below, will keep them focused on a task.
Harvest and Hubstaff
Harvest is a complete administration solution that allows you to track times and invoice customers. It also integrates with tools like Asana and Quickbooks. If you have a remote team and need to check on them from time to time, you can use Hubstaff, which takes random screenshots of their screens to make sure they are at work.
Toggl is one of the simplest time trackers available. It allows you to track time with a single click. It is possible to easily switch from one activity to another and create reports. You can download the tool as a desktop application or as an extension of Google Chrome.
If you are having some of your team members who are the type of person who can’t help but get lost in “the black hole” of his social media news feeds, StayFocusd is an extension of Google Chrome that will limit the time spent on websites that waste time. Since our brains take 25 minutes to recover concentration after a distraction, this tool will help you improve productivity.
Speaking of time, working remotely might involve managing multiple time zones with team members. Instead of losing your mind with all the time zone differences, a time zone conversion tool like everytimezone can help to solve this problem. Another tool you can use is there.pm which can be installed as an extension to Mac or Windows computer and can show you the current time of your teammates.
Before You Go
As you can see there are a lot of options you can use and it’s up to you to decide what fits your needs the best. This period is hard for all of us so allow yourself to get used to it and take it slowly. Remember the basic rules of communication and trust your employees they will do the best work they can even in the changed conditions as this one.
.ME wishes that you and your family stay safe and take care of yourself and loved ones during the Covid-19 outbreak. Take preemptive measures and play your part by staying at home and socially distancing yourself.