As social interactions are limited with social distancing and quarantine measures being put into place to slow down the spread of COVID-19, technology seems to be the saving grace that keeps gives us a sense of business running as usual. The “work from home” approach that has taken effect has many employees leaving office spaces and working almost exclusively from the comforts of their home office. We find ourselves relying on information technology to maintain a productive workflow, keep on schedule, keep in touch, and monitor activities when necessary.
However, the unpredictable transition was not without its hurdles. Not all companies were equally prepared for the abrupt shift to remote work. Bigger organizations found it easier to transition to new ways of doing work in most cases. On the other hand, many medium and smaller companies that did not have the experience or resources necessary for a smooth transition experienced difficulties. Common problems like getting the proper equipment, setting the appropriate processes, acquiring the right tools, and finding the right settings left many at a disadvantage initially. Despite early challenges, companies have readjusted to deliver their critical services with a remote workforce. Making things work meant proper time management, effort, and allocation of resources into essential factors that make work possible. We are going to look at how the following key areas play a role in successfully transitioning teams to remote work:
- Project Management
Communication should be the first thing businesses focus on amidst a crisis. There is a lot more to communication than daily check-ins. It is important to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic brings about a lot of uncertainty and fear. This can leave many employees feeling stressed and panicked. Things will only get worse if people are left to handle things with no clear communication, feedback, and guidance. Businesses require proper communication and cooperation to function effectively. In a typical work environment, office buildings provide the infrastructure, tools, and teams needed for effective and proactive communication.
When employees shift to a remote work environment, company culture and communication can be disrupted and affect company performance. IT has provided us with the infrastructure, tools, and apps that enable communication, even during a worldwide lockdown. These are some of the most popular communication channels that are perfect for remote managers to connect with newly remote workers.
As you transition your team to remote work, the best alternative to face to face meetings to increase employee engagement is video calls. Remote employees need to keep a sense of daily office life, especially after suddenly transitioning to working from home. Video calls are a great means of feeling connected to the people you are talking to. Many companies have turned to apps that provide video calls. The great news is that many companies have decided not to take advantage of the situation and instead provide value. This means that a lot of these tools offer premium features for free or at a significant discount during the pandemic. If you find yourself in need of technology for video calls, consider the following options.
● Google Hangouts Meet
While Google Hangouts has been free for some time now, it has not offered the enterprise-level tools necessary for the everyday demands of the business world. However, Google announced that it would give free access to advanced features for Hangouts Meet for all G-suite and Education customers until the beginning of July. This means that businesses that use Google Hangouts will be able to host meetings with up to 10,000 viewers, or 250 visitors in a single domain with no costs. Google Hangouts offers users the ability to record calls and save them to Google Drive. Whether you are looking for phone or video calls, Google Meet is an app to consider.
● Microsoft Teams
Microsoft created headlines back in 2018 when they announced that they were offering a free version of Teams for smaller businesses and companies. Now, in order to provide support during the worldwide pandemic, they are offering a free six month trial for their premium tier of Microsoft Teams. The global free trial aims to support the massive demand for video conferencing for anyone forced to work from home because of the virus.
Zoom has become extremely popular during the pandemic, thanks to multiple celebrities using the app for calls on shows. The company specializes in video communications, with a cloud platform for both video and audio conferencing. It offers a free version of its software to anyone looking to make video calls. Utilizing Zoom’s free version gives any remote company access to create calls with up to 100 users, create one-on-one meetings, and create group meetings. The free version has a 40-min limit on video calls, after which the call will automatically hang up. However, users are free to get back on calls as soon as they time out.
● Avaya Spaces
Avaya was among the first companies in the world to offer a helping hand in the fight against COVID-19. The company donated video and audio equipment to workers in China when the virus first broke out. Now, the company is taking more action to support those affected by the pandemic by offering Avaya Spaces solutions for free cloud meetings and collaborations. This solution is available for all non-profit organizations and educational institutions around the world. The free solution supports video conferences with up to 200 participants, with other features like video and voice chat and online meetings.
While video calling is a great way to communicate with each other during the outbreak, sometimes these platforms are not the most practical means of communication. Real-time messaging apps are the perfect option for situations where a video call is not ideal, but you still need to communicate in real time. These are some of the most popular real-time messaging tools.
Slack is an incredibly popular communication and collaboration tool for your team. This workplace communication tool is defined as a single place for messaging, tools, and files. It offers instant messaging, file transfers, and a powerful message search that enables users to find whatever they are looking for. Users can opt to create group chats that are perfect for dividing departments and teams, as well as direct chats that allow for one-on-one communication. The great thing about Slack is that in addition to a great messaging platform, it also enables users to integrate other tools with Slack apps.
● Google Hangout Chat
The Google Hangouts Chat app has evolved into an excellent communication tool for businesses of various sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Google Chat aims to serve as a communication app for a distributed team to discuss projects and tasks, share work, and even integrate other third-party tools. Google Chat offers virtual rooms, which can be tailored for one-on-one messaging or for larger groups. These virtual rooms will be integrated with other Google tools, like Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, and Mail. In addition to Google integrations, Chat can integrate third-party tools as well.
Twist is an app which offers a unique layout that supports the needs of a spread-out team. The focus of Twist was to create a messaging platform that offered a more organized and productive layout. It is designed to make conversations more orderly and organized. It does this by keeping conversations in a single place and categorizing them into threads, making it easy to find topics you are searching for whenever and on whatever device.
● Zoho Cliq
Zoho Cliq is the newer version of Zoho chat, which was designed with business communication in mind. The newer version was given the features necessary for today’s office and business world. While Zoho Chat was limited to chatting and sharing, Zoho Cliq incorporates features such as direct chat, chat rooms, and channels. Users can have as many channels as they like and view them all from a single window. In addition to that, users can share files and make calls.
Once the right communication channels and systems are put into place, the next important step is handling project management. While businesses can expect a slight decline in productivity as people start to work from home, it is still essential to have a system that tracks and assists in initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing. The aim here is to have a program that helps you achieve targeted goals within a specific time. These are regarded by many as two of the best project management tools.
Trello is regarded by many as an easy to use card-based management system. The app allows you to organize projects into boards, allowing you to quickly go over and see what is being worked on, as well as the progress made on those projects. The app has a simple interface that is ideal for individuals and business teams looking to get organized and productive. The project management app also allows you to add images, files, hyperlinks, custom dropdowns, due dates, and more.
Once a project is finished, you can archive it and hide it from view. Trello has a free plan that includes unlimited users, boards, and cards. However, it does have file restrictions and limited power-ups. Paid plans start at $9.99 a month, and depending on the plan, offer fewer or no limitations. An important thing to note for Trello is that it is limited when it comes to detailed reports. If that is a major requirement for your business, then you can make use of third-party extensions.
This project management app has been around for more than a decade and has its own loyal following of users. Basecamp takes a lot of features from other popular tools and places them in one app. It has features such as to-dos, calendars, real-time chat, direct messages, file storage, and more – all in one place! Many people love the app for its convenience. Whether you are a freelancer working alone on projects, or a business balancing multiple projects, Basecamp can help. Basecamp offers many tips and tricks to help people adjust to its set up. It is easy to set up and has an uncluttered interface that makes it straightforward for use.
Basecamp has the additional benefit of being an excellent tool for external communication. If you upgrade your plan, you can add clients to your Basecamp and give them limited viewing and editing rights. This enables client communication within the app and makes it easier to go over and plan projects based on client recommendations and timelines.
Once communication is established, you need to find a good project management tool for your remote team. Finding the right tool is a common challenge, but it is worth investing the time and energy. The right tool will ensure proper collaboration on projects. These are some tools that can make working on projects easier for everyone.
● Google Docs
When it comes to collaboration on files, Google docs needs no introduction. Many businesses have used Google Docs and Sheets services to work on files with multiple teams, departments, and companies. These services allow users to view, edit, and save files from whatever location, whenever they need them. Managers have the power to limit actions and grant access to whomever they want. This enables them to directly share files with clients without worry. In addition, the files record all changes and allow users to use older versions of files and see who made changes.
Asana is a popular collaboration and management tool that makes working on large and complex projects easier. It offers a platform where various departments or teams can collaborate on projects. Asana’s features offer the ability to make comprehensive task lists, share details of actions, and set project deadlines. This allows everyone to have specified goals, enabling teams to work together to achieve their goals, regardless of physical location.
Quip is a cloud-based project task collaboration and management solution that helps users work on projects. The app was initially made for mobile but was later released as a desktop version as well. The app allows teams to import and work on spreadsheets, documents, and checklists in real-time. Any edits made to files are automatically saved, enabling people to review various changes made by team members. In addition to that, members can also chat and comment on files.
Another great thing about Quip is the task list. It offers to-do lists, project milestones, and priorities lists, while enabling users to cross off completed tasks. Once a task is completed, other team members are notified.
As the world slowly adjusts to the sudden shift to remote work, it is clear that technology plays a large part in our transition to being effective remote workers. While there is a lot of software on the market that can help your business thrive, it is crucial to find the ones that best meet your needs and make suddenly transitioning to remote work less disruptive and confusing. Look for apps that offer everything needed for business continuity. Remember that every crisis comes with an opportunity, and this crisis can show us all the potential and benefits that the IT world has to offer.