With the sudden explosion of remote work, business owners have a lot to keep track of. It’s not enough for the whole company to be chatting on Slack. There’s payroll to think about. And managing employees’ time. There’s project management (assuming your company is lucky enough to still have some projects underway) and collaboration tools. How will you carry on with skills training? How can you maintain company morale? These would be tricky questions when business is booming, let alone in the teeth of global economic hurricane.
The one silver lining is that remote work software and technology has evolved rapidly over the last ten years, and there are plenty of options out there. For many businesses, you can approach something resembling normal function. Here’s a good tech starter guide, if you’re not used to working from home.
This should probably be your first priority. It’s hard to affect sweeping company change without being able to talk to your team. The most common video conferencing tools are Zoom, GoToMeeting and Skype (Zoom probably has the edge when it comes to large group tele-conferences). Don’t forget free-to-play tools like Google Hangouts either. It’s great for small-ish teams. Once you’ve got the company set-up for video conferencing, you can move onto the next step. Project management.
You should already have an online project management tool, but not all of them are suitable for remote work. Luckily there’s an entire software eco-system devoted to organising complex projects. For simple jobs, a free tool like Trello should be fine. For more complex projects, consider paying up for larger platform like Basecamp, Monday or Proofhub. These systems cut both ways: they’re most robust and powerful, but also more complex. If you want a smooth transition, you might need to invest in some remote team training.
If you’re not already on Slack, don’t even blink. Just install and enjoy. It’ll change your working life forever. But contrary to popular opinion, the world of online collaboration is a lot bigger than Slack, and there are other options that might suit you better. Evernote is fantastic for brainstorming and sharing ideas. A well-structured Google Drive is almost essential. And if none of those fit quite right, check out Australian-grown Confluence, from Atlassian. It makes it easy for separate departments to chat, collaborate and ask questions.
Working from home presents its own challenges, with distraction being the worst. It’s easy to put your head down and concentrate in the office; you’re not constantly under siege from screaming kids, hungry cats and the magnetic pull of your Netflix account. It’s worth downloading some free, online distraction blockers like Forest, Freedom or StayFocusd. Browser plugins like WasteNoTime can be shared across multiple devices, and even track your time so you can manage it more effectively.
Just because you’re in lockdown doesn’t mean you have to freeze your professional development. Online learning has been steadily growing for years (one in five tertiary students now studies off campus) and there’s plenty of good infrastructure out there to help ease the transition. Start with some the independent online providers. Udemy, Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning are the most popular, and have a huge variety of courses. For an industry-recognized accreditation, check out university online programs, like RMIT’s Future Skills.
Tracking your team isn’t something every manager feels comfortable doing (and there is some evidence that close monitoring can decrease employee productivity). But for some jobs, especially those who bill at an hourly rate, it’s pretty necessary. There’s also the qualitative side to consider: do you have any tools to properly measure your team’s satisfaction or morale? For basic time-tracking and insight, most people use Harvest or Hubstaff. If you want to monitor morale (rather than minutes) look into something like Officevibe or Jotform. Or better yet, pick up the phone and have a chat.
Need to record an important online meeting? You’ve got a few options. The first is just to turn your phone into a high-quality digital recorder. Something like the Tascam IM2 is perfect for that. For automated remote video recording, there are tools like Panopto, which lets you schedule recordings in advance. And for something even more simple, video conferencing platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting have online recording functionality. Just be aware, this is usually just for premium-tier members (i.e. you’ll probably need a paid subscription).