Nov. 10, 2020
With over 40 percent of American employees now working from home, remote work is likely part of the new future of business.
“Companies are going to see that some, maybe many, of the jobs they’ve always thought had to be done onsite could be done just about anywhere and could be done just as well,” explains Mark McGraw of The Institute for Corporate Productivity.
This predicted shift to more WFH opportunities does not come without challenges, of course. As Elisabeth Joyce of Gartner notes: Business leaders "are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations." At the same time, they face questions about "how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce. While remote work isn’t new,” Joyce says, “the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done.”
Getting the job done in any context means having access to the right tools at the right time. Here are five essential tools that every remote employee needs to be successful in their unique WFH environment.
Organization, collaboration and file-sharing
Organization is a critical challenge confronting any new remote employee, which is why finding a solution that promotes organization, collaboration and file-sharing is key when WFH. Housing documents in one ecosystem that allows for constant, real-time edits is probably the best way to combat disorganization and to promote collaboration on projects across your remote team.
Although Dropbox was one of the pioneer platforms in cloud-based storage and syncing, Google Drive is especially generous with its free storage and makes for easy desktop-to-desktop file syncing and overall file compatibility. Thankfully, its interface has improved dramatically in recent iterations, so the learning curve is relatively short, and gains in effectiveness realized relatively quickly. Microsoft also offers OneDrive as part of the Office 365 suite, which allows access to your files from any device and to collaborate with your colleagues in any of the Office apps.
Team or project-based communication
Though you might no longer be able to simply walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask a question or get some input, there are tools that offer instant messaging services to bypass the deluge of daily emails. Instant messaging remains essential, especially for groups that might be communicating in real-time or asynchronously thanks to time zone differences.
Slack is a channel-based communications platform (think one channel per project, topic, or team), that offers instant messaging services across the workplace. Once WFH employees get used to the intuitive interface and organizational features, they will find it an invaluable tool as a replacement for ineffective email chains. It also helps remote employees stay organized, share files, customize alerts, add keywords for notifications and even pull up full channel histories for review or clarification as needed. Slack can also create workflows that match the way you want your WFH employee to process tasks. In addition to Slack, remote teams can also take advantage of Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams , which both offer seamless integrations across their respective, collaborative suites.
Zoom has quickly become the meeting platform of choice as the pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our remote lives. Yes, the platform saw some challenges earlier in the year, but that is not surprising given that traffic increased tenfold between December 2019 and March 2020. With Zoom, setting up meetings is easy; they can be password protected and integrate seamlessly with most calendar apps. WFH employees can connect from desktop apps, browsers or mobile devices, which makes working from almost anywhere a reality.
There are plenty of other remote meeting hosting platforms that offer similar services though. For example, Skype, WebEx, Google Hangouts and more. In this case, it really does come down to preference. But the main takeaway is that your remote meeting tool should be accessible across devices to prevent attendance rates from dropping and to promote engagement from employees across the organization.
Though your organization might have used a project management tool before remote work became recommended or mandatory, it’s important to encourage your remote workforce to stay on top of tasks. Trello is a useful WFH tool that allows employees to visualize tasks on digital boards, cards and columns that look reassuringly familiar. Cards can be loaded with information (including graphics and hyperlinks) and assigned to a WFH team member with a due date attached.
Although Trello allows for collaboration, it’s certainly a tool geared more toward the individual. If you want a platform that allows visibility across teams, something like Asana or ClickUp would be a great option for your team.
With written communication a key to remote working, Grammarly is an essential real-time writing assistant that helps even the most experienced writer avoid falling into bad habits that can impact clarity, professionalism and impact. Grammarly is far from flawless, so it does not replace final editing but brings another set of "eyes" to a document that can prove invaluable when working distant from proofreading colleagues.
Remote work is not just a trend driven by the global health crisis. On the contrary, studies show that many company leaders plan to make remote work a larger part of their move-forward plans. In a recent survey of 127 HR, legal and compliance, finance and real estate professionals, Gartner research found “that 82% of company leaders … plan to permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time. What’s more, nearly half (47%) say they intend to allow employees to work remotely full-time going forward.” Having the right tools for your WFH employees is a necessary and crucial first step to sustained success.
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