Tools to support you working remotely

If there was ever a time to get onto the digital train and virtual working, it is now! In these uncertain times, adjusting to remote working is a necessity for some, and ‘business as usual’ for others. How do you maintain productivity in the current circumstances? How do you make sure that that the business activities are not interrupted and are safeguarded in case there are handovers and staff changes in the process - it is still important to maintain audit trail and continuity.

Now is the time for the offices, teams, events, schools and other communities to explore the possibilities, spend a little bit of time and effort on setting things up to reap the benefits not just in the short run - but in the longer term future.

For those more used to working and interacting in physical spaces, a shift to virtual world may take some getting used to. We are all social creatures and we need the interactions in whichever format they are possible. If there are any businesses that will do well in the current environment, it will be the virtual comms software companies.

I would like to share some of the tools I have found useful - this is not an exhaustive list and this is not sponsored. I am not offering any comparison or recommendation of one over the other, as every team and organisation will have very different requirements and preferences. There are a lot of comparisons resources out there that you can consult that can help you make a more informed decision.

Most of the tools below have a free version that is good enough to do most of the intended jobs, and additional functionalities available with subscriptions.

Meetings scheduling
  • Meeting scheduling without a long chain of emails on everyone's availability? You need Doodle!
  • Trying to connect with people across the timezones and want to find a slot at a reasonable hour for everyone? WorldTimeBuddy and EveryTimeZone will help.
  • With geographically dispersed teams, it is often easy to forget the time-zone differences. Timezone helps you check whether that quick chat you wanted to have with your colleague is likely to fall in the middle of they family dinner.

Communication and Communities

Whatsapp and Facebook - these won’t be news to you. Most people would have this app installed on their phone which makes it the easiest one to use for creating communities. If you want to bring together your neighbours or the community to offer support whilst social distancing or social isolation, this can be the quickest way.

Telegram Messenger - a cross between Slack and Whatsapp: Whatsapp-like interface without a limit on the number of group members with added bonus of channels you can join.

Slack - a very popular communication and information sharing tool. If you use Slack for communities and groups, a massive advantage of using Slack for teams over Whatsapp groups  is the fact that more people can be part of the community (Whatsapp has a limit of 250 people), and as a new member joins the conversation, they get to see what has been shared prior to them joining.

Remote meetings and workshops

Whatsapp Video calls and Facetime calls are nothing new and for those whose networks span borders. As we get almost 80% of our communication signals from non-verbal communication, the video functionality and possibility of creating an environment that feels more like a physical meeting are crucial.

  • From team catchups to web conferencing and even virtual coffees, tools like Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans and Google Hangouts. All these tools might have their advantages and disadvantages. It is time to explore the potential of these and even some unexpected applications - remote party anyone?  
  • How do you run workshops without any walls and Post-it notes? You use Miro! Distributed teams and design sprint facilitators have been using this software for a while as it allows live collaboration, brainstorming and other creative sessions for any types of problem solving - it even comes with handy templates.
  • Another option for bringing teams together is Remo - not only can you run your conferences using this tool, but it also allows the participants to network.
  • Worth mentioning that Zoom, also offers you an option of creating break out rooms.

Some other tools that are better suited for larger webinars include WebinarJam, ClickMeeting, GoToWebinar, Webex and LiveStream.

Project and Team management, Document sharing

There is a wide range of tools that organisations have adopted to manage their projects, team workload and collaboration. Some have bespoke solutions, some go with something off the shelf. The available solutions address different problems and sometime may be more suitable for certain industries or types of work. However, with the available options, you can find what works best for your team. Try the solutions that seem suitable for a small project and for a short period of time to decide.

  • Asana - brilliant for project management of any types of projects, programmes across different teams. Offers you different views from Kanban to List to Gantt charts, for those in traditional project management roles. Personally, I prefer Asana version to MS Project Gantt charts.
  • If you do not want to use Asana but prefer the Gantt chart option only, Instagantt is what Asana uses (see above).
  • Trello - great for project management and activities tracking, offering a lot of flexible options around how your team can arrange and manage tasks, using Cards and Kanban view.
  • Often used in more corporate environments as it requires subscription, MS Teams, also offers you an inbuilt chat and video communication functionality.
  • Basecamp - all in one project and document management solution.
  • Google Drive, Box and DropBox - all offer similar document storing and sharinf functionality. Check the document and data security requirements of your organisation and clients before making a decision.

Contracts and document signature

Collaborative spreadsheets management
  • Airtable is like an Excel Spreadsheet that understands how frustrating Excel can sometimes be! It allows you to collaborate with others on the same document, add tags, sort and group, design and add taxonomy and submission forms - all without leaving the file, losing your content, going “copy-paste” crazy or getting tangled up with Vlookups, pivots or anything else like that.
  • There are of course Google Sheets, which also offer a lot of great collaborative options, however some organisations might not allow use of these.

Website creation

Now is the time to open that online business you always wanted to do! Setting up websites can be quite quick and easy with the right tools, and allows you to test ideas before you find yourself needing to spend money on development costs.

  • Squarespace - beautiful websites, easy to use templates that cover most of the basic functionalities you need for a simple online business.
  • Wix - a brilliant website builder, which may be slightly less intuitive but offering a lot of flexibility and functionality.
  • WordPress - a classic tool that has hundreds of templates, plug-ins and functionalities to choose from which can help you build websites for any kinds of business. If you find it a little too confusing, there are a lot of experts in WordPress who can help you, suiting different budgets.

Can you recommend any of these or other tools? What other tools would you like to find out about? Let me know
If you think this may be useful for someone who is new to remote working, please share with them.

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