19 March, 2020

In the past week or so, many companies have turned to remote working as a temporary solution to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

There are some essential pieces of technology you can recommend to your team to make the experience of working from home as effective as possible. All of the platforms are free to use, so won’t use up all of your budget during these unpredictable times.

Slack

Staying connected with the members of your team is a good idea when a large amount of your team is working from home, to ensure you are still able to support your team and help them stay on task. Messaging through Slack is less formal than email - so makes it easy for team members to shout for help when they need it. It also allows you to continue collaborative work and team brainstorming sessions throughout the day, as you would in the office.

Skype

Skype is a great tool for hosting your regular meetings online. As well as having a webcam and instant chat feature, it also allows screen share during calls to make explaining processes and delegating tasks easier. There are a range of tools that you can use for hosting meetings online, however Skype is a great choice because it’s free, easily accessible and has all the features you need for online meetings in one place.

Trello

Trello is a great project management tool that makes breaking down both solo projects and collaborative tasks easy. It’s straightforward to add members to a project and is very user-friendly with a simple layout that takes no time at all to learn. It’s responsive design means it can easily be used on all devices including laptops, computers and mobile phones.

Google Docs

Google Docs are perfect for collaborative projects as you can easily share and collaborate on work. It also saves your changes automatically and is stored in Google Drive which has a large amount of free storage space that doesn’t take up memory on your laptop or computer.

Multiple monitors

Working with two monitors allows you to expand your workspace and can work online much easier, especially if you need to have a lot of tabs open at once. If your staff are used to working with two monitors on their desk, it might be a good idea to see whether you can allow them to take one home from the office.

Mouse and keyboard

Having a proper computer setup is essential for working from home, which means having a good quality mouse and keyboard. If you don’t have a need for them currently in the office, maybe allow your staff to take the keyboard and mouse from their desks home to ensure they’re properly equipped to work.

Noise cancelling headset with microphone

Noise cancelling headphones are a great idea for anyone working from home, as they can prevent distractions and help you stay in the zone whilst working. A headset with a microphone is also a good way to make sure that communications are clear during online meetings, as bad audio can be very distracting and can quickly throw a meeting off course.

Beyond technology, there are other key factors to effective remote working as well...

Communication – Consider having team calls once per day, brief people on the status, and give everyone the opportunity to share experiences and issues.

Responsiveness – Remote working is not the same as working in an office environment. Establish clear guidelines of how quickly a remote worker is expected to respond to a request depending on the communication type, email, Slack, calendar invites, etc.

Reporting – Managers need to implement procedures that allow them to ascertain whether the remote workers are getting the job done: mandatory group meetings, team collaboration, daily/weekly/monthly reports.

Working schedule – Agree a method of clocking on and off, even if it’s as simple as a team group chat and members saying good morning when they start their day.

Health and safety – Do the ergonomic keyboards in the office need to be taken home to provide the same comfort employees are used to? Working from home does not remove the responsibility to provide a good working environment.

Liability – Ensure coverage for the company assets while in the employee’s possession.

Tech support – Distribute the contact details: all remote workers need to know how to get help when needed.

Socialization – Bring remote workers together, particularly virtually. Social interaction is an important part of motivation and increases productivity. Consider a buddy or mentor scheme so that every employee is paired and can problem solve, vent, share or socialize virtually.

Accessibility – Establish a virtual open-door management policy, just as there is in the office. Make sure people are accessible and can be easily engaged.

Stay safe – and healthy!