In early 2020, most office-based businesses instructed employees to work from home until further notice to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many expected to be back in the office in a matter of weeks, so businesses that didn't already have a formal remote work policy in place sought out temporary solutions to help their teams collaborate from a distance.
Now, several months into the pandemic, most companies that can continue operating remotely have chosen to do so. Some are even finding that a remote model works well, and intend to make remote work a permanent part of their operational strategies.
If you're among these businesses, now is the time to invest in long-term tech solutions that support the needs of your part- or full-time remote workforce.
Tech tools for your long-term remote work strategy
Many teams may have cobbled together workarounds for certain remote communication and collaboration challenges. These stopgap solutions may have gotten the job done for a short time, but as you shift to a long-term remote work model, you need to think about permanent solutions that can scale with your team. If your employees will be working from home for the foreseeable future, the tools they use must provide seamless, secure, continuous access to their work, anywhere and at any time.
Here are a few tools and programs you may want to upgrade in the near future:
1. File sharing and storage
With work being done remotely, asking employees to use their personal computers and hard drives to store company documents is a potential security vulnerability that bad actors could exploit. File-sharing applications, such as Dropbox Business and OneDrive, provide a shared cloud that everyone on your team or in your organization can access. When seeking out file storage applications, invest in one that has high security, enough storage space for your company's needs, and real-time collaboration between users in documents and files.
2. Internal communication
With no office, there's no centralized place for teams to communicate and speak face to face. An internal communication app, such as Slack, allows employees to message each other and collaborate on projects in real time. This keeps everyone on the same page by sending the same message and document to the entire team, and it can even build your company culture as co-workers interact.
3. VPN and security software
You'll need to keep your employees and their information as safe at home as it would be in the office. A virtual private network protects your company's and employees' information, allowing employees to access your corporate network through an encrypted connection. Data encryption through a VPN protects your company's privacy when your workers are handling sensitive business documents and files.
4. Productivity and time management apps
When working from home full time, it can be hard to stay on task and the day can easily slip away from you. Incorporating a time management app into your team's day-to-day workflow can help everyone hit their deadlines so your company meets its goals. Apps like Forest, Toggl and MindNode allow your employees to not only track the time they spend on certain projects, but also organize their ideas, stay on task and make measurable progress.
5. Project management tools
Project management applications allow managers to send out assignments, set deadlines, comment on current tasks, review progress and ensure everything is completed in a timely manner. Apps such as Asana, Basecamp and Trello let you keep an eye on your team's productivity and can give insights into their work progress. These applications allow your entire department or company to work together on projects and track their completion rate.
6. Video conferencing solution
While your work and communication may be done over email or a messaging app, people are more productive and engaged when they can see and hear their co-workers. A video conferencing solution like Vast Conference is a great tool to make any meeting feel seamless. Virtual meetings help your team continue to innovate and be productive from afar with brainstorming and strategy meetings, or encourage team bonding through general company updates or virtual social events.
How to successfully manage your remote team
Regardless of location, the key to successful team management is good communication. This is especially important in a remote work environment, when asynchronous digital messages can easily be missed or misinterpreted.
Frequent use of video conferencing can improve communication between you and your colleagues. It's the next best thing to the face-to-face chats you might have in the office, and when you can see each other and speak in real time, things are much less likely to get lost in translation.
- Take time to train your team on any new tech tools. Even when people start returning to the office, you'll likely still be using the tech tools you've acquired throughout the pandemic. Make sure every employee is on the same page with these new programs by setting up meetings to thoroughly train them. Go beyond just teaching them what they need to know for work, showing them all the program's features and abilities.
- Set up frequent one-on-one and group meetings to discuss projects and progress. As a manager, you should be video conferencing with your employees frequently to make sure projects are being completed on time and correctly and to check in and boost morale.
- Make yourself available to answer questions. Now more than ever, people need guidance and leadership. Make yourself open to questions and conversations, with not just your employees but your peers and supervisors as well.
- Provide time and space for non-work communications to promote worker camaraderie. Although meeting in person may be difficult, you can still have non-work team-building activities through online video conferencing. Meet with your team over a video happy hour so everyone can unwind, or host a virtual game night so you can do something fun together as a team.
- Build a culture of trust. It goes without saying that times are uncertain. Build up your employees' trust by being transparent about what's going on in the company, showing vulnerability, and getting to know your employees on a personal level. By focusing on self-improvement and not doubt, you'll build a company culture of trust.