If you’re like most companies, you’re leaning pretty heavily on technology and virtual work to get you through our shared experience of COVID-19. Taking a team remote can be a huge adjustment, but being able to rely on software makes it easier.
You may be wondering if there are some good solutions out there to help make managing a remote team a little easier for everyone involved. We can help with that!
There are many different technology solutions a team can use to work better remotely. A lot of them have been in use in enterprise companies for a while now, but they’re useful in any size business. Some are free, and others might set you back a bit, but there’s something out there for everyone.
Three Different Ways of Collaborating
Experts identify three different ways of collaborating with the help of computers and software.
Here is a rundown on each kind, with a few pros and cons:
- Computer-mediated. This is the most basic and old-school way to use tech to work together – where you use email, texts, and access online file databases to share information and retrieve files and work on them individually. If you’re a smaller business, this is likely to be the minimum of what you’ve already got in place. The problem here is that if someone sends a file to four colleagues to mark up, they could be simultaneously giving conflicting advice that makes reconciliation and revision control a nightmare. And don’t even get us started on “reply-to-all.”
- Asynchronous collaboration. In this model, employees can collaborate with each other in communications that are shared, but not live in real-time. This might include a discussion board or an online file-system with a check-in component. These types of systems can create a bit of work to pick through and find the right information, or sniping when colleagues don’t check resources back into the system properly.
- Real-time collaboration. This final way of working is becoming the most common, where colleagues can work together in real-time—sometimes with the benefit of audio or video collaboration. Sometimes real-time editing can feel overwhelming to those who aren’t used to changes being accepted the minute they are made!
The general trend of technology is to begin with computer-mediated solutions and then move through asynchronous to real-time collaboration. Because of this, many of the solutions now available to businesses are synchronous, software-as-a-service (SaaS) options that bring employees together into virtual space to work collaboratively in real-time.
This is a huge benefit for the moment we are in, because real-time collaboration often preserves much of the comradery and dynamic energy of working in the same office or conference room.
Five Types of Technology Tools for Remote Workers
The technology tools available to help companies working remotely break down roughly into five general types of software:
- Job specific software lets people take their jobs virtual, whether the software is an automated finance platform for your finance team, CRM tools for customer service or sales, marketing automation platforms that can be accessed anywhere, or PEO and HR management software that allows you to manage and pay employees and maintain benefits, and so on. If nothing else, this crisis has probably got you reassessing any on-premise solutions you’ve been relying on, and asking how you can take them virtual, ASAP.
- Communications tools: Some of the first tech tools most of us have learned to use are the social and comms platforms that allow us to connect to colleagues. From IM and group chat to work social networking, your business probably already had options like this, but chances are they are getting even the tech-phobic slow adopters in your company to sign on, these days.
- Access tools: The third category of software is access tools that help people share—or control access—to important information. These might be as simple as a shared network, but some companies have some pretty sophisticated options for file-sharing and access to software tools.
- Productivity tools: A newer entry into the mix are real time collaboration tools that let multiple users be working together in the same files at the same time.
- Organizational tools: Finally, people are relying heavily on project and personnel management tools that allow us to work in different spaces—and sometimes on different schedules in a way that keeps us sane.
So what are the exact tools that will help your business get through this social distancing?
Here are ten specific categories of solutions (with a few suggestions for you to consider in each category) that we think could be worth your time. Check them out, but be sure to do your due diligence to decide exactly what is right for you and your business!
Ten Tools to Help Optimize a Virtual Team
- Video conferencing: facilitates teamwork and helps employees feel less isolated with video chat options. Because so much of communication is non-verbal, experts say video chat is a great way to keep teams working well when social distancing. Be sure to turn the camera on! Some options include: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, GotoMeeting and more.
- Presentation software: is a way to use video, audio and screen sharing to present ideas to a bigger audience, or for presenting to clients or partners. Options include GotoMeeting, WebEx, BlueJeans, JoinMe, GlobalMeet, AnyMeeting and more.
- Employee experience and personnel management: will help you to meet employee payroll and benefit needs, and make it easier to expand or reduce your workforce to fit your needs. We’re biased here, but definitely find an HR provider that is using PrismHR.
- Messaging and collaboration tools: will help you align your team in a flexible way through persistent text chat that team members can drop in and out of as needed. Options include: Slack, Skype, Jabber, Grape, RocketChat and more.
- Social networking and games: can help the team de-stress and feel connected. Jive, Chatter, and Yammer are more enterprise level, but there are also small business options available such as Happeo. For fun, have a look at options like Prelude, Quizbreaker, WaterCoolerTrivia, or VirtuWall. Or just get a copy of Jackbox Games to play over video chat!
- Productivity tools: will help your employees from being distracted by the siren’s song of social media. Check out Serene for iOS, the WorkMode Chrome extension, or some of these others.
- Document storage and access: will ensure everyone has what they need to do their work, and a space to exchange and share files for asynchronous collaboration. Check out options like Dropbox, Sharepoint, Google Drive, and Box, among others.
- Real time collaboration, feedback and co-editing: this software will save revision control headaches and let you work collaboratively and give feedback in real-time—if you can get used to the unsettling sight of someone editing in front of your eyes! Look into Google Docs, MS Office Online, Prezi, Scribblar, GoVisually, Invision and more.
- Project management solutions: are life-saving helpers that can keep everyone on track. They range from simple, elegant solutions for checklists, to software that helps you create and track issues, to massive project command and control. Look at Basecamp, Trello, MS project, Asana, Jira, Monday, Workfront, Redbooth, Proofhub and more.
- Time tracking and calendar tools: are a good way to keep tabs on hours and people while they’re working remotely during this crisis, as well as coordinating meetings from afar when you cannot travel. Check out Time Doctor, Toggl, Google calendar, Doodle, Calendly, or TimeandDate, among others.