Covid-19 is changing our lives and quickly reshaping how we operate daily. More and more companies are sending employees for working from home to slow down the spread of coronavirus. In some countries, governments have declared a state of emergency or quarantine, urging companies to close down temporarily or to work from home. In others, it is only a recommendation for now.
Either way, companies are choosing to work from home for the well-being of their employees and society. But it is not an easy decision. Even though we are living in the era of technologies, surprisingly few companies are ready for working from home.
For many companies, it is a huge change to switch to remote work. They might not be technologically prepared for working from home. Employees might also be ill-prepared to adapt to the new working style and maintain the same level of productivity. Despite the lack of readiness working from home is no longer a choice. It is the only possible way to remain in business during the global health emergency.
Companies today are highly dependent on digital tools that enable businesses to communicate and manage work online. To help you adapt to the work-from-home style, we have prepared digital WFH toolkit. We hope that our selection of tools for working from home will help you manage your business better and will allow you to be as efficient and effective, as ever.
A digital toolkit for working from home
To make the work-from-home experience successful for the company, managers and owners need to consider two sides of it – managerial and technical. We have already discussed how to manage a remote team successfully. Be it a temporarily remote team due to the coronavirus outbreak, or group of permanently remote employees. In this article, we will focus on the technical aspects of working from home. We will discuss platforms and tools for working from home, which you can use for your business for free!
Communication tools for working from home
The first thing you need to think about when starting to work from home is how you will communicate with each other. Few tools will help you maintain constant communication inside the team.
Skype is not a new tool. Many of us are familiar with it, which makes it one of the best communication tools to use for your team. You can have direct conversations with each of your employees. Skype also allows group conversations. You can make a chat for each of your department, team or a project, make video or voice calls and share files.
The main advantage of using Skype as a communication tool for working from home is its simplicity. Everyone is more or less familiar with it and has used it at some point in their lives. Hence, they will not need time to adapt to using it for work.
2. Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is a comprehensive communication tool developed by Google. It unites several features you might need for successful internal communications while working remotely. In Google Hangouts, you have rooms as a space for conversations. It is very convenient for discussing different projects and matters. You can have conversation threads dedicated to each project or department and keep all your ideas there. For private communications, you can use direct messages.
One thing that makes team communications hard is too much activity. It is easy to miss important information when messages keep coming. In Google Hangouts, you can enable notifications for conversations and replies. It will help you stay focused and receive all important updates.
Google Hangouts allows you to share Google Docs, slides, sheets, and drive files to your teammates. It gives you the possibility to work on the same documents with your co-workers.
3. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams unifies features that you will need for successful communication while working from home. It allows you to create groups for your projects or departments. It is very convenient, as you can have all the information about the ongoing project in one group chat. You can add files, create a Wiki page, and add the plan with tasks.
Microsoft Teams is not for communication only but will help you in team management too. You can add tasks, assign them to members and track their progress. In Microsoft Teams, you can add desired tabs and organize groups in a way, that is more convenient for you. Most importantly, it is easy to use even for those who interacted with it for the first time. Microsoft Teams, as part of Office 365, supports live document collaboration too.
The best thing about the Microsoft Teams is that its free version supports up to 300 participants. Hence, it is a go-to work-from-home tool for companies with many employees. As a response to global coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft Teams offers 6-months free access to its paid version.
Slack can make communication while working from home easy for everyone. It is for companies of every size and allows team members to communicate directly to each other, or in channels. You can create channels for each department, team or project and discuss relevant topics there. You can share files and have a voice or video calls with your teammates.
Slack has some of the unique features your company might find relevant. You can create channels and collaborate with other companies and organizations, as you collaborate with your team. It allows you to integrate with other apps such as Google Drive or Office 365 and others.
Slack has free and paid packages that vary based on the size of the team. The free package is available for smaller teams and has limited, but useful list of features you can use while working from home.
Working from home does not mean that all meetings should be emails. Sometimes conferences and team meetings are necessary. Zoom is one of the useful tools for working from home. Most of the companies started using it during coronavirus outbreak, making it one of the most popular work-from-home tools.
Zoom is mainly for calls and conferences. With the free package of it, you can have unlimited one-to-one calls and meetings. You can host a video conference for up to 100 participants for 40 minutes. To support companies and organizations during the Covid-19, Zoom set up a page which will guide you to how to use it effectively during the pandemic.
Video recording tools for working from home
Communication and collaboration are an important part of successful work. In the office, you can approach your co-worker to show and explain something or to collaborate and work together. It is impossible when working from home, without proper tools. You can use a screen-sharing option, which is available on almost every communication tool. However, for more complex situations, you can use a video recording tool.
Loom is a free screen and video sharing tool. It allows users to communicate with videos and work more efficiently. Loom will help you communicate with your employees better. You can use it to send an important message or showcase your work, software engineers can use Loom to review code, and designers can use it for collaboration. There are a lot of things you can do with Loom without buying paid packages.
With Loom you can record as many videos as you need. Previously, it had a limit on how many videos one user could access. However, to help companies during coronavirus outbreak, Loom removed the limit until July 1. With Loom free package you can access basic features of the platform. According to the website, Loom is in the process of creating packages for teams that need advanced sharing and reporting, and for companies, that need advanced admin and security.
File organizational tools for working from home
While some of your employees would take office equipment to work from home, many of them would prefer to work on their laptops or personal computers. It can cause problems if you do not have file organizing tools that are accessible for your employees from their office and home. Otherwise, they might not have access to important documents they need to work. Also, some of the newly created documents can get lost too. You can avoid it by implementing good organizational tools for working from home
1. Google Drive
Google Drive is one of the best solutions for organizing files. It gives you free 15GB storage for your emails, Google Photos, and documents you upload on Google Drive. Using Google Drive will be easy and convenient for all of your employees. They can access their Google Drive from multiple devices, be it their office computer or personal laptop at home.
Google drive is a good tool for smart work and collaboration too. You can use Google documents, sheets, slides, various forms and apps to work more productively. It allows you to create and share documents to work on them with one or more employees. On Google Drive, you can create files and give access to multiple people. This way, each team can have their own space to upload documents and work on them together. Google Drive also has a powerful search, meaning that you will never lose important files
Similarly, to Google Drive, Dropbox offers file storage, tools for productive work and collaboration. Dropbox provides space for file storage and sharing. You will not have to worry about the storage on your hard drive, as you can upload all your files on Dropbox. They will be synchronized between all your devices, and you will be able to access them anytime, from your smartphone, personal computer or laptop.
Dropbox provides multiple tools for productive work and collaboration. You can create team groups for different project and departments and have team folders for each one. Dropbox allows you to create activities for your employees and track them. You can use Dropbox calendar for organizing your team meetings and calls too!
The free package of Dropbox provides you with 2GB free space. If you want to have access to more space and features, you can try Dropbox standard or Dropbox advanced packages for teams. Dropbox offers 30-days free trial for paid packages.
Task management tools for working from home
As a CEO or manager, you need to make sure that your employees are as productive as in the office. Employees must have clear tasks and objective to fulfil daily. To maintain productivity and natural workflow when your company is working from home, you should have a good task management tool.
Trello is a very simple tool for task management. Your employees will be able to understand how it works intuitively. So, your team will not have to lose time to get used to working on the platform.
On Trello, project or department managers can create different boards for their teams and add their members. On boards, you can create lists and add cards. These cards represent tasks you or your team members should do. You can assign members to the task, add due date, label it, add an attachment and more. Managers can track the activity and performance of team members in Trello.
The basic package of Trello is free. It allows you to have unlimited personal boards, unlimited cards and lists. You will be able to create up to 10 team boards and 1oMB per file attachment. Trello also provides one free power-up per board, which allows you to have a custom field, calendar, automation, 3rd party reporting and more features that will help you manage your business better while working from home.
Asana is another popular tool for task management, especially for smaller teams. On Asana, you can organize the project and manage tasks for your team. You can create boards and lists and assign tasks to your team members. When creating tasks, you can set the start date and due date, to track the performance. Asana allows you to create templates and forms that can quickly capture the most important information of your project and tasks.
You can integrate Asana with other platforms and apps for better collaboration and management. If you are using Jira Cloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, Slack, Gmail and some other tools, you can integrate them with Asana.
As other task and project management tools for working from home or office, Asana has free and paid packages. You can use Asana for collaboration with up to 15 teammates for free. It will give you access to the basic task management features that are more than enough for temporary use while working from home.
Time Tracking tools for working from home
Some work requires you to know exactly how much time did the employee spend in a certain task, client or a project altogether. In the office, it can be easy to track and determine the time. When working from home, you need to track time with the relevant tools.
1. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is one of the most popular time tracking software. It is widely used by remote software engineers, graphic designers, and generally, by digital nomads who are working online.
Time Doctor allows you to track how much time your employees spend working on certain projects. The software provides a breakdown of time spent on task, project or client. It allows you to track how much time your team has spent on a specific project, or how much time did it took for your employees to finish a task.
The time tracking software has some other important features too. For example, it can monitor computer work session, can take screenshots at times, has reporting tools and integrations.
Time Doctor is not a free app, but you can use 14-days free trial without attaching a credit card to your account. Other packages include business and enterprise pricing plans.
Shifting to working from home can be difficult, but you are not the only company having trouble adapting to the new working style. Various communication, task management, and organizational tools are readily available for you and your co-workers. Majority of them are free to use, and many of them have made some of their prominent features free to help companies during the coronavirus outbreak.
These are the top tools for working from home that will help you manage the team and be as productive as usual. We hope using them will help you overcome the challenge of working remotely successfully, and we will all go back to our ordinary office life very soon!