Well before the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working had been gaining traction across all industries. Home workers nearly quadrupled in the last decade – and this was before the pandemic forced the majority of us to work from home.
As we face a second wave of the pandemic, it has become clearer than ever that most organisations won’t be able to return to the office anytime soon. While until now many businesses made do with whatever solution could keep them going for a few months, it is now time for those same businesses to reevaluate the long-term effects of the pandemic – the first being a more-permanently distributed remote workforce.
Making the permanent, or semi-permanent, shift to a remote, or flexible, workforce comes with both benefits and challenges for businesses, as well as employees. In the State of Remote Work 2020 survey, Buffer identified the ability to have a flexible schedule, to work from anywhere, and not having to commute as the biggest benefits to working remotely. On the other hand, over the past three years of putting out their report, they’ve also seen two challenges remain in the top three: struggles with collaboration and communication, and with loneliness.
With the plethora of technology at our disposal, it seems absurd to think that over the past three years we haven’t made any improvements to the remote working experience of a growing number of employees. However, maybe the problem it’s not the technology itself – but rather how we use it, and which tools we favour over others.
If businesses are to adapt to the new normal and make remote working an integral part of their business strategy, it’s vital to employ the right tools and solutions to support employees’ wellbeing, and in turn, increase business productivity and efficiency.
We listed five of our preferred remote working tools, which we believe will guarantee your business success in the months to come:
What it is: A complete collaboration and communication solution
Why we like it: Communication is at the core of every team – whether working remotely, or from the office. However, enabling remote workers to communicate effectively is more than simply equipping them with a video conferencing account. Without appropriate communication tools, remote working can have a negative impact on employee productivity. Too many, and your employees will feel overwhelmed; too little (or not the right ones), and they won’t be able to do their job properly.
Horizon Collaborate, Gamma’s business-only cloud-based Unified Comms solution, satisfies all of your internal and external communication needs including voice and video calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, desktop and document sharing. With capabilities across desktop and mobile, Collaborate is perfect for enabling remote working as well as supporting your business in the office.
What it is: A project management tool
Why we like it: With remote working, we’ve said our goodbyes to brainstorming and planning sessions in the meeting room. Digital task lists have become to go-to for project planning and management, but they can only get a team so far. Complex projects require tons of notifications, emails, and updates, which can compromise productivity and lead to stress. A project management tool might be the perfect answer to a better organised and successful team.
One of our favourites? Trello – a web-based Kanban-style project management application. Using a Trello board, teams can easily visualise the status of a project or a task, see who is working on what, or simply add comments and ideas. Trello is a great asset to keep teams organised and engaged, especially while working remotely – it’s an easy-to-use, simple, and flexible tool that can turn projects from a time suck, to a manageable and intuitive process.
What it is: A file sharing tool
Why we like it: Finding a way to locate and share information is crucial to remote working. Since the beginning of this global remote working ‘experiment’, we’ve all had to deal with a growing number of emails, each with its own attachment. Version after version of a document shared across different tools, links, and folders – we have all experienced the frustration of going through multiple channels to find what we needed. Having a centralised platform for file sharing removes the confusion of having to look for information for hours on end.
Dropbox is not new to the file sharing game. It was launched in 2007, and because of its simple layout (which hasn’t changed much over time), most people are familiar with the tool. Available in free and subscription versions, it will surely remove some of the headaches out of your remote working experience.
What it is: A time management tool
Why we like it: While working from home has allowed us to spend more time with our families and friends, it has also taken away those short breaks we’d take in the office chatting with a colleague or grabbing a cup of tea. Research by Airtasker showed that on average, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month than those who worked in an office. Employees who are unable to unplug and take breaks are more prone to burnout and stress – a tool that can help them manage their time can therefore be a small, but important, addition to their remote working experience.
The tomato timer, a free tool available in many different variants all over the web, originates from the Pomodoro Technique – a time management method developed in the 1980s. This method uses a timer to break down work intervals of generally 25 minutes, separated by a mix of shorter and longer breaks. While it might seem simplistic, this time management tool is great to ensure employees are taking breaks throughout their working day, avoiding burnout, and in turn, increasing productivity.
What it is: A meditation and wellbeing tool
Why we like it: During the first few months of the pandemic, organisations focused on keeping the lights on and ensuring the same level of productivity while shifting to remote working (rightly so). As remote working becomes a must, rather than a nice-to-have, it’s also important to evaluate how this is affecting employee wellbeing and mental health. Sustainable productivity relies on healthy, focused, and rested individuals – this can only be achieved when businesses adopt technology and tools that can support their employee wellbeing, as well as their productivity.
To do so, organisations should encourage the adoption of tools such as Headspace. Headspace is a free-to-download meditation app that can help employees relax and unwind, while also reducing anxiety. Headspace claims that four weeks of its usage can increase focus by 14 per cent, and just a single session cuts mind-wandering by 22 per cent. Your employees will feel better, while also working more productively.