Staying Productive In A Remote Work Environment
Many companies throughout the United States, both large and small, are finding themselves having to develop and implement emergency work-from-home protocols as a method of avoiding workplace exposure to COVID-19. For large corporations this task is easily manageable, but for the average small business looking into remote workforce management for the first time can present a monumental issue.
The Baker Street office is typically a hive of activity. But, when necessary we implement a very solid remote workflow. We’d like to share some of the things we’ve learned about this area.
A work-from-home system can present a drastic and sometimes intimidating change to daily interaction, but it can also prove to be just as productive as working in-office when done well. Here are all of the tools that we’ve found highly effective in maintaining workplace morale and productivity remotely.
A major portion of being efficient relies on how well you communicate. Nothing beats sitting face to face with your coworkers, but for the remote situations where we can't sprawl everything out over a desk there's an assortment of fantastic tools that we use to ensure we keep things moving and ideas flowing.
For general office communications, nothing beats this platform. Slack is so many things, and each one of them is amazingly helpful. At its core, it functions as a company wide, departmental and individual chat interface, but it goes further than that. Slack also provides a platform for document sharing, either within the platform or by integrating resources like DropBox and Google Drive, lets you create public links, has features to share formatted code, and facilitates announcements that can be addressed to departments, teams, and even individuals specifically.
Even if you can't actually sit across the table from the person you're working with, a good video chat platform can make it feel almost like you are. Zoom is the best platform we've found for hosting personal discussions, remote meetings, and even large-scale webinars. Along with offering paid tier levels, they also provide a free version that allows for unlimited 1-to-1 video calls alongside conference calls that can run up to 40 minutes. You can check out their COVID-19 informational page to keep up to date on what work-from-home solutions they’re offering, as well.
Similar to Slack, discord is a channel based communications platform that shares many of the same features along with a video chat option that’s built into the interface. It’s generally geared toward online gamers and subculture, but in light of the current situation in the United States has added a free feature allowing live broadcasts to up to 50 people simultaneously in order to aid coworker collaboration, group meetings, and online lectures and presentations.
Project management can be challenging in person, so approaching it remotely tends to be one of the most intimidating aspects of a work-from-home situation. Luckily, there are programs out there specifically designed to tackle this issue. And they do a good job of it.
Trello is, in essence, an online cork board that lets you organize your workplace going-ons as cards separated into lists, topics, and categories. These cards can be projects, files, tasks, or whatever you may need them to represent within your workflow while the lists they’re moved through can be fully customized to fit your process. For instance, a card may represent a project. That project may start in a to-do list before being moved to an in process list from which the employee it’s assigned to then moves it to a list for revisions and so on.
If you know what a Gantt chart is, then imagine that but digital, interactive, and loaded with features ranging from checklists and individual discussions channels per job to timers and workload management. If you don't know what a Gantt chart is, we're jealous. It’s essentially an illustrative project schedule that lays out your workload in the form of a bar chart. Having a visual and collaborative representation of your workload works wonders to manage tasks from a distance.
Note Taking & Records
It may seem minor, but keeping organized and accessible records of information, or even just having a personal database of your creative ideas, can do wonders in helping you improve your remote process. These are just some of the things we love to jot things down with.
At this point pretty much everyone knows about this one, but if you don't you should definitely hop on board. Google Docs is unrivaled in the realm of collaborative writing and note-taking making it possible for anyone with access to the internet to take full advantage of its tools. By hosting informational documents and written project/spreadsheets within Google Docs, you can allow your team to view, edit, and organize information together and in real-time from their homes.
Always the helpful green elephant Evernote is great for notes, but that isn't how you should look at it. Instead, imagine a personal database of your process documenting all those things you'd otherwise forget. It's less for cataloging and saving info, and more for helping your brain stay on track. Its online presence makes documents easily shareable and opens the door to collaboration from a distance.
I know, it's the default and often overlooked Mac word processor. But Pages really does pack some insanely cool features. From a clean UI to cloud syncing throughout multiple devices, it makes a strong platform for cataloging your work and ideas while featuring native collaboration settings that let you open a document to multiple people for editing and revisions. If your workplace is primarily Apple based, you shouldn’t overlook this tool. You already have it.
Quality online storage can be helpful in any business situation, but it becomes crucial when work is done remotely. There are quite a few options out there that exist specifically for this purpose, all with a selection of pros and cons. These are the best options we’ve found for most workflows.
Google Drive is one of the most powerful cloud platforms we know of. It allows you to host files of any kind online which you can then sort and divide into folders. These folders can be shared as a group or individually to whoever needs them via email or link. As an added bonus, Google Drive integrates effortlessly with Gmail and can sync with Slack to allow seamless file transfer and hosting within your workplace communications app.
Dropbox is like an enterprise focused Google Drive. It allows you to keep a full archive of your businesses documentation, jobs, and anything else you may need to have accessible to employees remotely while also enabling an online hub for file sharing and cloud backups.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s alternative to Google Drive. In essence, it works the same as the previously listed options with one major differentiating point: it’s part of the Microsoft Office application suite. If you regularly use Microsoft Office products such as Word, Calendar, and Outlook for daily tasks we’d advise looking into OneDrive due to its synchronization with these other programs.
Working from home can throw off even the most experienced professional’s workflow until they’ve adjusted to it. We’ve found that it can be incredibly helpful to use a dedicated task and time tracker to ensure you don’t get blindsided by a deadline or let any items fall to the wayside while making the transition to a new work environment.
Organization is key. You can plan your daily tasks, but sometimes keeping track of everything yourself can be overwhelming. Todoist is an online task manager that helps escape that by giving you the foundations to make a solid game plan that you can use to keep yourself on track from wherever you may be working. It features progress tracking features, task delegation options, productivity visualization, and decline management tools.
Toggl functions as a digital time tracker and timesheet. The basic plan lets you set up one-click timers for tasks and integrates with over 100 applications while the advanced version brings in cost comparison tracking, team dashboards, scheduled alerts, and automated reminders. It doesn’t get easier to track time spent remotely than with this application.
The Big Takeaway
Managing remote work may seem daunting, but there are a lot of tools out there to make it easier on you. We hope this breakdown is helpful to those of you new to this approach, and we’re here to answer any questions you may have on the matter!