In 2020, most companies have remote working policies and relevant infrastructure to either collaborate with scattered around the globe employees or have a plan B in case of emergency. Nevertheless, despite having a set of rules and the tools necessary for setting up a remote work environment, businesses may still face significant difficulties when switching the whole staff to a work-from-home mode. This is particularly true for non-tech companies that are not used to entirely relying on digital solutions when tackling everyday work issues. However, such drastic measures have been adopted lately in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a pandemic.
Such giants as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon have already partially or entirely made their employees worldwide do their jobs from home. Smaller businesses are increasingly following suit to help slow the virus spreading. For many teams, all of this represents a true challenge, as their efficiency now depends on the ability to remain cohesive in spite of working apart. That is why it’s crucial to elaborate and stick to definite rules regarding the team and workflow management. Their implementation is often impossible without the use of the right tools that will ensure your business running as smoothly as ever.
Remote Team Management Core Principles
Developing and following the most feasible approach to remote people management and work organization is a key factor of high performance. Binding rules will ensure discipline and guide employees through the working process. Based on our experience, there are a few main principles executives should comply with to successfully run their team and keep a business on track:
- Establish an effective communication system. Staying connected to effectively address work-related issues is a must. However, remote engagement mode may be difficult to handle if not arranged properly. You should decide on the software, define communication channels, and set rules for their use, including context, frequency, and ideal timing. Interaction via video may help reduce social isolation, and it better suits complex and sensitive discussions. Web- and mobile-based messaging can be used for the resolution of minor issues or when quick collaboration is needed.
- Set clear expectations. Every team member should be aware of their area of responsibility, expected performance, deadlines, and the consequences of non-fulfillment. Each individual’s contribution affects total productivity and, subsequently, business outcomes. Thus, managers should be explicit about their requirements and ready to impose punishments in case of their violation.
- Aim for transparency and accountability. One of the main challenges remote team management involves is the lack of direct control and visibility. As soon as demands are articulated and employees set to work, team leaders should make sure that everybody is working hard toward a common goal. To this end, they employ technological solutions to track attendance, review task progress, and the time spent on it. Besides ensuring the staff’s efficiency, such measures can also help optimize the workload, as they allow seeing who is overloaded and who has some free time.
- Provide encouragement and emotional support. Having experienced an abrupt shift to remote work, many employees feel the lack of managerial guidance and communication. It is important to have regular camera-enabled one-on-ones to let team members express their job-related concerns and find a solution together. Even though they have no anxieties, private coaching sessions are still necessary to review performance, discuss weaknesses, and outline the way for future growth.
- Rely on the right tools. Nowadays, there are plenty of instruments for remote work organization and automation to choose from. They enable communication, project and document management, as well as staff productivity tracking. However, a great variety of options available complicates decision-making, as the choice of software strongly affects team efficiency.
In DashDevs, we use our favorite tools that have proven to be effective. Nevertheless, to make our review as comprehensive and objective as possible, we have examined dozens of technological solutions and elaborated a list of quality in-demand tools that will make remote collaboration a truly comfortable experience.
Top Remote Work Tools for High Efficiency
There are different types of solutions, depending on the issues they are designed to solve. We have categorized them based on the core business functions they enable, so here are one of the most highly-ranked tools you need if experiencing a work-from-home period or seeking process optimization.
- <strong>Slack</strong> is a chatting application that brings all your teamwork to channels, which are a single space for file and information sharing, documents reviewing and approval, voice and video calls, and, obviously, messaging. Such multifunctionality is possible through numerous integrations: you can connect more than 2,000 apps with Slack or build your tools with their API. Channels can be divided by teams, projects, topics, and anything else relevant to your business. You can share them with customers or partners, bringing all those involved into the same room.
- <strong>Flock</strong> is a Slack alternative, featuring customizable channels, voice- and video-enabled conversations, search history, and document sharing. Its creators emphasize productivity tools, such as to-do lists, polls, and reminders, among others. This app has fewer integrations - as many as fifty; nevertheless, they include such valuable options as Twitter, Todoist, Google Drive, and Asana.
- <strong>World Time Buddy</strong> is indispensable when working with people from abroad. It’s a time conversion and scheduling app, allowing you to compare time zones, plan international calls, online meetings, and workshops. Moreover, this tool assists with business traveling and tracking of market hours.
Web conferencing with multiple participants:
- <strong>Google Hangouts</strong> is an easy-to-use platform that requires nothing more than a link to set up a meeting, sparing clients the trouble of creating accounts or installing specialized plug-ins. Full integration with G Suit enables joining an e-conference directly through an email invite or Calendar, which can be done from a conference room, computer, or mobile phone. By the way, Hangouts sync automatically across multiple devices, allowing users to switch between them during the conversation. Another useful feature we would like to highlight is the ability to record calls and save them as YouTube videos.
- <strong>GoToMeeting</strong> will help you host or join web- and mobile-based online meetings with as many as 250 people. It includes all essential video-conferencing features, like chat, calendar integrations, or screen-share, to name a few. Plus, users can enjoy unlimited recording, crystal-clear audio, and meeting transcription.
- <strong>Join.me</strong> is another go-to for many companies, helping in getting everybody on the same page with just one click to start an online conference. Apart from a standard feature set, it provides a personalized experience, making it possible to customize a meeting link and background to translate your identity better or promote the brand.
- <strong>Atlassian Confluence</strong> is a cloud-based documentation platform that allows users to produce and modify content organized in spaces, pages, and blogs. It can contain all sorts of information, starting with an employee roadmap and ending with checklists, which is created from templates for unified user experience and is centralized in one place. Therefore, Confluence enables team cooperation and often serves as a company knowledge base. It is enhanced through the integration with Jira, as now you can collaborate on projects, gather specifications, discuss and create issues without leaving the software.
- <strong>Dropbox</strong> is a cloud storage solution bringing all your team’s content together and synchronizing account data so that you can create, edit, and share documents from any device. The Desktop client is equipped with intelligent suggestions that simplify file searching and pull up relevant information to tackle work efficiently. You don’t have to switch between apps, as Dropbox is integratable with numerous tools for everyday use, like Google Docs, Sheets, Slack, Zoom, and others.
- <strong>Notion</strong> is a productivity software, providing the tools necessary for smooth collaboration. It allows team members to create and co-edit documents, share information, assign tasks, and manage projects. The app is integrated with Kanban boards, helping visualize the project roadmap and efficiently move toward its completion. The data arranged in spreadsheets and databases simplify records keeping, whereas wikis turn tribal knowledge into explicit answers, optimizing overall team performance.
- <strong>Google Docs</strong>, forming part of the Google Drive file storage, is an online-based word processor for creating, editing, updating, and storing documents and spreadsheets. It can function as a single workspace where multiple remote authors collaborate on the same project in real time. The software is free and fast, with configurable access control and offline viewing features.
Task & project management:
- <strong>Atlassian Jira</strong> is a comprehensive agile project management and bug tracking platform that helps with road mapping, delegating, tracking, reporting, and leading work. The software can be connected with over 3,000 third-party apps, enabling access to a myriad of functionalities, thus, significantly improving the chances of boosted product delivery. It is chosen by many companies worldwide, including eBay and Cisco.
- <strong>Trello</strong> offers straightforward functionality to ensure seamless project collaboration and personal tasks management, ranking third in the Top 20 Most Popular Project Management Software list. Based on the Kanban method, it represents the workflow with cards on boards where coworkers can add attachments and place comments. The boards are flexible, shareable, and are accessible across desktop computers and mobiles. Trello also assists with product planning, time tracking, events organizing, employees hiring, and website administrating.
- <strong>Asana</strong> has more advanced management features, helping keep track of large projects ongoing. The calendar and timeline give you a complete task overview and help set priorities to avoid bottlenecks. Though Trello is perfect if you seek flexibility and ease of use and is highly popular with start-ups, once the team hits its limitations, Asana will come in handy.
- <strong>Hubstaff</strong> provides valuable data on what employees are engaged in during business hours to ensure their working efficiently. The software runs on an employees' virtual desktop, tracking their productive time, and reporting the outcomes in a detailed timesheet. The app comprises numerous optional features, like screenshots, location tracking with geofences, automated payroll, and invoicing. Moreover, it helps save budget through a mobile application, showing when the team is about to exceed the limit.
- <strong>Time Doctor</strong> is another popular tool, tracking how much time is spent on each task, client, and project. However, it not only keeps the manager informed of their team members’ productivity but also offers a solution to procrastination. The software helps avoid distraction by detecting excessive time spent on external sites and nudging users back to work. Recording applications and internet usage can highlight weaknesses in need of improvement.
Benefits of Working from Home
Whether you are experiencing a temporary remote mode due to unforeseen circumstances, or such a change is viewed as an opportunity to strengthen business, home-based work has its pluses. If organized properly, it can be advantageous to both the company and its employees. Let’s look at how remote working can prove useful and what hidden growth opportunities it entails:
- Boosted efficiency. Many people find themselves way more productive when working at home, as it gives them the possibility to customize their workspace to stay comfortable and fully focused. Eighty percent of office workers cite colleagues’ chattering as the primary distraction factor, followed by general office noise. Besides, commuting and lunch rush take up time and energy that could be spent in a much more pleasant and useful way, contributing to workers’ well-being.
- Enhanced independence and responsibility. Employees learn to become more autonomous, proactive, and develop the skill of looking for answers themselves. Certainly, they can always ask a team member for advice. However, working from home, people tend to google their queries, turn to guides or company base knowledge more often not to trouble their coworkers with something they can figure out on their own. Moreover, working on remote encourages acquiring specific skills, such as concise email writing, or those related to emotional intelligence, as team members become more sensitive to one another’s schedule.
- Workflow optimization. All the business processes become optimized, as everything possible goes digital. Meetings are handled online, which enables seamless document sharing and commenting without interrupting one another. Less time seems to be spent in vain, as now you can refrain thoughts and prepare questions to save it during the actual discussion.
- Increased savings. Having employees work from home will help not only save them money on commuting but also significantly reduce the company’s operating expenses. Businesses that have permanent remote teams spend less on office infrastructure; however, even those whose staff has temporarily switched to home working can save on various overhead costs, like electricity or janitorial services.
Nowadays, remote work is an essential skill businesses should master if wanting to stay competitive whatever the circumstances. When approached wisely, it can yield unexpected benefits and provide the means for tackling existing issues in a brand new way. Still, this whole thing will work out only if combined with the strong managerial capacity and the use of the right software to create favorable conditions for team collaboration. That said, empowering your employees to work from home or setting the ground for its feasibility is a reasonable step worth taking to ensure the secure development of your company, whatever the future has in store for us. Despite the pandemic challenge, DashDevs keeps working hard, turning our clients’ ideas into robust quality solutions. We believe that hard times outline the ways for improvement, and are doing our best to upscale and make a leap forward in development, ensuring the delivery of high-end products.