The COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of businesses across the country to close their offices and adopt remote working as a way to prevent the spread of the virus. However, for businesses – many of which are working from home for the first time – it’s a difficult and confusing task, as many organisations are beginning to realise they aren’t equipped to work from home.
As it’s likely this remote working measure isn’t going to end anytime soon, and it’s predicted that working from home will become more popular in the near future, it’s important to ensure you set your business up for success in what could be a lasting change in the way you work. One of the best ways to do this is by utilising technology to improve collaboration within your team, to ensure that even when you can’t physically liaise with your colleagues, you can still communicate and collaborate successfully.
Prior to selecting tools to help you better collaborate with your team, you need to first develop a collaboration strategy that will detail how your team will communicate both internally and externally while not in the office. This will include highlighting which tools will be used and ensuring that all employees know how to use them, so there are no inconsistencies or misunderstandings when communicating.
You should also ensure that when establishing your collaboration strategy, you keep employee wellbeing and mental health in mind. Working at home won’t be as easy for some employees as it is for others, and you need to ensure that you have methods in place to keep employees safe and healthy while they’re not in the office. Organising a daily call with team members just to check in, or organising a weekly social video call could be key during this period.
However, in order to create the ultimate collaboration strategy, you’ll need excellent communication tools – and we’ve listed some of the best to help you.
While you may have a static desk setup in the office, more portable devices are essential when working at home. You should make use of laptops, phones and tablets as well as your monitor, to ensure you’re not staring at the same screen all day and to help get your body moving. This will help ensure that while working at home, your office setup is as ergonomic as possible.
Cloud based systems
For many organisations, working at home has brought them face to face with the realisation that the systems they’re currently using are no longer fit for purpose, and ensuring you can actually use technology at home is a key stage in achieving better collaboration. For example, if you have software that can only be accessed on-site with lots of infrastructure, it’s not sustainable when your employees need to work from home, as these systems can often be very inefficient and slow. This means that now more than ever, it could be time to make the move to the cloud.
Cloud based systems are much more secure, and can allow your employees to work remotely easily and seamlessly, providing they have internet access. These tools are not only great for the current circumstances, but they are worth investing in when thinking about your business’ future. It’s predicted that a lot of organisations will begin to incorporate home working into their business processes, and implementing a cloud based system helps future proof your company should similar events as the COVID-19 pandemic occur again, or if your business wants to adopt a more agile way of working.
Want to learn more about agile working? Check out our guide to setting up Agile Work Zones in 2020.
Video conferencing tools
One of the best and most important collaboration tools at your disposal is video conferencing. These tools can help manage both internal and external communication effectively, from client calls to internal meetings. They’re also extremely useful when your employees may need to discuss something with you that can’t be done effectively via a phone call or messaging app, and they’re also a great resource to help keep the team in contact. We’d recommend setting time aside for a video call either once a day or week, so the team can stay up to date on weekly activities, and you’ll be able to ensure that all the necessary work is being completed.
For most people working from home, it may be the only way they get to communicate with others, so it’s definitely something that will become a vital resource for your business in the coming months. These are just some of the tools of this nature on the market currently:
Available as an app on Google Play, Hangouts is a popular video conferencing tool because it’s fully integrated with the G Suite, meaning that you can join meetings directly from your calendar. It’s also free and user friendly, meaning that all employees can use it easily.
Zoom combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration for a complete communication solution. Its basic plan is free to use, however there is a 40 minute time limit on meetings with three or more people.
Microsoft Teams is a collaborative tool that has features such as chat, video, and file storage and sharing. It integrates extremely well with other Microsoft applications, making it a good option for those already using the Microsoft suite.
Quick tip: You can even use these tools to host webinars for your customers, to communicate with prospects and promote brand awareness even when you can’t be in the office.
Time management systems
When working from home, managing your time can be a lot more difficult than in the office. Keeping track of what your employees are doing and ensuring that tasks are completed on time can be tricky without a formal system to log time in, making time management applications one of the most useful tools at your disposal while your team is working remotely.
There are various tools to choose from, however most provide time and project management capabilities, such as assigning tasks, tracking progress and highlighting any delays. Some examples of time and project management systems are:
Trello is a project management tool designed to give companies visibility of what needs to be done, what is in progress and what has been completed. It helps give company owners a clear view of where their employees are up to, and has numerous customisation capabilities which mean you can make it work for your team. The basic plan is also free to use.
Clockify is a straightforward, easy to use time tracker and timesheet application that can help teams track their work hours across various projects. You can monitor everything from attendance to billable hours, helping you keep your team on track and promote productivity. This tool is also completely free to use, and integrates with many systems you may currently be using, like HubSpot, for example.
Being able to track your employees’ progress while everyone is working at home won’t only give you peace of mind that work is being done, it will give you greater visibility of your business overall – even when you return to the office.
When developing a thorough strategy for collaboration in your organisation, simply implementing a number of tools isn’t always enough. As more of your employees may want to work from home, some will appreciate their office environment even more, and you need to be able to respond to and accommodate their opinions. In order to achieve better collaboration and communication both in the short and long term, you need to evaluate and assess whether your way of working is sustainable in the changing circumstances.
To see how your office can adapt to meet your employees’ needs, download our free guide: Agile Work Zones 2020, where you’ll learn the different elements of an agile office, including technology, and how to implement them successfully.
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