In early March 2020, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook offered flexible work-from-home options for employees at its global offices. Like Apple, nearly every business in the world has been forced to take this unprecedented move, following the rampaging Coronavirus pandemic.
Consequently, companies that never even considered telecommuting before have been compelled to jump on the bandwagon. The problem is that without proper policies, many don’t know where to start. As such, they are unlikely to recommend the right telecommuting tools to their employees.
If you are caught up in this problem, worry not. In this article, we’ll give you a headstart and help you quash the lack of face time with your employees. We’ve compiled a list of all the remote work software and equipment your team needs to work as effectively as they would in a normal office setting.
Telecommuting is beneficial to both employee and employer. In fact, according to one study, the core benefits of working from home are better work-life balance (91%), increased productivity (79%), reduced stress (78%), and no commuting (78%). Notably, avoiding commuting is a direct benefit and is automatically achieved when an employee works from home.
Source: OwlLabs.comDesigned by
However, it’s important to note that the other benefits are dependent upon numerous factors. One key determinant of whether or not you reap these benefits is the tools you use to work remotely. For example, a combination of project management and time tracking software helps you become productive. In their absence, the exact opposite results are achieved, and the likelihood of toppling work-life balance is increased.
As such, we cannot emphasize enough the need to have the right telecommuting software. Precisely, before sending your employees to work from home, you should advise them wisely on the tools they need to reap maximum benefits. Moreover, you should take proactive measures to help employees manage work-related stress and anxiety.
The adjustment from office-based working to remote working can be jarring at first. The isolation from other teammates, coupled with close quarters to kids and spouses, can be unwelcoming.
However, there are solutions to all the problems related to telecommuting. Ask any of the employees working at companies with successful remote work policies.
For example, you should find an area to cordon off as your home workspace to separate your self from the chaos in the house. Most importantly, to master telecommuting, you should find the right tools to keep you productive and connected.
If you are making the move to remote working for the first time, the following tools will help you follow the best practices in remote working.
Generally, meetings are an essential part of a team’s day-to-day workflow. This means that even when managing virtual teams, you’ll need to hold meetings regularly to keep everyone on the same page.
However, meeting with people who are in different geographical locations comes with its fair share of troubles. For example, it takes away the benefit of visual cues and the clarity of face to face conversations. This is where video calling and video conferencing tools come into the picture. The tools make virtual meetings simpler and allow you to have a nearly effective “face time” with the team like you would in a physical office.
RingCentral Video is a popular online video conferencing platform created for teams, big and small. It offers a slew of powerful features such as HD video conferencing, instant messaging, and screen sharing to reinforce your remote team’s collaboration efforts. What’s more, the platform can support 1:1 calls as well as accommodate up to 100 participants in a conference call. That said, this platform is useful not only for group discussions but also for webinars.
Zoom is designed primarily to facilitate online meetings and video conferences and is, thus, perfect for remote teams. It has a comprehensive suite of features, including HD audio and video, chat, cloud phone system, and webinar capabilities. With these features, the app is perfect for dispersed teams that want to hold meetings regularly.
Detailed Zoom Review
Skype is a powerful app used by remote teams to conduct meetings, video conferences, interviews, discuss strategies, and other vital communications. It is also an excellent option for remote employees that want to deliver presentations and keep communication alive and productive.
Detailed Skype Review
Google Hangouts Meet is a powerful web conferencing tool for remote and dispersed teams. Built primarily for video meetings, the tool enables remote teams to connect face-to-face from anywhere around the world. With Hangouts Meet, team members can join scheduled meetings directly from their calendar or by clicking an email invite.
Detailed Google Hangouts Review
Project success dictates business growth. For this reason, you have to stay on top of your priorities, regardless of the project you are working on, to stimulate commendable progress. However, achieving this goal can be a daunting task, especially if your project team is made up of telecommuters.
The truth is, sometimes, even managing a simple to-do list is problematic. But as a manager, how can you coordinate responsibilities and manage team tasks remotely? The answer to this question lies in the use of online project management software tools. A good project management tool helps you create, assign, and monitor project tasks. Notably, with this solution, you can tell who is working on what and when, and accurately predict project delivery.
monday.com is a project management platform offering a collaboration-first interface. It serves not only as a hub where you can plan, delegate, and monitor tasks but also as a mobile-ready communication system that lets you and your remote employees discuss projects without needing a separate platform. Some of its key features include personal and public boards, smart notifications, and code-free workflow automation. It also plays well with other software ecosystems through its integration options.
Trello is a lightweight project management software that’s relatively easy to use. It helps you organize projects into boards, as such, you can tell who is working on what, when, and where each task lies in the project stages. With its ease of use, new users can instantly understand the card and list metaphor and start using Trello within minutes. This ease of use makes Trello one of the best virtual collaboration tools for remote teams.
Asana is a powerful cloud-based collaboration and task management app, built with remote teams in mind. Its highly intuitive user interface is essentially designed to help team managers assign tasks and team members to track tasks to be done. Most importantly, the workload tool makes it super easy for the manager to distribute work across teams.
Detailed Asana Review
Basecamp is billed as an all-in-one toolkit for remote teams. True to its billing, the solution provides all the project management and team communication features that remote teams need to get things done. Its feature set includes milestone management, time tracking, file sharing, to-do lists, and a messaging system.
Detailed Basecamp Review
With telecommuting, you don’t have the advantage of being able to walk across the hallway to deliver a document to your manager. But just because you’re not in the same physical office as your manager doesn’t mean you cannot get the approval done. In fact, with file-sharing software, you can collaborate with others on specific documents and projects in near real-time.
Whether you’re working remotely, or managing telecommuters, best-in-class file management tools can help you become more efficient and productive than before. They enable you to access and share files securely wherever you are, provided you have a reliable internet connection.
PandaDoc is a completely cloud-hosted document management solution that lets users author, annotate, and distribute files as seamlessly as possible. It comes equipped with tools for contract lifecycle management, cost and margin calculation, content locking, electronic signatures, and document approval, makng it ideal for companies who want to carry out paperless transactions. It also comes with document analytics as well as activity recording to simplify auditing efforts.
Google Drive provides an easy way to securely store, share, and access team resources anytime, anywhere in the world. It allows you to save all your team’s documents and files in a single folder. This way, all team members can access the files they need to get the job done. Most importantly, you retain control over the folder and are instantly notified whenever a change is made.
Detailed Google Drive Review
Dropbox is a powerful file management software for remote and distributed teams. The app allows you to save all your files and documents in the cloud. This way, it makes it easy to access and share files anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Beyond this, Dropbox enables you to manage projects from anywhere. Notably, it features a commenting system that lets anyone add feedback to any file.
Detailed Dropbox Review
SmartFile, meanwhile, enables teams to share project files of any size. With the app, you can access files on a browser interface, use API, or access data on FTP access points. Besides, to bolster files security, it allows you to stipulate file access permissions and create custom user roles.
Telecommuting takes away the one-on-one interactions between employees. As such, it denies them the opportunity to drop by your colleague’s desk for a quick chat. Besides, as a manager, you will not have the convenience to call at your CEO’s office to seek clarification.
In the absence of face-to-face interaction, you need to find an alternative way to communicate day-to-day. You might be thinking, “but all my team members have email addresses.” Well, sorry to say it, but when it comes to remote team communication, email just doesn’t cut it. With the flurry of back-and-forth emails, it takes a single overlooked email or a mistaken reply-to-alls to ruin a conversation and cause confusion.
Fortunately, technology has given birth to highly effective communication software tools for remote teams. These solutions facilitate ongoing conversations and help teams to stay connected while working from home.
Slack is an innovative communication management application for telecommuters. With its neat array of features, the solution allows you to create team channels for different departments, and send direct messages. Moreover, you can share files, pin documents, and bookmark messages for quick reference.
Detailed Slack Review
Yammer is modeled to be an intuitive, enterprise social software for private communication. It’s a reliable communication tool that enables teams to collaborate across locations and departments. Primarily, it allows you to create or join both private and public groups for instant updates or team communication. These are essential features for remote workforce management software as well.
Detailed Yammer Review
Workplace by Facebook is an innovative work collaboration tool designed to help teams stay connected while working from home. Boasting features such as group, video calls, chat, and newsfeed, the app gives telecommuters access to the latest information. Even better, teams can use the app to share files, updates, feedback, and more.
Detailed Workplace by Facebook Review
Telecommuting sounds great, but it requires discipline and sound self-management skills to nail it. Remember, with this work design, employees can create their own schedules, and they’re completely accountable for how they use time. Besides, no one is around to tell them what to do or nudge them when their concentration levels wane.
The flexibility of remote working is refreshing, but with poor time management, it can be a detriment to productivity. This is the reason why it’s indispensable to invest in reliable time tracking tools. Time tracking introduces structure to your workday, thus, helping you know how you and your employees spend time. This way, it stops time wastage, allowing you to get more from every work hour.
Time Doctor wraps time tracking and project management capabilities in one powerful app. It allows you to track employee time and identify websites they visit and the applications they use during work hours. Even better, it provides a breakdown of how much time an employee spent on a task, client, or project. Time Doctor timesheets are accurate to the second and can be used to remunerate hourly remote workers.
Detailed Time Doctor Review
Built primarily to streamline time management, Toggl enables you to know exactly how much time is actually spent on a project and task. It also provides reports that help you identify the tasks that are taking most of your time. Moreover, with Toggl, you can evaluate your daily routine and pinpoint areas where it could be improved to boost productivity.
Detailed Toggl Review
Clockify enables remote teams and freelancers to track time using a built-in timer or log hours manually. It’s perfect for tracking employees billable hours, attendance and PTO, and project progress. With the app, you can generate weekly, monthly, or annual reports to pinpoint areas of concern to thwart time wastage.
When instructing employees to telecommute from home, you must give due consideration to your cybersecurity. Your cybersecurity takes precedence and shouldn’t be compromised for convenience. For this reason, you have to plan and use the right security software to minimize the risk of a cyber attack.
In most cases, the threats come in the shape of internet service providers (ISPs). The home internet connections that your employees use are not only accessible to them but also other members of the public. You never know, one of the “other users” could be a potential attacker sniffing around to steal corporate secrets shared over communication channels.
To mitigate cyber attacks, you should consider using robust VPN solutions. The software helps you create a secure channel between your workstation and that of your employees. In doing so, it safeguards corporate information from outside theft.
Here are examples of VPNs:
If all you want is a high level of security and reliability, you can’t go wrong with NordVPN. The solution allows you to create a VPN account for each employee and assign a fixed dedicated IP address. This way, regardless of the network, location, or device an employee uses, he/she can securely access corporate resources.
Detailed NordVPN Review
Perimeter 81 is a cloud-based VPN solution built primarily for users who work across multiple devices and locations. The app’s software-defined perimeter (SDP) offers manageable, secure access to network systems. Even better, it proactively safeguards employees from public WiFi threats while providing two-factor authentication for extra security.
Detailed Perimeter 81 Review
This is an excellent choice for remote workers and individual business users. ExpressVPN guarantees top-grade encryption and security. The best part is that it leverages its own servers to safeguard internet traffic.
Detailed ExpressVPN Review
Telecommuting tools are the driver of remote working, and the internet is the enabler. Put simply, without reliable internet connectivity; telecommuting is as good as dead. A reliable home internet connection allows you to get things done faster and with precision.
Primarily, internet connection, be it digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem-based, helps you access critical services. Communication tools (Slack or Yammer), project management platforms (Asana or Trello), meeting solutions (Skype or Zoom), file management systems (Google Drive or Dropbox), and more can all be used with reliable, high-speed internet connections.
On the other hand, you need an able device to work from home efficiently. A personal computer is undeniably the most important consideration you need to make as a teleworker. This is because the laptop or desktop is a primary home office tool, and without it, remote work cannot happen. With the laptop, you have access to software and apps that you need to get the work done
While working from home, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to contend with distractions, either from the TV, spouse/kids or neighbors. Having a reliable noise cancellation headset helps you block out the noise. This way, it enables you to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
Also, a quality headset, especially one with a microphone, comes in handy during online meetings. They improve the clarity of voice and make it easy to hear–and be heard–during an audio or video conferencing.
Interestingly, the telecommuting tools we’ve listed above can offer a great way to start learning how to work remotely from home. But keep in mind that working from home makes it difficult to concentrate and much arduous to detach when the day ends. As a result, you should find a combination of software that can offer the perfect work-life balance.
Essentially, using a time tracking platform helps you account for every minute of your workday. With the app, it should be easy to set boundaries and know when to start work, take a break, and end work. This way, it prevents your work life from encroaching on your normal life or vice versa. At the same time, using project management solutions add a dash of self-management and discipline, thus, improving your productivity.
Moreover, with communication and meeting software, it’s easy to kick isolation out of the window. Besides, managers can use the tools to share helpful tips and pass information that employees need to achieve project goals. Put simply, communication and meeting solutions help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Lastly, file management software organizes projects, files, and documents and makes them easily accessible to all members. And when you have sensitive corporate resources to protect, always ensure you have a robust security solution in place.
To conclude, we hope that this guide to telecommuting tools has given you a better idea of what you will need to reinforce your day-to-day operations. But of course, we understand that the success of your remote work efforts not only relies on the tools you use but on how you manage your team. So, be sure to check out our remote team management guide for some helpful tips and techniques.
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