The business world as a whole has faced an unprecedented amount of disruption in the last few weeks. Unemployment has hit record levels and those still working are faced with the new realities of remote work. For companies who haven't had work from home policies before, the shift has no doubt been jarring. It calls on employees and managers alike to find new ways of handling tasks that may once have relied on the familiar structure of office life and face-to-face interactions. Embracing new strategies isn't easy but luckily, there are dozens of tools out there designed to make remote work easier. The heart of effective remote performance management revolves around communication and collaboration so with those two targets in mind, let's explore a few tools that can make remote work easier for everyone.
We've heard it before and it's as true as ever. Video is king. Right now with everyone stuck inside, it's easy to feel disconnected. After all, it's hard to function as a team when you're alone in a room. Luckily, there are a number of video tools out there you can use to keep your team on track.
Zoom: Odds are, you might already be using this one. Zoom is a great video platform for teams as it provides clear audio and video across multiple shared connections. Don't worry about having to pick only a few people to talk to at once. The whole team can jump on Zoom and still be able to work effectively. Better yet, there's a free version you can use to test it out. Just FYI, the free option limits meetings to 40 minutes so don't get cut off!
Skype for business: Much like Zoom, Skype is a well known video platform that allows users to connect remotely from anywhere. In fact, many of us are probably familiar with it from back in the days when it was the premier video chat option. While the availability of these types of tools has dramatically increased, Skype is an especially good option if you have an Office 365 premium bundle as it comes with both Skype and Teams already included.
Google Hangouts: If you're looking for a good free option, Google Hangouts is hard to beat. Its interface is similar to Zoom and easily accessed from any Google account, which most employees already have. Hangouts also offers an enterprise version called Hangout Meets for those wanting a more secure connection for their business meetings.
How are your employees talking to each other right now? Brainstorming is hard to do alone so along with needing to see and talk to each other, most employees need an option to chat or share links on. That's where some of these team collaboration tools come into play.
Slack: This is the big one. Slack allows employees to connect and share ideas seamlessly without needing to overwhelm anyone's inbox. Teams can be set up around a department or project to provide a real-time platform to help employees work together. Better yet, it integrates with both Dropbox and Google Docs to make working and sharing documents a breeze.
Teams: This is Microsoft's version of Slack. The premise of Teams is very similar, providing employees a space to chat and collaborate that doesn't require endless rounds of emails. As with Skype, if you're already using an Office 365 premium bundle, you'll already have access to this tool built into your package. And like Slack, you'll be able to set up both one-to-one communication between team members or bring them together as departments.
Glip: While this space really only has one main front runner, there are a number of smaller alternatives out there that allow you to communicate in a similar way. Glip offers a smooth and easy interface for users to interact and collaborate on. It's easy to use on either a desktop or mobile device and allows you to set and manage tasks, share screens, and chat via text, voice, or video.
Keeping remote teams on track can be a challenge, especially if people are communicating less often than normal. In the office, it's easy to walk over to a colleague and check where they are on a project. It's harder to get a sense of who's doing what when that ability is taken away. But never fear, there are a bunch of project management tools that can help with that.
Trello: For those who are a fan of simple and easy, Trello is a great option to try. Its interface allows users to set up boards and lists that can be added to and moved around as projects are completed. Think of a virtual bulletin board that allows teammates to leave cards for each other, put lists of tasks together, and assign work to one another. It also syncs across all your devices so you can work from anywhere at any time.
Monday: Odds are probably good that you recognize the name Monday from one of its many online ads. For those who are visual workers, this graphic forward platform is a great way to go. Monday allows users to see at a glance who is working on what and how far along projects have progressed. You can assign task priorities, manage files within the platform, and track schedules and workloads to make it easy to spot underutilized resources or overloaded workers.
Asana: Another familiar name in this category is Asana. Much like it's competitors, the platform also allows users to track deadlines and projects, manage workloads, and set goals. It's a highly flexible tool that allows managers to set up their projects pretty much however they want and users can quickly see what tasks are in progress, completed, or upcoming.
How's everyone's writing skills these days? Jobs that were more about direct communication may be shifting toward a text-based approach now. And the simple fact is not everyone is a stellar writer. But there are a few tools out there designed to make your content stronger, regardless of your natural ability.
Grammarly: Ever wonder if it should be than or then? Now there's an app for that. Grammarly is an AI powered writing assistant designed to make your written work stronger and error free. It's a free app download that works across multiple platforms from email to social media to document or task management services. Not only will it tell you when you've made a spelling mistake, it can also identify tone and active or passive language to help you sharpen your message.
Clearscope: For any company's creating blogs or longer form content, Clearscope is a useful tool to try. The AI powered platform that helps optimize content by providing insight on competing articles or blogs and identifying top keywords to create better SEO aligned writing. You can ever work directly within the platform to write your content in a notepad style format with all the analysis tools at your fingertips.
Evernote: Need to take a lot of notes? Evernote is a simple solution that allows you to take notes on any device you want and share them with team members in seconds. It's designed so you can create lists, ideas, and reminders and it works via text, voice, or pictures. If you need to keep records of your meetings or client interactions, Evernote is a sleek solution that keeps everything safe in one place.
Tools of the trade
One benefit of the advancements in technology we've seen in recent years is the evolution of so many tools designed to help us be more productive in a virtual world. Whether you're video conferencing, file sharing, or streamlining team communication, there are endless options out there to make you more efficient. Many even have free trials to help test them out. But whatever technological solution you bring in to help manage team performance, keep in mind that it's only one piece of the puzzle. Employee wellness and engagement should always be top of mind and if you're bringing on a new tool, provide training so your remote workers really understand how they're meant to use the platform. Remote work tools can be a great resource to a team but they aren't a replacement for managerial support or appreciation. So find what tools work best to help your team stay organized and remember to always keep the human element in mind. There is no app for caring and in uncertain times, it's important to let your team know no one is in this alone.