Tips and Tools for the Remote Workforce

Remotework
Sankar Dharmarajan /
LinkedIn
Sankar Dharmarajan
May 7, 2020

At the time of writing this article, people around the world have started working remotely because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. As offices have shifted to homes, the norms of working and definitions of productivity have radically changed overnight. This may seem like the new-found freedom for employees, but along with it comes responsibility as well. Here are some effective ways to help you maintain productivity and work together whilst at home.

Remote working poses a new challenge for both employees and businesses since it is an unfamiliar phenomenon that needs getting used to. The top benefits of remote working are, a flexible schedule, the ability to work from anywhere, and not having to commute to work. But, for many, the challenges of team collaboration and communication become apparent when their team members are dispersed and working in isolation. Also, flexible work hours can make you feel constantly attached to work as you struggle to fight distractions and get all of your work done. However, with options offered by cloud technologies, collaboration platforms and advanced devices you can work remotely while still remaining connected.

Here are some best practices to ensure that you’re successful, both at getting work done and at maintaining your mental well-being:

  • Create a defined workspace
    Create a workspace that is conducive for remote working. Maintaining boundaries is critical for work engagement and keeping away the daily trappings of home life. You may be facing the challenge of childcare, elderly-care or trying to self- isolate from the great dependent – mobile devices, during work hours. So, apart from having a high-speed internet connection and a reliable router, reserve a quiet, well- lit ventilated space that you only use for work. Creating a clear spatial boundary helps to separate work from leisure.
  • Take short breaks
    Taking short breaks may sound counter- intuitive, but part of working hard is to know when to step away momentarily. It’s vital that you add short breaks to your schedule as it leaves you energized and focused, increasing your productivity and creativity levels. You can reward yourself with a 5- or 10-minute break – to make a coffee or get some fresh air.
  • Separate work/personal time
    Remote working can be invasive to your personal life. Without scheduled work hours, work can creep into your home life the same way, personal errands can creep into work hours. Set clear work hours, so you do not mix household chores, and clock off when you’re supposed to. Leaving your workspace at the end of the day keeps a rhythm, helping you return in the morning with a fresh mind.
  • Reach out to teammates
    Communication is essential, as the downside to working from home is isolation. At home, it’s just you and your computer and this may impact team connectivity and cohesion. You will miss out on the day-to-day camaraderie and connections made through office interactions and meetings. A good way to combat this, is to connect with your coworkers or clients virtually. There’s no need to only interact with your team or clients via email. Meeting face to face creates a better connection than just hearing someone’s voice. You can plan virtual coffee breaks with co-workers. After all, the others too are in the same boat as you, and that’s a great opportunity to connect.

Team Chat

A solid team collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful enterprise. And, in the golden age of productivity hacks and team collaboration tools, myriad solutions exist to help boost teamwork around your organization. Essential tech tools that can help you connect and collaborate include:

  • Slack
    Slack is among the most popular real time team chat for messaging, voice and video calls, sharing and editing documents, and can be used across devices. While it typically helps co-workers collaborate effectively whether you’re down the hall or halfway around the world. Slack lets you have individual chats with co-workers or create groups around departments, projects – really anything you want. Slack ensures that you stay online and connected even away from the office.
  • Microsoft Teams
    Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed teams with the ability to work together and share information via a common space. It has features like document collaboration, one-on-one chat, team chat, sharing documents, text and video chats with colleagues. You will need a paid Microsoft 365 subscription to use it.
  • Zoom
    If you have big team meetings that include lots of remote workers, you can use Zoom, a video chat application. This app allows you to visually engage with one another face-to-face and screen-share. With the free download version, you can get 40-minute meetings for up to 100 participants. You also get the ability to record calls and a dedicated chat space to keep side conversations going.

Cloud Storage and Asset Management

A major challenge of remote teams is unified access to documents for collaborative purposes. With cloud-based technology, there’s no need to send files back and forth by email.

  • JD Vault

    In an increasingly digital world where every organization produces a massive amount of digital assets (images, videos, pdf files, etc.), it becomes cumbersome to organize, collaborate and ensure brand consistency. JD Vault is a scalable, enterprise-grade Digital Asset Management (DAM) system that helps to centrally store, organize, retrieve and share images, videos, rich media files, documents, and other digital media securely.

    Learn more about JD Vault here

  • Google Drive
    Google Drive is a centralized repository for unified document collaboration. Not only do you get document storage, but you can create docs, spreadsheets and slides, share files between one another, share and edit photos, and access it all from any device. Google Drive is free of charge and goes head to head with services like Dropbox and Box.
  • Box
    Box is a cloud computing business which provides file sharing, collaborating, and other tools for working with files that are uploaded to its servers. Box enables quick access to files from any device, so they are free to be productive wherever they are. The cloud storage ensures you always have an online backup handy and can access data from anywhere.

Project Management

The best tools remote workers can use for project management and time management-

  • JD Flow
    There are several project management products available in the market, but most of them are not tailored to handle the complexities involved in creative & marketing operations. Since such products address generic use cases, their usability, functionalities and integration present major challenges to the users. For creative and marketing agencies, using a project management tool to address their unique challenges is imperative to boost their productivity and achieve faster time to market.JD Flow is a fully configurable, enterprise-grade workflow management system that helps to digitize, automate and optimize creative workflows from creative ordering to collaborative production, online proofing and approvals. JD Flow reduces process chaos, automates workflows, eliminates redundancies, identifies bottlenecks, and gives your processes a powerful boost.

    Learn more about JD Flow here

  • Asana
    In its simplest form, Asana allows different teams to track projects and assign tasks and sub-tasks. Managers can set up Asana pretty much however they want, using it as a task assignment tool, for example, a project map, or an ongoing log of company activities. The flexibility comes with a learning curve, and it also means someone needs to take point on setting the system up the right way from the beginning.
  • Trello
    Trello is about as simple as it gets when it comes to project management. It is built around the notion of bulletin boards. Each board can represent a project, for example. Within each board, teams create lists, which they then populate with cards. The cards can be assigned to specific team members, labeled, stamped with a deadline, and crammed with comments or attachments. The hierarchical nature of the system makes it flexible while still preserving a baseline simplicity

Development and Design

  • Adobe InDesign
    InDesign is a desktop publishing software application for creating flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, and books. Projects created using InDesign can be shared in both digital and print formats. It is a paid-for tool, but Adobe does let you download a free trial of InDesign for both Windows and Mac.
  • InVision
    InVision is a prototyping tool. It allows you to quickly and easily create interactive mockups for your designs. This makes presenting your designs a breeze, and is much more effective than sending out a PDF or screen shots. You can also discuss the mockups by leaving comments on the screen that you are discussing. The software is designed to be used with the company’s website- and app-prototyping platform.
  • Sketch
    Sketch is a design tool entirely vector-based and focused on user interface design. Its primary usage is UI and UX Design of mobile, web, desktop, and wearables. Because of its simplicity, anyone with little to no training can learn Sketch. Since it is vector-based, all graphics are easily scalable.

Fostering effective team collaboration isn’t a problem to tackle overnight. It’s a long-term, multistep process. You will need to thoroughly analyze multiple factors regarding your team’s needs, whether the tool has the required features, as well as the security of the platform. By doing your due diligence, taking advantage of free trials periods, and basing your choice on this analysis, you can set your team on a trajectory of meaningful and lasting collaboration.

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About the author:

Sankar currently heads Product Management at the Ad2pro Group. Prior to this, he has worked for industry leaders such as [24]7.ai as well as early stage startups, shipping both enterprise and consumer products. He is a seasoned product management professional who is passionate about building products that enhance people’s lives.

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