The Remote Worker's Toolkit

by Freya Scammells

When the Distant Dream of Remote Working Becomes the New Normal


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03 DECEMBER, 2020
Has the meaning of work changed forever?

Whether it’s sat on a sea-view balcony with a large cup of coffee or sunk into an oversized bean bag in the corner of your living room, the distant dream of remote working has now become a reality.  The 2020 global pandemic has been a wake-up call for many organisations, even those with the most rigid policies have allowed employees to work from home.
T
he remote working revolution has however, been building for some time now.  Xennials and Millennials have long clamoured for the flexibility to work remotely in order to balance their work and home lives. 
Work to live, not live to work is the new motto.

Organisations that have experience managing remote teams might have a good idea about the technologies that help to make remote working successful. However, if your team is new to WFH, then it is important to know about the best remote tools - here are our favourite ones!

🔻 Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a free piece of software to any business or organisation, including schools and charities. 
Once set up, Teams provides you with the functionality to chat one-to-one or as part of a ‘team’ or group. Groups can be set to different levels of access and within each team you can share work much like a shared drive in the old days. This allows you to store work centrally but prevent others from accessing it without needing to involve IT. 

Teams also has various plugins including Planner which allows for quick and easy project management. And Wiki so you can create an online resource for the entire company to access. Microsoft Teams also allows for voice and video calls within the organisation as standard. Again, this is all free of charge. The only thing you have to pay for is if you want Teams Telephony, which essentially replaces your traditional phone system. If your teams make a lot of sales calls then this feature is invaluable as it’s all VOIP.
All your employees need is a decent internet connection!

There’s no need for clunky third party software or any hardware beyond laptops and headsets. 

🔻 Slack

Slack shares a few features with Teams, which is little wonder considering Teams was designed to be a market beater.  Slack is a freemium product. The free version allows for chat between team members and one-to-one video calling. Similarly to Teams you can create channels for different groups or different topics and throttle access. One of the major drawbacks of the free version is that it doesn’t keep a full history or your messages. So after a while things start to just disappear. 

In most cases this won’t be a problem but inevitably there will be that occasion when you’ll need to scour the message history for something important and it won’t be there. Upgrading to the standard service is only a few dollars per user, per month. For you investment you’ll get the full context of your organisation's message history, unlimited integrations, face-to-face communication with group voice and video calls of up to 15 teammates and secure collaboration with outside organisations or guests. 

Slack can integrate with other software including Office 365 to help make planning and similar smoother. 

🔻 Trello

Is one of the most widely used list making tools in the world. It allows you to assign and track assignments, projects and other tasks by using a simple drag and drop interface.  You can create lists flexibly so you can make it work for almost any project or workload.  

It allows you to create multiple boards (up to 10 team boards in the free version) with the option of adding deadlines, attachments and notes.  The free version gives you quite a lot of functionality but if you want all the fancy features - such as automation and scheduled commands, the subscription starts at $9.99 per user. 

Where Trello arguably falls down compared to other solutions is that it is purely a work management tool. However it is one of the most comprehensive tools of its type anywhere. And it’s relatively cheap compared to some software out there.  If your team does a lot of planning and/or has a lot of different projects on the go then Trello is hard to beat. 

🔻 Basecamp

Basecamp has evolved a lot over the last few years, going from something similar to Trello to an ‘all-in-one’ collaboration tool. Offering users message boards, group chat (called campfires), calendar, to-do lists and file sharing, it’s comparable to Microsoft Teams in a lot of ways. 

The basic license allows you to create 3 projects at a time, allows for 20 users and gives you 20GB of storage. After that it’s $99 a month flat, regardless of business size. Long term this makes it one of the more affordable options as the cost of licenses won’t grow with the business, saving considerable time. 

The dashboard set up is also nicer than most other platforms as you can see at glance what’s going on, rather than having to click through tabs. It has a host of nice features like setting notifications to office hours only. Or hill charts so people can see at glance how projects are progressing. It’s a very powerful tool and ideal if you work on a lot of projects and/or require collaboration from across the organisation. 

It’s only drawback is that it can’t make video and voice calls. Considering tools like Teams can do most of what Basecamp has to offer - and is free - it’s hard to compete. 

🔻 G Suite 

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Google’s paid for business suite. It’s an understandable bug bear as it offers everything that Microsoft can...only not quite as well.  It’s software packages (Google Docs, Google Sheets etc) are...adequate. But for the money (just a few dollars per user per month) it’s not a bad deal. Especially when taking into account the business account provides users with unlimited Google Drive storage. 

Google Drive is one of the services main advantages. Aside from the huge amount of storage, it has the same search functionality as a Google search. So finding documents is a doddle.  Gmail - aside from being a robust and user friendly email platform - also includes Google Hangouts. This is a chat and video calling application that allows for conference calls much in the same way as Teams and dedicated video conferencing platforms like Zoom. 

While G Suite lacks the collaborative tools like Planner or to-do lists, it does have some useful functions like Jamboard, an interactive whiteboard that allows teams to brainstorm ideas digitally and then share the images with the entire team. 

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🔻Zoom 

Zoom has become one of the go to video conferencing tools since the company’s founding in 2011. It’s easy to understand why. It’s easy to setup and easy to use. Up to 100 people can talk for up to 40 minutes for free. And subscriptions are reasonable when you want to do more.  

However, Zoom has been dogged by controversy regarding its security issues. Zoom bombing (where hackers break into calls and leave abusive content) is still a problem. They have only recently started offering end to end encryption - much to their chagrin. Zoom haven’t helped themselves by repeatedly going on the offensive whenever issues were raised. Only to later admit that a problem had been identified and fixed. 

Zoom will most likely end up as one of the most reliable and secure video calling solutions on the market. It just might be a rocky road to get there. 

🔻GanttPro 

If your organisation is built almost entirely around project work then GanttPro may well be the solution you’ve been looking for.  It allows users to build highly detailed Gantt charts including time management, budgets, team/resource management and more.  You can easily create and structure projects, as well as automate online project scheduling all whilst benefiting from drag and drop simplicity. 

The collaboration features allow attachments, comments and other useful information to be attached to the project. This gives your team complete transparency, backed up by real-time data synchronisation. So you’ll never get caught out working on an old version of your project. 

While remote working is uncharted territory for many, the technology exists to make it as effective - if not more - as working in an office. Structure and processes have to underpin the technology, but the right solutions will help, rather than hinder, that approach. If you’re looking to build a remote team, we can help. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements with a member of the team. 

Pandemic-style working from home, however, may not translate easily to a “new normal”.

The two main factors that can stop employees from adapting to this model permanently, are technology and trust. Trust is a difficult hurdle to overcome; If you’ve been burned in the past it’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Remote working, however, can be the perfect opportunity to start everyone with a clear slate and it will become clear very quickly who is worthy of your trust. 
Fortunately, technology exists that makes it easier (and cheaper) for teams to work remotely -and with the right processes you can monitor output while you’re at it!


About the Author

Freya supports the tech talent toolbox arm of Reflection X where she is coaching technologists to achieve their full potential. With over 10 years of experience within the Tech and AI recruitment space, she has been from working closely with thousands individuals and leaders during hiring processes while partnering with very early stage start-ups all the way to some of the top AI Labs in the world.

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