Since the outbreak of COVID-19 virus, many companies were forced to close their doors as many countries around the world decided to quarantine their cities. As the result of that, these companies’ employees had to start working from home. However, most companies were not ready for teleworking. Many companies did not even have the proper equipment and requirements for working remotely, and with the limited time to prepare, a lot of employees found themselves getting by with only a laptop and an internet connection!
With the current situation and the low speed of development due to companies being shut down, a lot of money is being wasted already. Companies are closed and nothing is being developed, or at least the progress is going with a very low speed. This is while billions of dollars have been invested in all sort of different projects and companies’ expectations for annual revenue is supposed to be met.
Even with a vaccine for coronavirus being on the horizon, nothing is set on stone about when the quarantine would be over and companies could resume working normally. So instead of waiting, it is better to prepare and get ready to work from home as it only make sense to invest a considerable amount of money on teleworking equipment in order to gain profit. It might sound costly to companies to equip all of their employees with proper tools, especially in this tough economy, but if this can help employees become more productive and engaged, it’ll be worth the expense.
Employees need to be in touch with their coworkers and have regular group works as most projects are designed to be done by multiple people and their teams. Engagement among coworkers can also keep them encouraged and excited about their work and projects, especially in these tough isolated days that have brought depression to many people. It is only natural to feel good when you see your colleagues working beside you and you talk normally to them like old times!
On the other hand, these employees might need a little bit of supervisions too as working in house does not follow regular working hours in the direct sight of companies’ heads. Some employees might skip some days, some might spend less hours working, and some might simply be not efficient enough. For these reasons, companies’ supervisors and projects managers need to keep their eyes on employees at least in a daily basis and check their progress. That can also be inspiring for the employees to see even with the current situation, everyone is earnest and projects need to meet their expected results in time.
Because of the provided reasons, employees need proper software and apps to communicate with each other and stay engaged. The number of required types of apps might differ for each company and office based on their work, goals and specialty; but in most cases, they often need suitable apps for the following uses: online communication such as chats and calls, throwing online meetings and conferences, project management, collaboration tools, remote desktop, scheduling services, etc. In this article, some of the most popular and most useful applications will be introduced.
First of all, employees and their bosses need a common collaboration tool with the ability of group chats and online calls. This is really necessary as it lets coworkers communicate with one another or create online groups for the people who work on the same projects. Having all of the employees in one place also let managers to easily share any new announcements to their employees via the app. Coworkers can also use the online call feature of the app in order to reduce the cost of using a normal call to contact each other. This is also good for the human side of things as it lets employees to actually talk to each other and maybe even share a little bit of their humor from time to time!
There is a wide range of different apps for communications and chats; from popular choices such as WhatsApp and Line to more business focused chatting apps like Flock and Slack. Here is a little bit of information about some of them:
Being available on all Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android platforms, WhatsApp is an end-to-end encryption chatting app that lets you send instant chat messages, create group chats, and have infinite online voice calls and video calls with the best possible quality. WhatsApp has the most users across the globe and probably most of the employees already have it! Other apps such as Facebook Messenger, Line, Viber, Telegram, etc. are less popular but have more features included. Popularity might make things easier as the company would not have to force everyone to enter a new platform, but since we are talking about work and business, apps features and capabilities should come first.
On the other hand, there are some business centered collaborations tools that comes with advanced features. Probably the most promising one among them is Microsoft Teams, the company’s latest productivity tool for business and enterprise, which is quickly becoming a default chat app with more than 20 million users by the end of 2019. Microsoft Teams integrates other Microsoft tools such as OneDrive and Skype into one central database and communication hub. Therefore, users can have all of their useful apps in one place so that they could communicate with each other, throw conferences, share files and calendars, only using Teams. Microsoft Teams offers its chat function free while its full suite price starts at $12.50 per user/month with an Office 365 Business Premium subscription and $20 per user/month with Office 365 E3. Other apps such as Flock, Slack, Chanty, Troop Messenger, Ryver, or Glip also offer different types of options and features with various pricing and subscriptions plans. Flock, for instance, is also a popular choice which includes shared to-dos, reminders, and polls.
All of these apps have their own advantages and disadvantages. At the end, each company needs to investigate these collaboration tools for themselves and decide which one is the most efficient one for their teams.
In a lot of situations, employees need to access their computer in the company’s office and transfer some files and data from there. Or sometimes coworkers would need to gain control of each other’s computers to help and guide one another. In these cases, they need a remote desktop app.
One of the easiest and most popular apps for remote workers is TeamViewer which is available on Microsoft’s Windows, Linux, OS X, iOS and Android. TeamViewer is free for personal usage but also offers different licenses for business and corporates starting with $25/month. Beneficial features such as file transfer, clipboard transfer, wake-on-LAN, and easy setup without any necessity for port forwarding makes it a great option for employees who need basic desktop access.
An alternative for TeamViewer can be Splashtop. Even though TeamViewer has more features and provides a better performance, Splashtop can be a more friendly option for business since it has better single-user and small team pricing and slightly better support options. With Splashtop you can access any device or platform, transfer data, or even print data from a distant PC (for example the data in your PC in your office or company) using a local printer.
There are also other apps such as Microsoft Remote Desktop, Apple Remote Desktop and so many more. Yet again, they all depend on what functions and features the company is looking for.
Another important step in making your company into a well-suited teleworking office, is choosing a proper app for throwing meetings and conferences; as many companies need to have meetings on a regular basis. These meetings usually happen among all members of the company; between managers and employees, investors and CEOs, or higher-ups and projects supervisors. With conference rooms being closed down because of COVID-19, a suitable app should be chosen as a replacement.
Skype and ZOOM are the most obvious choices, thanks to their popularity. ZOOM is a great place for large meetings as its pro version supports up to 500 participants with only $15/month for the host. However, the free version of ZOOM host only up to 100 participant and caps meetings at 40 minutes. Google Hangouts is a good free alternative too but since it is limited to only 25 participant, we do not recommend it for large meetings.
Another types of useful app for teleworking are project management apps which can keep employees works and projects organized. Project management software can provide flexibility to manage tasks, communicate with stakeholders, and maintain project visibility with dozens of tools. Most project management apps are free such as Trello, Asana or ClickUp while there are some premium costly alternatives such as BaseCamp and Monday as well.
Again, each one of them have their own pros and cons. Trello is pretty simple, yet it beholds incredible organizational and task management power. BaseCamp is free for limited uses and then provides unlimited users with its $99/year subscription. Asana’s strength is in its flexibility as it lets managers set up Asana pretty much however they want. Monday is visually stunning, yet costly. At the end, each company should choose one specific project management based on their own preferences.
Projects are not the only things that require management, time needs to be supervised as well. It is highly recommended that companies choose a scheduling app to manage their time and assign deadlines for projects.
While there are some very simple calendar apps such as Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook Calendar for scheduling plans, it is suggested to also use a time management-focused app like Timely, Toggl, or Everhour too. Toggle labels how an employee spend every minute of every day. Timely is a great time tracking app that works with a calendar interface. Unlike other tracking systems, which only track time while you work, Timely allows its user to schedule tasks and track the time spent on projects in real time.
Last but definitely not least, employees need a good internet connection with increased data traffic. As the result of having regular video conferences and daily online communication between coworkers, or employees and supervisors, a lot of internet traffic will be consumed. Apart from that, a lot of jobs require employees to use internet for researching or gathering data which also consume internet data. Therefore, employees need a decent internet connection with sufficiently high speed and good quality so that they would face no obstacles while using online platforms for work.
Employees’ mental health might not be the first thing that comes to one’s mind while thinking about essential steps in preparing for teleworking; yet, it is one of the important ones. Most employees are more alone these days and without any actual human interactions, or corridor chats and water-cooler conversations, working might feel more isolated and difficult. So if they are supposed to keep working like this for a long time, it is recommended for a company to keep them in a good mental shape, make them feel like part of the team and engage them with even the company itself. Supplying company items and goods like a personalized mug could help. Adding coffee and cookies would be even better, like how they could access these in the actual office! Long story short, employees need to be treated in a way that they would feel engaged as part of the team.
The same can be said about the supply of stationary like notepads, pens, post-it notes and letter-headed paper with envelopes. The seemingly infinite supply of these are always available at the office whereas employees need to purchases them by themselves at home.
It takes a lot of time and resources for companies to fully prepare for teleworking and also equip their employees with proper tools to work remotely. Experts in each company need to check and investigate a lot of different apps and software and choose the best one based on the company’s best interests and standards. It takes a considerable amount of time to investigate and choose; plus, a lot of these apps are not free and they cost the company a lot of money. However, considering the current situation and the misty future, every coin spent is like an investment for the company’s future and can make remote work more productive, desirable and sustainable.