Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, almost half (46.6%) of people did some work at home, according to the ONS. More people had been working at home prior to the pandemic, with the percentage of permanent work-home-home workers increasing to some 5.69 million.
Forbes found that some 74% of professionals believe that working from home will become the ‘new norm’.
Finding productive and efficient ways to work from home is of critical importance in this new work-from-home labour landscape.
Whilst many businesses traditionally thought of working from home as potentially obstructive to productivity, attitudes surrounding this are changing. Hordes of new remote working and productivity tools have entered the market, empowering remote teams with the tools they need to thrive.
Here are some of the best tools businesses need to work from home.
As working remotely rises, so do domestic hacking attempts that seek to steal sensitive business data from unsafe home networks. Cybersecurity company Cisco reported that a remarkable 94% of UK businesses suffered some type of cyber attack in 2018. The British government reported stats that registered a stark rise in cyberattacks throughout 2020.
Using a good-quality VPN designed for remote work and business use is fundamental to building a secure home business network. VPNs provide the following protection:
Remote teams should also regularly check who's connected to their WiFi network.
WiFi cannot usually be relied on 24/7 365 days a year, so depending on the reliability of your provider, it’s usually sensible to invest in a mobile hotspot backup.
Mobile hotspot dongles work well but it’s possible to simply tether off your mobile’s 4G or 5G connection.
The many apps for remote working, project management and collaboration have proliferated in recent years and a whole host of productivity and collaboration tools have entered the market.
Some of the main contenders are:
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Each tool has its own pros and cons, ranging from the extreme enterprise-level customisation options of Clickup and Workfront to Monday, Asana and Trello, which are all largely more straightforward and easy to use.
Productivity software enables remote teams to collaborate on deadlines using time-tracking tools, Gantt boards, calendars, Kanban boards and more. Track project deadlines, analyse employee contributions and communicate using secure in-app messaging systems.
A solid messaging and communication setup is important not just for productivity and collaboration but for boosting team spirit and morale too.
Working from home can become isolated and lonely - regular team meetings, chats and networking is an excellent way to remedy that. Messaging and communications apps are some of the most important remote team working tools.
In terms of hardware, businesses should consider VoIP (voice over IP) phone setups if dedicated domestic business telephone numbers are required.
In terms of messaging and communication software, Slack has become the go-to with Zoom optimal for video meetings. Microsoft Teams is another superb option that integrates into Microsoft’s many other productivity apps, CRMs, etc.
Zoom Virtual Office is a quirky tool that allows video callers to hide their background using a virtual office overlay. PukkaTeam is focused more on casual team networking and helps reduce the isolation of working alone at home.
TeamViewer is another really useful messaging app that allows team members’ computers to be taken over by other team members for the purpose of troubleshooting, etc.
Time tracking tools enable teams to track the time they’re allocating to different projects. They also speed up the creation of invoices and can also integrate into payroll management tools to make it easier to pay employees and clients.
Most project management and collaboration tools contain time-tracking tools. Teamwork and Time Doctor are two excellent standalone time-tracking apps that also allow businesses to track their expenses and hourly work. A free alternative is Clockify.
For invoicing, popular tools include the likes of Quickbooks and Invoicely for smaller teams or Xero for more comprehensive SMB and enterprise-level accounting.
One of working from home’s biggest battles is staying focused and avoiding procrastination.
Some tools seek to block distractions, usually certain websites (social media, YouTube, the news, etc).
Freedom, LeechBlock, RescueTime and SelfControl can all be used to block access to certain websites. Serene is a planning and focus platform that also comes with site blocking options.
Some honourable mentions here include Free Agent, Zoho Books and Kashoo. For those who just need a professional i
Google Workspace is a remote working solution unto itself. The GSuite selection of apps contains a wide range of productivity, collaboration and remote working tools. These tools are much-loved by remote workers and freelancers already and combine with affordable cloud storage for excellent collaboration potential.
Google Workspace works well on its own but probably lacks the clout of productivity and collaboration apps listed above. It still has class-leading document creation and word processing tools, however, and is easily integrated into most collaboration tools.
Despite the many business technology resources available out there, never underestimate the effect the physical environment has on work-from-home productivity.
From a clean, uncluttered room to a quality desk, comfortable chair and easy-to-use ergonomic peripherals, investing in a great home office will make all the difference. It’s now common for many companies to allocate funds to employees for home office supplies as they know what a difference this can make to work-from-home productivity.
Remote business with technology-focused collaboration and project management set-ups is both productive and efficient.
By adding a few of these tools to the business’s arsenal, it’s easily possible to improve general remote teamwork at both business, team and personal levels. There are so many collaborative remote working and project management tools out there - start with the must-have tools that solve the primary pain points and problems.
After a while, remote working processes will become more refined and easier to manage. Everyone from freelancers to small start-up teams, SMBs, SMEs and large enterprise-level businesses can benefit from selecting a handful of remote working tools.
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