Tools to level-up your remote workplace practices
Over the past few years, many workplaces have experienced a major shift in their attitudes towards remote work, where it has transitioned from an anomaly to the new normal.
This move may have started as a necessity, but it has since opened up new opportunities where staff can be located in regional areas, interstate, or even in other countries, improving workplace flexibility and worker morale.
Even if your organisation has been working remotely for many months or even years, there may still be improvements that can be made.
Here’s a list of the most powerful tools for for collaborating with your colleagues remotely:
Even if you’ve been using a certain video conferencing software for years, it may be time to revisit whether it is still the best choice for your organisation. For example, certain software options may integrate more seamlessly with your calendars and thus save staff time, provide more or fewer features, or be more or less expensive.
Three of the most popular video conferencing options for businesses in 2022 are Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. The paid version of Zoom is feature-rich and highly rated, with a reputation for some of the best video and audio quality during calls (there is also a much more limited free version). Google Meet integrates with the full Google Suite, including Gmail and Google Calendar, and makes it very easy to join a meeting with just one click (no need to download anything). Microsoft Teams integrates with Office applications such as SharePoint and Word, allows up to 10,000 participants to join a single meeting, and also offers instant messaging capabilities plus file storage and sharing.
Calico uses Slack for instant messaging, one of the most robust and popular options in the modern marketplace. Slack allows our team members to message each other one-on-one, in small groups, or in specific channels that can be dedicated to certain projects, topics, or non-work related interests like pictures of our pets. Files can be shared with colleagues by dragging and dropping them directly into Slack, all messages are searchable, and team members can collaborate with each other in audio ‘huddles’ without leaving Slack. We can also invite our clients to work with us as guests in our Calico Slack, allowing us to speed up communication and fast-track client work.
Other instant messaging tools you may like to consider include:
- Microsoft Teams (as mentioned above), which functions similarly to Slack and is particularly useful if your organisation utilises Microsoft products.
- Discord, which has always-on voice channels (like a continuous group phone call) in addition to instant messaging.
- Twist, an unconventional instant messaging app aimed at teams who often do asynchronous work. Twist groups conversations by subject lines in a similar way to email threads, and may be what you’re looking for if you want an alternative to email that isn’t as hectic as a tool like Slack.
Having a single place where staff can go to access clearly-organised files helps immensely to make sure that everyone is on the same page, saves them time locating documents and information, and helps to make sure knowledge isn’t lost when someone transfers roles or leaves the organisation. Google Drive is very popular for this, but any security-protected online file repository could also be considered.
Where it’s possible and logical, try setting up folders from a template, to make it simple and easy for your team to find what they need, even if they’re unfamiliar with the wider context of that particular folder.
For example, all project folders could have a certain naming convention and contain the same nine sub-folders. This aids anyone accessing that folder to find a contract or a budget spreadsheet quickly, as regardless of the specific project those documents are always stored in the same places.
Many teams will require a way to track the progress and status of specific tasks. It’s worth taking the time to consider which software will best meet the needs of your specific group, depending on the complexity of what they’re working on, the amount of documentation and online collaboration needed, and your organisation’s appetite for expense versus more robust features.
Atlassian’s Jira is a favourite for those who need complex, granular detail and high amounts of documented progress and collaboration. Teams looking for a more lightweight and streamlined option may prefer Basecamp, Smartsheet, Monday.com, Trello, or even simply a shared spreadsheet in Google Drive.
Problem-solving with your team on a whiteboard can be one of the key benefits of having everyone in a physical room. Thankfully there are plenty of options for recreating this virtually. Many versions of video conferencing software now offer a simple whiteboard feature that you can use mid-meeting.
If yours doesn’t, or you’re looking for something more versatile, you could consider sharing a Google Doc or Google Sheet with your team (or any other document type that allows you all to edit it at once).
There are also plenty of software options that are made to specifically replicate the experience of a whiteboard, such as Mural or Miro, and that make it easy for people to add digital post-its, arrows, shapes and more.
As technology is constantly evolving, it’s important to regularly revisit the tools you are using to collaborate and manage your team. What may have suited you at a certain point in business may not be the right fit down the road, and taking the time to review your tools and practices can help to streamline your budget and boost your team’s powers of collaboration.
Ephiny Gale is a Project Manager at Calico. She has managed projects in the information technology and digital spaces for 6 years, and has been working with teams who are mostly remote since early 2020.
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