The urgency of the pandemic forced many companies to transition to fully remote work on an unprecedented schedule. Rather than the years-long strategy and contract negotiations most organizations go through in preparation for such a monumental shift, we instead saw timelines of weeks, or even days. This scramble meant that leaders had to make product and equipment decisions on the fly, without the usual due diligence they would conduct to ensure success. While this of course taught us in some regard that those lengthy timelines may not be entirely necessary, it also makes a case for companies stepping back in the coming months to evaluate whether they actually have the right tools to support remote teams.
While many of the tools your company is already using can be repurposed for remote/partially remote teams, it’s important to keep in mind that remote employees have different needs from those in the office. Your clunky intranet from 2010 may no longer be sufficient to keep your team engaged and connected when they don’t have day-to-day interactions to sustain them, or a colleague at the next desk over to ask where a certain form can be found. Similarly, your digital environment may not be optimized to enable the communication and collaboration necessary for your teams to thrive under increasingly virtual conditions.
We know everyone is juggling a seemingly infinite list of deliverables right now, so we took some time to summarize the key functionalities that should be included in everyone’s ecosystem of tools for remote teams. The list is organized by employee need, with potential solutions outlined within the description. While every workplace is different and this list excludes tools that aren’t specifically related to remote work, we hope that it can serve as a helpful jumping-off point:
- Easy communication: Chat apps have become widespread across a number of industries to facilitate easy communication between team members. With remote work, staying in touch by way of digital systems has become an imperative. There are myriad chat applications on the market today, each with its own pros and cons, but a quick, text-based tool to connect your employees and enable seamless communication is a must-have to help people do their work and stay engaged with each other.
- Face-to-face time: While catching up with a colleague in the hallway or kitchen used to be a surefire way to stay connected with coworkers, the transition to working from home has put a full stop to all in-person fraternizing. Your team still needs to see each other, though. They also need to be able to connect virtually with clients, partners, and more, so make sure that whatever system you implemented or scaled on the fly is built for the long haul. Remote work is here to stay so your company needs robust video conferencing software to help everyone thrive.
- Streamlined file access and management: Studies show that the average employee spends 1-2.5 hours per day looking for information they need. Over the course of the week, this can add up to an entire wasted day. Without desk neighbors to ask for help, and with new ways of working to navigate, remote employees need streamlined access to company files and straightforward policies and processes for how to manage and share documents they create. Ensure that your team has an easy-to-navigate central repository of folders, and user-friendly software to save and provide access to their documents.
- Simple scheduling: We can no longer pop over to a colleague’s desk to ask how their weekend was and see if they can join our 2pm meeting. Similarly, with so many outside responsibilities encroaching on the workday with children home from school and the need to try to shop at less crowded times, people’s calendars are wonkier than ever. Save everyone the email spam involved in trying to schedule group meetings by enabling easy calendaring and sharing access. Functional calendaring software will not only help your employees manage their appointments, but will help them loop in teammates to keep everyone on the same page.
- Flexible collaboration tools: No matter the business you’re in, it’s highly likely that your success depends on a great deal of team collaboration. At the very least, ensure that you have screen-sharing capabilities to help your team communicate more easily and effectively. In addition, many companies use a variety of note-taking, simultaneous editing, and real-time feedback tools to help their team effectively collaborate at a distance.
- Project transparency: Keeping everyone aligned and on track with where a project is now, where it needs to go, how it’s going to get there, and who will be involved when is one of the most critical needs for remote teams. With everyone working in the silos of their own homes, it can be difficult to move projects forward when they require a lot of different pieces from a lot of different people. Whether it’s project management software, daily reporting apps to track who completed what, or something specific to your company’s industry, every team needs a solid plan and product(s) to provide transparency to everyone working on a project.
- Advanced security: With everyone working from home, it can be difficult to keep all of your company’s information and accounts secure. Now that we have more time to build out the infrastructure for working remotely, confirm that your company has all of the necessary security tools in place, from password managers to remote desktops, to protect your organization from a data breach.
- Community: Last but certainly not least, your employees need each other. Whether you organize events and initiatives through your chat and video call systems, plan trips for your remote employees to meet once we’re able to gather again, step up your public recognition programs, or something original that you think up, it’s imperative that you find ways to help your team build community and support networks.
As always, the best way to assess what tools your remote teams need is to simply ask them. If you’re looking for a tool that incorporates many of the needs covered in this post and provides you analytics on your people, come see us at workrowd.com. We’d love to chat about your needs, and share some of what we’ve learned about keeping employees connected. You can also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.