Just because everyone is in lockdown doesn’t mean work stops. In fact, businesses are working really hard to maintain continuity of their businesses during this time. This can be challenging, especially if the business is not hardwired to have remote workers. In an effort to make things easier, this list of essential apps may help businesses ease into the transition of an era where working from home may soon become even more of the norm than anticipated. Before connecting employees to the company server, making sure company data is secure and uncompromised is key. The IT department should make it a point to download VPN software onto the network, and require employees to download it as well.
Why would a company want to download VPN software?
A VPN essentially masks the activities of the company, acting as a deterrent from hackers who would love to get their hands on company information. A VPN creates an anonymous profile where files and correspondence can flow freely among coworkers without fear.
Essential apps that make the difference:
One of the best ways to keep the team connected is by being able to see them. There are a few apps on the market, with Zoom being one of the most popular. Other apps like Zoom include BlueJeans, Skype, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts. These apps allow users to share their screen, record the meeting for future use, and have live chats. These videoconferencing apps can be compromised, so keeping the share links private and using a VPN can add an additional layer of security.
- Chat/Instant Messaging
When the team is used to being able to yell across the room or slide over to someone’s desk to collaborate, working remotely can be quite challenging. While chat software is used within an office setting, it’s even more valuable with remote workers. Microsoft Teams and Slack keeps the team connected through chat channels that can be categorized between individuals, teams and the entire company.
What makes Slack so interesting?
Imagine the entire company in a ballroom with different rooms. Slack is the ballroom, designed with different workspaces that organize communication. There are group discussions, private messages where files and other information can be shared, and more. It’s like a giant email server where email is no longer needed.
- Cloud Storage
Getting to vital files is key in working remotely. Cloud storage is a must-have to keep things seamless and operational. The IT team can move server files to the cloud, giving the team the accessibility they need to continue working normally. Cloud storage also allows the team to collaborate in real time without sending multiple versions of documents that can quickly cause confusion and mistakes. Google Drive and Dropbox work well for teams and can support the entire office.
- Project Management
With everyone working remotely, it’s important to stay on top of the projects being worked on. Managers have an added responsibility to ensure the team doesn’t slack. Management apps like Asana, Trello, Basecamp and Monday.com can help teams see everything and keep it together with tasks, updates and progress all in one place.
How do these project management apps work?
Imagine a team of workers in a conference room looking at a bulletin board. In essence, that’s Trello – only virtually. Trello is basically a real-time bulletin board where the team can organize their tasks and personal work day. Individual tasks created can be customized and labeled in different colors or by category. Additional users can be assigned to specific tasks so everyone can see everything at a glance.
Basecamp is similar to Trello, creating a chain of tasks and events where you can see dates, functions and where things may get stalled. Tasks and to-do lists are created, giving managers a greater sense of accountability for them and their subordinates.
Are the employees working when they are supposed to? How will the company know? While working at home does provide a more relaxed environment, there are rules to follow, especially if the company is paying for a full day’s work. Apps like Toggl, Timetracker and Todoist helps employees balance their days, track progress and reminds them to take breaks. Working from home can add additional hours to the day just because the employee lost track of time. The objective is to promote fairness for the employer and worker.
The Daywise app sends message notifications in batches to keep the employee focused on getting their work done. This helps the employee stay on task, setting times where they can review all their messages and respond at once.
There are other functions that help keep a team on track while getting things done. Apps like Docusign work well for obtaining signatures on documents in a secure and encrypted environment. Additionally, there may be documents that need scanning. Adobe Scan works well in getting those documents scanned and into the system for retrieval from the team.
While these apps can make things a lot easier, challenges may occur if the team has a learning curve. It’s not easy creating a viable work from home environment, and having to create one in a few days has its pros and cons. Additionally, workers who have always wanted to work from home may now see that it takes a special person to be able to concentrate and focus on work when their television is in the same room – or even the bed. It takes focus and accountability.
With employees working from home, none of this really works without a secure way to communicate, send files and ensure continuity and security. That’s where a VPN adds the level of security the company would normally have at their brick and mortar office. What’s interesting is that many companies have started using VPNs on their main servers within their buildings to add additional layers of security that may be vulnerable or could become compromised.
As this lockdown continues and companies figure out which apps will work best in their remote work environments, utilizing videoconferencing to conduct company-wide trainings to ensure everyone is on the same page makes sense. This way, there won’t be too much disruption among the team and everyone will be at the same level, creating a cohesive and productive environment.