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Remote Work Guide: Top Tools & Techniques You Need
Workplaces are implementing and expanding programs everywhere to help their employees function remotely. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting that the effects of COVID-19 could last until 2021, remote work is likely to become a new normal as countries try to flatten the exposure curve. Here is the total remote work guide with 40 essential tools to make the change easier for management and employees in light of possible new status.
Basic Tech Tools for Remote Work
Technology is what makes the work possible, both in the headquarters and at home. Communicate with staff to ensure they have all the tech tools necessary for remote work.
Computer — Have your employees got portable computers for work? If not, then work with your IT department to find out the best workaround. This can mean accessing work desktop computers through a secure connection to the personal computers of employees. Or temporarily outsourcing office equipment for an extended period of work from home.
Monitor — Do employees have a large enough display to do their work in their homes? If employees at the office normally have two screens, this will mean a big shift in their workflow.
Keyboard/mouse — While it is possible to reply to emails, create reports, and manipulate data with a laptop keyboard, it is nice to have a full-size keyboard and mouse when working from home for an extended period of time. Ensuring employees have access to these seemingly simple accessories may improve comfort and speed of typing which increases productivity.
Keyboard, keyboard, computer, internet connections — You can take home a work laptop so you can plug it in? As part of an everyday routine, it can be easy to neglect power cords and monitor connections. But if they don’t make it home with your remote employees, they may have a hard time achieving their ideal workflow (or working at all after the battery dies).
Printer/scanner — Certain jobs require hard copy printing and paper submissions scanning. Do your staff have the capability to do that at home?
Suitable mobile apps — Can employees access communication tools on their mobile devices as a backup? Which other apps do they need to work with?
Communication Tools for Remote Work
When employees and teams learn how to work from home, they need to adjust their customs. This includes finding a workaround to walk up to somebody’s desk or asking someone to look at a screen. These remotely working communication tools help ensure clear, complete communication as your employees adjust to the realities of remote work.
Headset – A good headset is an essential part of the job for employees who take calls but also need their hands free to enter data.
Microphone — Make sure employees have a way to communicate vocally when making conference calls. Adding a microphone can help meetings feel more like in the same room.
Chat Software — Apps such as Slack or Google Hangouts help employees stay in touch. These tools don’t necessarily have the same power of interruption as a tap on the shoulder. But they do allow staff to work together and maintain relationships.
Software for Conferences — Software such as Google Meet or Zoom virtually lets employees meet together. If employees are unfamiliar with the virtual meeting etiquette, take the time to set expectations. Such as when to mute the microphone and how to set up a suitable backdrop for customer calls.
HRIS—When employees work from home, the walk to the HR office is much longer than usual. Having an HRIS with mobile app capabilities and employee self-service helps employees answer some questions. As well as communicate their needs quickly, helping your teams avoid time-off bottlenecks and overstuffed inboxes as they respond.
High-speed internet—Your employees will need fast upload and download speeds to make video calls, communicate with your servers, or work within a cloud-based platform.
Cloud computing and storage—Speaking of the cloud, ask how your current server architecture affects employee workflow. Will it take longer for remote computers to uplink to your in-house servers? Cloud computing software can solve that problem in many instances.
Project management software—Some of the most important communication happens as teams review a project’s road map together in project management software. Project management tools like Wrike or Asana help establish a centralized location for notifications, collateral, and project requirements.
Regular stand-ups—Encourage managers to meet with their team members to review what everyone is working on and to touch base on updates from the organization. This can also give employees a chance to ask for help during the transition to remote work.
Accountability Tools and Techniques
While you care for your employees’ experience, you also have a responsibility to your organization to ensure that your employees are as productive as they can be. These remote tools can help everyone stay accountable in spite of the distance between you.
Cloud-based time tracking—Having well-integrated and intuitive time-tracking software is one of the most essential tools for remote work. Keeping employees accountable for their breaks and their time on the clock works better when updating their time card is as simple as operating a mobile app.
Shared calendars—Encouraging employees to list their focus hours, meetings, and other projects on a shared calendar can help managers visualize what’s going on. Combined with time tracking to help them respond when other employees ask about their coworkers.
Shared goals—As news continues to roll in and it feels like the crisis will never end, having employees set goals with their managers can give them a reference point to work towards. Tracking progress toward these goals also helps employees see the value of their work.
Reporting—While managers and employees can endlessly debate the effectiveness of remote work, the proof is in the numbers. Using software to create reports can help track your performance, productivity, and other important metrics
Best Engagement Tools for Working from Home
The physical and mental state of your employees is critical when it comes to staying productive while working from home. Encouraging the comfort of your people, and taking regular breaks can help them stay engaged in the long run.
Alarm clock—encourage your employees to keep to their usual schedule, whether or not they’re responding to customer schedules. This can help keep your employees from feeling like they’re going through daylight saving time all over again and will have everyone online at the same time.
Water and food—Encourage employees to plan the regular meals and snack breaks (with their timer and calendars) and to keep a bottle of water at their desk.
Movement breaks—With everything in close proximity, employees might end up moving less when working from home. Encourage them to schedule regular breaks, whether it’s a trip to the mailbox or a jog on a home treadmill.
Ergonomic chairs—Sitting on a wooden kitchen chair for weeks on end will make it difficult to focus. Encourage employees to invest in comfortable seating.
Standing desks—If your work offers standing desks, you can direct your employees to stand desk converters so they can continue their experience at home.
Anti-fatigue mats or cushions—Having foot cushions can reduce the fatigue of standing on a hard floor, and if finances don’t permit ergonomic chairs, a seat cushion can help make working hours more comfortable.
Necessary Tools and Techniques for Remote-Work Focus
The new normal of working from home isn’t just an adjustment for employees and workplaces. It’s also an adjustment for everyone in the employees’ households. In these extraordinary circumstances, these adjustments could include children who need help with online learning, housemates practicing guitar or watching television, or a spouse who is also facing work, family, and domestic disruptions.
There are 2 essential principles you need to help your employees follow:
Clear expectations– Encourage employees to fully explore their work-from-home situation with other members of their household. Remote work can make distractions, from a stiff back to a spouse’s quick reminder about soccer practice. Explaining the importance of focus to everyone involved is the first step to helping employees meet both their own expectations and your organization’s expectations.
Privacy– As much as your employees’ loved ones want to be around them, shoulder-tapping at home is about as distracting as shoulder-tapping at work. Have managers help employees know how to put distance between themselves and others during periods of focus. This includes helping everyone respect these boundaries, including managers.
Each employee will face different circumstances in working from home. Sharing this list of focus tools can help them decide which will work best to help them create the space they need to meet expectations each workday.
A physical door—Habits are hard to break, especially when children need something from their parents or guardians. Working behind a closed-door can help employees maintain focus distance. Preventing a child or roommate from appearing at their elbow and asking, “What’cha working on?”.
Room dividers—If your employee doesn’t have the luxury of a separate room to use as an office, they might consider investing in a room divider to separate themselves from the rest of the communal space.
Noise-canceling headphones—Even if physical separation isn’t practical or necessary, distractions can arrive in the form of crying children or a neighbor’s loud music. Investing in noise-canceling headphones can help employees stay focused while others are at home.
Notification mute buttons—While it’s important to communicate regularly, it’s also important to achieve deep focus. And when employees and managers can’t see each other, it’s harder to know when someone is “in the zone”. This may mean muting notifications for group chats and revising expectations for chat responses. But ultimately, it’s up to individual employees to time communications and keep their focus.
Focus Timers—Time management is one of the hardest parts of maintaining reasonable work expectations when working remotely. Whether it’s the stress of social distancing or simply the effects of being without outside stimuli for reference.
Remote Tools Make Working from Home Feasible
Whether it’s due to a crisis like COVID-19 or simply the evolution of digital marketplaces and global recruiting strategies. It’s good to know that remote work doesn’t have to be an obstacle for employees. With the right technology and techniques, you can help give your employees a great place to work no matter where they are—and even when there’s no office at all.