Companies are waking up to the advantages of remote working for their employees. One benefit of having a remote working policy is the cost implications of requiring less office space and using less power and bandwidth. But in an employee’s market, talented people at the top of their game can pick and choose companies to work for, and the ability to work flexibly can be a crucial factor. Indeed, some are looking specifically for remote working jobs through necessity or as a lifestyle choice.
If you’re running a company and want to start offering this model of working to your staff, it’s important that you get the right remote working tools to keep your team connected, productive and secure. We’ve brought our favourite tools together to cover all the essential needs of remote workers.
Allowing your staff to work from home (or in their local cafe) means they’ll need to have all the software you use in your own office. If you provide laptops that’s not a problem, but often they’ll be using their own personal hardware. There are two options here: subscriptions to professional office solutions, and Google Drive.
Office365 and Adobe Creative Cloud
Microsoft and Adobe have led the office software realm for two decades now, Microsoft with Office and Outlook, Adobe with its creative and publishing offerings. But until recently, the software had to be bought, and with each copy costing hundreds of pounds, expenditure over a team could become eye-watering, especially as costly updates would be released every year or so.
But more recently Microsoft has started offering its entire Office suite as an Office 365 subscription, meaning users paying less than £10 a month have access to everything, including cloud space. Adobe followed suit, although its model is a little more bespoke. Both ensure all users are working with the latest version, and if an employee leaves, the subscription can be cancelled by the owner.
Google Docs and Sheets
Google has been in the cloud-based collaboration game for more than ten years now, and its office suite has got better and better. Anyone with an invitation can collaborate on a word processor document, spreadsheet, form or slideshow, and because it’s cloud-based, multiple workers can collaborate live and see changes as they happen. All solutions are available on mobile and tablet apps, too. Google also offers G Suite, the paid pro version, with benefits such as unlimited storage and customer support. You can even upload MS Office files and view them in the browser or app.
Keeping your data secure is vital, both to protect your work from prying eyes and to avoid litigation through clients’ or partners’ sensitive information being compromised. These solutions help keep your logins safe and your data secure.
Remembering passwords has always been a problem, so the rise of the password management tool is a welcome development. Users put all their passwords into one application, so they only need to remember one password to access all their sites. But useful as that is for remote staff, LastPass gives more than that.
Companies can grant access to remote workers via LastPass, so staff themselves never need to know the passwords. The company can change the master password regularly and all linked staff’s apps will be updated. And while staff are working remotely, the login procedure is encrypted for protection on unsecured networks.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) use encryption to create a secure ring-fence around all connected devices, regardless of whether they are sharing a physical network or are connected via the internet.
There are two options when it comes to VPNs. Large companies usually use bespoke or off-the-shelf VPNs that are run by the company itself or contracted out. But smaller companies will probably opt for a subscription-based service like NordVPN, TunnelBear, IPVanish or one of dozens more. If team members regularly use public networks on trains, in hotels or at conferences, a VPN is a must.
Collaboration and Communication
The productivity solutions covered above come with a degree of collaboration built in, but there are several cloud-based solutions designed to keep collaborating team members fully joined up when it comes to allocating work and communicating. The three industry leaders are Slack, Teams and Trello, but since their features don’t completely overlap, many companies use a combination of solutions.
Slack works by inviting team members into channels (e.g. “marketing”, or “Acme Account”) so a typical individual employee will belong to several channels. The system updates whenever anyone in the channel posts anything, so team members can concentrate on one task at a time but stay aware of everything that’s going on. It can also be used for voice and video calling, and optional integrations enhance its functionality.
Microsoft launched Teams in 2016 as a competitor to Slack, and it comes bundled with Office 365. It allows collaboration on individual projects or as part of bespoke teams, and also allows voice and video calls. Applications can be added to bring new uses to the suite, but useful features such as screen sharing are built in.
Using an intuitive graphical interface, Trello allows remote working teams to stay on top of the flow of projects. It’s all done by creating and dragging cards on the screen, and allows contributors to comment on, amend, add and sign off anything they are authorised to. Add-ons called power-ups can be brought in to maximise functionality.
Sharing and Storage
Thanks to the cloud, files can be stored and shared with remote workers anywhere in the world. The productivity and collaboration tools mentioned above come with their own storage, but there are also specific storage solutions available.
One of the best known storage and sharing solutions, Dropbox has been in operation since 2007, and integrates with all operating systems. A useful feature is the ability to synchronise a folder on your PC or mobile device, so whenever you save it, it also saves that latest version in a mirror folder in the cloud. Then when you want to share the file, you simply grant access to a named person, so you don’t need to email it.
Technically, the Google office suite covered above is part of Google Drive, and the seamless integration between storage, sharing, backup and browser-based applications makes it a popular solution. However, Google Drive can be used simply as a place to store files and access them remotely or share them.
Keeping on top of a team’s hours is particularly important when they are working remotely, so there’s a need for cloud-based solutions to allow employees and collaborators to track time and plan ahead.
Todoist allows individuals to set to-do lists and cross them off when they’re done. But for a business, it has invaluable time tracking abilities to keep track of exactly how resources are being used and how projects are progressing.
With Teamwork, businesses can allocate time to individual team members and keep track of how long they are spending on each task. In this respect, it’s a great project management tool and helps keep on top of budgets and deadlines.
Easy Offices flexible working solutions
With serviced offices throughout the UK, Easy Offices offer plenty of flexible working solutions for employees. Whatever working model you use, we’ve got great offices to suit your business needs. Search by location to find your perfect space.