The workforce is now remote
So many people are now in the workforce from home (WFH) 100% of the time. Hopefully, if this is the case for you, you can maintain results and productivity and stay positive during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. While a lot of us are used to living the entrepreneur life from a home office, it’s still a big adjustment to have to self-isolate and stop all face-to-face interactions with coworkers and clients.
I encourage you to use this time to take a closer look at your overall business goals, focus on your health (both physical and mental) and self-care, and enjoy some family time at home. I think many small business owners are having to pivot their marketing strategy, and what they do when the coronavirus passes could look quite different from what they did before.
Team Communication Tools
This is probably the biggest WFH product decision you’ll have to make. Your team needs a reliable and easy-to-use tool that lets them instantly message coworkers. The right one for you depends on your business needs and challenges, team size, and budget.
- You may have heard of Slack. This tool gives you the ability to create channels around multiple topics and invite users. From marketing content ideas to social media tactics to office dog photos, your team can create relevant channels for easy chat and collaboration.
It also integrates with many useful tools, including Outlook Calendar, Twitter, HubSpot, and Salesforce, so you can see what’s going on at all times right in the Slack app (no need to click in and out of your daily calendar or Twitter feed, for example). There are SO MANY fun and creative emojis you can use too, making remote messaging in a challenging time like this a little more lighthearted.
Another popular platform is Discord. Popular with gamers, this voice, video, and text tool aren’t just for talking to coworkers, but for finding like-minded communities and new friends. You can create “servers” and “channels” for specific topics, similar like you do for Slack channels. While Slack has more business integrations, Discord has voice channels, so you can easily chat with team members. Discord also lets you set user roles and permissions.
Flock is a cloud-based team communication tool with video and audio calling, screen sharing, text chat, integration with other business applications, and more. You can tag colleagues in comments and to-do lists, upload documents, images, and videos, and set reminders and due dates. Polls, code snippet sharing, and group discussions are available, and it integrates with other apps such as Trello, GitHub, Google Drive, and Asana.
Team Collaboration Tools
Your workforce is now remote. Your employees need to be able to share their work, whether they’re creating a marketing strategy or editing a press release. Here are a few that might fit your small business needs.
- G/Suite is a Google product that’s made up of cloud computing, productivity, and collaboration tools, software, and products. In one suite of tools, it offers email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation decks, shared calendars, cloud storage, and more.
You can comment and make suggestions on specific documents through Google Sheets and Docs, edit documents online simultaneously and collaborate on projects and documents. It’s easy to give users permission to specific files.
- Evernote: This is more than a note-taking app. Evernote helps you capture, prioritize and share ideas, track projects, and to-do lists. I find it super helpful for note-taking but also as a sort of “digital filing cabinet” that simplifies organization.
There’s a free, basic, and business package; compare your options here.
CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management,” and CRM tools help you with things like inbound lead management, sales tracking, social tracking, and newsletter delivery. Here are three to consider:
- MailChimp is an all-in-one marketing platform with tools to create everything from emails to postcards. They have a great selection of templates to choose from that can then be further modified to suit your brand. Their intuitive interface and thorough reporting are great, but things can get expensive as your subscriber list or number of emails increase. You can compare their different plans here.
- Constant Contact has always been a big rival with MailChimp being the brand name in email marketing. It’s a huge company and a great option if Facebook is a big part of your online marketing strategy. Constant Contact has an email option that is designed so users can easily share your newsletter on Facebook.
This option can be considered the most social media-friendly and has all the major features of the others noted. If your online marketing involves Hootsuite (you can integrate this into Hootsuite) and you focus your efforts on gaining traction on social media then this is a great newsletter tool for you.
AWeber is an extremely popular option and is recommended by many professional marketing companies. It gives you five plans to choose from and a long list of features such as unlimited email marketing campaigns, follow-ups, lists, and Auto Responders.
Many people believe their Auto Responder platform is superior to other companies, allowing businesses to automate the process of delivering personalized emails to customers on a schedule.
Project Management Tools
A collaborative task management tool lets everyone track and manage all of their projects. Think of it as an online scheduler, taskmaster, and collaboration tool to manage your team’s workflows.
Asana is one of the leading tools and gets a lot of positive feedback. It allows everyone on your team to follow the whole workflow of a project in an easy visual tool. You’ll always know where your team is at and who’s responsible for what and when.
From daily reminders on a task that’s due, to the ability to easily add collaborators or assign teammates a sub-task of a project, Asana makes it simple to see what everyone’s day, week, and month looks like (but you can easily move things around if plans change).
Monday.com is a pretty simple, intuitive visual team management tool (it’s a project management platform). It runs processes, workflows, and projects in one digital workspace. Visually, it looks the same as a collection of very customized spreadsheets, in which every team member can log their tasks and update them with status reports and other relevant information.
That means that every person can see all active tasks and keep count of their progress. Team members can work on multiple projects without getting lost by using Monday’s weekly overview. The workflow can be customized just about any way you want it to communicate priority, what’s done, not done, and so on. The colorful designs and big buttons don’t hurt either!
Social Media Management Tools
Many small businesses will already have a social media management tool set up. A social media management tool allows you to manage all of your accounts from one dashboard, which saves you both time and frustration. These tools share remote work statistics and content at the best possible times throughout the day, so your followers and fans see your updates more often. It’s a smarter and more efficient way to schedule and share your social media posts.
The best part about these tools is the built-in analytics system, which will give you a glimpse into what’s performing well, and when your social media posts are making the most impact.
Here are two social media management tools we use:
- Buffer shows your scheduled posts and analytics (how in-depth those analytics get depends on the plan you choose). Many small business owners choose Buffer because of its sleek, clean interface that’s easy for beginners to get the hang of.
- I find that while Buffer is great for less demanding social media needs, Hootsuite is where it’s at if you want to see your timelines, replies, and more across all your social networks. Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer free and paid plans, so you can always try them out and see which one feels like a better fit for your small business.
How do we make this scenario work?
With the advancements in technology that we have seen in recent years, together with demand from employees for more flexible hours, it’s not surprising that we have seen the rise of the remote worker.
While such workers certainly make a certain amount of business sense, they do have their disadvantages – not least the difficulty of keeping them motivated throughout the day and getting them to buy into your firm’s ideas and vision.
Here are three great tips to help ensure that your remote workers are as productive as can be.
Invest in conference call software
Your workers not sharing an office with you can make it trickier to keep them informed of changes to their schedule or communicate difficult ideas. While you could use email, not all remote workers even check their inboxes regularly.
This is where Skype or other video calling software can come in useful, enabling quicker and more intuitive communication and collaboration. Or what about signing up for a Google Drive account so that you can more easily share and work on documents with your team members?
The main advantages of an IP telephony solution include:
- Hosted VoIP is becoming the way of business today.
- Reduced call charges/fees
- No longer a PBX maintenance contract
- No cost to upgrade the most unexpected
- Free calls between users all over the world
- Immediately change the settings directly in the browser
- Listen to the messages on the move
- Billing is flexible & can be based on a single user or a whole site
- Add another user basically & effortlessly, without the trouble of updating
- All functions & parameters to be with you & the phone method, ideal for mobile offices at no additional cost
- Wherever you are, you still appear to call the office
Trust your remote workers
Hiring a team to work from home can have its disadvantages – not least an inability to closely monitor how much work they are doing throughout the day. However, if you bombard them with calls and emails asking for a progress report, you may find that their productivity drops still further.
Ultimately, you will need to be able to trust your remote workers to get their work done while understanding that they are not confined to rigid 9-5 working hours. When you allow your remote workers to get on with their tasks, a great number of them will reward you with very high-quality work.
Insist on meeting up
Many workers enjoy the quieter, less disruptive environment that remote working affords them. However, they may also be surrounded by distractions if they are working from home, and their concentration levels may dip as a result.
So, why not invite your remote team to an in-person catch-up? This is a great chance for everyone to get to know each other, discuss any issues and collaborate on ideas. Not only that, but it also shows that you care about them as their employer, and value them as a part of your company. Such meetings could therefore truly re-focus and inspire your remote team.
And while it’s not a tool your entire workforce might use, I’m liking Money Minder Online software during these uncertain times. It not only gives you a place to track your spending, but you also get insights into your spending habits, and you can look ahead to improve your cash flow, clear your debt, and start saving for your big goals.