You and your team are pumped up more than ever. Working remotely or from home is shown to increase productivity and satisfaction. Hey, who doesn’t like to cozy up in their bed with a warm cup of hot chocolate while working on the project that has been haunting you this season. Sounds good right? But wait! Where do you pick up the right tools? Don’t worry we have got you covered here. Finding the right tools for remote workers is easier than getting the approval for remote work!
The workforce is now more distributed than ever. Teams and workers are becoming more agile and flexible. In fact, 70% of workers believe that having the ability to work remotely makes a job more attractive. Whether you are working from your home, office or the nearby coffee shop, remote working can become a tricky concept if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal.
Fortunately, we are here to help you find the perfect set of tools for you and your team to work efficiently. From communication tools to project management tools, we will discuss everything(almost!) here.
We shall look at each category separately and look at a few best apps in that category.
Video Conferencing Tools
Probably the most important tool you need for working remotely. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly feasible to work without a great video chat software. Nothing gets close to an in-person experience, but hey, we are only as good as our best resources.
The Best One: Zoom
Chances are, might have used zoom at some point of your professional career. It not only provides a great video and audio quality but also is user friendly. And that’s not all, there is even a recording option for you to record that all-important conference that you need to revisit. Also, zoom has a higher threshold of the number of people you can include in a meeting.
But the most important selling point about zoom is that it operates on very low bandwidth. This means that compared to other players in the market, zoom consumes much fewer data during a video call. This is a huge factor for remote workers as they most probably won’t be having break-neck internet speed in their homes. For eg. On a group call of one hour, zoom 450MB for download and 360 MB for upload in high quality. That means in an hour zoom consumes about 810 MB of data. To put it into perspective, a standard quality Netflix stream consumes about 1GB of data per hour and it may rise to 3GB per hour for a higher quality stream. For a comparison on a similar scale on standard quality, Skype uses 4GB data per hour for a group call.
Although Zoom is the go-to tool for most professionals, there are a few alternatives that are worth checking out.
Google Hangouts- The closest competitor to Zoom, hangouts is another default go-to video chatting medium for most people. The best part is since you are very likely to use other Google services, Google Hangouts integrates with other Gsuite products.
Join.me- Another great option worth looking into. The unique selling point of this product is that the video freezes up(the most common complaint in video chat software) much less than any other software available in the market. This makes Join.me a really good choice for meetings on the go.
Whereby- A new yet promising player in the market. Whereby started in 2013 when it was called appear.in. In 2017 it spun out and totally revamped their outlook. What makes whereby unique is that it is easy to use, supports one-click join in, up to 50 people in one meeting, custom branding and floating realtime emojis on the go. We are seeing a real potential here with wherebuy. Don’t be surprised if whereby becomes one of the biggest players in the market in a few years.
Appear.in- A great and flexible alternative for everyone to consider. Appear.in is known for its superior user experience. Users just need to create a room(like a meeting group) and share that room’s link with everyone and that’s it. As easy as that. And the best is yet to come. You don’t need to register to use appear.in. That makes it so much easier when you have to include a one-time user in a meeting.
Online chatting Apps have revolutionized the working standards of today’s companies. They are often regarded as the replacement for in-house emails, chat apps have created a huge shift in internal communication. Not only is it useful in the remote working situation but chat apps often consume a huge chunk of daily internal communication. That’s why choosing the correct chatting app is that much more important for every company.
The Best One- Slack
Okay, this one is a no brainer here. Chances are you are already onboard with Slack. Slack is the undisputed king in the Chat app industry. Not only does it have a huge number of integrations but it also has a very simple setup which allows easy installation and onboarding. It also channels numerous channels, direct messaging, various integration and attachment of files and documents. All these features combine and make this a reliable and really great option for almost anyone in the corporate world.
Although it might seem like a futile task of searching for alternatives to Slack, there are a few good alternative chatting Apps that you should definitely have a look at.
Google Hangouts- Yup Google Hangouts is here too. A great option considering seamless integration with other Gsuite software. Also, Google Hangouts are extremely light and you don’t have to worry about low wifi connectivity at your cafe or your home.
Chanty- Another great option. A really powerful yet easy to use tool for all remote workers. Chanty has a host of features such as invite-only access, integration of various apps, text, voice, and video chatting and filtering of team activity. What makes Chanty stand out is unlimited message history and a 10GB file storage limit for each team.
Workplace by Facebook- The closest competitor to Slack, Workplace by Facebook has really cemented its position in the chat industry. Workplace allows you to use Facebook tools to interact with co-workers. It has oodles of features. You can get updates all around the organization, create teams and collaborative spaces, broadcast your business/message, instant translation into 46 languages and of course easy integration with popular tools like Google Drive, Trello, Zoom, Okta, etc. But one thing that holds Workplace by Facebook back is that it is quite expensive compared to Slack and it takes longer to break-even the initial cost of investment.
Another great alternative that is used by quite a lot of corporates and remote workers out there. They might seem similar but are quite distinct in their own way. That’s what makes Yammer special and stand out from Slack.
Slack is a messaging app for teams or remote teams, Yammer is more like Facebook or a social media channel for your company. Yammer is suited when your company needs a medium to share both necessary and “un-necessary” (yet powerful) messages. Conversations can be started just like posting on Facebook, which ends up on everyone’s feed and there’s an option for like, comment or share. The posts are stacked on top of each other like any other social media channel and you just have to scroll through the feed at leisure.
These difference in the structure of the software makes them so different and yet so similar. And that’s why Yammer is such a great remote work tool and gets a special mention here.
File Storage Tools
This is one of the most important areas you need to consider when you are looking to invest heavily in remote working solutions. Most of the file storage option present in the market do pass the first test- security but often fails in the subsequent sections of speed, storage size, and file sharing. Also, you need an option that is used by everyone in their personal lives as well to reduce the onboarding time with the software. Let’s look at a few great options.
The Best One- Google Drive
Does anyone NOT use Google Drive these days? It is definitely the gold standard when it comes to cloud storage. On top security and also transparency, Google Drive comes with the option of real-time editing which makes it so much desirable compared to other products in the market. And of course, in the end, you have the dependability of the brand of Google.
Dropbox- If anyone comes close to dethroning Google Drive, it has to be Dropbox right? It’s USP? It is incredibly easy to use. Just save a file to the Dropbox folder and you are good to go. With the experience of being one of the first cloud file storage software, Dropbox is reliable and syncs files faster than most of its competitors. Definitely worth checking out if you are considering alternatives to Google Drive.
Microsoft OneDrive- Another big name in file storage. Although Microsoft OneDrive might not be the household name while considering file storage options but it can definitely pack a punch or two. The best part, with just Microsoft OneDrive subscription, you also get the full Office 365 suite and also 60 mins of international Skype call.
Rewards and Recognition Software
This is one of the most important aspects you need to consider because this involves employee engagement. Wait, isn’t giving your employees the option to work from home counted as a shot at employee engagement? Well, it is but employee engagement is so much more than that. That’s for another(or today?) but recognizing and rewarding your employees can become tricky when most of your employees are working remotely or working from home. This becomes even more tricky when your employees are working in different time zones.
So what’s the solution?
Here Rewards and recognition software comes to the rescue. These software give you a dedicated platform to effectively reward and recognize outstanding efforts without leaving your table. Here is a great option for you to consider.
The Best One- Vantage Circle
It’s a tight competition out there in the rewards and recognition segment, but what sets Vantage Circle apart is that its fun, easy and engaging that improves the company culture of your company and employee engagement. When colleagues appreciate each other, it appears on everyone’s feed. This public appreciation makes sure employees on top of their game. On top of that, employees can also earn points as rewards which they can redeem on top brands on the platform. And as a cherry on the cake, the entire platform is available on a mobile app with real-time tracking. Employee engagement on the go. It doesn’t get any better than this. Vantage circle makes sure that the efforts of remote workers are being noticed and recognized. On top of that Vantage Circle integrates with the major HRMS players and also integrates SSO.
Productivity or Project Management Tools
Probably one of the segments while considering tools for remote workers. Just because stats prove that employees are more productive when working remotely, you shouldn’t take it for granted. You do have to agree that working from home or working remotely comes with a lot of challenges. Oodles and oodles of distraction. Maybe I can cook a small snack, let’s see what is going on in the news, maybe a small nap will do the trick. Do you get the hint? Productivity apps or project management tools are important. More so in the case of distributed teams.
The best- Todoist
Todoist is one of the most popular and fun task management apps out there. It’s a no brainer that Todoist a fan favorite. It has a strong and minimal interface. It’s not exactly a project management tool perse, but for people seeking simplicity and minimalism, Todoist can work wonders. You can add tasks, reminders and to-do lists and sync every device with the help of their app. On top of that, you can assign tasks to others too. You can even assign the priority of each task, add comments and assign due dates of each project.
What makes Todoist click is that it transcends beyond a project management tool for remote workers and also doubles as a task management tool.
Trello- Trello is one of the best great project management tools out there. It is visual software that is powerful, fun and easy to use. All of Trello works happen on boards which are further divided into lists. All works are listed on cards that are on the list and categorized as they are completed. Trello is a great software that helps remote teams in managing projects.
This category consists of all the ever-important tools that cannot be particularly placed in any of the groups mentioned above. Some of the apps and tools in this category are so essential that they might be used even in everyday life and not just for remote work. Lets’s look at a few of the tools.
Google Docs is one of the most important and flexible tools out there. With ease of sharing and easy editing, Google Docs reigns supreme as the go-to tool in text editing. It has various unique features like autosaving, offline mode and a huge number of fonts. These features make Google Doc extremely easy to use. But what really takes the cake is its sharing features. It has a suggestion mode that allows people to access and suggest edits, a revision history that allows users to see the changes made by every user and you can easily tag other users. These features make it a really great tool for remote workers.
And the best part? It’s free!
Jibble.io is one of the most interesting features in this list. One of the most difficult aspects to deal with remote workers is their attendance. Jibble.io is a time and attendance tracking tool. It operates a digital timesheet or attendance sheet. Employees can clock in their attendance anytime, anywhere and with any smart device. On top of that, it automatically calculates overtime time calculations.
Jibble.io also doubles as a project tracker where employees can clock in their projects to track productivity. All these features make jibble.io a good tool to consider for a company employing many remote workers.
Milanote is a tool for organizing your creative projects into beautiful visual boards. Created to replicate the feeling of working on a wall in a creative studio - visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy - Milanote is a great fit for remote workers in both the marketing and design spaces.
Milanote has heaps of built-in templates to help you get started with a variety of different projects, from creating a moodboard to set out the visual direction for a project, to writing that perfect creative brief. Its sharing features make it a great option for those who regularly provide work to clients for feedback.
To top it off, Milanote's basic plan is available for free with no time-limit.
It can be a little daunting at first to organize a remote working design. But now that you have the taste of the tip of the iceberg, it is up to you to try out these tools and explore some more and decide which set of tools is ideal for your work. And the best part? Almost all of these tools have some sort of free trial version which you can try out before committing. Hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! So what’s holding you back?
Decoding and Driving Employee Engagement