Written by: Beth Hamilton, Product & Marketing Manager
Working for IT companies my entire professional career means that I sometimes forget that not everyone inherently understands technology. My parents didn’t know the term “telecommuting” until I started working remotely from their cottage in the summer (you remember summer, right?). In an effort to help other organizations, here I list the products that we use in a given day to ensure company operations and employee sanity when working from home is a must. (Don’t forget though – always do your own research before you implement anything new in your company!)
Like many IT companies, we have had a work from home policy at SolutionInc for many years and it’s something that our team is very accustomed to. During this COVID-19 pandemic it has become a necessity for us to work from home; and that feels strange. Every day I see a new article on how to successfully work from home (here are a few articles that I liked, if you’re interested: CBC, FrontDesk). I think most of us try, but the reality is that we are all just trying to take the uncertainty day-by-day. On our team, many of us marvel at the number of companies that are not prepared to work from home. We’ve found ourselves providing friendly recommendations and assistance to other organizations scrambling to get set-up simply because we have done it for years. So here it goes, a list of the tools that we use to keep us going. We may not be able to minimize the personal stress of everyone on our team, but we have at least minimized a little work stress by having these important tools.
I support three distinct sales teams, servicing upwards of ten different markets. Not surprisingly, my days are busy and I juggle a lot of projects at once. I need something that allows me to communicate with team members, gives my manager access to my progress to help minimize road blocks, and keeps me on track to meet deadlines. Monday.com does this for me and many of my team members. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to use all their features to your advantage and how to structure your work.
I think this is the single most important platform that’s in our tool box during this pandemic. It includes written chat features, screen sharing, video conferencing (no jammies for me since my co-workers can see me), it links to my email calendar, allows us to simply pop call-in credentials into emails, and feels like my life line right now. Don’t forget the power of seeing humans – especially for any of your team mates who live by themselves.
There are lots of similar tools out there; Skype and Zoom becoming more popular. I would only caution you to do your research and do not implement a tool in a rush. For instance, just last week a story broke that Zoom has allegedly shared user’s personal data with Facebook. This statement from that article caught me particularly by surprise:
Yikes. No matter what tools other companies are using – make sure you do your own research.
This tool is helpful year round for our sales team. Very similar to how I use Monday.com, our sales team needs to ensure that they stay on top of their sales leads and their manager needs to know what’s going on with their deals. There are automations, sorting, tracking, and many other features that make this tool great. You’ll likely be familiar with Salesforce which is a large competitor with a lot of similarities. This market is heavily saturated with lots of option – do some digging around to see what works for you.
Our Virtual Cabinet
We have a “virtual filing cabinet” of sorts that serves as our internal tool that we use for document storage and sharing. Sometimes files are too large to send, or they’re easily lost in the sea of someone’s email inbox. This is where I store our marketing materials to ensure that the entire sales team has constant access to any documents they need for their leads. It’s held in our office and is only accessible through a VPN so you would likely need someone technical to assist in setting something like this up.
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network” and enables users to send and receive information directly to a private network. This technology was created for users to access company applications and resources when outside of their office. To ensure security, a private network connection is established using an encrypted layered tunneling protocol. The user has to have an authentication method (including passwords and certificates to gain access. In our case, we have the ability to securely connect to our office VPN which allows us to access certain programs and features that we house in our office. I would recommend consulting a smart tech person to help you on this as the technicalities definitely go over my head. (I know what you’re wondering… yes, I did have a techie help me write that explanation!)
We rarely use this tool but it has come in handy once or twice. There’s always that one straggler who hasn’t set-up Microsoft Teams on their computer and needs a little help getting it set-up. Team Viewer allows you to see someone computer else’s screen and even take control of their screen. I’ve used this a few times when providing my parents with tech support – because although I am not an IT person, my parents still think I am.
A few additional tips to consider:
Back up your files
When was the last time you backed up your work files? I back my work computer up to two separate hard drives in two separate locations every time I travel, and usually after large projects. You never know when a computer ending cup of coffee is going to spill over and you lose all your most important or time consuming work. And don’t forget to back up your cell phone too.
Book fun time with your team
Every Friday at 4PM we have “company happy hour” that is open to everyone. Sometimes we play a game, sometimes we just socialize, and we have even talked about having a themed happy hour session. Social distancing is difficult and maintaining your connections is increasingly important the longer this goes on. We’ve identified a champion of these sessions (that’s me!) who books them and ensures that everyone who wants to gets connected.
Take a read through this resource if you’re looking for inexpensive ways to work remotely – but always do your homework so you aren’t hit with nasty fees at the end: 5 big tech companies making remote-work tools free during the coronavirus outbreak, including Google and Microsoft
This pandemic is stressing a lot of businesses in a lot of ways, and we believe that many will be forced to implement new policies and procedures related to working from home – which will put everyone in a better place when this is all over. Telecommuting is a huge trend with employers and is becoming an expectation of employees. Now is really the time to join in and put some tools in place for your team.