Productivity tools to help your team work from home

5 minute read

 

Due to the COVID-19 viral outbreak, a large number of companies were forced to switch from working at an office to operating in a completely remote way.

Many employees now work from the comfort of their own homes even though some individuals aren’t quite comfortable with this. The transition from an office where one can interact with others to an environment that has never been associated with work is difficult for many people.

As a result, productivity levels have dropped, which, on a larger scale, can hurt a company’s performance.

If you have encountered this problem at your company and need to find a way to boost productivity and thus improve performance, keep reading. Below you will find some great tools that can help your team when working from home.


What equipment do I need to work from home?

Luckily, there is no need to spend a fortune to have the right equipment that makes working from home possible and even convenient. That being said, there are a few important gadgets and pieces of equipment that are required for remote work.


Computer

The most important piece of this equipment, of course, is a good computer. If your company does not provide you with a laptop or a decent desktop PC, you should know that device reliability is crucial when buying your device.

Once you start looking for your new laptop or PC, know that the processor needs to be fast enough, as well as to be equipped with enough RAM and memory storage. If you work in industries such as video production or gaming, you may want to look into some more expensive and powerful devices that also pack serious graphic cards.


Internet connection

Once that is settled, ensure that your internet connection is reliable and fast enough. Hard-wired internet connections are generally more reliable than wi-fi connections.

Having a secure and reliable connection means that your Zoom or Skype calls won’t fail and that everyone will be able to hear what you are saying. Remember, staying professional is still very important even when the environment is different.


Headset

Finally, it would also be good to have a pair of noise-canceling headphones that also have a decent microphone. If you live in a household with children, it is important to isolate the noise.

So, make sure that you can hear your coworkers loud and clear but also ensure that they can’t hear rumbling that may surround you. Your voice needs to be clear and loud enough and you have to hear what others say during conference calls.


What technologies are needed to work from home?

For a stellar performance, you should consider utilising certain technologies that have already helped many remote workers stay on top of their work.


Video calling

For a start, check out video calling services. At some point, you will probably have to attend video conference calls and even answer one-on-one calls from your colleagues.

A popular service of this kind is Skype. However, during the quarantine, we have seen a huge Zoom boom. Zoom has become one of the world’s most popular video chat platforms. So, make sure that you have it installed.


Communication tools

As you start working remotely, you will have to textually communicate with coworkers, and you can do this with apps like Slack and Telegram. When you familiarize yourself with this kind of app, you will be able to chat with your team and settle all kinds of problems.


Task management tools

Last, but certainly not least, most businesses today use a task management platform. A platform of this kind allows employees to remain on top of different plans and projects.

You may have heard of Asana, Basecamp, or Trello. The chances are that your company is using one of these platforms. There is no doubt that you should learn a thing or two about them if you want to stay productive.


How do I enable work from home?

For a company to enable its staff to work remotely, there are a few steps that need to be taken care of.

As an employer, one has to make sure that every employee has devices that suit the company’s needs. On the other hand, as an employee, one should acquire those specific devices.

Fortunately, most smartphones and laptops today are good enough for completing general tasks. Answering emails, attending video calls, preparing a sales presentation — none of this is a problem for most modern devices.

However, if a company provides its laptops or PCs to employees during the remote period, it would be wise for them to configure those devices remotely with MDM.

A mobile device management platform allows companies to easily manage and secure their devices and data by enforcing business policies for all employees.

  • It is possible to configure devices and secure them with a strong password.
  • Also, you can limit the number of webpages that can be accessed from the devices provided by the company.
  • Finally, it is essential to give employees access to the required apps and data if the goal is to work effectively from home. For instance, if a workspace is created on Slack, it is only reasonable to send out invites to the employees to join. The same applies to project management apps.

Pro tip: If some employees have bad network quality in their local regions, ensure sufficient bandwidth. Every employee should have an internet plan that includes enough data and allows them to be productive.

Now let’s take a look at some specific work from home tools and apps that should be more than enough to keep a remote team running.


Google’s Suite — Stay connected

Google’s Suite (aka G Suite), is a collaboration and productivity suite. It comes at only $10 per user, per month.

G Suite has unlimited cloud storage which is something that sets it apart from its rivals. However, know that there is a 1TB cap per user if there are fewer than 5 users. Also, it includes a smart cloud search feature with unprecedented security and administrator controls.

G Suite by Google Cloud (for businesses) is better than the Basic edition thanks to the added security layers and file management along with advanced tracking and policy implementation options for emails, chats, and files.

Many users claim that the 24/7 phone, email, and online support is great. Also, you will enjoy 99% uptime for email service and access to familiar and collaborative email, calendar, video conferencing, and a suite of document and spreadsheet editing apps.

Hence, G Suite can cover many of your business needs without a problem.

The main advantages are excellent usability, great anti-spam and anti-phishing engine, and the fact that it is HIPAA-compliant.

On the other hand, some shortcomings include occasional glitches when receiving calendar invites and the fact that it is not compatible with Microsoft Exchange.


Slack — Keep in touch with your colleagues

Slack is one of the most popular names in the instant messaging industry. This messaging app built in San Francisco offers quick chat functionality between every single employee at the office.

This online platform can be used on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS. The interface is quite intuitive and convenient. Even the less tech-savvy users can learn the ropes quite fast. Usually, the superintendent creates a team with multiple channels within it for further discussion levels.

There are two types of channels on Slack — public and private. The former are ‘threads’ that all workplace members can access and send messages in. A private channel, on the contrary, is only accessible to team members specified by the creator of the channel.

On top of that, Slack also offers functionalities such as direct or private messages from one employee to another. And it has a notification system that lets you know if you have a message you should see while you are logged out.

The UI is slick and there is a type of casual playfulness to it that stimulates a more laid-back communication.

The Slack support team is quite fast to answer any question or resolve any issue that a user might have, even if you use the free version. Rare are the cases when it takes hours for customer support to answer a query.

If you have Slack on more than one device, the app can synchronise the devices too. It allows file uploads, unlimited channel and team creation, unlimited team member invites, archiving, and internal search. Integrations with other services are there too.

Even though Slack offers a free plan, it would be better to subscribe to the standard plan if your company is a small to mid-sized company. The price stands at around $8 per user per month for the Standard plan.


Toggl — Manage time

For better time management, consider using Toggl. This is a popular cloud-based time tracking app. Toggl, alongside Clockify, is one of the most popular time-tracking apps.

It is quite easy to use and the best bit is that one can use it both online and offline. Even though it is web-based, it has apps for desktop, iOS, and Android that sync together in real-time.

The app’s best feature, logically, is the time tracking functionality. It is quite easy to figure out, as all a user has to do is click the start button and the tracker starts working. Once a user is done with a task or a project, they only need to click the stop button.

Toggl also integrates with Chrome, Mozilla, Android, iPhone, and desktop computers. Just install the official add-on and that’s it.

Once you have the add-on, just put a timer into any web tool to track productivity. It doesn’t matter what type of Toggl app a user decides to use, as all the data are stored on the Toggl account.

Bear in mind that having a Toggl account is necessary for any of the add-on apps to work. The time extension makes time-tracking easy because there is no need to open your Toggl account every time you start a new project.

Instead, you already have it connected to your web browser or device. Hence, it is easy to move between browsers and apps while the app is still tracking your time.


Trello — Work in a team

Trello is a famous web-based project management platform. This platform provides enough tools to define projects and their requirements. It also includes a digital dashboard where one can create, organize, and prioritize actions.

The card concept used by the platform allows team members to interact and collaborate on projects. It is possible to add comments, links, files, and photos to project cards.

Trello integrates with a wide range of apps and it offers its mobile apps for iOS and Android. Oh, remember Slack? Well, there is even a Trello integration with Slack.

To set up Trello, a user needs only a couple of minutes. There is no need to enter too many details to get started.

You just need to provide your name, email, password, and that’s it. Once that is done, the dashboard will appear. Keep in mind that a user can work on a previously untitled board or create a new one.

The interface of this platform is clean and refreshing. The navigation is easy and one can even change the color pattern and the background.

As a team leader, one can create boards from the main dashboard or the Boards tab. Each board can be named to suit the project. It is also possible to add To Do, In Progress, and Done tasks. These can be scheduled for certain dates and times.


Zoom — Large group calls

Zoom has become the most popular video conferencing software solution used by many businesses, schools, and even state courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides a convenient and reliable way to manage remote meetings and contact both clients and employees.

Zoom’s free plan includes all the basic features needed for good video conferencing. There is no limit to the number of meetings, and users can join with the Zoom app or by calling from a phone line.

The quality of video calls is great (up to 720 pixels). The audio comes through clearly on fast internet connections while virtual backgrounds ensure privacy and a professional setting.

More than one person can use screen sharing and annotate with whiteboard functions. Additionally, Zoom works on iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows. This tool integrates with Chrome and Outlook.

Do know that only paid plans cover cloud recording, though. Still, all plans include local recording.

Finally, paid plans offer business-oriented functionalities such as user grouping and management, as well as an admin dashboard to keep track of meetings and participation.


Asana — Manage your projects effectively

Asana is an industry giant and one of the best task management and collaboration tools out there. Even though it lacks built-in time tracking and advanced project timelines, it excels at task management with a highly intuitive and flexible interface that makes it easy to work within teams of any size.

The platform offers tools such as task assignment, workload management, and plenty of app integrations.

Asana offers quite a few functionalities when it comes to task management. It emphasizes collaboration and productivity. On the other hand, project management tools could be a bit better.

However, Asana is quite flexible and can be used for keeping track of both ongoing work and long-term projects as well as coordinating teams and distributing the workload among employees.

The best bit about this is that Asana is free for teams of up to 15 users with only a couple of minor limitations. There are no limits to the number of tasks that can be created or to file attachments for tasks. The main restriction for free users is that they do not get to access the Timeline Views or custom dashboards.


F.lux — Stay healthy

To keep your eyes in check, definitely consider installing f.lux on every company device. F.lux is a cross-platform program that adjusts a display’s color temperature according to location and time of day. As a result, this offers a functional respite for employees’ eyes.

F.lux is designed to reduce eye strain and help improve sleep patterns for users that like to burn midnight oil.

Once the program is installed, a user chooses their location. The program automatically calibrates the device display’s color temperature to account for the time of day based on the sunrise and sunset of the selected location. At sunset, it gradually changes the color temperature to a warmer color and restores the original color at sunrise.

The program offers a wide scope of color profiles and pre-defined temperature values, adjusting program behaviour for specific programs or activities. It includes a mode for movie watching and a darkroom mode that does not impact night-adapted vision.

F.lux is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is also available to iOS users but it requires the device to be jailbroken. It is still not 100% clear why the App Store has not allowed the app to appear on its market.


Wrap-up

Hopefully, you now have a picture of what tools you need to use to ensure the productivity of your remote team. When you equip your organization with the listed work from home tools, you will make the whole transition to remote work more convenient.

These tools will make the process of working from home pleasant and your team’s performance won’t be hindered. That way, you will keep the business productive, effective, and efficient.

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