Many people have already been working from home long before COVID-19 came along and wreaked havoc on the world. It just so happened that their numbers grew exponentially the moment health authorities declared a global pandemic.
Previously seen as an incentive, remote work has since become a necessity for both employees and employers.
Working from home has its fair share of benefits. For employees, remote work gives them an opportunity to achieve a better work-life balance, among other things. For employers, having staff work from home means reduced costs for their business.
However, remote work comes with its own set of challenges.
For example, those who work from home can’t have face-to-face interactions with colleagues. That could hamper communications and eventually impact the work that they do.
Employers are also concerned about productivity, which is only fair since their staff would be in a workplace full of distractions, especially for those with kids running around the house.
Then again, there are plenty of paid and free tools that remote teams can use to stay productive when working from home. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Google Workspace
First introduced as Google Apps, then rebranded as G Suite in 2016, Google Workspace is made up of some of the most useful team collaboration tools available today.
The Google Docs suite alone provides plenty of value, with Google Docs and Google Sheets making it easier for everyone on the team to create, share, and edit documents and worksheets.
Just like the free version of Microsoft Teams, the free version of Google Meet also provides your team with a video conferencing platform that supports up to 100 participants per meeting, with a longer time limit of 60 minutes.
Then there’s Google Calendar, which allows you to schedule meetings and events at the drop of a hat. You can also use Calendar to remind everyone about upcoming deadlines and activities.
While Google Workspace is generally available for free for anyone with a Google Account, businesses have the option to go for a paid subscription, which should give them access to more features like unlimited Google Drive storage.
Every work-from-home team needs a reliable communication platform to make sure everyone’s on the same page at all times.
While there are myriad apps that offer video chat in real-time, it was Zoom that broke out during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its daily meeting participants growing 30-fold.
Then again, it’s not surprising Zoom became the go-to team communication platform not only for those who work from home but for just about everyone.
Aside from its top-notch messaging and video calling features and screen sharing and integration capabilities, Zoom has an interface that’s quite simple and intuitive. Also, it doesn’t hurt that free users get to enjoy 40-minute conference calls with up to 100 attendees.
However, getting a Zoom Pro license is the best option for remote working teams so they can access features like longer to unlimited team meetings depending on your plan, more participants, social media streaming, and unlimited cloud storage.
While employers do benefit from having entire teams working from home, concerns about their productivity remain. After all, working with no supervisory presence does tempt people to slack off and allow themselves to be distracted by all the goings-on at home.
If you’re an employer or a project manager, and you want everyone to keep their eye on the ball even when they’re working from home, then have them use Hubstaff, a project management tool that tracks the hours of every individual on the team.
On top of timekeeping, Hubstaff also takes screenshots of employees’ screens at random, all to ensure that they’re actually working during their shift and not playing games or spending the day on social media.
Hubstaff also comes in handy when you’re assigning and monitoring tasks, creating checklists, and setting due dates.
4. Excel Templates
From time to time, the members of your team will need to perform tasks like creating budgets, aggregating data, or building tables and charts.
While there is no shortage of apps and software that can help them do all of the above, there’s no simpler way to go about them than making use of free downloadable Excel templates.
Would you want all team members to write down their work goals and all their tactics for achieving them? They can always download an action plan template to help them do that.
There is also a wide variety of budget spreadsheets available online for tracking a project’s expenses.
And when it’s time to send in reports, ready-to-use Excel templates can be quite useful, especially if you need to create charts and graphs to show the results of everyone’s efforts.
There’s an Excel template for just about any purpose, from simple checklists to ones loaded with preset functions and formulas that help you crunch numbers and analyze data.
Or, you can build one yourself if you can’t find one to your liking. Either way, you’ll have a tool that will help make life a bit easier for you, regardless of whether you’re a remote worker or not.
If you’re working on-site, any problem with your computer software and hardware can be readily remedied by the in-house computer technician or IT specialist.
Remote workers don’t have that luxury. However, as long as they have a good remote desktop tool like TeamViewer installed on their home computers, addressing your IT problems should be easy enough.
With TeamViewer, your team’s IT person should have no problem remotely troubleshooting issues such as malfunctioning email software, folder and file sharing difficulties, or possible hacking issues. As long as you have a fast and stable Internet connection, TeamViewer can help your tech specialists troubleshoot your computer, wherever in the world you may be.
Apart from remote access, those who work from home can also make good use of TeamViewer’s other features such as transferring files and sharing presentations. Some even use TeamViewer to conduct online training courses.
The tools listed above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to productivity apps or software for remote workers, but they’re a good place to start. Your team will likely discover more productivity and project management tools along the way and will make their jobs easier, which is always a great thing for employees and employers alike.
Author Bio: Anthony Stevens is the Content Specialist for Excel Templates, a resource for free Excel templates including calendars and charts. When not writing, he spends time building furniture and running with his dog.