What tools do you need for remote working?
The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments worldwide implementing lockdowns and asking businesses to enable their employees to work from home where possible.
So how can we make this possible for more businesses? In this post we share some of the systems and tools we use to enable our team to work effectively and efficiently regardless of their location. We hope that this post might be helpful to small businesses and others who are just starting out or have been recently advised to work from home.
As a digital services agency, we have had remote working capabilities in place for a number of years to facilitate employees and contractors to work remotely and contribute to a greater work-life balance.
The paradox of choice
There are so many software tools and services available now, that often the paradox of choice can hinder decision making. While these are the tools we use, there are many other good alternatives. No tool covers 100% of all the features we would like, but the benefits of each of these tools always outweigh the shortcomings.
Email & Collaboration
We use Google GSuite (https://gsuite.google.com) for email and document collaboration. This enables our team to access their email remotely and share documents and spreadsheets quickly and easily.
We also use Slack (https://www.slack.com) for instant messaging/chat and team discussions. You can set up different channels for different topics (e.g. for a department, team or project) and communicate instantly, share files and/or initiate conference calls.
We use Teamwork (www.teamwork.com) for project management and client communications. Teamwork is a great tool for managing tasks, milestones & projects and sharing project information with clients.
We use Harvest (https://www.getharvest.com) for time tracking. The great thing about harvest is that it integrates with many of the other tools we are using so team members can easily start/stop timers from Zendesk or Teamwork enabling us to accurately track time and billing across support and client projects.
We use Xero (https://www.xero.com) as our financial accounting system and for billing/invoicing. Xero is lightweight, easy to setup and use and ensures that our management accounts are always up to date and accessible no matter where we are.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Our VPN enables remote workers to securely access our private network and access resources such as internal servers, printers etc. as if they were in our head office. We use an OpenVPN (https://www.openvpn.net) based VPN which is an open source VPN solution. This type of VPN can be hosted behind an existing firewall / router and can be installed on existing hardware or virtual infrastructure.
We use Zendesk (https://www.zendesk.com) to provide our clients with a support desk and ticketing system. This enables our clients to create tickets (24/7/365) for any problems, issues or work requests and for all activity and correspondence on these tickets to be tracked and managed appropriately.
There is a lot more to working remotely than just having the right tools and systems in place but this is definitely a good place to start to minimise disruption and ensure greater business continuity.