Home working is becoming a bigger and bigger deal the world over. More and more people are finding that working remotely, either as a freelancer or in a permanent role suits their lifestyle more, and also makes them more productive and motivated employees.
But why? Well, in this internet age, the fact is that a large proportion of jobs simply do not require your physical presence anymore. With a computer, a reliable internet connection, and the right bits of software, more and more jobs can be carried out perfectly well from the comfort of your own home, your local coffee shop, or even somewhere further afield.
The benefits for employees are fairly clear. They don’t have to endure a painful commute at the start and end of each day; they can choose the hours the want to work to fit their own lives (you can work first thing in the morning if that is your thing, or otherwise into the small hours if you are more of a night owl).
This is ideal for people living in rural environments who often have travel for several hours each day to reach their office. It is also ideal for parents with young children or even elderly relatives to care for.
But there are plenty of perks for employers too. Remote workers are cheap. You don’t have to rent or buy office space for them; you don’t have to pay for their energy bills as they use your computer and charge their phones in the office; and you don’t have to spend as much of your valuable time motivating them.
Sure, they still need to be managed and you want to be able to have oversight of the work they are doing. And of course you want there to be good communication between your staff, even if they are based on different sides of the country. But with the very latest online technology, this can be achieved just as effectively for remote workers as it can for office staff.
I have worked in the IT sector for longer than I care to remember, and for the last few years I have employed only remote workers. They are motivated, happy, and producing much better work than my former office staff used to. In that time, I have tried out most of the online tools that are out there to help remote workers.
And in this article I am outlining my top 4 essential tools for remote working.
The first thing you should be looking for is a work management tool. And in my opinion, the best on the market right now is Trello. It is a flexible tool, which you can adapt to suit your individual management style.
Its looks a bit like a virtual pin board. It allows you to have various online boards for different work streams and on those boards you can keep lists, and cards to help keep on top of work. You can upload attachments, send and receive messages, and do plenty more besides.
It’s the perfect tool for employers to keep track of your staff and their work, and it also allows employees to manage their own workload easily and efficiently too.
Keeping open lines of communication is a big challenge for remote teams. But with the right bit of software, it doesn’t have to be. And Slack is my pick of the comms tools out there at the moment.
It’s a messaging app like so many others, but it is designed for professional users. It offers various channels, secure private channels, direct messaging, a file-sharing capability, and an easy-to-use search facility. It also lets you sync messages across almost every device out there.
If you want a flexible communications tool which lets you keep contact with your remote team, Slack should be your go-to tool.
Online messaging is one thing, but sometimes you need to speak in person and even have a face-to-face chat. To do this, reliable group call software is a must.
Zoom is the market leader in this sector. They offer a top of the range video and online conferencing service which functions on various different platforms. It offers a fast, user-friendly service, and in several years of usage it hasn’t let me down once.
Lastly, you will want to allow your team to access secure company data and documents from wherever in the world they are, without compromising your data security. To do this, a VPN is an essential tool, and one already used by big businesses right across the country.
A VPN ensures users online data is always encrypted making it safe from prying eyes. It also renders user’s anonymous online b hiding their IP Address, which is also useful, especially if you engage in sensitive work.
Using a VPN, employees can upload and download data from your company’s central server or cloud storage service completely risk free.
And furthermore, it also offers a number of other perks such as access to geo-restricted data to help you stay ahead of global competition. It even lets users stay on top of their favourite TV shows, even if they are based overseas.
With all of these tools, an employer can effectively manage a team of remote workers, while the employees can feel like a team member, while enjoying all the advantages of remote working.