19 March 2020 | 7 Minute(s) to read
Unchartered territory. Even for a digital agency the preparation of remote working for everyone is something that has taken up all my attention this week. Yes, we have remote workers, but the physical act of providing continuity of business for an entire team is well, pretty different actually when you are forced to think about it.
Communication is now, more than ever something we all need to work harder at. Customers still need to contact you. You need to coordinate your team. We will be typing more, video conferencing more and creating more detailed tasks and emails to articulate better what is needed.
There are some good practical tools you can use which are not expensive and can be easily implemented without the need to engage an entire IT team and a huge expense. Here’s our quick go-to:
G-suite / Google.
Quick & easy to set up
If you don’t have your work emails running through G-Suite - dont worry. Check in with other members of your team and if they have an @gmail.com account - if you all do, you can create a chat through Google Hangouts with them, share calendars & so on. It’s a temporary measure.
G-Suite carries a lot of features that can be immediately set up, or are there by default, ready to go. For example:
I wrote this article in Google Docs, I shared with my team for feedback and they can all access it, download it and make it better than I can. I can upload our everyday documents into Google Docs, Spreadsheets & Slides from our server, and provide access to the right people, or all of my team if I want to. I can upload Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint too and work with them from there. The team can then grab these on any device. Key documents sorted.
Google Calendars are shared between every team member and we can clearly see who is blocking out time for the next Hangout Meeting with a client rather than face-to-face, or set internal Hangout meets to determine project and business actions. Calendars and Hangouts can be accessed on every device. You can also set events to be private and personal and block out days when people are away. Life is organised.
This is one of the first things we did - ensured that everyone on the team knew how to use Hangouts, it is versatile for file sharing, text chat, screen sharing and video chat - sometimes it's nice to see someones face when you are feeling a bit isolated and it can help psychologically to support each other (I suggest making funny faces to lighten the load). This is also useful as Google Calendar adds a Hangout link to every invitation so you don't need to go and find something like zoom or anything to connect. Visual connectivity created.
Have a hangout meet lunch, or every day a 10 min check-in with everyone as a group or individually to keep morale up.
Basically, if you are on G-Suite for your emails, you are already well equipped with many solutions to keep you operational, even if you didn't know they were there. Utilise these tools, they are made for remote working.
Sure we have our mobile phones but you may not want to hand out your personal mobile phone number to your customers. If you are running a VOIP phone system in your office you will be able to divert them to mobile devices, or one central person to distribute the calls to without showing your mobile number. We have in place a system to divert our phone calls to mobile devices if we need to automatically. We’ll use chat then to advise who needs to contact who.
Cloud file storage
Because we have huge graphic design files on our local server, we have set up a Dropbox for Business Account with the same file structure setup as our local server. We are loading TerraBytes of master design files to this account, and sharing with every member of the team. So the main files that are not already cloud based are now stored in a secured account which is totally accessible assuming you have an internet connection. It is a cost effective way to get a lot of storage - even if it's only a temporary thing, there is a 30 day free trial. Easy.
We can’t assume everyone has access to a computer at home and so we put in place a policy around taking home a work PC if that is needed. There is enough stress around at the moment and having to figure out how to do things when you don’t have the right equipment is unnecessary. Productivity is vital to the survival of the business. So the choice to take a machine home, or set up another user on their personal machine can be actioned. If you do this, you need to think about security of the machine and having this wrapped up before anything leaves the building.
Project & job management
Most of ours is cloud based now, and we use Teamwork Suite - Desk, Projects & Chat to manage our workload and scheduling. Takes a little bit of thinking to set up, but has some useful tools for internal task delegation and being able to clearly see the status of workload. There is also Workflowmax if you are a keen Xero supporter, check them both out.
There are a lot of other apps and software out there such as Slack, Whatsapp, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft products and many more you can also implement as alternatives. It’s time to think about what is necessary, and what is a nice to have.
Let your team know you are here for them
Remote work takes away one key element - the office vibe. When you are used to all sitting in the same room, chatting away about solutions and learning from each other, how are you going to keep that vibe going? How do you know or feel your co-workers support you if you are working remotely, and how do you articulate that to each other digitally - it's another way of thinking. If we all go remote we are also stopping flexi-time, so we are all in it together. These are just some things we have had to consider in a short space of time.
So if nothing else, this is a good exercise for future proofing (if you really want to take anything positive out of a pandemic!) and learning to reconnect with people in a virtual sense. Some people will struggle with less physical human interaction, others will embrace it, so be kind with the transition as this will change the way we work, and communicate in the future.
So now that you know the tools you need for working remotely how do you stay motivated working from home? Here are a few tips from our friends over at Google to help you find your work mojo at home.
Here are some other practical measures you can take for your customers.
- Update your Google My Business Listing with new available times if needed
- Put up a note on your website to explain how you are working in these times
- Update your social media with information about what your business is and isn't able to do at the moment, and how you can keep communication open - use Facebook Messenger if you have it - or set it up if not, be available via online chat
- Connect with them via Skype for phone and video conferencing
- Work jointly on a Google Doc with a client, they will feel like they are giving more input (client dependent of course)
- Take photos with your phone and email them to clients rather than them coming in store
- If you are a business selling a physical product, make sure you have an e-commerce site set up and it is functioning properly