More and more countries are imposing a ‘lockdown’ on their citizens and residents in order to curb the spread of Covid-19. Countries that imposed lockdowns or restricted movements order including France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Iran, El-Salvador, Malaysia, and parts of the US as well as close its borders and shuts off access to foreign visitors.
During the period of lockdowns, schools, and businesses are forced to close. However, businesses need not stop work altogether if it can be done by their teams from home. To do this, business owners, their management, and their staff need to embrace the latest technology, instead of fearing it.
Business Unusual In Times of Pandemic
For most of us working in an office environment, changing it to a work-from-home scenario is not that difficult thanks to the internet and latest technology. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has given an opportunity to the world to try out the remote working (or work-from-home) alternative.
Most of the office work relies on digital technology to conduct their businesses. Paper-based work all starts digitally. So it is no big step to conduct this work in other than an office environment.
The only big mental hurdle for these office staff and management to work remotely is about
For these concerns, we’ll highlight the right technology and tools.
We’ll also guide you through how to do remote work, whether you’re a business owner, in management or just a staff.
Digital Tools For Remote Work
1 – Dropbox Paper – a collaborative document-editing service by Dropbox, the world’s first cloud hosting provider. Team members can access, edit and comment on the same file, whether a Microsoft Office or a Google File. Price starts from free.
2 – Google Drive – another free collaborative document tool (including word document, spreadsheet and presentation slides) by Google. Team members can access, edit and comment on the same file. This is also hosted on Google’s own servers.
3 – Microsoft One Drive – Similar to Google Drive, but with all the Microsoft Office Software.
It is worth noting that these 3 tools are hosted by them, also known as cloud hosting. However, if you are worried about data privacy, and want to host your own collaboration tools (i.e self-hosting), consider these alternatives:
4 – Documize – Available on the cloud or self-hosted, where your Microsoft Word documents can be done collaboratively. Use it for contracts, technical requirements for procedures, plans, and manuals. Price starts free up to 10 users.
5 – Confluence – Use it for project collaboration and communication, as well as to use it as a knowledge database. Files can be attached to specific projects in order to manage projects remotely. Price starts free up to 10 users.
Digital Tools For Remote Team Monitoring
As a business owner, manager or team leader, you may be worried whether your staff is working during the specified hours or if they are just goofing off, or sleeping in. These software tools, that can work on the desktop and on mobile, are created to monitor employee digital activities but not video or webcam recordings.
1 – Time Doctor – a time tracking and productivity tool that captures screenshots on the web and mobile of the staff in order to hold the staff accountable for his time. The tool can integrate with many other popular SaaS tools. Price starts at USD10 per user tracked., with a 14 days free trial.
2 – LumOffice – office monitoring software for your remote team. You’ll be able to see who is currently active, who is away from the computer, active computer hours per staff, what software and websites they visit, and the number of screenshots per hour. Price is free for up to 10 computers, and for more users, at USD2 per user tracked per month.
3- Hauz – This is a Malaysian based attendance app. It allows you to monitor staff like who is in and who is out. The best thing is it comes with auto reporting so you can relieve your HR of tedious repetitious staff, so they can focus on more meaningful work.
Digital Tools For Remote Team Communications & Meetings
We love free, and we’re sure you do too. As communications is a vital part of remote work, and meetings as a subset of communications, we’ll just highlight to you free tools for team communications.
1 – Slack – a chat tool for the office. It has the ability to organize chats by threads (or topics), and can attach files to chat messages. This is a tool loved by US startups. It even has a free voice and video call function integrated into the Slack app and can integrate with Google Docs and Microsoft Office. Price starts from free up to 10,000 messages saved.
2 – Skype – a voice and video call tool (on mobile and desktop) with the ability to share the desktop screen by Microsoft. This recreates the look-over-the-shoulder activity in the office, which would help with work discussions. It’s free to use.
3 – Zoom – for that video conferencing meeting. Free 1:1 video call and up to 40 minutes for group video conferencing. Free on the desktop for up to 100 users. The cool thing is the video meeting can be recorded. So it minimizes the need to clarify or miscommunication. We at halalop.com use this tool regularly for cross-continent interviews
How Business Owners Can Manage Remote Teams
For business owners who have to work remotely with their teams, consider using the above tools to manage your team remotely.
Which tools are the right ones for your organization? For that, you need to figure out your budget (especially if your team number exceeds the maximum free allowed), and your business needs.
Most importantly, it is your communication with your team members. They need to know that you can embrace uncertainty and manage in a new environment.
You would need to set new house rules and overall direction, after discussing this with your managers, and communicate it across the organization.
How Managers Can Manage Remote Teams
Again the number one key success factor in managing remote teams is communications.
As a manager, you need to set the house rules, and expected deliverables with your team members. To do this, communicate it across in various ways: email, chat messaging, project planning tools and more.
You also need to communicate with your team members on a daily basis, asking them how they’re doing, and if their work are going as expected or if they’re stumbling. Simply put, this is the remote team version of maintaining engagement with your staff, similar to a chat in the office.
Feedback is an important part of managing teams, and providing feedback online to your remote team members is just as important.
How Employees Can Work Remotely
Now you’re working alone, without your coworkers. But you may not be alone at home, perhaps with your family members or roommates. So you may be distracted from your work while working from home.
Here are some ground rules to get you working effectively from home.
- Have a specific workspace & table to work from
- Have a good, stable internet
- Schedule your work time
- Set your daily deliverables
More importantly, once the lockdown is over, perhaps businesses, their owners and managers can see the benefit of working remotely. That it can be cost-saving for businesses (no longer expensive, large offices to lease), as well as time-saving for employees (no longer time spent on commuting to the office).
Of course, they will be people who misuse the opportunity to work for home. Bad apples are everywhere, but with the tools above you can ensure that deliverables are met.
Farah Ishak is a Content Writer at Halalop. She grew up in the United Kingdom where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management. Later, she completed her MBA and held senior-level positions in Malaysian based MNC. She left the corporate world to be with her young kids. She is passionate about issues concerning Muslim women, Startups and Muslim businesses in general.