It’s happening all over the country. Schools are canceling and businesses are encouraging employees to *gulp* work from home.
Raise your hand if you’re in this boat.
Whether you’re a business who is new to the remote work situation or an employee who isn’t sure how to stay productive at home, managing remote work can be a challenge.
Here at SuperWebPros, we do a lot of remote work and we know a lot about technology. So, we’ve got some tips and tools that can help both employers and employees handle working from home.
If you’re an employer and this is your first foray into remote work here are a couple of tools that will make managing work and employees way easier.
Tools for Managing Remote Work
Slack is a communication tool that allows you to let everyone in your office communicate in different segmented channels that have different levels of permission. For instance, an organization might have a marketing team with a few people and an operations team with two people a production team with 10 people.
With Slack, you can have different channels for each team. The marketing people can chat with each other in the marketing channel and the operations people in the operations channel, and so forth. There are also options for general chat spaces that include everyone on the team
They also have enough GIFS to meet all your communication needs.
Slack allows everyone to work collaboratively in one hub of communication. It also allows you to keep track of all conversations, files, and things of that nature, that you are working on.
You can think of Slack almost like a giant work table where everything can be found and organized easily.
The other cool thing about Slack is that it integrates with almost all other modern tools so you can do things like share Google Docs and approve permissions, or create new tasks for programs like Asana (which we’ll talk about soon).
Slack really, really is one of the most productive tools that you can use.
UberConference is fairly affordable and less expensive than Zoom and RingCentral. It also works in a browser, which means if you have people who are not super comfortable with technology, they can just click a button and the browser will load without downloading a package or installing anything. It’s not as feature-rich as Zoom, but if you’re just getting started with remote work, it’s a great way to handle virtual communication with your people.
Task Management & Productivity
When you’re managing remote work, it’s also important to have a task management tool like Asana. Asana is great and we used to use it a lot before we built our own internal system.
Asana allows you to assign and track work in really atomic ways so that you can get insight into individual tasks and individual projects. It interacts well with Slack and they just keep releasing new features like Gantt charts, automated workflows and other things to try and make it more productive. It’s a very, very good piece of software and probably one of the best tools for remote work out there.
For you super visual people out there, Trello is a great tool for creating tasks and to do items on your very own board. It sets up lists and tasks can be store within those lists. It’s a great place to hold images for future use, share information with your team, and lay out a workflow or process.
Recently, we’ve also discovered ProofHub, which looks pretty awesome. They focus on simplicity for remote tools by putting all your tools into one app and doing away with per-user fees. This tool has Kanban boards (like Trello), custom workflows (like Asana), Gantt charts, and delineation between roles. For an organization of any size, this is definitely worth checking out.
Loom is one of our team’s favorite tools. It allows you to easily record your screen and records your voice so you can create tutorials, ask questions, or outline tasks for your team without typing everything out.
Sending a Loom is way more efficient than typing out a long email or message in Slack and is definitely faster than a meeting. Need to say it fast? You can say it with Loom.
If you’re a company that doesn’t already have a time tracking system in place because you’re all in the office and you can see from eight to five that the butts are in the seats, you might be wondering how to handle time tracking now that you’re not in the office.
Harvest is one way to do that. Harvest is great for invoicing work and it integrates with Asana to help you track work on particular projects and then turn that work into billable hours and invoices pretty easily.
Another good time tracking tool is Toggle. It’s really easy to use and has a Chrome extension that allows you to click a button and start tracking your time.
If you’re looking to track not just hours but what work is getting done, there are other tools like Work Pulse that allow you to monitor what people are doing on their computer so you can see if they are actually in Word or in Google Docs doing work or if they’re on Facebook.
Employee monitoring software can help you track whether you’re getting the work you’re paying for from the people you’re paying.
Though, to be honest, this method might seem a little Big Brother-ish and you might get some pushback from your employees.
For those who get distracted once in a while (or all the time) or for those who are used to being productive in an office setting but not at home, we’ve got some tools and techniques that can help.
Turn Off Notifications
Our first tip is actually an anti-tool; turn off your notifications. It’s so easy to get distracted when you’re getting notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, CNN, ESPN or whatever your things are. The problem is that our brains are wired so that what’s focal gets attention and despite what many of us think, we can’t multitask. It’s been shown time and time again that it’s just neurologically not possible.
What feels like multitasking is really called task-switching and in the process of task-switching, your brain almost has to do a restart every time you start a new task. Imagine giving your computer a quick restart every time you needed to start a new task.
It would probably crash pretty quickly.
That’s why it can be hard to focus for a lot of people—when you’re constantly in reaction mode and getting the dopamine hit from the next notification, over time you actually wear out your brain’s ability to focus.
So, turn off your notifications when you’re working.
When you’re working at home, make sure you’ve got a dedicated space where you have to sit upright.
So…you probably shouldn’t work on the couch. Sorry.
Especially at home, it’s important to separate the space where you’re going to work from the space where you’ll relax. And sitting upright tells your body it’s time to work, not relax.
The Pomodoro Technique
If you need help focusing, it’s worth looking into the Pomodoro Technique. The high-level idea behind this technique is that you work for 25-minute stretches then you give yourself a 3-5 minute break, and then you do it again. During those 25 minutes, you’re focused on one task. Whether it’s writing a blog or designing a website, for that period of 25 minutes, that’s the only thing that gets your focus.
This is where it’s good to have your notifications turned off.
What you’ll start to find is that you will get way more work done in a two or three hour period then you’ve probably gotten done in any other two or three hour period before.
Some Pomodoro timers cost money to download but there’s an off-brand of the Pomodoro Technique and it works the same way. Just Google, “tomato timer.” It works the same way, it’s just doesn’t have a lot of the tracking features other apps might. Or, just use your phone’s timer or tell your AI of choice to set you a 25-minute timer.
There you have it. Tips and tricks to help your team work from home, and stay productive while they do it!