Whether you have a company that has been employing remote employees for a long time or you were forced to suddenly go remote in 2020 because of the pandemic, chances are, you are already using some set of remote work tools to manage internal processes within your organization. But are those tools really helping your employees reach peak productivity?
The ideal remote work tools are more than just a way for remote teams to collaborate contextually and deliver productively. Remote work tools help employees manage their work effectively, reach optimum productivity, and collaborate closely with their coworkers.
Finding the right remote work tools can be a huge challenge. You may feel inclined to choose the most popular tools in the market that your competitors are already using. However, what works for other companies may not work for you. This is why it’s essential to assess the main requirements and expectations of your employees and then pick a remote tool that delivers on all fronts.
Before finalizing a remote tool for your organization, take a look at the top features that the ideal remote work tool must have:
1. Work from the cloud
To support a distributed workforce, the remote work tool should be cloud-based, allowing remote team members to work from any location and from any device, as long as they are connected to the internet.
In addition to this, the tool should also have cloud storage to store all important business files and documents in order to make it easier for employees to access the latest versions of files, whether they are in the office or working from home.
The tool should be highly secure, reliable, and more importantly, it should follow all the necessary compliances set for your industry. Here are more benefits of using cloud computing for working from home.
2. Project management
The remote work tool should have robust project management features so that remote teams can streamline their upcoming and ongoing projects while maintaining the required transparency. The tool should allow users to create tasks within each project, assign those tasks to different team members, and set deadlines as well.
3. Communication and collaboration
Employees can’t collaborate effectively if they can’t communicate with their colleagues properly.
The remote tool should have both asynchronous and synchronous communication features to help remote team members always stay connected and in the loop.
Asynchronous communication features can include private and public channels where remote teams can hold long and thought-out discussions, have informal conversations, and share company-wide announcements.
Synchronous communication features can include instant messaging, voice calls, and video conferencing which can help remote employees have effective real-time communication.
Video conferencing is the main way remote teams have face to face interactions and meetings in the current world engulfed by a pandemic. Ideally, video conferencing tools should support group chats even for the biggest of your teams, let you hold company-wide web seminars, and allow employees to record calls for future reference.
4. Online office suites
Apart from storing files on the cloud, the remote tool should also allow you to share and edit documents in real-time. Team members should be able to add in-line comments and suggestions to the documents, and access all the previous versions of the documents to track changes. At the same time, there should be access control options available so that only the selected users can view, edit, or share the file.
5. Time management
When employees work remotely, there is no way to know how much time they spend working every day. It can be a huge struggle especially for organizations that require employees to clock a certain number of hours every day or week.
With time management features incorporated in your remote work tool, you can track the total number of hours employees spend working everyday, monitor their work, and even bill your clients automatically based on the total number of hours spent on every project.
6. Screen Sharing/recording
Screen sharing/recording helps remote team members present to a group and provide clear instructions to everyone even before any confusion sets in. It can help team members better understand each other’s perspectives, allow SaaS companies to offer online demos of their products, and let customer support representatives quickly understand customer problems and resolve them in real-time.
Whiteboarding is a much needed feature for remote teams that require visual online collaboration. Whether you have a UX design team or an agile scrum-based IT team, online whiteboards can help your team members brainstorm ideas, share different perspectives, and collaborate in real-time. Ideally, the whiteboard tool should allow you to draw free-hand and give you the option of adding different lines, shapes, sticky notes, and comments.
As remote work comes with security issues, it’s necessary to tackle remote teams that store almost all of their business data on the cloud. While it is important to give remote employees access to work-related data that they can access from any location or device, you also want to make sure that your company data is always secure.
The remote work tool you choose should have the following features:
Online backup: Just telling employees to backup important files routinely is not enough, no matter how much you try to reinforce it. Instead, you can go for a remote work tool that can automatically backup all the company data routinely, and allow you to roll back and access the previous versions of documents, whenever required.
Two-factor authentication: While recommending to employees to change their passwords at regular intervals is good practice, using a remote work tool that offers two-factor authentication can help provide an added layer of security.
9. To-do lists
The remote tool should allow you to create to-do lists for all your important tasks. It should have the option to create shared lists for the entire team along with private lists where employees can add just their own day to day tasks, responsibilities and reminders. It’s also an added benefit if the tool allows you to assign the tasks to different team members and set a deadline.
Automation is a necessary feature for remote tools as it helps take the productivity of remote employees to the next level. Automating small, repetitive, and manual tasks can save the time of employees which they can in turn use to focus on more important and complex parts of their job. Automation can be as simple as auto populating fields or as complex as streamlining the entire workflow of a department.
A digital workplace platform to integrate all the features in one place
It can be tempting to introduce over a dozen remote work tools in your application suite just to get all the features your remote employees need to manage their work. But the more tools you add, the more confusing and overwhelming it will become for employees as they will have to constantly switch between different applications. As a result, it’s crucial to take a ‘less is more’ approach.
Instead of introducing numerous disjointed tools, you can implement a digital workplace platform in your organization which offers all the features that remote employees need to manage their work and integrates seamlessly into your existing IT infrastructure.
After all, the ideal remote work tool is much more than something that enables collaboration. The ideal remote work tool is one that helps employees manage their work productively, efficiently, and in turn improves overall employee experience.