If you read my previous monologue regarding COVID-19 and working from home, then you know that Creative Cave is imparting some of our remote working best practices to companies in search of some guidance. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses feel like they're stuck in the Upside Down without a roadmap on how to proceed. Therefore, I thought I'd begin with a simple list of remote work tools and basic technology that will help you quickly and efficiently convert to a telecommuting model.
A Quick Caveat...
Before I begin, I understand that much of this might seem rudimentary for companies and business owners already using remote teams. To give people new to the concept a nice head start, though, I’m starting on the ground floor and working my way up. Likewise, these are the systems and tools we use at Creative Cave to great success, but there are undoubtedly many solutions on the market. I suggest using our process as a starting point for your due diligence and expanding your research from there.
First Things First: Project Management
You wouldn't be in business without customers since, to state the obvious, they keep the doors open and revenue flowing. Put another way, you probably have some sort of project management tool already in place. However, if you've been using a simple database or even a spreadsheet to manage your different projects, then you're likely now realizing that there's a big ol' cloud-based world out there.
Here at Creative Cave, we use Accelo's project management software due to its focus on service-based industries like marketing along with consulting, accounting, and others. Its ServOps platform lets us manage and view incremental progress on all of our different projects, also automating information on retainers, time tracking, client service, and even sales.
If you're looking for something a bit simpler for task management, Trello is a popular solution that offers a pretty robust free version along with a subscription for an advanced platform. Basecamp is another popular project management platform that is especially good at eliminating version control catastrophes by providing a single source of truth for all your documents and files.
If a more visual tool works best for you, then Asana or something with an integrated kanban board might be a good choice. Of course, if you're comfortable with the traditional interface and functionality of MS Office, then Microsoft Project is probably a good fit. No matter which you choose, though, most project management platforms now use a SaaS model with cloud storage to keep your remote workers and projects connected, no matter how scattered your employees might be right now.
Keep Communication a Wide-Open Highway
One of the most significant drawbacks to using remote employees is the possible lack of team communication, particularly for those accustomed to being in the same office. However, this is an area where the internet and several team collaboration platforms have thrived for years. We rely on a couple of specific communication solutions at Creative Cave.
Already extremely popular, Slack is in no way a secret, but, for those unfamiliar with the platform, it's collaboration software that excels at quick instant messaging between team members. Think of it as an enterprise-wide texting app where you can send and receive both group and private messages. Slack also lets you make calls and send documents, video & audio files, and other items in real-time.
We've tried other video conferencing tools in the past like Skype and Google Hangouts but never found one as reliable and easy as Zoom. Once again, Zoom is already incredibly popular, now being a go-to solution for teachers and homeschooled kids along with companies and their remote employees. Each Zoom participant can choose to use video calls or stick to audio if they're having a bad hair day. Zoom also provides a screen sharing function while letting you both record and download the video calls – either to your device or in the cloud – for future reference.
Between these two solutions, we use Slack for instant communication purposes, file sharing and, like most companies these days, funny toilet paper memes. Zoom is a better fit as a substitute for quick check-ins or daily and weekly video meetings with your team and customers.
As a best practice, we recommend using Zoom's video calling function for your team meetings rather than letting everyone participate audio-only. It's an easy way to preserve a sense of camaraderie and teamwork between your employees, especially since many of them won't be sharing a physical space in the near future.
Other Handy Tools
The following tools are pretty specific to what we do here at Creative Cave and our specialized workflow, but hopefully you'll find something that benefits your business and employees as well.
Well, not just Google Docs, but Sheets and Slides as well. We prefer to use Google rather than other solutions simply because it's so easy for both our team and clients. For example, our writer creates blog drafts in Google Docs and gives commenting-access to anyone with the link. That way, our clients can make edit requests directly within the document and version control stays manageable throughout the revision process. Google Sheets and Slides provide the same convenience for spreadsheets and slide decks, respectfully.
This is Google's enterprise cloud solution, which we use for our linked calendars, Gmail, data storage, and other day-to-day needs. Naturally, Google Docs integrates seamlessly within it, helping to streamline our workflows and keep everything neat and tidy. In fact, that integration is why we use G Suite and Google Drive rather than Dropbox and other enterprise storage solutions.
While this tool might be a bit inside baseball for some, Otter.ai is a fantastic transcription solution that lets us upload and automatically transcribe recorded calls and meetings with clients from Zoom. From there, we can share the transcribed files as well as edit and annotate them. This comes in handy when we're trying to distill and extract information from a subject matter expert to use in a piece of content or need a fast transcription of a recorded team meeting.
We love Grammarly because it makes us sound smart. Do you find yourself writing in a passive voice too often? Or can't seem to remember the whole I before E except after C thing? Grammarly spots all of those issues, along with run-on sentences, mismatched nouns and verb tenses, and any areas where your writing is disjointed or difficult to read.
Dragon Naturally Speaking
Do you write a lot? Or take notes frequently? Dragon Naturally Speaking is the most accurate and reliable dictation software we've found, and we've pretty much tried them all. It gets more accurate with each use and even lets you customize its dictionary if you're in an industry with highly technical language or shorthand. Just make sure to use a decent headset to avoid any accuracy issues.
Adobe Creative Cloud
All of Adobe's desktop and mobile apps in one place, linked via the cloud. Photoshop, Director, Illustrator, After Effects, InDesign, and more – you get them all under a single subscription. Is there a creative element to your business, like designing e-books and content offers? If so, Adobe's Creative Suite and cloud solution could be a lifesaver, especially if you have several creative employees that rely on collaboration tools but aren't necessarily in the same time zone.
Are all of these productivity tools and tech solutions exclusive to remote working? Of course not. They'll come in handy in an office setting, for telecommuting, or any other working model you favor. But when it comes to a virtual office, efficiency and fluidity are essential, which, as you might have guessed, are traits that all of these tools share.
So use these insights as a starting point for your research and get back to being productive and successful. And if you need additional ideas or help from your squad of friendly B2B inbound marketing gurus on branding, content, or anything related, just drop us a line.