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Are you permanently 'out of office'? In 2019, the Office of National Statistics estimated that 50 per cent of workers would be telecommuting by the end of the year. Surely this is in part because of telecommuting's numerous benefits, but this modern type of work also presents its fair share of problems. Working collaboratively is one of them ‒ when you're trying to get a project done as a team, the physical distance between members can feel like a real obstacle. Luckily, getting the best telecommuting tools and using them well is the answer. Let's take a look at six options remote workers should consider.
The best communication telecommuting tools
When you're telecommuting, you could literally be thousands of miles away from team members at the head office. Alternatively, you may work on a remote team, in which everyone is based in a different location. Either way, you can no longer slide over to Sandra's desk to have a quick chinwag about a project. Collaborating with a group while working remotely relies on fast communication.
Many telecommuting tools can help you out here! Which you use will largely depend on the business in question and what works for them. It may be a case of trial and error; trying different programs and working out which are right for your team. With that in mind, here's a rundown of some of the best communication tools for telecommuting.
Slack is one of the easiest telecommuting tools to use. You can either log in with a browser or download the app to your computer or smartphone. The messaging program is primed for team communication, especially those with a telecommuting focus. If you're ready to get rid of the endless email loop, getting on board with Slack could make all the difference for remote workers.
To get started, create a Slack channel for you and your team members and add people using their email addresses. Next, you can create 'threads', which are essentially different chat rooms in which you discuss different topics. For example, you might have a marketing thread, a content thread, and a social media thread. This highly organised system means that you can easily follow multiple conversations.
Most people are familiar with Skype by now. Launched in 2003, the video conferencing and voice-calling system is a life-saver for those who want to stay in touch with people around the world. Once you create a profile on the system, you can start making calls.
You can download Skype for your laptop or get an app on your phone ‒ whatever works for you ‒ and make free calls and video calls to people who have Skype. However, if you would like to have group conferences with your entire team, you'll need to upgrade to a premium service. It's worth looking into the extra features that this will offer you, depending on the specific needs of your team.
Hosted by Gmail, Google Hangouts is a super simple chat, call and video-call system for remote employees. If you need to get in touch with colleagues in real-time and you all use Gmail, this may be the quickest option for you. What's more, you can use Google Hangouts in-browser, which is useful if you don't want to download multiple telecommuting tools. Simply open your Gmail email page and click on 'Hangouts' on the left of the screen.
Aside from being functional and free to use, Hangouts also has a few snazzy features that shouldn't be overlooked. One example of this is the subtitles feature. Yes, whenever you're on a call or video call, you can switch subtitles on at the click of a button and the system transcribes your conversation in real time. This is extra useful if you have a poor connection and are struggling to fully make out what the other person is saying.
This closed captions feature is now available for Zoom and Microsoft Teams as of 2021.
The best project management and workflow telecommuting tools
It's time for a little less conversation, a little more action (baby!). When it's time to start getting things done, you need a system that will help you manage your workflow and stay productive. That's where workflow and project management tools for telecommuting come into play. Since there's been a massive rise in telecommuting and remote work over the last decade, loads of workflow management programs have been developed. Here are some of the best you can try.
Asana is an excellent work-management system, allowing large teams to seamlessly keep track of their progress. Within the premium version of the program, you can create different teams, which is perfect if you're managing an entire department. You can also invite workers and colleagues to the teams using their email addresses.
Within the teams you create sections, which are basically projects. For example, if you're working together on a product launch, you might call a section 'Project X'. Beneath each section, you can add tasks and then assign them to members of the group. So, you might assign a poster design to a graphic designer and the text for it to a copywriter.
If you're not a manager, you will just receive assigned tasks through the system along with a due date and any extra information. This helps you to manage your workload despite the fact that you're not in the office. When you deliver your task, you can mark it as complete, which lets the team know it's ready.
Whilst the interface looks different, Trello is strikingly similar to Asana. The main function of this telecommuting tool is to manage a team's workload and assign various tasks to different workers. Rather than having sections, you can create boards. Each board will likely be a project that the team is working on collaboratively. You can then pin different tasks to the board and assign them to people on the team.
Trello is particularly useful if there are many different stages to each task. Each board has a variety of columns and you can move your pinned tasks across it. For example, your columns may be 'Idea', 'In Progress', 'Editing,' and 'Complete'. As the task moves from phase to phase, you move its position on the board. Thus, you can see the progress of all your tasks at a glance.
Of course, as a remote worker or telecommuter, you may not always be the person managing the board. Your manager may take on that role, whilst all you have to worry about is looking at the tasks that are assigned to you and completing them in a timely manner. As you might imagine, that makes things a whole lot easier on your end.
Wouldn't it be easy if telecommute workers could gather at a basecamp now and then? Actually, they can ‒ virtually, anyway. Basecamp is a useful program that helps remote teams and telecommuters collaborate with one another easily.
Much like the other telecommuting tools here, you can use an email address to both sign up for this service and invite people to join your team. There's a Basecamp app for iOS, Android, Mac and PC, which means that you can get it regardless of your setup.
Tasks on this platform appear in a 'to-do list' style, which is amazingly satisfying for people who love ticking off assignments as they go. You can use the system to assign and receive tasks, depending on your role in the company.
You can also chat through the system using the Ping feature and see a breakdown of your recent work using the Activity feature. It takes a while to get your head around the program, but when you've been using it for an hour or so, it all clicks into place.
Whether you're currently working in a remote role or aspire to be a telecommuter, these tools for telecommuting are certain to help you out. Using modern technology to bridge the physical gap between you and your teammates is a no brainer.
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