The best technology for working remotely in 2019


Remote work has experienced a huge boom in the last few years, and people ditching traditional offices for the flexibility to work where they please is certainly a trend that isn’t slowing down.

In fact, some people have predicted that 50% of the UK’s workforce will be working remotely by 2020.

People are lured into this style of working for the great benefits, and certain draws for employers make hiring remote workers an attractive prospect as well. Some perks for both sides include:

  • Reduced office costs
  • Less of an impact on the environment
  • More flexibility
  • The ability to hire from a wider pool of people
  • Less workplace stress

Ten years ago, it would not have been possible to have remote workers on such a scale.

But now, the boom of technology, applications, software and hardware all make it much more feasible. While some technologies used bear similarities to those utilised in traditional offices, tools for managing remote teams do differ in some respects.

So, what are some examples of the best technology for working remotely?

In this article, we will explore the best instances of software and hardware that help remote teams communicate and be accountable.

What are remote workers and what special tools do they need?

A remote job is generally defined as a job that is done away from an office, either at home or on the road. While remote workers could also be defined as people who are self-employed, they are more often employees working for one company.

Those who are self-employed will need different technology and apps to people in remote teams; they can differ largely depending on the person’s line of work.

However:

People in remote teams require some specific types of technology, which are mainly remote collaboration tools and software to hold employees accountable.

When putting together a remote team, several aspects must be considered.

This article by Forbes gives a useful brief. There are lots of different software opportunities for each of these fields, including programmes and apps for working remotely.

Some areas work best with a hardware solution.

  • Group chat and notifications
  • Web and video conferencing
  • Project management
  • Employee engagement
  • Performance management

Group Chat and Notifications

Case studies by ‘The H Factor’ and the toilet roll producers ‘Who Gives a Crap’ show how the needs for remote workers can vary. The H Factor has workers spread across Australia and has scheduled meetings about once a fortnight, using remote workplace tools and technology to host these.

‘Who Gives a Crap’ are mainly based in Australia; the founders were in Melbourne, Sydney and San Francisco and were keen travellers. They first hired an employee in Manila and now still work with people from these three countries. They use half of their profits to fund development projects internationally.

They recommend this software for group chat and notifications:

  • Slack– this is a communications tool which makes all conversations searchable. It also lets companies have their own channel which includes information for the team members.
    For a standard membership it costs $6.67 per user per month and a plus membership is $12.50 per person per month. This includes unlimited searchable message archives, group calls, 10GB file storage per member in Standard and 20GB in Plus.
  • Rocket Chat– while Slack does suit many people’s needs, Rocket Chat is a great free Slack alternative. It offers audio and video conferences, integrated live-chat for website and screen sharing.
  • Mattermost– probably Slack’s most direct competitor, Mattermost offers some of Slack’s features free of charge.

Project Management

‘Who Gives a Crap’ also use a variety of software for project management. When teams are virtual, it is increasingly important to have the correct software implemented to ensure that projects are organised and executed correctly.

  • Dropbox– the paid version of this programme is great for businesses and costs around $20 per month per user. It includes 2TB of storage and easy sharing and collaboration tools.
  • Trello– this is an easy-to-use project management tool with boards, lists and cards and aiding members to discuss tasks and projects in real time. There are activity logs and email notifications. Trello has a free version, business class and enterprise version.
  • Zendesk– used by ‘Who Gives a Crap’, this programme is used to keep customer service queries organised. Customer service tickets can be sourced from telephone, email, chat and social media.
  • Google Docs– Users of Google Docs can share and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations from anywhere, and if they are online it works in real time. It is a free add on to Google’s services and can also be accessed offline if necessary.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is essential for remote workers. Using technologies like those mentioned above, employees have a chance to both talk and interact.

The best way for employees to engage include:

  • Fostering a personal connection – it is important to ensure that remote teams can get to know each other.
  • Opening communication – making sure that staff members can chat to each other about any issues that arise.
  • Gamification – this is game-playing in non-gaming environments and it helps remote workers build teams.

Technologies like Slack are popular for employee engagement, as are tech tools like Zoom, which is a video chatting software where the conversations can be recorded, and Sqwiggle, which takes still photos of team members and can initiate video calls by clicking on the stills.

Slack is a form of gamification technology and Foursquare’s badge system can also be used for gamification.

Performance Management Software

It is very important for remote teams to stay accountable for what they do and have the necessary tools to report back to their teams.

A fantastic way to do this is by using the programme I Done This. It keeps remote teams accountable for what they have done each day. They reply to an email, reporting what they do daily and then each team member gets a debrief stating what everyone did on the previous day, and they can write their own comments on the tasks.

This means that there is no need for check in meetings – which are more of an ordeal when teams are spread throughout the country or even internationally.

There are plenty of other time tracking tools as well, which are great for bosses to keep in touch with what their remote teams are doing. These include:

  • Hours– this is a mobile application which tracks time.
  • Teamweek– this works well for teams as it takes the form of a communal calendar.
  • Everhour– this connects to Asana and Basecamp and works as a great add on.
  • Toggl– this programme has a dashboard and is great for reporting and reviewing.

Web and Video Conferencing Software and Hardware

Remote teams are sometimes in need of special hardware. This includes the best quality laptops and other devices and gear that can be used for collaboration.

Remote meetings are one of the things that still puts people off hiring or becoming remote workers. How are people expected to be able to communicate with their colleagues if they can’t be in the same place as them?

Interactive display screens are a great solution to these. People in the same room as the whiteboard can see the meeting taking place there, whereas people in different areas of the world can access it on their computer or tablet.

Technology for Self-Employed Workers

If you’re self-employed, your technological needs will differ. As mentioned, the software and hardware needed highly varies depending on the line of work, but some staples include:

Self-employed people may also like to use tools like Trello and Todoist to keep organised. They may also have times where they need to talk to clients, in which case, video chatting software like Google Hangouts is also useful.

Conclusion

The best tools for remote workers vary from software to interactive displays. The most important priorities for remote workers are to make sure that remote teams can talk and be personable with each other, so it is vital that the technology that remote teams use reflects this. Using software like Slack, Zoom and Todoist all enable this further, as does the right kind of technical equipment.

As the remote workforce is constantly increasing in size, the demand for different technologies will continue to increase. It is important for teams to check in with their technologies and check that they are up to date and are working well to make the remote team the best that they can be.