This is a guest contribution from Nick Chowdrey.
Remote working is an attractive prospect for many people in this digital age. But it’s not as simple as packing up your laptop and riding off into the sunset – it takes a lot more effort and skill than that.
After all, there are offices for a reason. For example, when working remotely, if something goes wrong it’s not as simple as swiveling your chair and having a chat – you may have to wait hours to resolve the issue because your contact is on the other side of the world and asleep.
But it is possible to work as efficiently as an ‘IRL’ worker when you’re remote. As a remote worker myself, whose team consists primarily of fellow remote workers, I’m well suited to answering these questions.
The Two Biggest Challenges
The two biggest challenges that come with working remotely are communication and organisation. It must be visible to everyone you’re working with that you’re up to date on tasks, when these tasks will be delivered, when you’re available to take on more tasks, and when your workload is at its limit.
Ensuring your contacts are aware of any issues, that they know when you are off on leave and when you’re available for meetings isn’t so simple when you’re working across seven different timezones.
Thankfully there are a range of tools at our disposal that can help greatly:
Teamwork Projects allows clear allocation of tasks with team wide visibility. Need some help with something? Check who has the bandwidth to take on a task with Teamwork. It can be used to communicate on specific tasks, ensuring that objectives are clear and feedback is delivered.
There are a number of project management tools out there but Teamwork provides a suite of functions in an easy to use interface that puts it the top of the list for me. It’s best use is for keeping track of your team and projects and helping keep to time and budget constraints.
Teamwork also features an easy to use timekeeping function so you can be certain your team are performing well. It really is aptly named, it’s your one stop shop for all things “teamwork” related.
A useful communication tool used primarily for instant messaging. Best of all it’s free! Slack allows for the setup of a number of different “channels”, allowing users to chat with groups of people related to that channel. Channels can be separated per client or per project or to cater to specific roles in the team.
Depending on how fun your colleagues and clients are you may have a “random” channel for non-work related chats or a “music” channel to share playlists with other teammates. Maybe even a channel just for you and your work friends.
Slack also allows for calling, direct messaging and integrates with loads of other productivity apps such as Google Apps and Teamwork.
Google Mail provides a useful emailing service for organising contacts, sending files etc. But it comes with so much more. Enter G Suite – a whole suite of other cloud based apps designed for productivity.
Hangouts allows for instant messaging and video/voice calls to colleagues all over the world. Similar in function to Skype you may also share your screen – useful if your team and clients also use Google products. Drive is free web space to store information in an organised manner which can be accessed by anyone in real time.
Docs ensures that the team can edit and update files on the fly. Providing a whole suite of document types similar to Microsoft Office, although slightly more limited. Still worth it considering these tools are absolutely free and can be improved with a number of add-ons.
A great tool for organising remote meetings. GoToMeeting records your video conferences in crisp HD. This function is incredibly useful for reviewing client presentations to pick up on stuff you’ve missed and to see where you can improve.
It also offers HD video calls, and screen sharing from any device type, so even if your client has a plane to catch they have no excuse not to jump on a call.
Custom URLs can be created for each meeting for clarity and security concerns are taken care of due to high levels of encryption.
This tool is different to the others listed so far. It is not a communication or organisation tool. However it is very useful especially for freelancers as it allows you to combine other methods of communication onto one platform.
So if you’re working for a range of companies who use all the above tools or other similar tools you can combine them together on Sameroom for ease of use. No matter what tools your clients or companies are using, you only have to look in one place to keep track of all your communication.
So to conclude, there are a number of tools specifically designed for meeting the challenges of remote working. I would recommend discussing with your company or clients which tools they are using, or which ones they’re interested in. This allows you to ensure you are using compatible software which makes communication and sharing information much simpler.
Nick Chowdrey works remotely from Brixton, London as Content & PR Manager for international travel marketing agency In Marketing We Trust.