The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live, work, and communicate. While things have returned to a sense of normalcy, some businesses have chosen to maintain the remote work format. Even our web design agency in Raleigh has adopted the remote work environment – and we are thriving. That’s why we’re sharing our favorite remote working tools for teams that have been game changers.
Creating Your Remote Ecosystem
If the majority of your business is offline or in a face-to-face environment, you need to make sure you have the infrastructure in place to facilitate online operations and communication, both with your team and your customers. Businesses that are underprepared to maintain a remote work team may find that their productivity is declining, while the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches increases. These are the top remote working tools to keep your team motivated and your information safe!
Not surprisingly, number one on our list is a computer! Most businesses rely on computers to get work done. Imagine trying to get work down or download large files to an outdated notebook computer. If your workplace is shifting to a work-from-home environment, you need a capable laptop or desktop. Make the case for your company to supply a device so you can maintain your productivity. Or, if that’s not an option, make the investment in a reliable laptop or desktop.
When checking to see if your computer is up to par to handle your remote work tasks, check the following features of your device:
Computer random access memory (RAM) is one of the most important factors in determining your system’s performance. RAM gives your applications a place to live. Most work standard work functions can be easily run with 4GB of RAM; however, if you work with a lot of design programs and bulky software, you should consider a device with at least 16GB of RAM. In general, the faster the RAM, the faster the processing speed – which makes for better productivity.
Gigahertz, or GHz for short, is a processing unit that measures how long it takes for a task to cycle to completion. A higher GHz indicates a faster processor. For basic emailing and browsing, 2.4 GHz to 3.0 GHz should suffice. If you work with many programs you should consider 4.0 GHz.
The size of the hard drive should also be a factor in finding the perfect computer for your work. A desktop or laptop with an SSD, or solid-state drive, of at least 500GB should suffice. However, if you work with large files and need more storage, you should consider 1TB or 2TB.
High-Speed Internet Connection
You’ll also want to make sure your internet connection is solid. After all, running a business online means you have to actually be online, and the last thing you want is to lose your connection right before or during a video conference call with a client or your team or for a spotty connection to turn a 30-minute task into a 2-hour one. To boost your connection’s reliability and speed, try these steps:
- Make sure your router is centrally located or you have a signal extender to make sure you’re connected no matter where your home office is located.
- Minimize device usage while you’re working. If several devices are online at once, it can slow your speed.
- Upgrade your internet plan if necessary to a faster speed.
Even though you and your team are apart, that doesn’t mean you all can’t get together for meetings or that you can’t sit down with clients face-to-face. Set up an online phone and video conferencing system, like 8×8 or RingCentral, as these offer mobile accessibility and screen sharing. This way everyone can connect no matter where they are and be a part of the conversation.
If you prefer a more economical route, there are also video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Meet.
Team Chat Tools
The most challenging part of setting up your business online is making sure you have communication lines open between your team members. To make it easier for your business to reach each other, there are several online tools you should add to your arsenal, like Slack or Skype. These chat tools almost feel as if you can stroll over to your teammate’s desk and pop in to ask a quick question.
Collaborative Calendar App
Another challenge of being distanced from your team and clients is scheduling meetings. With a cloud-based calendar you can share with others, you can put meetings on your team members’ calendars, your clients can block out times for consultations and appointments, and everyone involved knows what’s going on. This eliminates miscommunication of appointments as well as double-booking meetings. Hubspot is a great tool for this, as it offers booking calendars and other features that make life online easier!
Project Management Tools
Having project management software improves communication, accountability, and organization when it comes to your team getting projects and tasks done. With your employees working remotely, the right project management system allows you and your managers to lay out tasks and projects, assign them with due dates, and create communication streams related to each task. Everyone is able to see the status of a project and knows who is in charge of it, so if there are any questions or concerns, the information is right there.
Some of the most popular project management tools are Jira, Basecamp, Trello, Asana, Monday, or Teamwork. There are so many different platforms that offer similar capabilities – so it may take a bit of time to find the perfect fit for you and your team.
Cloud-Based File Storage
With cloud-based document management, you and your team can create documents and upload files and access them through your browser. Employees can edit information, leave comments, and collaborate from across the world. You can also update sharing settings to provide customers or vendors with access to documents and files. With real-time, visible edits, you never have to worry about emailing someone an out-of-date Word document. Google Docs, Microsoft 365, and Dropbox are all popular, affordable options for your business.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
With your team working remotely, it’s easy to lose client details, forget to follow up on a lead, or not share key information with the entire team. Another of our favorite remote working tools is a client relationship management program.
Having an easy-to-use customer relationship management tool (CRM) in place, like HubSpot, allows you to share customer information, follow up on leads, track communications, and build relationships with your clients all from one platform. Most CRMs include:
- Client contact management
- Lead management to know where every lead is in your sales pipeline or funnel
- Sales forecasting
- Sales reports and dashboards
- Lead source analytics
- Employee instant messaging and communications
- Email syncing
- File and content uploads
Plus, modern CRMs allow you to integrate your marketing automation so all your client details are in one place.
You need to be able to reach out to your prospective and existing clients, while also reaching new leads, and marketing automation will let you do it efficiently and effectively. Through one platform, you can send out newsletters sharing status updates of your business, post on social media, and create landing pages so you can capture new leads.
Just as important, you can get measurable data from your marketing software that shows you what’s working, what’s not, and gives you valuable insight into your clients and leads. Plus, with HubSpot, you can connect your automation into your CRM and have all your data in one incredibly convenient location.
Online Proposal and Agreement Builder Tool
We recommend to setup an online proposal building tool with digital signature capabilities. Some of the tools provide advanced analytics and alerts your sales rep when a prospect reviewing their paperwork.
A modern agreement builder tool can be connected to your CRM and capable to process online payment. We recommend Panda Doc and Proposify. Both connects with HubSpot and can automate your internal contract approval and sales process.
Online Bookkeeping and Billing Tools
Even with much of your operations down, you still have expenses accruing to keep track of – payroll, rent for your office, etc. that you need to record, and if you are still able to provide services or accept payment for services scheduled in the future, you need to be able to send invoices. One vital function for any business is keeping track of bills and payroll.
Why is this one of our favorite remote working tools? Cloud-based bookkeeping includes the ability to send invoices that include a “Pay Now” button so clients can just pay via credit card. Combining these two functions allows you to maintain your financial records and get paid easily so you can get near-immediate revenue, which is key right now while business may be lean. QuickBooks Online is one of the most popular solutions because you can pay bills, submit payroll, and keep up with tax information all in one place as well as keep up your records and send invoices.
Business Website or E-Commerce Website
Now that more of your operations are online, more people will be visiting your website to gain information or to contact you. An outdated, sluggish site that’s hard to navigate and impossible for you to update is going to make online operations more challenging. It may be time for a website redesign.
Consider making the shift to a content management system, like a WordPress website. WordPress makes it easy to update your website to keep your clients informed about any changes happening within your company while adding visual appeal through images, video, and clean navigation.
Your website should be connected with your CRM and phone system to automate your lead processing and distribution process.
Website Hosting Service
Your website has the information your client needs, but you need a safe and secure web hosting service to make sure your site is actually available online and accessible. While there are countless available hosting options, you need to make sure you’re choosing a plan that backs up your data frequently in the event of a crash, addresses problems quickly, and, if you’re on a shared server, your site is allocated enough resources to keep it running smoothly and quickly.
Email Hosting Service
Emails are probably going to be your primary form of communication for the next few weeks, (or months) so you want a system that you can rely on to get you what you need and filter out what you don’t. Having a good online email provider that allows you to stay in touch from anywhere, integrates with your CRM and project management systems, and filters out spam is vital to consistent communication.
Online Fax Tools
While faxing is not a common method of communication anymore, there are times it’s still necessary, such as with legal or financial documents. Basically, any document you can send in an email, like Word documents and PDFs, can be sent to a fax machine. Typically, you would log into an account through eFax or a similar platform, enter the fax number and recipient, type in a message to use as a cover sheet, attach your documents, then send it. It will print out just like a normal fax will.
Final Word: Best Remote Working Tools for Businesses
Shifting from an office environment to a remote team can be challenging, but with the right infrastructure in place, should take no time at all. A computer, a business website, and reliable hosting are the bare minimum for remote work teams. If you need assistance setting up these services, or have questions about improving your remote business operations, contact our web design agency!