The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to scramble as they adapted to accommodate remote workers and hybrid work models. While studies show that companies have successfully implemented IT solutions, some pain points remain.
This article highlights the areas where workers would like to see improvements. It lists the key technology requirements for remote workers, including solutions for project management, communication, collaboration with team members, and data security.
Luckily for those who enjoy remote work, technology has removed many of the challenges and barriers that once prohibited hybrid work models from becoming mainstream. The coronavirus forced employers to facilitate remote work and to develop new approaches to collaboration and security.
For more on remote work, read “What Is Hybrid Work?”
But the technologies that support a remote workforce are still evolving. The UK mobile operator O2 conducted a study of full-time remote workers who had previously been office-based to understand their experiences, needs, and expectations where technology is concerned. The study found that over 40% of those surveyed did not have access to all of the systems they needed, and 45% did not have access to video conferencing.
Another 40% had unreliable internet access at home, which is a concern because employees can be tempted to alternative WiFi solutions, think Starbucks WiFi, which increases the risk of security breaches.
Another study by the technology company Riverbed found that 94% of company leaders said technology problems had impacted their business and remote employees. According to the study, the four biggest problems remote workers faced were frequent disconnections from corporate networks, slow file downloads, poor quality video meetings, and long response times when loading apps.
Here are some of the best tools to help you and your remote team collaborate productively, creatively, and seamlessly.
To find companies that hire remotely, check out Placement’s Remote Job Exclusive Job Board
Unless you are a freelancer or consultant, your employer should provide you with key resources, such as a computer or laptop. They may or may not provide a phone. You'll also need a webcam and reliable high-speed internet in your home office. You might want to use a headset for video calls or noise-canceling headphones depending on how much disruption you have to contend with. You’ll need an area where you can work in peace. You might choose to use a second monitor for your computer, and you’ll need a desk, chair, and a printer.
Too much time spent perched on the sofa or at an uncomfortable desk at the wrong height can cause neck and back strain. Your company might provide an allowance for equipment that you can use to make your work environment more comfortable. For example, a stand for a laptop, a wireless keyboard, or an ergonomic mouse are also good investments.
Your company should set you up with operating systems and software. They also should take care of security concerns with passwords and authentication. Here are some of the automation and technology solutions that remote workers use.
You want to get paid for your work. Companies that hire remote workers will use a digital solution. These solutions collect your personal and bank information to pay you automatically once you invoice the company or input your hours. Examples of these solutions are Workful, Zenefits, Rippling, Namely, Gusto, Quickbooks, and Wave.
Storing data on your laptop and sharing data via USB sticks or email seems prehistoric now with cloud-based storage and Google drives. Cloud-based tools and storage is much safer and more efficient because data are moved via safe channels and often with multi-factor authentication. Google Drive and Dropbox allow easy sharing of files with different access levels.
Companies use the cloud because it requires less in-house infrastructure. Cloud services are cost-efficient, scalable, and deliver on-demand IT resources. Examples of cloud services are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
It’s crucial that you communicate with your team. Many team collaboration tools incorporate task management with real-time messaging and file sharing. Relying on emails slows work down because people may only check their inbox a few times a day. Examples of collaboration tools with real-time communication functionality are Slack, Chanty, and Microsoft Teams.
Videoconferencing tools have made the world smaller. Participants from all over the globe and in different time zones can participate in a Zoom meeting or webinar. Screen shares allow instructive sessions that can be recorded and played back later for training and knowledge-sharing. Meetings can be invitation-only so that a meeting is not interrupted, and Zoom offers separate virtual rooms where groups can split off and collaborate on a specific project.
Popular video conferencing tools are GoToMeeting, Zoom, and BlueJeans.
Task management and project management tools help your remote team manage deadlines, resources, and workflow to keep tasks on track. Examples are Asana, Trello, Basecamp, ClickUp, Wrike, and Miro. These automated planners help with time management and prioritizing because users can always see what deadlines are approaching and what tasks they are responsible for.
Coffee shop WiFis are not secure internet connections. Most companies have set policies for the use of physical devices and where they can be used and stored. For example, laptops should remain in sight at all times and not left in hotel rooms or checked luggage.
A device should be protected by antivirus tools, encryption, and firewalls. Email encryption is a must, and most companies prohibit their remote workers from using public WiFi or shared computers for work purposes.
Ok, so it’s not essential software, but VirtualOffice is a nice option for those of us who don’t have a trendy corporate workspace at home. VitualOffice builds a virtual background when someone is on a conference or Zoom call. You could be at the beach or at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The software has a library of backgrounds, but you can also incorporate a company logo into your background for better branding when hosting a virtual meeting with clients. The tool is free and works with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Skype.
Lastly, some employers use time-tracking software for employees and remote workers. Some of these monitoring tools, particularly those that take a snapshot of an employee’s computer every 20 minutes or so, could seem intrusive. However, proponents of tech tools like Hubsaff and Time Doctor claim they can help workers stay focused and optimize their use of time, ultimately providing better work-life balance. The jury may be out on this one.