One of the things that we’re all missing as we continue to work from home is the easy collaboration of a shared office space. Brainstorming in the meeting room, trotting over for a quick catch up, a chat in the kitchen that makes you think differently about some aspect of your business. And then, of course, there are the other benefits: an energizing atmosphere that boosts productivity, and constant visual indications of progress.
Thankfully, there are a lot of tools to pick up the (forgive the pun) slack. As we’ve helped companies run their IT, we’ve seen a lot of different tools be implemented, and experimented with a few ourselves. In particular, we’ve been searching for the perfect tools to help us:
- Boost productivity
- Monitor task and project activity
- Improve the remote working experience
- Adapt to new sales and marketing methods
- Learn new stuff, quickly
Now, having sorted the wheat from the chaff, we’re glad to report that we’ve got five top tips on the best software to help foster collaboration while working from home.
1. Boosting productivity
Managing teams, tasks and projects can be hard enough when you’re all in one place. Working remotely for an extended period makes it even harder. And it’s not just your teams you have to think about – it’s your own productivity as well.
For me, Notion has been the answer to my prayers. Best described as OneNote on steroids, Notion acts as a task manager, project manager and a team wiki – as well as being a place to dump notes and documents. It’s the ideal collaboration application for remote teams because it provides an easy way to share knowledge, files, tasks, reminders and more.
2. Task and project monitoring
Microsoft Project is often viewed as the gold standard for project management, but for smaller businesses the range of features can sometimes feel overwhelming. Here are some equally competent alternatives that are aimed at SMEs.
- Ally.io – Like many businesses, much of our team hasn’t been to the office since March 2020, and all communications have been online. This has made the need to organise, track and review projects remotely all the more essential. For companywide and departmental activity, we have adopted the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework and are using the Ally.io platform. This has been great for aligning projects to the vision statement of 4D and making sure everyone can visualise the progress we’re making.
- Monday.com – This is our platform of choice for team tasks. As well as offering a traditional Kanban type view, you can organise your tasks as a calendar, timeline or Gantt chart to name a few. Clickup is also very popular, especially with technical developers
3. Get regular feedback to support employees
There’s not a lot you can do about someone’s tantrumming 2-year-old, or the fact their neighbour has chosen to use this time to take up the saxophone, but you can do your best to ensure that their remote working experience is a positive one. Key to this is getting good feedback, which can be difficult to do when so many feedback tools require people to log in to a new and unfamiliar system, and effectively step outside of their day to answer a survey. We use Polly.ai, which fully integrates with both Slack and Microsoft Teams, so that it fits seamlessly into your existing workflow. Surveys can be pre-scheduled to go out right after a meeting, and you can choose whether to anonymize the results or make everything fully public.
4. Adapt to new sales and marketing methods
Video was already a growing part of the outbound sales and account management experience, but its importance has sky-rocketed since the onset of the pandemic and the end of in-person meeting opportunities. Tools such as Loom.com and Vidyard.com make recording, editing and sending such videos a cinch. We use them to get in touch with people, to share information, as well as for regular marketing content for our website and social channels.
5. Learning new stuff
Personal improvement has been big on everyone’s lockdown list. While Audible is the king of all things audio book, a new service called Blinkist condenses the latest marketing bestsellers into a 15-minute summary. A great way to spend your morning walk! If you’re feeling generous, these kinds of services also make a great perk for your employees, helping them survive lockdown and learn new stuff that could benefit your business. Win-win.
Every good collaboration requires robust IT
These software recommendations are tried and tested, and we’re sharing this guide because these tools should help you too. But even the best tools and the most well-intentioned of remote working policies can’t compensate for the frustration caused by inadequate IT. So, if you suspect your IT is your real bottleneck, take a look at our Transform Your IT guide to ensure your IT is providing the support it should be. And if you have any software recommendations of your own, we’re always glad to hear about them.