So everyone is working hard on the office and productivity is at an all-time high. Deadlines are being met, and clients are happy. But there’s a problem. Someone in your office catches a contagious disease.
Maybe it’s the COVID-19 or another highly contagious disease. What can you do? Do you send all your employees home? Does the business have to come to stand still to protect your employee’s health? Will you go bankrupt?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of countries around the world are urging people to social distance themselves. Hence, more and more companies are creating policies that allow their employees to work from home.
To protect their employees from catching the virus, most of the tech-giants, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, have rolled out new work from home policies. Office work is discouraged, at least until the outbreak is under control. You might be experiencing something similar to your current job.
The fact that so many people are working from home significantly changes the way companies can manage their employees. Tracking employee work performance and keeping productivity high can be a challenge. While there are many benefits to this arrangement, there are some downsides too, which we’ll help iron out later on in this article.
Reduction of Disease Transmission Rates
The best reason to telecommute, especially since the COVID-19 virus outbreak, is to not only protect yourself from catching the virus but also avoid transmitting it to other people. Essentially, it stops the spread of the virus, or at least, significantly reduces the transmission rate.
The end result is fewer people get sick and do not require medical attention which means the health care system won’t be overloaded. When the hospitals are overloaded, and all the beds are at maximum capacity, patients won’t be able to receive the care they need. It can lead to all kinds of problems, such as a higher death rate.
Save Money, Boost Morale
Another major benefit of working from home is that your employees don’t need to commute to work. Since about 76% of Americans drive themselves to work, allowing them to work from home will save them money on gas. It will also help reduce pollution.
More importantly, the time spent on that commute could be spent on work. What that means is your employees end up working an extra hour, which often leads to better results. In fact, some studies have shown that people who work from home are 30% more productive because they have fewer distractions and can avoid the commute.
In short, allowing employees to work from home, especially if their job is mostly digital, has a lot of great benefits, not strictly limited to stopping the spread of viruses. The problem is how to transition from everyone working together in an office, to everyone working separately from their homes.
Transitioning Employees to Work from Home:
How would you track their work? How would they clock-in? How would they deliver work? The good news is there is plenty of software you can use to remotely manage your employees.
Whether you want to make a video conference, show a presentation, tracking hours, or simply creating a workflow, there is software available.
Best Software for Managing Telecommuting Employees:
We’ll be narrowing down the software by category and features. Below is our list of the best software for working from home.
We selected the software on this list based on our criteria. Specifically, we’re looking for software that is user-friendly, budget-friendly, and feature-rich.
Bear in mind, while a webcam and microphone are ideal for these apps, you can also participate in meetings without them, by communicating through the text chat.
Telecommute Software for Video Conferences:
Look, communication is important, especially if you and your team need to work closely with other departments.
You have probably already seen videos and articles circulating on social media about how everyone is joining video conferences from home. If you’re wondering what software they’re using for video conferences, this section is for you.
Zoom has added more users in the early months of 2020 than it has in the entire year of 2019, and it doesn’t seem like that number is going to decrease.
Zoom is great because they offer a variety of plans, one of which is completely free. Most companies can afford to buy a Zoom membership for their employees who need to work from home. Zoom offers three video conference options:
- Host a Meeting with Video On
- Video Off
- Or Screen-share Only
They also have other cloud-based solutions, such as phone systems, rooms and workplaces, meetings, and other services.
Overall, it’s a great software for telecommuters. Currently, up to 1,000 members can join one Zoom video call, but only 49 webcams can be on-screen.
GotoMeeting offers similar features as Zoom; screen-sharing, conference calls, video conferences, virtual meetings, and many others. One unique feature is the ability to record meetings and take notes in real-time.
The great thing about this software is you can create a virtual meeting in a matter of minutes, and both the audio and visual quality is great. It’s a favorite software for webinars and other video conferences. The downside is only 25 webcams can be active. It’s more for one-way communications.
Skype, or Skype Meetings, is one of the most popular apps on the market, and it’s preloaded into most Windows machines. The truth is Skype works great for casual video chats. You can also use it for video conferences with up to 50 people at the same time. Considering Skype is free, it’s a good choice for people who are on a budget. It also integrates with Microsoft products, such as Office 365. It’s good for small teams.
Google’s Hangouts Meet
As mentioned earlier, tech giants such as Google are trying to help customers stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, they’re offering a promotion that allows users to use more advanced features of Hangout Meet for free, such as 250 participants in a call, live-streaming for up to 100,000 viewers, and recording sessions.
The specific promotion will only last until July 1st. Regardless, Google’s Hangout Meet is a great software for quick video conferences, and it’s completely free. The best part about this software is it can run completely in your web-browser, so there’s no need to install more programs. You only need a Google account to start.
While Slack isn’t specifically known for video conferences, it does support video conferences. The company is probably best known as a communications software, they not only support video-chat but also audio and text chat, making it very easy to communicate with your remote team.
The way Slack works is very simple. You create a workspace, add members to it, and then the members can share a group chat (audio, video, text, etc) and you can also talk to individual members in your workspace. You can also log hours with Slack’s Tracking Time app.
Best Software for Project Management & Workflow:
Communicating through online channels is one thing but collaborating on projects is an entirely different playfield. The software below can make things easier, great for managing remote teams.
Asana is one of the best team-based project management platforms. It allows you to create custom workflow templates based on a card system (called Boards), which is very user-friendly and easy to understand.
You can easily create boards for different types of work, such as in-progress, completed, to-do, and whatnot. You can also assign team members to certain boards, leave comments, attach files, and much more.
What makes Asana great is they provide more than 50 free workflow templates for a wide variety of industries. It’s perfect for small business teams. The best part is most of their features are unlocked for free members. You can also use third-party apps with Asana, one of which can track employee hours.
Trello is similar to Asana, except the dashboard looks more post-it notes. It provides members with a quick way to create tasks for employees and really helps visualize the workflow.
As an admin, you’ll have to create a Board (dashboard) and organize cards based on your needs. Trello is mostly used for remote collaboration on projects because it makes it very easy to divide and track tasks.
Great for marketing agencies! One feature that is perfect for telecommuting is its Log Work feature. It’s like a digital way to clock into the office, and your admin will be able to see the total logged hours.
Best Remote Tech Support Software
So you need to move your employees to their homes, but what if they don’t know how to set up specific software on their computers? These programs can help:
Teamviewer is the most popular remote tech support software. With Teamviewer, you can remotely access someone else’s computer, and help them with tech issues. Think of it as sharing your desktop with someone else.
It’s much easier to solve tech problems using this method than it is to explain the solution over the phone. Teamviewer also allows you to access your office computers from home, and vice versa. It’s very useful.
Does Working From Home Make You Less Productive?
While there are some clear benefits to telecommuting such as the ones mentioned earlier in this article, employers are often worried that productivity levels will drop if more people work from home.
In some situations, that may be the case. There are lots of people that state they can’t concentrate on their work when at home. Not to mention the people who have children that require constant attention.
On the other hand, another large chunk of people says they’re more productive when working from home. If you can train your employees to use the above software, and clock-in on time, then they’ll be much more likely to focus on work, instead of other household duties.
In other words, the telecommute software mentioned in this article will keep productivity levels high, and since people are more comfortable in their homes, you might even notice a sharp rise in productivity. When it’s all said and done, it at least makes your company more flexible, which everyone appreciates.