Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of Americans were already working from home with some frequency. During the pandemic many people worked from home. And now even as offices open back up, many employees still want to work from home part of the week.
If your company was in the midst of a digital transformation, it probably wasn’t a difficult transition to start working from home. You were already using tools and software hand-picked by your IT and/or leadership teams.
But for many, there was a scramble to get things up and running just for the sake of business continuity. And that’s okay – anything that keeps business moving while we’re dealing with uncertainty is good!
But as working from home (at least part of the time) becomes the new normal, we need better and smarter ways to work, along with the right tools.
Below are some tips for how you can take your remote work to the next level.
Better Home Office Furniture and Equipment
One of the first things many of us learned is that our current computer chair wasn’t designed for an 8 hour-plus workday.
Or maybe you’ve realized that your lighting is sub-optimal, or your desk is just not cutting it for your focus. And if you’re going to be working from home for a while (or just working from home more often), it’s wise to invest in better office furniture.
It’s also time to ensure that you have all the proper equipment to do your job. This could mean getting a second monitor or picking up a document scanner.
Here are some resources for you to start:
- Everything You Need to Work From Home, According to People Who Do It Every Day: a great article with popular and most-used chairs, desks, lamps, coffee makers, and more.
- The Best Home-Office Furniture and Supplies: this article goes beyond furniture and recommends the best cabling solutions, writing utensils, and packing tape, among others.
- Best Office Chairs: completely about office chairs because we really can’t understate how important a good chair is, especially when you can’t see your chiropractor.
- Best Standing Desks: or if you want to cut out the chair completely, check out this resource of the best standing desks.
- Best Document Scanners for Remote Work from Home: if your work requires scanning lots of paper documents, you’re going to need a scanner that’s right for your space.
Optimize Department Communication
Once you’ve settled into routines and determined how you work best from home, it’s time to figure out how to make your team work like a well-oiled machine.
First, establish which communication channels you want to use for information, according to importance. For example: if you have an urgent customer need, you’ll want to call or chat with your team member to work through the problem. But if you have an idea about a potential new software feature, you may just want to leave a note on project management software.
Management should decide if you need office-approved chat or conferencing software. Is it okay for departments to find their own ways to communicate? Or is it better to have a standard channel like Slack or Google Chat?
Also, decide how often you need to check in with each other. Do you need daily meetings? Weekly? Reevaluate this often so you don’t get on calls you don’t need, or worse, miss calls you should have held.
Try these guides for establishing best practices for communication:
- How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote: a good place to start when establishing communication/collaboration best practices.
- How To Embrace Remote Work: this entire guide from Trello is great, but the section about communication is exceptionally helpful. (Though maybe skip the advice about in-person meetups until a later date.)
Collaborate Smarter with Document Management Software
When sharing documents among your coworkers, you’re probably just emailing them back and forth or tossing them up on Dropbox. And for a simple collaboration or document share, you don’t need much more than that.
But if you and your colleagues work with a significant number of documents and data, you’ll need a system that can work harder for you. Document management software allows for remote collaboration and document self-service, all while being housed in a highly secure cloud environment. Good systems also have audit trails and document history, easily integrate with the software you use every day, and allow for advanced features like workflow. They can take any document-based task to the next level.
To learn more about document management software, check out these resources:
- Everything You Need to Know about Document Management: a full guide, including a breakdown of advanced features.
- What is Enterprise Content Management?: this article from our partners at Laserfiche not only covers what enterprise content management is, but also why you need it.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA can be bundled with some document management software. If you’re working with fewer resources, RPA can help plug some of the gaps.
Make Sure You’re Using the Right Software
And while we’re covering software, IT and leadership teams should eventually evaluate every program their company is using. Unless you were actively working to set up remote employees, you may have not given too much thought about programs to enable a remote workforce. You might have picked your video conference software for working with external clients. Or you just downloaded Zoom because it’s at the top of every list. (Not to throw shade at Zoom – but do be aware there could be security risks.)
It may feel like overkill to evaluate every single piece of software right now. And while we can only hope that the current situation is temporary, the trend of remote work is likely to grow. Putting in the research now will make permanent work from home situations a lot easier.
Here are a few places to start:
- G2: the largest online tech marketplace with real, unbiased user reviews. Start your research here, check out the software websites for particular features, and then cross reference reviews from some of these sites. They also have a nice blog post about the five work from home apps you need for great remote work.
- The Essential Remote Work Tools You Need to Get Things Done: an extensive resource with all tools broken up by tasks – project management, writing, conferencing, etc. There’s a nice collection of other tools you may not have considered at the bottom of the article.
- The Remote Worker’s Toolkit: The 15 Tools You Need to Work Remotely: this guide is a collection of articles, each of which is an excellent round up of top-notch tools for working from home.
Like most things, efficiency in working from home is a constantly evolving process. Making little tweaks right now can really pay off in the future. Standardizing your business processes and software now will make for easier future situations and policies.
Additionally, it’s up to individual workers, along with employers, to make sure that home offices are safe and secure. Anti-virus software is the bare minimum you need for your home office. Employers should also consider two-factor authentication, VPNs, and encryption.
Is there anything else you’ve done that’s taken your work from home efficiency to the next level? Reach out to us on Twitter and LinkedIn and tell us about it. We’ll update this post with your suggestions!