The Best Tools for Remote Working

22 May, 2020
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During the lockdown period, we’ve already covered elements of the working from home life - from our honest Q+A with the Evoluted team, to the ergonomics of working remotely.

Not only have government rules around this pandemic forced many into working from home, there may well be more remote working brought into the workplace in the future; following many seeing the benefits.

Since we’re in it for the long haul, we’ve looked at the tools that can aid your remote working. Whether it be to keep on top of your workload, or to keep communicating with your teams, we’d seriously advise you to get some of these platforms downloaded.

Video Calls

It’s an obvious starting point, but you need to stay connected with your team. Think about how often you’d typically share an idea, have a quick meeting or talk amongst yourselves in the office. 

You don’t have to replicate this, but the human touch is important when it comes to working, particularly if you’ve gone remote for the first time. Luckily, there are a lot of platforms out there that enable you to do this and more.

Zoom

Zoom has been one of the video platforms that everyone has been talking about during coronavirus. Demand for the programme has naturally spiked during the pandemic, so much so that the amount of daily users rose to 200 million in March 2019, up from 10 million in December.

Features of Zoom

The platform offers everything you need to host online meetings, social gatherings and conference calls - there are also many webinars being held that use Zoom as the key tool to facilitate this. It has the option to share camera, audio and your screen, in addition to a handy chat feature. 

There is a gallery display on Desktop, so when you’re in large conference calls, you can see everyone at once. You can also easily mute and unmute yourself to join in the conversation.

One of the best features is the fun backgrounds you can add with just a click. Don’t fancy showing your home? Transport yourself to Springfield or perhaps a more work appropriate setting, like the office from The Office.

Zoom Pricing

There are multiple levels to Zoom pricing plans, including a free version to suit all types of businesses. With a free account, you can have unlimited 1-1 meetings and a limit of 40 minutes on meetings with more than three people. 

Paid-for accounts start at £11.99 per month and range up to £1,599 per month - with increasing levels of benefits, such as custom branding, more participants and more hosts. 

Google Meets

If your business already operates on the G-Cloud, Google Meets is an easy solution for video calling. By using your Gmail account as a login, Google Meets allows groups to chat through messaging, voice and video call. 

Features of Google Hangouts

Like many video conferencing solutions, Google Hangouts enables you to send instant messages, make voice calls, host HD video calls and of course, run large conferencing calls of up to 150 people.

Other useful features for working remotely with Google Hangouts include screen sharing, dial-in options and full integration to your calendar. Additionally, you can easily mute and unmute yourself to effectively facilitate discussions or host webinars.

Google Hangouts Pricing

During the pandemic, Google has made the features of their premium version free to all until September 30.

This is typically included within the G-Suite package, which starts from £4.14 per user, per month and ranges up to £20 per user, per month. While these packages offer a range of benefits depending on the size of the business, all of them include Google Meet.

GoToMeeting

If you’re not looking for a full package (like Google Meet which is part of a wider suite), GoToMeeting is an online video platform which allows you to schedule meetings, share screens and host video conferences.

Features of GoToMeeting 

This platform offers everything that you need for video conferencing, including screen sharing, conference calling, video conferencing and mobile conferencing.

One handy feature is that you can record meetings in real-time, take notes and mark action items - which makes it easy to share minutes and any other notes straight after the meeting.

Pricing of GoToMeeting 

There are three plans to choose from, including ‘Professional’ which starts at £9.50 per month and ‘Business’ which starts £12.67 per month. The key difference is the amount of participants that can join conferences.

For enterprise solutions, GoToMeeting encourages you to call, since this is a more bespoke package.

Evoluted’s verdict: Google Meets

As we’re already on the G Suite, Google Meets is a seamless way to host video calls between the whole company, departments, teams and even 1:1s. Google Meets has been integral to our communication during lockdown.

Instant Messaging

It is not possible to communicate everything through video messaging. Firstly, we’d all burn out quite quickly, but secondly, not everything warrants this kind of format. Some things can simply be sent over message.

This is where Instant Messaging becomes an essential part of working remotely. It makes it easy to communicate quickly, send images and review documents. As mentioned in the video conferencing section, G Suite and Microsoft Teams offer this type of service. 

If you’re looking for a unique tool that just focuses on the ability to instant message, however, there are multiple platforms available.

Slack

Slack is a comprehensive communication tool that offers the option for scaling to teams of all sizes. Primarily, it offers an instant messaging platform which decreases the time spent sending internal emails.

It also offers a range of features that add value to teams and can help them to stay productive while working remotely.

Features of Slack

Slack offers a range of messaging options. You can have 1-1 direct conversations; or group chats with up to 8 people and channels, where the whole team can join in to discuss a topic. These can be made public or private. 

Information can be found quickly through the useful search feature. Additionally, Slack allows gifs to be exchanged, phone and video calls, document sharing and for reminders to be set. For example, at Evoluted, we have a daily reminder to find out who is locking the office up!

Pricing of Slack

Slack is available for free for small teams, however, this doesn’t save messages after 10,000 - so you won’t be able to scroll through them.

There are other pricing options available if you want more features, starting from £5.25 per user, per month, up to Enterprise, which is a bespoke package and requires you to contact the sales team for a price.

Flowdock

Flowdock is another group chat platform designed for enhancing the productivity of teams, and keeping organisations connected, no matter where everyone is working from.

This platform is specifically designed to work with a wide range of integrations, from project management tools to customer service and deployment.

Features of Flowdock

Conversations are managed in ‘threads’ to keep topics and all of these are colour coded, to ensure organisation. There are also options to have 1:1 discussions when you need confidentiality. Video chats and screen sharing can also be made through Flowdock.

Integrations are at the heart of this instant messaging system, so there is an inbox for all updates. You can use Flowdock on the go, with an iOS and Android App available to be downloaded.

Pricing of Flowdock

As with most tools, there are levels to how much you can pay for Flowdock. There is a 30 day trial available, with the two pricing levels starting from $3 per user, per month and the enterprise package costing $9 per user, per month.

Students or teams of 5 or less can use Flowdock for free. Not-for-profits can also request for free access to the platform.

Evoluted’s verdict: Slack

Slack really is an all-rounder, thanks to the easy to manage channels and beautiful interface, our internal communication is very efficient. Before lockdown, it was an essential tool that we used for communication, but now we depend on it for our day-to-day work more than ever.

Team Collaboration

Sitting down in a meeting room to talk through and work on ideas is not a possibility while most people are working from home. That being said, it doesn’t have to be the end of team discussion and collaboration.

It may not be exactly the same, but there are programmes available to facilitate group discussions and working together, even if you’re not in the same room.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is a comprehensive hub of ‘chats, calling, conferencing and collaboration’ according to Microsoft. It is fully integrated with Office 365, so if your business uses this already, implementing Teams could be a quick way to enhance the productivity of your team.

This could arguably fall into 'instant messenger' too, as it has an integral messenger feature which is a hub for team collaboration.

Features of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams offers a wide range of features to facilitate team collaboration, including instant messaging, video conferencing and voice calls. The chat option also allows 1-1 chats or group chats.

Another benefit of Teams is that it allows access to share and edit Word documents, Powerpoint and Excel in real time through video conferences.

Pricing of Microsoft Teams

Teams is available to Office 365 holders on licence plans including: Business Essentials, Business Premium, Enterprise E1, E3 or E5. The cheapest option (business essentials) costs $5 per user, per month, while the most expensive (E5) is $35 per user, per month.

Igloo

Igloo is an intranet with an aim to bring together people, tools and information to enhance productivity and keep teams connected - especially when they’re not working together in a physical space.

The key components of the software are communication, collaboration, knowledge management, culture and engagement.

Features of Igloo 

There are set digital workplace solutions to ensure that remote workers are brought into the conversation and that everyone is working together in the same way.

These workplace solutions include Team Room, Boardroom, Project Room and more. This means the appropriate information, documents and people work within the appropriate spaces. For example, the Team Room is designed for the whole team, whereas the Boardroom is used for decision makers to review the appropriate documents and work.

Pricing of Igloo

As this intranet is a custom built software solution designed to suit businesses, you have to request a quote from them.

Evoluted’s verdict: Microsoft Teams

It’s not a software that we personally use, but similar to the G Suite, we know the benefit of having a comprehensive service that allows you to collaborate in more ways than one. 

Time Tracking

For those that don’t use time tracking in their business, it can sound a little daunting and a bit 1984. Fear not, it’s actually a really useful way to see where your time is going. This is especially helpful when you’re out of the office.

This is mostly used as a billing tool by freelancers, agencies and other businesses. Whether you’d use it to ensure a project stays on budget or to bill clients for work completed, it’s an accurate way of looking after your whole team’s time.

Toggl

Toggl is a software solution that operates across a range of industries, providing time tracking and reporting on the time spent in an easy-to-understand platform.

Features of Toggl 

The key feature is of course the time tracking itself. Toggl uses one-click timers, making it easy for team members to stop and start their project timers. In addition to this, there is an idle tracker, where the tracker detects periods of inactivity.

If tracking in real time doesn’t work, there is also a useful feature to manually enter time after the event has happened. Time can be paused through phone or desktop, which means that your team can adjust to time tracking in a way that suits them.

All projects can be reviewed to track how much time has been spent and how many hours are specifically billable.

Pricing of Toggl

There are multiple options in terms of pricing with Toggl. There is the ‘Starter’ option, which is free, whilst the most popular version is ‘Premium’ - this offers more benefits. Additionally, there is a custom price plan for enterprise businesses.

Harvest

Harvest is a time management software that operates across a number of industries, who all are looking to find out where their time and money are.

Features of Harvest

Harvest offers the standard features of any typical time tracking software, with the ability to track time to multiple projects and clients. It has a desktop version and an app, so workers can choose to track time in a way that is comfortable for them.

Additionally, billable time that has been tracked to projects can be converted into a professional invoice that can be sent to the client easily.

Pricing of Harvest

Harvest’s pricing options are straightforward, with a free version for one person and two projects. The ‘Pro’ option allows for unlimited people and unlimited projects. This costs $12 per person, per month.

Evoluted’s verdict: Harvest

When it comes to choosing a timetracker, the ability to effectively convert time into invoices is an essential tool for a busy agency. The simplicity of the design is really useful, when it comes to tracking time, efficiency is key!

Project Management

When considering tools to enhance working from home, many of them have an emphasis on communication - which is understandable, it is the key ingredient to successfully working as a team. Project Management is no different!

Without the chance to hop to someone’s desk to ask them for an update, it is always positive to have software that makes keeping track of all elements of a project, particularly when multiple people and departments are involved.

Once again, there are plenty of tools in this to suit a wide range of needs and businesses. Depending on what you need, there is bound to be something to make your remote life easier.

Asana 

One of the most popular project management tools, Asana allows teams across multiple departments to manage tasks, projects and keep up to date with each other. This is an especially effective tool for when your business is working remotely.

Features of Asana

Asana allows the creation of ‘boards’ for each project. Within this, the project management features come to life. This includes being able to assign tasks to team members, visualise progress, map out timelines and provide regular updates throughout the project via comments and adding a status to tasks.

Asana also integrates with emails, files and customer service tickets to organise the team.

Pricing of Asana

There are multiple pricing options available, depending on the needs of the business.

Premium option starts at $10.99 per user, per month, with a higher-tier option for larger businesses starting at $24.99 per user, per month. There is a custom price range for enterprise-sized businesses who require more users and features.

Trello

Trello is an easy and flexible project management system. It does not offer the same comprehensive management capabilities as Asana, but it does offer a collaborative and creative solution to managing elements of a project.

Features of Trello

Trello is essentially a roadmap of a project. Within a board, all information across the project can be collated, meaning you can see what each department is working on within the project and what tasks are outstanding.

Other benefits of Trello include a clear and easy-to-use interface, automation of tasks, deadline reminders, checklists and a drag and drop functionality.

Pricing of Trello

As with many tools, there are multiple pricing plans to suit a range of different projects. There is a free option, up to the enterprise plan $20.83 per user, per month. The option you select is dependent on how you plan to use the platform.


Evoluted’s verdict: Asana

Asana is the most complete project management tool on the market, in our opinion. It works in combination with timetrackers, instant messaging and makes it easy to manage a range of clients and projects.

These are just some examples of the kinds of tools you can use to enhance the way that your team works. There are a wide range of alternative tools out there, so this by no means covers all the options available to you. 

Implementing a range of tools is not just about the software that you have - it’s about staying connected and giving your team a platform to boost their productivity, especially while we are working remotely through this crisis. So we’d recommend trying free trials and asking for feedback from your team when trialling new tools.

Written by Katie

Katie’s key strengths are her writing and creativity. Across the varied client accounts she works on, she always works with a focus on bringing flair to the table.

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