The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of small businesses to transition to virtual work. Today, many business owners and their employees are finding remote work agrees with them. One study discovered that 67% of small businesses that adopted remote work plan to remain remote long-term or permanently.
There are a number of benefits to remote work both for businesses and for employees. Businesses can save money by forgoing office space, office supplies, and employee perks like food and coffee. Employees, meanwhile, don’t have to commute anywhere and have more flexibility in their day to run errands and take care of their families.
But while remote work can be great for businesses, it’s not without challenges. A new study from Zoho found that employees found their employers’ technology “outdated” and “inefficient for company performance.” While employees were largely happy with their employers’ efforts to keep teams aligned and working towards common goals, it is clear that the right technology makes remote work more seamless.
Here, I’ve laid out some of the best tech upgrades that small businesses can adopt to ensure they thrive through this remote work period, whether it’s another few weeks, months, or for the indefinite future.
The Zoho study found that 17.5% of employees have “no visibility” into their employers’ direction or the big picture. That’s not a scary number, but it’s not encouraging, either. Communication is always key, but it’s even more important when your “internal” team works at a dozen different addresses. These are some of the best tools to help your teams communicate.
Slack is one of the top enterprise messaging tools on the market. It helps your teams cut through the noise of email, texts, phone calls, and all the other ways you keep in touch to give you a central place to communicate. Slack’s channels give you complete customization over your team’s messaging. Individual teams can create channels to discuss day-to-day operations or specific projects, while you can also create company-wide channels to encourage feedback, post company updates, and more.
After the initial COVID-19 lockdown in the United States, Zoom became a household name. Teleconferencing is a great way for families to keep in touch with one another, but Zoom is also a valuable tool for teams to connect while working remotely.
If your team has a unified calendar app with access to everyone’s schedules, that’s great. If you’re not ready to make that investment, Doodle is a quality scheduling alternative. Whether you’re trying to plan a company-wide (virtual) happy hour or you just want to touch base with the marketing team, Doodle turns scheduling into a poll. Send out a Doodle, and all of your invitees can fill out when they’re free so you can eliminate the back and forth.
Other Articles From AllBusiness.com:
Sales and marketing
Another surprising statistic from the Zoho survey was the fact that 85% of employees say it’s not possible to get a 360-degree view of customers from a single system. That’s a problem in a remote work environment. The customer/client relationship depends on clear communication and systems, especially when there’s no office to host meetings.
Salesforce is the world’s leading customer relationship management system (CRM), supporting more than 150,000 companies. It’s pricey, but the price tag is justified. Salesforce is customizable to your company’s needs, giving you seats for as many customers and employees as you want and creating a system unique to your business. It provides both high-level and granular views into your company’s sales and operations.
Email is an important marketing channel for any business, but collaboration on an email strategy is difficult when people are remote. Mailchimp makes life a little easier, however, by providing an array of easy-to-use features. Between attractive templates, advanced analytics, and one-click personalization, Mailchimp makes it easy for an entire team to create and launch targeted campaigns at the same time.
We often think of social media as an individual endeavor, but great social media marketing requires collaboration. Not only does Hootsuite make it easy for teams to collaborate, but it also simplifies your strategy. With Hootsuite, you can manage multiple social profiles from a single dashboard, scheduling posts, tracking mentions, and engaging with followers. Whether you have a team that manages accounts during different hours or multiple people are managing multiple accounts at the same time, Hootsuite is a valuable asset. It also has a great free plan.
Every business needs analytics tools to understand what is and what isn’t working. Google Analytics is one of the best platforms for small businesses because it’s completely free, with easy access for your whole team. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you understand how it works, you’ll develop a granular understanding of your digital marketing efforts and draw insights to help your company grow.
According to one study, remote workers complete 1.4 more days of work per month than their in-office counterparts. That’s a great number, but it’s also facilitated by great corporate technology. These tools can support your employees’ productivity.
Trello simplifies project management by creating smart, highly customizable to-do lists. You can use Trello to create and manage a content calendar, track a product launch, manage marketing campaigns, and virtually anything else you can think of. Because it’s so customizable, Trello helps employees stay focused and productive on whatever they need to do in a given time frame. They can track progress on individual tasks, see what’s due each day, and set reminders when it’s time to revisit or update a certain item.
Google Drive is one of the best collaboration tools ever invented. It offers almost all of the same benefits of Microsoft Office, except it’s accessible in real time by anyone you’ve given access. It even offers offline syncing so you can update documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more without an internet connection. Multiple people can work on the same document without risking overwriting an old version and, if that does happen, Google keeps backups and version histories readily available. Google Drive is free for individuals, but if you’d like to provide all of Google’s business tools to your team, it costs as little as $6 per user per month.
Speaking of collaboration, if your company deals with many individual files and folders, Dropbox is one of the top cloud storage and collaboration tools on the market. By providing individuals access to your company account, they can securely store company files on Dropbox’s service and invite clients or teammates to update, provide feedback, or share with relevant parties.
HR and culture
Did you think HR and culture were only important in an in-person work environment? Think again!
15Five is a continuous performance management solution that is a highly useful tool for providing feedback and facilitating check-ins between employees and managers. Just because people work from home doesn’t mean the company hierarchy is erased and companies need tools to help promote employee growth. 15Five is a centralized tool to ensure employees’ concerns and challenges are heard and to help them stay engaged and focused throughout the year.
Expenses are a pain in an in-person organization; they must be a nightmare when you remove the physical receipts, right? Good news: Tools like Expensify make submitting digital receipts and processing reimbursements simple. Employees just have to take a picture with the Expensify app, fill out a couple of fields, and then submit to HR. From there, reimbursement is as simple as one click.
The business world is trending towards staying remote for a while longer, if not for good. But while remote work offers many benefits to employees and businesses alike, it also comes with challenges. Technology can alleviate many of the growing pains when small businesses go remote—you just have to know where to look.
RELATED: Life After Coronavirus: Why We Should Never Go Back to Business as Usual