Keeping the Team Connected
With significantly more people working remotely these days due to the coronavirus, small businesses need to ensure that the team stays connected, accessible and able to respond to colleague and customer needs. Technology can help.
Communication has always been critically important for businesses of any size but, prior to the coronavirus, it’s likely that many businesspeople took the ability to readily communicate with others for granted. Today communication is top-of-mind as businesses—especially small businesses—strive to stay connected not only to customers but to staff who may be working in multiple locations as they shelter-in-place to avoid contracting the disease.
Working Remotely is The New Normal
Twitter and Square are just two of a growing number of large companies announcing that employees will be working at home “forever.”
Research is indicating that it’s an option that employees prefer. According to Gallup, 62% of employed Americans have worked from home over the past few months—three in five say they would prefer to continue to do so as much as possible, even after the virus subsides.
As cases continue to ebb and flow around the country, it’s becoming clear that the need to connect with others—remotely—will be around for some time. The new normal that is virtual communication in the workplace can create new challenges for businesses, managers and staff as they attempt to stay connected virtually. Fortunately, there are a wide range of tools that businesses are finding invaluable for staying connected.
Tools to Help Stay Connected
There are a wide range of tools and apps available to keep teams connected. Some of the most popular, in alphabetic order, are:
- Basecamp. Basecamp is a project management tool that can help you and your staff keep everything organized in one convenient location. It’s a great way to ensure that projects don’t stagnant and that to do’s are always top-of-mind.
- Hubstaff time tracking. One of the concerns that managers and supervisors often have relative to working remotely is that employees won’t be productive. This time tracking tool can help you not only remain aware of what staff are working on—and for how long—but can also provide a seamless way to keep track of staff hours on a project-by-project basis.
- Skype. Skype has been around for a long time and, despite problems users have from time to time with maintaining a strong connection, it’s still a popular way to engage with others. Recently, likely in an effort to compete with Zoom, Skype also has begun offering video meetings.
- Slack. Slack offers a platform to put all of your communication tools in one place, helping remote teams stay connected and productive. It’s a popular tool for collaboration and project management.
- Time Doctor. Time Doctor is a time tracking tool, similar to Hubstaff’s tool.
- Yammer. Yammer is a social media tool, but one that’s meant to connect private networks—like you and your employees.
- Zoom. While Zoom has proven to be a great tool for allowing face-to-face connections in a time of social distancing, it can be overused and some people are actually experiencing “Zoom fatigue.”
The Top Telecommuting Tool: The Telephone
No discussion of communication tools would be complete without including one of the most important tools of all time—the telephone. Especially in these days of isolation where business owners and their staff are disconnected from others, the telephone can help to make a personal connection. Today’s phone systems are a far cry from the simple tool that Alexander Graham Bell introduced in 1876, offering a wide range of features to help communicate with people no matter where they are, or when they need to connect. The humble telephone has withstood and continued to thrive despite the vast technological changes in business in the last half-century.
Operating your business virtually can help you save money on space and other resources, offer flexibility that younger generations increasingly crave, and help you attract and retain talent—no matter where they are.
Working Remotely: Best Practices for Keeping Things Secure
While technology can provide great benefit, business owners are understandably concerned about ensuring privacy and security for their employees and their business interests. Recent research from VPN provider based on the analysis of aggregated, anonymized network traffic from 750 million known domains, more than 4 billion IP addresses and more than 32 billion URLs over a 30-day period from May 21-June 19 revealed that:
- Staff working from home engaged with 76,440 links that took them to potentially dangerous websites.
- Employees encounter 8.5 risky URLs per day, on average, or 59 per week
- Those working from home access around 31 malware sites per month, and 10 phishing domains
- The most common high-risk URLs encountered are botnets, malware sites, spam and adware, and phishing and fraud sites
- Almost 1 in 5 risky links led to sites containing spam, adware or malware
In addition to making sure that remote staff have the appropriate security software installed on their devices, and that they update it regularly, education and communication is also important. Make sure that employees understand the potential risks and know the best practices for working remotely to keep their own, and your, data and information secure.
Finally, despite the recent proliferation of technology changes in business, strong people management skills are still a must have. Tools alone won’t sustain connections—people will. Make sure that you are being mindful about connecting with employees and others during these challenging times—and even as we most past them. Set up regular check-ins, gather people together for some virtual fun from time to time, open up the lines of communication and share best practices for positive interaction.