The demand for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak has triggered a run on remote work on a grand scale. Many businesses are still keeping their staff at home to work remotely. The following list of essential remote working tools helps you streamline your work and corporate communication processes fast and efficiently from your home offices.
Reorganizing the work environment and setting up new collaboration structures with remote working teams has been an additional challenge for businesses throughout the crisis and still is. Even though some businesses are now reopening their gates and offices, the ongoing fear of infection and a second wave encourages the hold on to working remotely, wherever this is possible. Google announced to let the majority of its employees work from home until 2021. Also, Twitter will allow employees to work from home at least until after the crisis.
Communication during a crisis requires even more coordination to respond with speed as developments unfold. Working remotely does not exactly help to make this easier. Digital tools and cloud services for online meetings, team chat, and document sharing make sure everyone has access to all processes, media, and documents needed. Online tools for communicating with customers and partners as well as social media communities make sure everyone has access to external communication and response.
I have compiled a list of essential tools that help us work remotely and that as well will help other corporate communication teams to streamline online collaboration with remote working teams to reach out to your audiences fast and efficiently.
For additional ideas about online collaboration tools above and beyond what is written below, also please check out The 10 Essential Types of Online Collaboration Tools Your Agency (or Small Business) Should Have.
#1 Tools to organize remote working teams
The most important thing, when working remotely is to organize tasks, projects transparently, and enable access to documents and files or to share and collaborate on documents needed for all communication projects and processes.
Basecamp helps to organize our teams and projects from everywhere and every device.
With Basecamp, you can set up a virtual workspace for your company as well as for your corporate communication team with separate spaces for each team and project. Each project provides a place to collect everything related to the relevant work. Each space brings together all the people involved, every discussion, document, file, task, dates, and you can even forward emails. This makes sure, everyone knows what is happening and where to save and find all files needed for each task or project. You can even collaborate with clients via Basecamp and define, which parts and information your clients should see and access.
Alternative tools for project management:
- Microsoft Office 365 (incl. Microsoft Teams)
#2 Tools to stay focused and productive
Working in a home office has its advantages, but also its downsides. During the lockdown, many parents and families have been juggling work and childcare in one place. Many schools and nurseries are still closed or only temporarily available. Many couples are still sharing one workspace. If children are playing in the background, the partner is on the phone, the dog is hauling, or the neighbors are just starting a new garden project, finding a place to concentrate and get things done can be extraordinarily challenging.
Distracting and overwhelming noise and frequent interruptions increase our stress level and lower our productivity. In these situations, light ambient background noise has been scientifically proven to boost brain waves for concentration, focus, and creativity.
Noisli helps you to stay concentrated and focused. It drowns out distracting background noise with relaxing and calming sounds.
You can select from ready-made playlists or you can mix and save your own favorite sounds. The timer helps you work in sessions to maximize your efficiency.
Alternative tools for ambient background noise: Brain.fm
Alternative tools for time management and productivity for remote teamwork:
#3 Tools for team chat and remote communication
Slack is one of the most popular messenger apps for business chat. It simplifies communication and gives every user their own shared workspace where communication and collaboration can be easily organized.
You can create channels and group chats for specific projects or teams. Or you can use direct messages with specific members of our team. It is faster and easier than email and enables real-time communication. You can share documents, links, or images.
Slack is accessible from everywhere and every device and perfect for remote working teams.
Alternative tools for team chat:
- Microsoft Teams
- Hangout Chats (Google Suite)
#4 Tools for video-calls and remote team meetings
Jitsi is an open-source tool, that makes online-meetings, video-calls, presentations, as well as remote conferences and webcasts super easy. You do not even need to register an account or download any software. You just set up a session by creating a unique name for this session and then send a link with a PIN code and a password to your team. Alternatively, participants can dial in with a phone number.
You can also record your meetings, presentations, and screencasts to turn them into videos. And the best thing is: Jitsi is free of charge.
Alternative tools for online meetings and video-calls:
- Go Glip
- Google Hangout
- Google Meet
- Lifesize Go
- Skype (by Microsoft)
#5 Tools for collaborate editing and document sharing
Collaborative editing and approving of documents for press releases, corporate blogs, and social media posts can become difficult when teams are working remotely. Popular cloud services such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or even Evernote all provide excellent ways for drafting, organizing, and collaborating on texts and documents.
An interesting alternative for drafting and collaborative editing is the online word processor tool Draft. Draft provides an interface which is distraction-free and a couple of useful features such as commenting, accepting, and declining changes made by your team, in addition to approving a draft for publishing, and version control.
The tool also comes with features to help you make your text more simple to read. You can activate the “Simplify” feature as well as the “Hemingway Mode” you can see suggestions to simplify your text. You can also import and export texts or images from and to many other apps and cloud services, like WordPress, Basecamp, and even the email marketing service Mailchimp.
#6 Tools for creating images
The power of visuals for corporate communication cannot be overstated. Canva helps everyone in your team to become a professional designer. The design tool makes it easy to create all the visuals you need for your and social media posts, website, blogs, your articles, presentations, press releases and any other kind of documents: images, infographics, and gifs and even videos can be easily created with the help of templates and layouts.
Canva offers an impressive collection of ready-to-use templates and layouts as well as photos, icons, and graphics that you can use, many of them for free. You can also upload your own photos, graphics, or inspiring images that you might find from your stock photo collection to embed them in your Canva designs.
Alternative tools for creating visuals:
#7 Tools for creating videos and screencasts
Videos can also impact the power of your crisis communications, i.e. for interviews answering important questions or for explaining your safety measurements for safeguarding your customers and staff.
Example: SCCS Survey Equipment explains in a video what they do to keep customers and staff safe and healthy.
Moovly helps you to easily create animated videos for how-to tutorials or presentations. Moovly provides a huge variety of graphics you can use as well as background templates and sounds you can use to create professional-looking videos.
Alternative tools for screencasts and animated videos:
#8 Tools for publishing and seeding with remote working teams
Apart from your website and blog, social media are the most important places for publishing your current updates on the crisis. However, managing more than one social account for posting regular updates and a consistent flow of information can become time-consuming work.
In a crisis, speed and efficiency are your most valuable resources for your corporate communication. Social media automation will help to get your routine work of scheduling and cross-posting your updates across multiple social accounts easier and faster. You will save time and work and reach more people in less time.
Blog2Social helps you to easily schedule, share, and cross-post your content automatically on all of the popular social media networks, and it does this directly from your WordPress dashboard or via your web browser.
The tool automatically turns your posts into the textual and visual format that works best for each social media network. But you can also edit or define your own post templates. A “Time Manager” helps you to schedule your blog posts at the best times per default or to define and save your own custom settings for the scheduling of each blog post on each social media network.
You can select to share by auto-posting or optionally preview and customize your posts for each network and community with additional comments, hashtags, or select other post formats or images. This makes it easier to add personal messages to each post.
A visual social media calendar is provided so that you can efficiently filter and monitor all of your scheduled posts. It also enables you to add a new post, edit current posts, make changes, or easily reschedule your blog posts via a drag & drop functionality.
The tool also makes team collaboration easy by assigning social media accounts to team members for sharing posts.
Alternative tools for social media automation:
#9 Tools for crisis monitoring
Monitoring official news and updates from governments, leading industry sites, as well as public health organizations, enables your corporate communication team to respond quickly to new developments concerning the current situation, your business, or your audiences.
Monitoring your channels in traditional and social media is important to analyze how your audience is reacting to the crisis as well as for your corporate communication strategy.
Summing up: 9 essential tools for remote working teams
There are hundreds of tools and plugins that promise to organize your work with remote working teams, but not all tools fit your specific needs. I hope this list helps you to pick out the right tool to make your corporate communication work easier and more organized, even when working from your home office. Feel free to add any of the tools you are working with in the comments below.
Check out these tips to manage a remote working team, in this great infographic from IMPACT.