People are used to working in offices but the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has forced many into a new situation where working from home has become necessary. Companies such as Unilever, Lloyd’s bank, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon and others have started testing remote working to see how they cope. In 2015, around 70% of surveyed UK workers believed it was important for their company to allow employees to work from home. With its growing significance — and Coronavirus shining a light on flexible working to help prevent the spread of infection — it’s increasingly important for you to be able to work effectively from your computer remotely.
In order to work successfully, you will need to be productive, synced between devices and locations, easily accessible to communicate with colleagues, and able to record your activity as proof that you didn’t spend the day with your feet up drinking tea. We’re going to give you some practical digital tips for working from home during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. So, let’s get started.
Update company information to keep customers informed
You may need to make some basic changes to update consumers, depending on how your business acts on COVID-19:
- If your business operation hours have changed, update your local Google listings.
- If you’re out of the office, redirect your office phone or provide customers with an updated phone number.
- Create Google posts to directly update people viewing your local Google search panel or maps, e.g. about revised stock levels.
- Inform customers of updated information through social media or email.
- Update your social media to cancel or move the date of any postponed events.
Project management software can track your activity
If you are not already using project management systems, now is an ideal time to start. There are lots of options both paid and free (here are some of the most popular) to manage your workflow from home and leave a footprint of activity. We use Zoho projects. These are some of the ways project management tools and tips help you to work from home:
- Project management systems have projects set up so employees can see what work needs to be done, when the deadline is, and whose responsibility it is. You can easily keep track when tasks are updated and monitor activity across the company.
- Timers are often included to help you keep a log history of time spent on each task. There are also free third-party timer tools such as Toggl.
- You can make comments on projects so your team is up to speed with specific details.
- You can raise issues and tasks and then assign them to teammates.
- There are organisational apps such as Trello where you can organise “cards” into lists. These cards consist of tasks, notes, projects, and shared files.
- You can create Trello boards for customers and they can create new cards, view and comment on your cards and share information. You can get notifications when they make any updates.
- G Suite is a great way to connect your team with file management and sharing from anywhere. You can use Google Drive to create documents, slides, spreadsheets, store files and images, and control who has access to different folders. You can sync files to your computer files offline. There’s an added benefit which we’ll cover shortly.
- Microsoft Office 365 has also moved towards an integrated system and offers similar features to Google. Named as Microsoft Teams, it’s a popular choice for businesses communicating remotely outside the Google ecosystem.
Online communication tools make meetings and messaging easier
- G Suite includes Gmail and Google Hangouts. These provide email, meetings and chat rooms all in one place.
- Google calendar can be used to plan events and invite people (even without Gmail addresses) to online meetings via Hangouts. Customers or employees can receive notifications, simply click a link, and into the meeting.
- Slack is essentially a chatroom for your business. It will streamline communication, replace emails and easily lets users share files and information. With 13 million daily active users, it’s one of the most popular choices for businesses
- Zoom is a rising star for online meetings and conference rooms, as well as video webinars. It has become one of the most downloaded apps since the Coronavirus.
How to avoid scams and data breaches
Working from home comes with risks. With more communication becoming digital, more information becomes subject to risk from potential hackers. You will need to be savvy about who you are communicating with and how you are transferring information.
- Double-check the recipient of your emails to make sure it is the correct email address you are sending to.
- Consider using methods to increase privacy such as Gmail’s ‘confidentiality mode’, which lets you send emails that delete themselves after a set time period, and can prevent others being copied into the email.
- If you’re sending sensitive information, use secure, encrypted applications like NoteShred, which requires a password for the recipient to access and destroys the email after it is read.
- Fake Coronavirus tracker maps are being spread by scammers. Simply bookmark and use the official John Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker for updates.
- Data cleansing is important to make sure everyone in your business has the most up-to-date information This will minimise the risk of the wrong data being shared because you’ve removed inaccurate or outdated records.
Beyond practical digital guidance, here are five ways BBC suggests to work well from home.