For many, working from home is now the future of work.
Companies like Square and Twitter have told employees they never have to work in the office again — if they so wish. And while you may think it’s easy for these types of employers to embrace a remote work culture, any business can let people work from home. All you need is a selection of collaboration tools to make working from home as productive as sitting in the office.
If you’re not sure which ones are best, look no further: here are our five top picks for you to explore.
… Ready? Let’s go.
1. Microsoft Office 365
In one line: The easy way to edit and share documents online, now with instant messaging.
We recently covered why Office 365 is the perfect tool for small businesses. Here’s an overview of why it’s also ideal for collaboration.
Microsoft Office is the most-used software there is. Everyone knows how this comprehensive product suite works — while it has every feature a company could need — which makes it the perfect digital co-working space for a remote-first team.
Office 365 puts Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in the cloud. Letting everyone work on the same documents simultaneously in a format they know (meaning the home office might look different, but Microsoft Office remains as familiar as ever). Better still, the programs work across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Andriod.
Plus, Microsoft Teams brings instant messaging to the Office suite (so it’s as easy as ever to get numbers from accounting as your finish that sales deck). And thanks to flexible pricing, you can choose a monthly or annual subscription — keeping the finance team smiling.
In one line: The digital workspace that could soon replace email.
Slack is a world-beating collaboration tool. It’s no surprise millions of users now zip around the beautiful interface that works as well on mobile as it does online.
Slack is best-known as a way to send direct messages (DMs) to individual colleagues or a group of distributed teammates. You can even organize chats into different channels related to a specific project: say, technical support, which could be useful as you start your ‘work from home’ journey.
You can use DMs to share files in seconds, cutting out email attachments through nifty integrations with Google Drive and Dropbox. And if you need to speak face-to-face, just hop on a video call via the built-in feature. You can use Slack for free and still enjoy nearly all its features.
That said, if your team is a little larger — you’ll soon have to pay for storage space if you want to search ‘chat history.’
In one line: One program can make team coordination a breeze.
Asana is the product of two ex-Facebook employees, which hints at its quality.
It’s been around since 2008. And tech-heavy-weights, including Intel, Uber, and Pinterest, rely on it for project management. The slick interface makes it simple for employees to assign and track tasks so that you can check the status of anything in just a few clicks:
- Divide the workload for on-going projects using to-do lists and sub-tasks
- Set reminders for teammates when there’s an upcoming deadline
- Request an answer from anyone by tagging them in an action (Asana doubles-up as a communications tool thanks to its well-designed comments section)
If you have employees working on multiple projects from afar, organize everything in one place so that everyone knows what to work on next — and if anyone forgets a detail on anything, a search function can quickly save the day.
In one line: Like Asana, but (much) simpler — and free!
Asana is the perfect project management software for big teams with lots of collaborators.
On the other hand, if you’re a smaller operation — but you still like to stay on top of your work — Trello is for you. The software is available online and through a mobile app. Its primary focus is to let you organize your workload into boards or lists for everyone to see, track, or shift the status (from ‘To do’ to ‘In progress’ to ‘Done,’ for example).
You can delegate tasks to teammates and assign comments to cards, which is ideal for sharing feedback — while integrations with apps like Evernote, Google Drive, GitHub, and Slack, simplify workflows. Everyone loves Trello because you can use most of its project-management-related features for free.
However, if you need more robust administrative and organizational functionality, you’ll need to upgrade to premium — but it costs just $10.99/month.
In one line: Like Slack, but simpler.
Products like Slack have thousands of great features that are great for big businesses, but a little daunting if you prefer simpler technology.
Flock is the perfect alternative if you fall into the second category. The messaging app covers much of the same ground as Slack (some would say its communications tools are even better). However, it distills the feature-set down into something that’s much more straightforward to use.
- You can still set up 1-on-1 and group conversations
- You can search your message history to find any comments, files, and links (no matter who sent what to whom in which channel)
- If you like to talk in-person, audio and video calls let that happen
- If you like direct collaboration, polls, note sharing, tasks, and reminders are there for you
- While integrations with apps, like Google Drive and Twitter, let you post notifications directly to chosen channels
Both Slack and Flock have a free version (with limitations around message history and search capabilities, and you can upgrade on either if you need more space) — but the real reason to choose Flock over Slack is…
… it’s oh-so-much-less scary to use.
If you’re yet to try any of these products, please call us on 207-223-7594 to discuss which ones best suit your business. If you choose to use any, we can help plug it into your workflows to make collaborative working from home a breeze.