Tools for Working Remotely Effectively

March 16, 2020

Digital strategies

Adjusting your mind to thinking about ways to work remotely in the next while might be a foreign concept to a lot of companies and individuals but it’s easier than you think. We know in light of what we are all going through it has been forced upon families and businesses everywhere.

It’s an area we are familiar with so we thought we could help share some tools and thoughts on working remotely.

We have worked hard since Switchback Creative started 6 years ago to be a fully remote digital agency. This means that our team, contractors, freelancers, files, communication and set-up have always been set-up to utilize the latest online technology to do our work remotely and paperless within our team and with our clients.

Since we are all leaning into this realm here are some things to help make your life easier:

1. Zoom

This video conferencing tool is a great way to see people’s faces, share your screen and have meaningful conversations with anyone. It is easy to use and set up. There is a free version that works great, or the paid version allows for longer meetings with more people and is about $20/month. A cheap investment to being able to communicate with people freely – you can use it for family gatherings too. We have daily check-ins with our team, as well using this for all client meetings. It is very reliable as well if your internet connect is pretty good, hopefully that stays true.  https://zoom.us/

2. Basecamp

There are so many tools that allow you to have teams working on different projects and creates detailed checklists. Basecamp has to-do lists, streams for conversations and assigning tasks back and forth, this is a tool we have loved for a long time. It works on desktop or mobile for updates, and sends notifications through email as well. It is a more reliable way to follow projects than just emailing. There is a cost for this though – it’s about $50 a month for up to 40 projects and unlimited users. Clients/customers can use it too to approve and make comments on projects they are involved with, but the learning curve is a bit steep on this one and it’s not cheap. There are other programs like Asana and Trello that people love as well.  https://basecamp.com/

3. Slack

This chat tool means you can have ‘channels’ for different projects, discussions or topics, it works on mobile and desktop beautifully. Invite different people to different channels. You can attach files, get notifications and even schedule alarms, reminders and daily questions if you want one of our morning questions each day is “What are your big 3 tasks for the day?” This is free, yay! https://slack.com/

4. Airtable

Free and pretty new, it is like Excel on caffeine – mixed with a To-Do list. It works for a lot of things – it is FREE and we have never seen a reason to purchase the upgraded version. We use it for social media management projects for showing a calendar of events, scheduling, marketing plans, files to upload. You can have people comment right in the platform and they have 100’s of templates you can copy/paste from so you see how others have used it. They have templates for event planning, product launch, proposals, roadmaps and so many more. This is one we are using more everyday. https://airtable.com/

5. Online File Storage

Pick something that is secure and robust. Dropbox is usually what people fall back on but we have found other options like Syncplicity to be a much better option for storing and working remotely on files from anywhere, but it’s not cheap. We work from our server online so our files are always synced and never on a single device, but some people might not need that type of functionality. https://www.syncplicity.com/

6. WeTransfer

A simple and easy way to send each other files. It’s free and easy to use. Just drag and drop the files and add their email address. It tells you when they have downloaded them. Don’t send big files through email, it will slow your systems down and might crash your email. https://wetransfer.com/

7. Over Communication

This isn’t a tool but a mindset. It’s really important to over communicate with everyone – team, clients and contractors, don’t assume you all know what each other are doing. It’s much harder to stay connected and aligned when you work remotely and you have to work extra hard to stay in the know. Share what road blocks you have and overcome them as a team. Don’t work in a silo, you might be working remotely but you aren’t working alone.

8. Take Breaks and Block Your Time

Again not a tool but a piece of advice. It’s easy to get lost in your day and think you have so much time and end up getting nothing done, yet spend 9 hours at your desk. Create 3 blocks of time for your work. Document when your breaks are and what tasks you have in each time block – before you start the day.

9. Your Big 3 of the Day

We all should have a ‘BIG 3’ for the day – the only 3 things we HAVE to get done in the day. Eat the frog and do the hardest thing first, especially when working from home, as the day goes on the hard tasks just become harder. Make a list and hold yourself accountable to those tasks.

10. Don’t feel guilty for working a ‘regular day’

It is also easy to think you are on call at all times when you work remotely. If you have 6 hours you need to work then plan that time – get in and get out! If you just casually wander in an out of your day you will feel more exhausted and less productive in your day. It will eventually lead to burnout and poor quality of work. Don’t let that happen.

There are so many more things we could talk about but we hope these few quick tips are helpful to you. We also found this Treehouse course on working remotely that might help.

Share this with friends and coworkers. We can all try to choose joy in this tough time, learn new skills and ways to work despite having kids running around and general anxiety and uncertainty in the air. Choose joy and find time for hard work and good fun each day. We will get through this all together.

Share any other tips you have on our social posts and help each other.

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