Working from home has been a hot topic in recent years but never more so than now, as recent environmental and now pandemic events threaten the survival of many small and micro-businesses.

Work from home
My home office

Fears of a pandemic are quite extreme, however, other less threatening events have also disrupted businesses recently. Consider recent bushfires in Australia, which damaged railway tracks and cut off commuters. Soon after that, there was flash flooding that caused road damage and in some cases closure. Not to mention the direct threats these disasters pose to businesses and their employees.

Even in times of calm, there are arguments to be made for allowing your employees to work from home. Minor contagious illnesses for example, would be contained if people could continue to work from home. As an employer, you might be able to save on office space, by encouraging people to work from home. There’s also an argument to be made for allowing people to complete their work in a less distracting environment than, say, the open plan office.

Great teamwork apps and websites

In times gone by, the technology was out of reach for small business. These days, an extremely competitive Silicon Valley means even a business on the smallest budget can afford to set up a remote workforce. Here are a few sites and apps, so your team can stay connected and on task.

Microsoft To-Do

I love Microsoft To-Do and I use it often. It’s a simple, intuitive to-do app that replaced Wunderlist. I can share my grocery list with my wife and share my work tasks with colleagues. Plus I can organise my tasks into folders and lists. You can get started for free -and so far that’s all I have ever used.

Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is great for storing documents but it’s also great for sharing. If you’re using OneDrive for work, it allows you to share a link. When your colleagues make changes, they do so on a single version of the document and all changes are tracked. You can also add comments within documents, so it’s great when you’re working on something together. Not free but it is if you’re using Microsoft Office 365, which you can purchase on an affordable annual subscription.

Dropbox

Dropbox is an alternative to Microsoft OneDrive. It’s easy to drag and drop your files and create sharing permissions, so you don’t need to email entire files. At the time of writing, Dropbox files can be edited within the online folder. So, you don’t need to download, edit and then upload your files. Dropbox basic is still free.

Slack for Teams

Slack is an amazing app for working in teams and I have only just scratched the surface. Unlike email, you can organise your message and documents in slack according to teams and projects. You can choose who has access to which groups, so you can manage the flow of information. You can use this for free, however, if you upgrade you can invite clients in to conversations.

I also find it extremely helpful that you can change your status or create custom statuses, so people know what you’re working on.

Zoom Web Conferencing

Zoom is a free web conferencing app and loads of my friends use it. It’s great for face to face meetings and collaborating on projects in real time. If you pay for the upgrade, you can record meetings to the server and hold bigger meetings. I recommend you invest in a quality web cam, as the ones that come with your computer usually aren’t great.

Technology must serve a purpose

I hope you can use a few of the free tools I recommended above, so you can start enjoying the benefits of allowing your team to work from home (sometimes). Remember, whatever technology you choose to use, make sure it serves a purpose. Using technology for technology’s sake won’t make you more productive -but if you employ the right tools in the right way, your team will work better together. Even when they’re not.

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