In many cases, we’re able to mitigate the time we spend away from work. Although 22% of slip and fall accidents result in employees being out of work for more than 31 days, the majority of us will take only a week’s worth of vacation or the occasional personal day away from the office.
Of course, the pandemic changed all that. When non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors, many organizations were forced to lay off or furlough their workers to save money. Around 70% of all business partnerships fail, but allowing employees to collect unemployment while operations were put on hold has proven to be a popular option for companies hoping to stay afloat.
That said, not every organization needs a physical office to operate. Thanks to the internet and other digital tools, many businesses have made the shift to total remote work — allowing their team to stay productive at home… that is, in theory.
Remote work has become more popular nationwide in recent years. A recent FlexJobs report found that the number of people working remotely in the U.S. grew by 159% between 2005 and 2017. Roughly 80% of workers surveyed said they wouldn’t even take a job unless there was an option to work remotely. That makes sense, as remote work has been shown to increase work satisfaction, improve work-life balance, and even help workers become more efficient. But in order to reap the benefits and fully embrace the possibilities of remote work, businesses need to bolster the technological tools they use. Here are just some of the must-have technological advancements any remote worker needs to utilize — during the pandemic and beyond.
VPNs and High-Speed Internet
If you’re working from home, you need to ensure your internet won’t cut out on you when you need it most. Wireless internet is usually the way to go, as it’ll allow you to work from virtually any room without interrupting your connection. However, you may need to upgrade your router (and make sure your router is running updated firmware!) and limit any other devices using your connection during business hours to maximize speed.
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are generally a good idea for remote work. These secure internet connections will protect information through encryption and can even minimize cyber threats. Larger companies may need to update their VPNs to prevent crashes caused by overuse. If a VPN is too costly, cloud-based file storage can keep documents safe and updated in real-time.
Cybersecurity threats have gone through the roof during the pandemic. This often happens in periods of economic downturn, so it’s important for business owners and remote workers to protect their devices and their personal information. Certainly, ongoing employee training to recognize the most popular phishing schemes and other threats can help. But it’s also important that software is patched and that passwords are changed regularly. Investing in a company-wide password locker can be beneficial; business owners should also mandate the use of anti-virus software.
Obviously, in-person communication is hard to come by right now. You might be accustomed to stopping by a colleague’s desk to chat about a project or knocking on your manager’s door to clarify a deadline. Now that those options are no longer available, you need a way to stay up-to-date with the team and communicate important developments. You’ll need to determine a streamlined way to stay in touch with colleagues, like Microsoft Teams, Gchat, Slack, or other messaging systems. If your company already uses one of these systems, you’ll want to make sure you’re available and checking for messages throughout the day to ensure seamless communication. Just make sure to keep it consistent and professional; although text messages have a 98% open rate, it’s better to maintain an official line of communication for all work-related matters.
We’re using Facetime and Facebook to see our friends and family in a virtual way, but you also need technological alternatives to business meetings. Although you might not have heard of Zoom just a few months ago, video conferencing has now become the norm. There are several different platforms you can use, but Zoom and Google Hangouts have emerged as some of the most popular. You might consider testing out a few options to see which have the least amount of lag or whether tiled screens are an option for larger meetings. It’s a good idea for managers to talk to team members about teleconferencing meeting etiquette (like turning off individual mics when not in use to reduce background noise) to get the most out of the experience.
Project Management Tools
If you don’t already have an internal dashboard with a task system, now’s a good time to adopt some sort of platform for project management. Programs like Trello and Asana have been preferred by remote teams and independent contractors for years, so it’s no surprise that many are relying on these platforms more than ever. They provide an easy way to assign tasks, make notes, and keep track of progress on given projects while each team member is doing their own thing at home.
Noise Canceling Headphones
No matter how you work best — whether you need music blasting or require total peace and quiet — you’re probably dealing with new distractions caused by working from home. If you suddenly have your kids at home 24/7 or you and your partner are suddenly seeing what it’s like to work in the same space every week, you could probably use a bit of a break. Noise-cancelling headphones can provide you with a sense of tranquillity and allow you to focus during a time that’s fraught with uncertainty.
As we adjust to this new normal, it’s important to roll with the punches — and it’s easier to do that when you have the latest technology to support you. Since many businesses are planning on continuing remote work options, even as states start to reopen, this tech can allow you to reap all the benefits of remote work and minimize the challenges that come along with it.