Q) What tools should we use to support our remote work?

A) As a rule we try not to focus on tools. For us the tool ≠ goal, we want people to focus on the principles behind good remote working practices first and then find the best tools they can to support it.

As a refresher the basic principles of remote working are:

  • Trust – Trust that your workforce will do the right thing, it’s natural to want to interrupt them frequently to make sure they’re working but resist. Without trust your remote working experience will be poor and you’ll create stress for yourself and your team.
  • Clarity – Make it clear what you want your team to achieve and by when. Allow your team the space and time to work towards those goals.
  • Transparency – Find tools that enable your team to share their progress, outputs and to communicate with their colleagues and stakeholders easily.

Out of the three principles Transparency is the only one that refers to the tools we use.

We recommend using tools designed to support remote working such as Slack or Microsoft Teams

  1. These tools support open channels of communication, meaning that team mates can be aware of what’s going on with the rest of the team without actively participating in that conversation.
  2. These tools have persistent chat channels. That means that everything you write in the channels is preserved when the team has change and moved on. This historical record is invaluable for on-boarding new team mates and helping existing team mates remember what’s been done before.
  3. They are available on as both desktop and mobile applications meaning you can easily access any shared outputs or chat from either platforms without having to copy and paste content from one app to another.
  4. They have video conference built in (or can easily integrate with a video conferencing provider). As you collaborate more digitally you will experience the limitations of the chat. At some point you’ll want to move the conversation to a video conference. Swapping out to another app, away from the documents and previous conversations can reduce your productivity and make the meeting less productive.
  5. It’s important to use a tool that’s distinct from the ones you might use to chat to family and friends. Tools like WhatsApp, SnapChat and Facebook messenger are personal chat tools and should be left for that context. It’s easy to blur the lines between work and home. Using separate tools helps to create a distinction.

There are also some really good security reasons.

  1. Most collaboration tools, have much stronger security features, such as single sign on which protects your data from external threat. It also allows you to remove access to, or content from staff members who leave the organisation.
  2. Most collaboration tool vendors have European data centres which adhere to European privacy laws which protect the data hosted in them, and your companies intellectual property.

Personal chat tools typically do not have these features and should be avoided when discussing sensitive business matters, or clients related topics.

While you can use any tools that support ‘chat’ to collaborate with your teams, finding the right digital collaboration tool now will pay dividends in the future.

Resist the urge to choose what you’re familiar with just because it will dig you out of a hole now. Take the time to find, and adopt a dedicated digital collaboration tool and ensuring it works for all your use cases. 

Pay particular attention to mobile/desktop use, how you’ll share and collaborate on documents, and how you’ll escalate discussion from chat, to video and your remote working journey will become a LOT easier.

In December 2018 Gary Walker and I wrote a book called Ready For Remote. We wrote it to help business adapt to the changing work environment caused by remote working.

If you need any further tips then drop me or Gary Walker a note and we’ll be happy to assist. Don’t forget you can see some more useful content on https://readyforremote.com. Or if you fancy, our book Ready for remote is available on Amazon.