BRND WGN BRND WGN

Tools for working remotely

Photo of Chris Knights
Chris Knights
Partner, Head of People

Yesterday, BRND WGN decided to work-at-home until further notice. We were prepared but apprehensive.

I’m writing this article to help anyone who’s currently scrambling to find the right tools to make it work or anyone who wants to review what they already have.

Our story

The WGN has been preparing and experimenting with remote working for years. We swapped desktops for laptops, we switched from email to Slack (a unified communication and collaboration tool) and stopped punching in time and started measuring output. Wagoneers are encouraged to work wherever suits them as long as shit gets done.

Yesterday we had two full-time remote employees, today we have 38. Today is going well, everyone’s settled in and business seems to be going ‘as-usual’. While we watch from the sidelines as the Coronavirus saga continues, I’m truly excited to see how we adapt and evolve as a company.

Tools for remote working

  • Infrastructure
  • Laptops & Desktops
  • File Storage
  • Operational Software
  • Communication
  • Email
  • Instant Collaboration
  • Video Conferencing

Infrastructure

In an emergency, this is the most difficult thing to put together. You’ll need to prepare your network to allow everyone access to the files, software and apps they need to continue working. I’m pretty sure most of you are more prepared than you think. The missing parts are not impossible and don’t have to be complicated.

Laptops & Desktops

Laptops are helpful but if your employees don’t have one, it’s not impossible for your workforce to take their desktops home. Just make sure your people have all the equipment they require.

BRND WGN: We’ve all got MacBook Pros, second monitors, mice, keyboards and a ton of dongles.

File Storage

Consider solutions like: Google Drive, Office 365, OneDrive, Dropbox or Box. If you need access to storage on-premises then you need to get the IT team to implement VPN access.

BRND WGN: We create a lot of data daily. Our files are simply too big to be uploaded to the cloud. To store our working files we have a couple of (fully redundant) file servers on-premise. These are backed up overnight to a remote location. We also use Google Drive and iCloud Files for our personal storage.

Phones

This is a tricky one. I personally dropped my landline almost ten years ago and have never missed it. We do have a landline at the WGN but it doesn’t get heavy traffic. New clients do call, but most email – and once they become a regular client they always call us on our mobiles.
There are a number of cloud-based PBX solutions on the market including systems from GO, Zoom Phones, and Melita. The newer systems are phone-less and work by installing apps on your laptop or mobile. They seamlessly route calls to wherever you are and put you in control

BRND WGN: We’re with Ozone (a Melita company) and are currently exploring more virtual solutions from GO or Zoom. Not having this 100% remote-friendly doesn’t bother me. At the moment all our calls are diverted to our mobiles.

Operational Software

These are the tools that are mission critical, the tools you use most and without which your business would grind to a halt. My only recommendation here is to make sure these are web or cloud-based. VPNs work but standard internet connections are simpler.

BRND WGN: Our #1 tool is a project management tool called Workamajig. This software runs our Quotes, Gantt charts, To Do’s, Reports, Invoices and Accounts. It’s mission-critical and gives us so much value. And then we have the obvious: Adobe Suite. Apple Keynote, Pages and Numbers. HelloSign when you need a signature. All Cloud Based.

Communication

Email is critical but often not the best tool for collaboration. Four years ago we got frustrated with the amount of time we were spending in email apps with multiple threads, missing information, limited functionality and miscommunication. In 2016 we introduced Slack, a unified communication and collaboration tool, and it changed the game.

Email – for communication with clients

This is a simple choice. G-Suite or Office 365. These companies provide robust email that works everywhere. Don’t look further and switch immediately if you’re using anything else.

Unified Communication and Collaboration – for your team

Moving from email to unified messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams is a game-changer. The idea is that all internal collaboration is in one place. You can instant message, chat, hold video meetings, call, and share files — everything you need to collaborate. We use Slack and it’s fantastic.

The idea is you create topics/channels/threads that are about a project, topic, theme or department. Once the ‘channel’ is created, everything needed to collaborate around it is located in the same space. Simply invite project members, stakeholders or anyone interested.
Once the ‘channel’ is created everyone gets updated in real-time. Nothing is missed, nothing is on-hold in someone’s inbox and productivity skyrockets.
Need to call everyone in a ‘channel’? Click call. Need to update everyone? Type. Need to drop a file? Drag and drop. It’s fantastic.

If you take only one thing away from reading this take it on yourself to install Slack today!

Video Conferencing – for meetings

This is where you meet your clients. Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, JoinMe, WebEx the list goes on. The most important part is it must work and clients must be able to use it without being a tech genius. I’ve used them all. I’ve been in meetings where we spend 30 minutes getting the software installed, microphones working and video stabilised. Not fun.
Zoom and Google Hangouts work, though the latter sometimes needs a Google account. Go with Zoom. It’s the only one I’ve used that’s never let me down.

BRND WGN: G-Suite for Email and collaboration with clients. Zoom for Video Conferencing and Slack for everything else.

If you’re looking for tips on how to build, grow, and nurture a remote team then look no further than Hotjars list of resources: here.

Did I miss something? Need advice?
Email me: email.ck@brndwgn.com