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Technology And The Changing Workplace: Strategies For Making The Most Of Digital Tools

The workplace of the future is global. As companies begin to realize the virtues of a largely remote workforce, we can expect to see the diversity of organizations increasing considerably. For workers, this creates a plethora of opportunities. If you have the skills, you can now work from anywhere worldwide. This can also help in terms of income and quality of life. For example, if you live in a country where the US dollar is much stronger than your national currency, you can enjoy the benefits of the conversion rate. Also, you can now collaborate with, and learn from, a much more diverse pool of workers within your organization. As online communities become more common, people have more access to resources and opportunities, no matter where they are. Of course, a strong internet connection is now more important than ever.

The benefits for managers are immense as well. For one, you’re no longer restricted to hiring local talent. You can now work with a diverse team that comes with its own strengths. This is also an opportunity for you to develop your leadership skills, for what can be more challenging and exciting than leading a global workforce?

Leverage The Power Of Technology

Technology is your friend if you want to succeed in this global workplace. One of the most common concerns you might face is the difference in time zones. It might be difficult to get everyone connected at the same time. While you can and should connect with your entire team every now and then, it’s not sustainable to do so daily. In some cases, organizations hire candidates by letting them know that they might have to work according to the time zone in which their leadership or most of their team members work. This might work for some people for some time; however, it cannot be a permanent solution.

The best thing to do is to create or use common platforms for your teams. This way, everyone is aware of what the other person is doing; they can check in when needed, and they’re also aware of the times when they are away. Since all work and collaboration happens within the platform, your team can stay connected I compiled a list of the necessary tools for when they follow disparate schedules. A common platform also makes it easier for managers to keep track of all communication and performance. This might call for more sophisticated tools than email.

When you’re communicating during different times throughout the day, something or the other is bound to be missed. Therefore, make sure that you communicate in a way that everyone is always on the same page. Of course, this doesn’t excuse you from checking in with everyone on an individual level as well as a team.

Choose The Right Digital Tools

Well-structured technology can benefit your remote efficiency. Digital tools are the main pillar of your remote leadership process. Offer a variety of digital channels tailored to your team’s needs. A definite must is a video conferencing tool, that creates a feeling of face-to-face communication. Smaller teams especially can benefit enormously from such mechanisms. Visual references can increase a sense of mutual understanding and belonging in the group. In case you plan to have a conversation on a sensible topic as a leader, visual communication will make it more personal.

The communication form will depend on your company's size and type. If you are a service-oriented business, your team will communicate more with customers. So it will make sense to invest in a proper CRM-system or to consider having a unified omnichannel platform. Small remote teams won’t need so many platforms and can for example, work perfectly with Slack, Zoom, and Google Calendar. Leaders of multinational businesses who worked for decades for example with Microsoft will face more challenges to switch to a new platform. The problem with Microsoft arises because of its compatibility with other systems. Once you acquire a yearly license for let’s say 2 of your IT-workers, many services won’t be included in the price. So, every add-on service will be an extra cost for you, because Microsoft systems are only compatible with other Microsoft products. That way big players such as Microsoft and IBM maintain their customers by practically eliminating any competition. When you are about to decide which system to choose, think first of the future direction and plans of your business. If you have a small business and only 10 remote workers, there is no need for such a fancy CRM. Our tip: make sure your chosen tools are compatible with your company’s data security.

For different kinds of communication and working processes, I compiled a list with the necessary tools. If your business doesn’t have these tools already in place, you can choose different options and find the one that suits your team best.

Communication Tools

  • Nextiva

This phone system offers an all-in-one solution with everything your team’s heart desires: cloud communication tools, sales pipeline management tools, CRM as well as VoIP services. The cherry on top is the company’s virtual phone system. Additionally, you’ll get HD video chat and a team communication platform. The phone system is also connected to the platform.

Fits: companies of all sizes and sectors

  • Zoom

Zoom is probably the most used video conference platform of all since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020. Zoom-related social phenomena popped up everywhere: “Zoom parties”, “Zoom fatigue” and “Zoombombing” became our new business and private reality. The platform is used exclusively for video meetings but started to become popular for conducting webinars as well.

Fits: Small teams of up to 10 members; enterprises (100 employees and more)

  • Skype

Skype is the predecessor of Zoom and offers a platform for video calls and instant messaging. Additionally, Skype is a great tool for international voice calls. It is a good backup to have since it is free and you only have to pay either for an enterprise bundle or per landline call.

Fits: companies of all sizes and sectors

  • Loom

For fans of visual communication, Loom offers a free basic version for a single creator (the person who will compile and send the videos). It is a great tool to create and edit quick video messages on any device. If you want to use Loom as a communication channel.

Fits: small teams of up to 20 employees

Collaboration Spaces

  • Google G Suite

Google has it all. You are provided with more than 60 essential business apps such as Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Hangouts, and Google Calendar for a very reasonable price. You also get a compact cloud-based bundle to set up your remote working process immediately.

Fits: companies of all sizes and sectors

  • Office 365

This rival package to Google could be another collaboration option for your team. Microsoft’s Office suite offers you a wide variety of communication tools, team collaboration space as well as well-known instruments for document creation such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you already worked with Microsoft in your traditional office team, it will most probably be easier to keep the system and check if more add-ons are necessary. Personal tip: try to bargain with the sales reps, sometimes they can give you free add-ons if you buy a yearly license for more than 1 user. We can’t guarantee that it will work, but we heard of this possibility from an ex Microsoft sales-rep in Europe.

Fits: companies of all sizes and conversions

  • Slack

We get the impression that almost every remote team works with Slack. The story of this platform started humbly. It was supposed to be another cool instant messaging platform, but it evolved into something bigger. Slack became a centralized communication and collaboration tool for businesses, remote teams, and start-ups all over the world. What makes Slack so great? Its’ ability to be easily integrated with third-party apps and services.

Fits: teams of all sizes

  • Dropbox

Dropbox is the storage place for sharing and backing up files. The cloud-based solution enables your team to store data from different devices in one place and always have access to it.

Fits: companies of all sizes and sectors

Project Management Platforms

  • Asana

This project management tool makes organizing, coordinating, and tracking tasks a game for your remote team. The application enables you and your employees to set priorities with a handy to-do listing feature, allowing you or your team managers to assign the right tasks to the right employee. That way, everyone has an overview of the goals broken down into small, manageable steps.

Fits: remote teams of any size

  • Trello

Similar to Asana. With Trello, boards, lists, and maps can be organized to prioritize your projects easily and flexibly. The tool is designed with a Kanban board where you can plan and complete projects. With the help of an integrated calendar and team chat features, you can always keep track of the tasks’ progress.

Fits: distributed teams of all sizes

  • Microsoft To Do

Formerly known by the name of Wunderlist, this cloud-based task management tool is perfect for remote teams. Thanks to its unpretentious layout and easy operating method, workflows can be done from a smartphone or tablet. Smart, personalized features, such as easy task-sharing options and the Intelligent Daily Planner, focus on the essentials and help teams manage their working time effectively.

Fits: remote teams of all sizes, also great for personal use

This list offers some suggestions for tools you can choose from. Once again, we emphasize that leading a remote team is not centered on control but on results and trust. Your most important task as a leader is to create well-structured key performance indicators (KPIs) and give your team access to digital tools that will help track the progress. Don’t be afraid to change things and give your team new tools for growth and improvement. These dynamics will keep the workflow alive and improve the engagement of your employees.

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