Note: When the COVID-19 pandemic hit US shores in the spring of 2020, I worked with BriteCore to author a post on our favorite remote work tools. The below post is lifted from BriteCore's blog.
BriteCore has an unusual perspective on the move toward remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. We aren't scrambling to shift our team from offices to remote work because we chose to become a fully remote company ten years ago.
During that time, we've learned how important several tools are to our operations: Slack, Zoom, and G-Suite from Google. We want to share our top tips and tricks for these critical tools that can empower your remote workforce.
Slack: Messaging Platform
Slack is our virtual "open-office concept" layout. It’s in real time, and it is awe-inspiring in both good and bad ways. Direct messages from one or more of our coworkers come in throughout the day (and sometimes night, for those in other timezones or the night owls). Emoticons and animated GIFs pepper the conversations. In addition to direct messages, Slack allows you to set up public and private channels devoted to a particular topic, project, or team. We have set up hundreds of channels, from work topics like products, customer service, marketing, and sales to non-work topics like dogs, music, and video games. Just like at an office, we can start impromptu conversations, check in with each other, and also share some of the things that matter to you outside of work. Slack serves as our conference rooms, cubicles, hallways, and water cooler all at once.
Slack allows us to communicate all over the globe in a very effective way and get things done. However, numerous articles document the downsides of open-office floor plans. As such, individuals must have the means to complete focus work away from Slack.
When it's time to take a Slack break, we recommend using the "Do Not Disturb" feature in the Slack app and your computer's notification settings. Refer to this article by Slack when it's time to tackle deep, focused work. It also helps to discuss with your team whether Slack communications are meant to be in real time or asynchronous—that is, when it’s acceptable to ask a question one day and get an answer the next. While not all conversations can happen in this manner, it will help your organization feel it is okay to look away from Slack and focus for deep work such as writing, programming, or design.
Slack is available for both Mac and Windows operating systems. If your company utilizes other Microsoft tools, you may also want to explore Microsoft Teams, which offers similar functionality to Slack.
Not all communication can occur via a text medium like Slack or email. Sometimes you need to see the other person, hear their voice, and read their body language. Zoom is the telecommunication solution we use at BriteCore.Zoom allows for call hosts to record calls for later viewing, call transcriptions as well as a tool for polling attendees. We use Zoom at BriteCore at all levels—from one-on-one meetings and daily stand-ups to company all-hand meetings and live product demos. Note that too many Zoom meetings in a day are just as distracting as always sitting in Slack. When the entire office is working remotely, we recommend blocks of meeting hours where people can plan focus work around them (such as 10 AM to 3 PM Central Time).
G-Suite: Document Creation, Editing, and Storage
Google's G-Suite is our online business tooling suite. It plays the same role for BriteCore Office 365 does for Microsoft-based companies. When we switched to remote work, we chose to use G-Suite because we did not want to be an exclusively Microsoft shop. G-Suite has multiple applications just like Microsoft Office, and the ones we use most are Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Calendar.
We use Docs and Sheets to document our longer-form, important decisions as well as to present information. Google built the platform with collaboration in mind—simultaneous editing from several different people from across the globe are a breeze. The built-in sharing settings also work well for sharing documents outside of your organization to third parties.
Calendar management for a remote organization is crucial. If you need to complete deep, focused work, make sure to block out time on your calendar. The latter point is significant when you are a fully global company with people in multiple time zones: meeting times can get very early or late for people in different time zones if you aren't careful.
That's a wrap!
Remote work comes with more personal freedom for the individual. Each company must embrace the asynchronous nature of this work and empower team members with tools for alignment and collaboration. Best of luck out there, and stay safe!