The idea of a remote workforce is increasingly popular, but there are still mixed reviews. Employees may feel isolated and miss their on-site community. Some complain of work bleeding into their home life. At the same time, many report improvements in work/life balance and appreciate the reduced time and cost associated with commuting.
Here are a few technologies that help maintain an employees visual connection to their work community. We hope these suggestions help ease your transition to a more flexible workforce.
Offers easy to use HD video/audio conferencing, instant messaging and webinar tools for many platforms. Our firm uses this tool and can attest to how easy it is to email a link to anyone you want to “meet” with via Zoom. There is no need to download additional software. During meetings, you can screen share for live demonstrations, as well as have a chat going to avoid interruptions. There is a FREE version with a 40-minute time limit, or you can purchase the ‘Business Option’ for $27 per user, per month.
Easy to join video calls so you can meet with team members face-to-face regardless of your location. There is no need to download plug-ins or software. Meeting participants can join via their laptop or PC using a webcam, or they can use their phones providing they have the appropriate iOS or Android app downloaded. The Hangouts host needs a Gmail account, but external guests can join without an account by using the meeting URL. Google Hangouts are FREE, but it is recommended that businesses download G Suite to gain access to other tools (such as increased cloud storage). Cost ranges from $3 to $25 per user, per month.
Formerly known as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams offers video and chat capabilities that integrate with your existing MS Office environment. Users can schedule video meetings from Outlook and it’s designed to be scalable to the size of your business. A FREE version is available with basic functionality and the full version is available with Office 365, which ranges in price from $6.40 to $25.60 per user, per month.
FILE SHARING / PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Offers collaboration software for teams working remotely. Using channels, users can message, use tools and share files. Unlike email chains, users can include or remove themselves from any channel to create efficiency. Voice and video calls are also available via Slack. The Standard version is FREE (best for small teams) and the Plus version (offering extended functionality) is $6 to $13 (USD) per month, per user.
An easy to use collaboration tool that offers instant messaging, file sharing, white boarding and video messaging tools for remote teams working on projects together. If you have Cisco telephony in your company you may already have access to Jabber which provides instant messaging, voice and video calls, voice messaging, desktop sharing and conferencing. A 30-day FREE trial of Webex Teams is available. Paid packages range from $17.95 to $35.95 per month, per user.
A project management tool that allows teams to share to-do lists, assign tasks, set due dates for projects and add notes to files. Teams can also set up message boards, share schedules and store files. A 30-day FREE trial is available or businesses can register for Total Basecamp Business for $99 per month (no per user fees).
VIRTUAL / SHARED OFFICESPACE
Companies with a predominately remote workforce, may see value is forming an online workplace where teams can schedule calls, meetings, screen shares and whiteboard sessions, as well as share documents. There is even a virtual “office” with blinking avatars to represent your colleagues – you can see where teams are “meeting” and even virtually “knock” on someone’s door. Prices range from $11.69 to $13.49 per month, per user.
Another option is to rent office space. We Work offers everything from single offices, to meeting rooms and even entire headquarters (fully custom spaces). Prices vary based on location, number of people and duration of stay.
Pairing up with any standard TV/display and computer, Logitech’s GROUP line of video collaboration devices offer HD cameras, nose-and-echo-cancelling microphones, and both USB and bluetooth-enabled speakerphones. The entire kit costs around $1,500 to $1,750 depending on vendor.
A little pricier (around $9K USD) the Microsoft Surface Hub is a meeting room collaboration solution that integrates with Microsoft Teams and offers a 50.5” screen sporting a 4K+ resolution and interactive collaborative white-boarding. Check out the Microsoft Mechanics video for the original Surface Hub and the new Surface Hub 2S.