With the coronavirus taking the world by storm, working from home is one way to keep you and customers safe from COVID-19, and is a way to keep things running until you can work on-site again.
The BBC reported that a survey from FlexJobs stated that 65% of people felt more productive working at home, meaning there's great potential there for you. But what if you aren't used to working from home?
We've gathered some of the most helpful (and free!) small business tools to help you stay organized and run things efficiently from home.
Face-to-face communication is usually best, but during a pandemic, it isn't worth the risk. We no longer have to settle for just talking over the phone (remember when our only option was a landline?). Thanks to the great technology available to us today, we can communicate with our customers and teammates via video, where we can see their facial expressions, hear the tone of their voice, and carry on conversations in a way that's close to normal.
If you have a Gmail email account, then you have access to Google Hangouts and can easily add conferencing when creating an event in your Google calendar. Another popular option is Zoom, which provides secure video calls for free for meetings up to 40 minutes.
If you're curious about a video option that also has a messaging option and you decide against Google, there's always Skype. Skype is available on desktop, mobile, smartwatch, and even Xbox, and it has a helpful accessibility feature that adds subtitles to any video call, so that both parties can be clear on communication.
Oftentimes when people are working from home, a bit of extra communication is necessary. Trello, a remote-based software company, advises working by the rule of seven, which states that a message has to be delivered seven times before it's internalized.
For that reason, we've compiled a few small business tools for documentation so that you can stay organized and everyone on your team (customers included if need-be) can stay up-to-date on the latest developments.
The easy thing about using Google Docs, besides it being tied to your email account, is that you can access the documentation anywhere you have internet access and your email account. You don't need to store documents on a laptop and then realize when traveling (or back in the office), that you don't have what you need. Google also lets you share content with teammates or clients (you can adjust the level of access each has) if they need to review, edit, or provide feedback.
Trello is best used for teams of a few people where there are a lot of moving parts, but you also can use it to track your personal productivity and to-do list. Trello is organized in a way that makes moving tasks into the "Done" column as satisfying as crossing a job off a to-do list.
Notion also provides a way to collaborate with teammates like Trello and G Suite, but it also has a Wiki function, allowing you to store important team documents you want to keep on file (such as contract templates).
We mentioned productivity, and if you're a small business owner, you know better than most how much money your time is worth. So you want to be sure that even if you're working from home, you're being productive, right?
Here are some tools we recommend for tracking your time:
Both Everhour and Harvest help you keep track of the time you spend working for your small business, whether it's doing back office and administrative work or client-specific work . You can track the time you spend working on various tasks over hours, days, and a week, so you're able to have a holistic view of how you're spending your time.
Now that you've moved your office into your home, you're more likely to communicate more via email. That also means that you can expect a busier, and more hectic inbox.
Here are a few tools we recommend to keep your email organized and clutter-free:
If you need to organize your inbox so that it's free of clutter and spam, Unroll.me offers the ability to easily group different emails together and unsubscribe from unwanted ones. What's best is how easy it is to use.
Boomerang is an app you can add on to your existing email client list (I use it with my small business's email). You can use Boomerang to schedule emails to be sent at a specific time. For instance, if you're burning the midnight oil answering emails, there's no need for a customer to receive a reply from you late at night. Simply schedule the reply email for the following morning when they're most likely to be working themselves.
If you're on the fence about choosing a new email client, Spark deserves a fair chance. Spark allows you to work on the same draft emails with other teammates, schedule delivery, save templates, and more.
The transition from working in an office and interacting with customers and your teammates, to working at home isn't easy. It's an adjustment for most of us (myself included!), but there are tools that can help ease that transition. Using small business resources like the ones shown above will allow you to uphold the requirements of social distancing, while also keeping a close relationship with co-workers and clients.
If there's something we haven't listed that is making a big difference in your working from home, let us know in the comments, and we may give it a try!
I’ve told stories since I learned to talk and written since I could hold a pen. As a small business owner myself - I'm a freelance writer and yoga teacher - I love contributing to the entrepreneurship community in different ways (including writing for Simply Business!). When I’m not drafting articles for SB, I can be found on my yoga mat, perusing an indie bookstore, and writing (with my cat nearby of course).
Allison writes on a number of topics such as small business leadership, business structures, and employee training.
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