The coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge for the modern world. To contain the spread of the virus, governments around the world have urged their citizens – hundreds of millions of people all combined – to stay inside and, as much as possible, work from home. Suffice to say this is a big change. Despite the rising popularity of remote work, many people are still used to commuting to an office and working from their desktop PCs.
This article is an overview of the software that is essential for remote work, with links to helpful guides for setting up each separate piece of software. OneBonsai, too, is a fully remote business right now, and we use most of the tools on this list. This article will be most helpful for the business owners whose workforce is suddenly all remote, where it’s all hands on deck to keep everything running smoothly.
It shouldn’t need saying that a business runs on effective and efficient communication. Saying the right things in the best way possible, respectively. It’s a comforting thought that we live in a world where that’s possible to achieve in an entirely digital fashion. This being said, you need multiple pieces of software for good remote internal communication.
Chatting is the online equivalent of talking. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it works for most types of communication. There are two pieces of popular software to consider here. Slack or Discord. Slack is geared toward larger businesses while Discord is geared toward start-ups. OneBonsai uses Discord for the reasons described in this Slack vs Discord article, but either software works great for chat.
(image of our daily remote meetings at OneBonsai)
Videoconferences are one level up from chat. They’re the online equivalent of a meeting. As your company goes remote, you’ll probably notice that you need these fewer meetings than you thought you would. Much internal communication can be done via chat. However, you’ll still need to do the occasional videoconference for one-on-one performance reviews, company gatherings, brainstorm meetings, etc…
While Discord and Slack both have videoconference capabilities, there are three pieces of software dedicated to videoconferencing that are popular and work great for both internal and external communication: Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Google Hangouts and Skype are free, with Google Hangouts generally considered to have better video quality. Zoom has a limited free option, but is incredibly intuitive and used by many for videocalls between friends and family.
Bonus: VR Meetings
This article wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include something about virtual reality. We’re a VR company after all. If you have the hardware (such as the relatively affordable Oculus Quest) then VR meetings are excellent alternatives to videoconferences. They’re fairly easy to set up, work great, and are much more fun.
The coronavirus has led to a rapid increase in tech companies hosting virtual conferences, events, and meetings. HTC recently held its fifth annual XR conference entirely in VR. More than 2,000 people from over 55 countries attended the event. That’s a serious endorsement for VR conferences.
But VR works equally well for small meetings. OneBonsai has organized several company meetings in AltspaceVR, a free social VR platform. If you want to see which other VR platforms are available today, here’s a comprehensive list for you to browse through.
While it’s important to install the right software, it’s equally important to set the right expectations for communication in your company. There are two communication principles that remote-first and remote-only companies (including OneBonsai) have adopted around the world: asynchronous communication and daily stand-ups.
Asynchronous communication means that you don’t expect an answer from someone right away. There’s no need to reply right away, no matter who that person is and where they sit in the company’s hierarchy. Instead, people are encouraged to focus on their daily tasks and get to their messages in due time – whether that’s one hour later or a day later.
Async communication works particularly well when it’s combined with a daily stand-up, where the whole team meets at a particular time every weekday to tell everyone what they’re working on and how they’re progressing. These stand-ups are fast – 15 to 30 minutes – and give managers a good idea of how things are going, so they don’t have to check in too often.
Even the smallest one-person business will have files. Whether it’s for documenting decisions made during a meeting, drafting a blog post, or sending out pricing proposals to prospects, files are essential for company life. If you want a central place to work collaboratively on files and store them in one place, consider Google Drive or Box.
Google Drive works great if your employees don’t have access to the Microsoft Office suite, as it provides its own version of Word and Excel at almost no cost. Box is a great solution if you’re a large enterprise that wants a secure solution to work on documents collaboratively.
Additionally, WeTransfer works great if you frequently have to send large files to people across the company. This is particularly interesting for manufacturing companies who work on CAD files, designers working in Photoshop, professional photographers, and anyone else working with digital files that require heavy computer work.
This section alone could be many thousands of words long. Much has been written on how to stay productive as a remote individual or as a company. What’s important is that you pick your software and stick with it – at least for a good while. There’s little benefit in switching from one piece of software to another in pursuit of perfect productivity. Usually that ends up doing more harm than it does good.
OneBonsai stays organized and productive with two pieces of productivity software: Trello and Jira (both part of Atlassian). Trello is a Kanban board, a project management methodology that helps visualize work, while Jira is an issue tracking product that developers use to build and improve software.
Cybersecurity is more important than ever. Hackers are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities in your system. A virtual private network (VPN) goes a long way in securing everything you do online. It protects sensitive data and makes your online actions pretty much untraceable. Popular VPNs typically cost money, but they’re worth the investment. Here we give two free options:
These are the software tools essential for running a remote-only company. While the next few weeks will be challenging, we hope you come out of this crisis stronger than ever before. If you have any questions related to the above article or on how to run a company remotely, please do not hesitate to ask us. We’re here to help.