The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift in the way we work. An increasing emphasis in recent years on improving the work-life balance, especially among younger workers, and the availability of new software platforms have seen a rise in people working from home. And now with lockdown restrictions, companies that had previously shied away from allowing their employees to work from home have had no choice but to adopt remote working policies to slow the spread of the virus.
More than 46% of people in the UK were working at least partly from home in April 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics, with 86% of them doing so because of the pandemic – many for the first time. Several forward-looking companies, especially in the technology space, have already committed to offering remote working as a permanent option after lockdowns come to an end completely.
Some employees find they are more productive working from home and would prefer to continue for at least part of the time. Others find it more difficult to focus outside the professional environment, without the watchful eye of the boss. But even with the most efficient teams it can be challenging for workers and managers to collaborate effectively without being able to physically meet together to communicate.
There is a plethora of remote working software tools that can make it much easier, and some have quickly become part of the lexicon of the pandemic, like Zoom and Slack. So what is the best software for remote working? We round up our top 10 picks.
While there are positive things about working from home, it can easily become disorganised, all-consuming and isolating. It can be all too easy to stay in pyjamas all day, hunched over a laptop until well into the night with little human interaction. Working Den tackles that by providing a powerful toolkit for remote workers to be mindful of their wellbeing.
The ideal remote working tool, Working Den includes a test for workers to assess the ergonomics of their setup, reminders to take regular breaks, daily stretching videos to take care of the body and breathing exercises for peace of mind. Background noise playlists, motivational quotes and an online journal empower workers to stay motivated and continue to develop professionally.
Working Den’s team of experts provides advice through the app to make sure members avoid depression and burnout and make working from home a healthy experience. A subscription includes full access to all features with no usage cap.
Corporate wellbeing provider Zevo Health offers a workplace wellness programme and in-person workshops, but it also has an online platform and app to encourage employees to care for their physical and mental health. The app connects to fitness trackers to set goals, features nourishing recipes to encourage healthy eating and covers topics on mindfulness backed by expert coaches.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Zevo has put together a remote working toolkit including blogs, webinars, meditations and activities to help workers keep engaged and healthy. It also offers a 21-day work from home masterclass to help employees adjust to working productively from a temporary space.
Subscription fees are tailored to individual organisations, so pricing is available on request.
There’s a reason that Zoom has become ubiquitous during coronavirus lockdown. The video conferencing platform allows large teams to come together in online meetings with ease. The simple interface enables screen sharing and annotation for presentations, in-call messaging, polling and meeting scheduling via email.
Participant features like “raise hand” allow leaders to keep discussions organised. Breakout rooms let the host arrange smaller groups for teams to have separate interactions and then return to the main meeting.
Zoom is simple to use and the video feature can help combat the loneliness of working remotely. The free basic plan includes unlimited one-on-one meetings and a 40-minute limit on meetings of up to 100 participants, while there are paid plans for larger teams and longer meetings.
The quick chats throughout the day in the workplace that resolve major project issues are missing when teams are working remotely, but Slack provides the online alternative. The cloud-based app streamlines workflow with channels that bring real-time communication, file sharing and tools into one place.
Rather than attaching files to fragmented email chains that are hard to find in an overflowing inbox, channels keep communications organised and save time, facilitating efficient teamwork. Users can use voice or video calling to quickly connect with other team members from within a channel.
The app is available for free for small teams with limited features and there are pricing plans with expanded features for larger teams.
When teams are distributed across locations, coordinating project management becomes more of a challenge. Asana is designed to help organise every detail of a project. Virtual boards and portfolios allow users to visualise each step of the process, assign tasks, allocate deadlines, streamline requests with forms, set objectives and monitor each team member’s progress.
The detailed workflow structure helps make sure all team members are clear on who is responsible for what and when. Asana is made even more efficient through integration with more than 100 other remote working tools, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, Salesforce and Google Drive.
Asana is free for individuals or teams of up to 15 members – premium plans have additional features for larger teams.
An electronic notebook app, Evernote is the place to collect thoughts, reminders, tasks, templates and so on and sync them across devices. Users can organise their written and voice notes, attachments, links, pictures, meeting notes, and even handwritten notes. A web clipping extension allows users to save, annotate and search screenshots.
Spaces allow teams to share notebooks that sync instantly for effective collaboration. For iOS devices, Skitch is an additional app that allows team members to mark-up screenshots to convey ideas.
The Evernote basic and premium plans are tailored to individuals, while its business plan is designed for team collaboration.
Effective time management
It can be difficult for employees working remotely for the first time to develop productive routines while dealing with the distractions of the home environment. Hubstaff is a remote working tool that helps teams keep track of the time they work and allows managers to keep their employees accountable with screenshots and reminders to track their activity.
Integrated online timesheets offer an alternative to separate spreadsheets and automated payroll creates a streamlined process for paying employees based on the time tracked.
Hubstaff provides the time tracking features in the free version, while the monitoring and integration tools are included in its paid plans
Balancing work tasks with home life becomes trickier when they are all done in one place, and it can be easy to become distracted during work hours. Having a to-do list is a simple way to prioritise tasks, and Todoist adds templates, sections and notifications along with productivity visualisation. The app encourages users to breeze through tasks to complete goals and display colour-coded progress graphs. A delegate function adds a collaborative element for teams.
The free version of Todoist supports up to 80 projects and 5 people per project, while its premium and business subscriptions offer advanced features and more users.
The transition to working outside the office for an extended period of time can disrupt employee training and development programmes. But TalentLMS allows employers to create online courses with specific learning pathways and certification as well as deliver training remotely through video conferencing. Hundreds of premade courses covering essential skills from teamwork to leadership to sales and marketing are available, saving managers from having to build content from scratch. There are survey tools and discussion forums for collecting feedback.
The mobile app provides offline access to courses on the go, syncing courses that were started on a desktop. The free version covers up to 10 courses for 5 users, with paid subscriptions supporting unlimited courses for larger teams.
Coordinating a team from afar presents new challenges for managers who have little experience in evaluating employees remotely. Online surveys targeting key metrics, anonymous feedback and benchmarking tools make OfficeVibe a valuable tool for managers to understand their team members’ mind-sets.
Easy-to-share survey reports offer talking points for discussions in team meetings or one-on-one conversations to set goals and action items. The platform compares scores against industry averages and features advice for managers to resolve issues.
OfficeVibe’s free and premium versions include the range of features, with the premium version adding unlimited team history and advanced customer support.
Working from home requires a vastly different approach to productivity and collaboration than in the workplace environment. These tools offer a starting point for workers and managers to explore what works for them and their teams as they adapt to a new reality.