One of the material legacies of the global COVID-19 pandemic will be the changes to the way we work; i.e. the office environment will never be the same again.
As offices reopen, many of us are unlikely to return to the office full-time. Many are predicting that the “new normal” will be a combination of homeworking with time in the office in a new hybrid model.
So, what tools do we need to support this new hybrid home/office model? We definitely need tools that help to make the transition between home and office as seamless as possible: Pen, paper and whiteboards are no longer viable. How do we keep teams connected and manage complex projects when team members are no longer in the same physical place? Some of these questions and more, will be answered below.
Virtual meetings: Microsoft Teams
There are many different tools out there that deliver virtual meetings/video calls e.g. Zoom, GoToMeeting, Teams, BlueJeans, Google Meet, Skype, Discord, Facebook Messenger Rooms etc. Some of these are free, some are paid for, some are aimed at consumers, others are strictly business. We would always recommend Microsoft Teams because of its close integration with the rest of the Office Suite (you can start Teams meetings from within Outlook for example) plus, if you’re already an Office user, you already have it, so why not to use it? Just one tip. Make sure your choice includes a dial-in number. This may not seem essential, but sometimes, attendees cannot use a network/Wi-Fi to join the meeting, so this option is extremely convenient to have.
Cloud storage: OneDrive
A cloud drive provides an online folder for file storage which can be accessed from anywhere and synchronised with multiple devices at once. There are many good Cloud drives out there, with Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and Google Drive being the most popular. All of these Cloud drives have the same functionality, so your choice will most likely come down to cost and personal preference. We recommend Microsoft OneDrive because it works so well with other Microsoft software and services, but all of the solutions will deliver the storage you need.
Project management software: Monday.com
Project management software helps teams to collaborate, meet goals, manage resources and cost. Functions may include task distribution, time tracking, budgeting, resource planning, team collaboration etc. Project management tools you may have heard of are Slack, Trello, Monday.com, Basecamp, Asana, PSnext, Microsoft Project etc. Monday.com is our recommendation for a good, general-use project management tool, although larger businesses with massive complex projects to run, may want to try Microsoft Project or Smartsheet.
Homeworkers are a massive security risk for companies because they take company data and hardware away from the protection of the corporate network (firewalls, network monitoring etc.). A VPN or Virtual Private Network is therefore an essential tool for homeworkers to protect data. NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services available. It is easy to set up, works on any device and operating system, and ensures fast and stable connections anywhere. Other popular VPNs include Tunnelbear, ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access etc.
This is a good range of options to kickstart your new hybrid home/office model, however, it is not a comprehensive action list. You and your business will have additional needs or preferences that we have not considered here, so use this as a guide only. Your available budget will also play an important part in your decision.
You may also want to review the suitability of your home hardware for home working (webcams, Wi-Fi routers, etc.) as well as the quality of your internet connection. We will cover this in a future blog post.
One last word about licensing these solutions. Because the hybrid model is a part of life, or at least for the visible future, it is common for employees to have multiple devices, such as an office & home computer, tablet, smartphone etc. So just make sure you are buying a “Per User” license when possible, rather than in a “Per Device” license. This way you will be able to maximize a multiple device environment for each employee, with a lower number of licenses, meaning, a lower cost.
Contact us and We’ll be happy to help: firstname.lastname@example.org.