Kitchen table instead of office. Some employees, freelancers and entrepreneurs among you already know working within your own four walls very well, for others it is a completely new situation. The spread of the corona virus forces many companies to close their offices and send employees to their home office. Entrepreneurs who until now have communicated and worked almost exclusively offline now have to completely change their work processes.
We have put together the best online programs and advice for your home office so that you can work effectively from home in this time of crisis and communication with employees and customers runs smoothly.
Top 5 home office tools for communication
The big challenge in the home office is coordination and consultation with everyone involved. It is no longer possible to quickly ask colleagues about a project. These programs help you to get in touch quickly and answer questions.
Slack is the “WhatsApp” for companies and enables real-time communication between teams. A team needs to stay in touch with each other to get ahead. This works best online with a chat function. It is possible to create different groups and invite the corresponding people to the group.
You can use Slack directly in the browser or download it as a desktop version or app. In addition to the chat function, you can also integrate services such as Dropbox or Google Hangouts with Slack, as well as hold phone calls and video conferences.
Small teams can use Slack for free, there are various paid offers for more users and functions.
In order to use Google Hangouts, you need a Google account. Google Hangouts is Google’s messenger service, which also gives you the opportunity to communicate, chat, send files, pictures and videos in real time – either in pairs or in groups.
Many also use Google Hangouts for video calls and multi-person video conferencing. You can use the service free of charge directly in the browser or download it on your computer or smartphone.
If you use Google’s G Suite, you will find that the classic Hangouts has been divided into Hangouts Meet (video calls) and Hangouts Chat (voice messages). Apart from the other name, nothing changes in the basic function for you.
With the successor to Skype for Business, Microsoft has also created its own messenger service for companies. With teams you can work seamlessly in a team online, thanks to online meetings, direct communication via chats, setting up group chats or sharing and accessing files in real time.
With TeamViewer you can connect directly to another computer via the Internet and control it remotely – of course, only with the consent of the other user! This gives you the option, for example, of accessing a computer in the office or having your computer serviced remotely in the event of problems. TeamViewer also offers team work or the exchange of large amounts of data, as well as an audio and video conference function.
To use TeamViewer, you have to install the software on all PCs that you want to connect. To do this, enter a user ID and password for your computer. For the other PC you also need its ID and a code.
Zoom cloud meetings
In addition to all-round tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts, there are programs such as Zoom that have been specially developed for conferences and webinars. With the cloud-based solution, you can hold high-resolution video conferences, audio conferences, webinars and live chats.
The basic version is available free of charge, but only includes personal conversations and group conferences with a time limit of 40 minutes. If you want more, there are also paid versions.
Better work organization: Top 3 project management tools in the home office
Anyone working in a team is not only dependent on flawless communication with colleagues and employees, but must also organize projects so that they are visible to everyone. What is the status of the project? Who is responsible for what? Who is currently working on which topic? Project management tools give everyone an instant overview and make work sharing easier. Below we present the best online work organization tools. It may well be that you don’t want to do without them in the future either.
At CWT Advertising, both internal and external employees work on a project. With Trello, we organize all tasks so that they are visible to everyone. Trello is easy to use: tasks (lists) and sub-tasks (cards) can be created in a board and distributed to the respective contributors. In these cards you can write comments, upload files or attach other online resources.
You can use Trello free of charge in the basic version in your browser or install it as an app on a desktop or smartphone. The business version with additional options is subject to a fee.
As with Trello, Asana focuses on managing projects with multiple participants. You can create subtasks for individual projects and assign them to others. Using the overview on the board and the timelines, you can see exactly which project is where and how far a colleague has progressed. Under the respective tasks, everyone can communicate with each other and share files.
The basic version is free and approved for up to 15 team members. There is a paid premium model to use additional functions.
Jira is a project management tool that was originally intended for software development. In the meantime, non-technical industries also like to use the tool for task allocation and organization. With the approach: “What? Who? By when?” Jira has created a simple and lean project management program. As with Asana and Trello, all tasks and projects can be viewed on a board of a team, as well as their status.
Jira is software that you can use for free with up to 10 users. Depending on how many users you want to invite to Jira, the costs vary for more than 10 people.
If the use of your own project management tool is too expensive for you Google Calendar and Google Tasks a good alternative. So you can easily share your calendar and your daily tasks.
Share files online using the cloud
Of course you can work with your Word and Excel programs and create files as usual on your hard drive. But how do you best share them with others, especially if they are particularly large? And what if several people want to work on a document? Then the cloud-based online office is the right solution!
Google Drive: Collaborate online based on the cloud
All Google customers automatically have access to Google Drive with their email address. The first 15 GB of storage is free, so you can create, store, and share tons of files online. With Google Drive you have the option to create, save and share the following formats:
- Text documents (Google Docs)
- Graphics and diagrams (Google Drawings)
- Apps scripts
The advantages for the home office: You can share your files with the “Share” button and determine who has read access, who can comment or edit the file. This makes it possible to work on the same document at the same time.
OneDrive: work from home with Microsoft Office 365
The many different cloud-based tools from Microsoft Office 365 enable you to work together easily and efficiently in your home office. OneDrive allows you to create, save and share the following files, among others, so that several can work on one document:
- Word (word processor)
- Excel (spreadsheet),
- OneNote (digital notebooks)
- Powerpoint presentation)
These are just the basic functions. Office 365 consists of a variety of apps and options for productive work in the home office. It is best to discuss which apps and functions might be relevant for you in a team.
File sharing services for large files
When it comes to sharing large images, videos or PDFs, you can use the following online tools for sending:
Time tracking tools
If you want or need to track your time for individual projects, then you have a selection of different, often free tools for time recording.
- Toggl: Free and simple basic version with enough features
- Clockify: Free Time Tracker app with a colorful dashboard
- Clockodo: Comprehensive time recording tool for small and medium-sized companies. 14-day free trial, afterwards with costs.
Tools for concentrated work in the home office
The “distraction” factor is higher at home: just the dirty laundry in the corner suddenly encourages some to do housework. But the next push message on the laptop also invites to distraction. Yes, home office wants to be mastered. Suddenly, terms such as self-discipline, motivation and concentration play a bigger role. So that you can concentrate on working in front of your laptop and not be distracted by various reasons, there is help in the form of tools and apps.
Website blocker: Freedom
With Freedom you can block the whole internet or individual websites or apps to work more focused. Just enter the time you want to work undisturbed and your system password and you’re ready to go. The tool can be tested a few times free of charge, after which it becomes chargeable.
Break management: with Stretchly or Time Out
Concentrated work also includes breaks. With Stretchly or Time Out, you will be reminded of a break at regular intervals at the home office on the PC. You can set the frequency and length in advance.
Music for more focus: with Focus @ will or Noisli
With @ neuroscientific findings, Focus @ will and Noisli have created an offer that helps to work more concentrated with the right music. Just try it!
Playlists for your home office: Spotify or Amazon Music
Suitable music gives life the right kick – even when working. Get access to the music streaming services Spotify or Amazon Music, put on the headphones and turn on the playlist that you can work with best. You already disappear into the working tunnel.
An advantage of the home office is that you don’t have to interrupt your work constantly because someone has a question or there are meetings to be held. Use this fact for concentrated work.
Tips for working successfully in your home office
What is often self-evident and clearly regulated in an office and in everyday work with colleagues is now in your hands. Therefore, pay attention to the following points so that the work for you and the organization with your colleagues and employees also works smoothly in the home office.
Healthy work environment
The best basic requirement for healthy working from home is of course an ergonomic workplace. Anyone who already had this in advance should be congratulated. Everyone else should consider buying an ergonomic office chair. But not everyone will have the means and the space to set up an office at home now.
An alternative can be height-adjustable notebook stands, with which you can work standing at any table. They are small and inexpensive compared to a new office chair or desk. Also pay attention to the correct lighting and the correct placement of the screen – not in front of the window, looking from top to bottom.
Breaks are important. Sitting at the PC all day without leaving home or talking to anyone is not good for your productivity or your mood. Always takes short breaks and leaves the house at least once a day – ideally for doing sports.
Clearly organize and communicate working hours
Of course, you can also turn on the washing machine and clear the dishwasher, but at best you try to reserve the times when you work only for work. Communicate to everyone present that you now have to work in peace. Families with children in particular are currently faced with the problem of having to reconcile children and jobs. Be very clear with your partner and communicate your working hours to your colleagues.
Agree availability with others
In order to be able to organize yourself better in a team, it is important that you communicate your accessibility, especially if you can only work to a limited extent due to childcare or illness.
Better pick up the phone
Despite all the online affinity – sometimes it’s just better to talk to each other. The direct, personal exchange should not be lost and has a positive effect on the loneliness and isolation often felt in the home office. In this case, telephone or video chat are the means of choice.
Keep working hours – avoid overtime
Many in the home office tend to check the emails again briefly in the evening and then work overtime. Professional and private life mix much more in the home office. Clear working hours help. Turns off the computer at the end of your working day, clears it, and doesn’t bring it out until the next day.
Home office can be a curse and a blessing – but with the right tools and a little self-discipline, everyone can gain more from work in comfortable sweatpants than might be thought at first. We hope that our home office tips were helpful and enable you to work together successfully Social Distance.