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Return to work and tech

Finding the best in-person, hybrid, or remote work technology fit for your team

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Author photo: Katrina Oko-Odoi

Katrina Oko-Odoi

Content Marketing Manager

Return to work? Okay, maybe it’s a bit of a misnomer—because many of us have been working pretty hard this whole time. Here’s the thing: We’re in the midst of a nearly post-pandemic moment where employers are working to figure out the new “status quo” for their workforces. Work isn’t exactly what it was before the word “COVID” was burned into our collective psyche … and organizations are adjusting.

We’re seeing business leaders take their workplace policies in varying directions. And no matter what these specific business decisions are, it warms our hearts to see companies all over the country proactively resetting their working environments to be more employee-friendly. But with many adding or revamping work-from-home policies, these organizations are on the lookout for the right remote work technology to fit their unique set of team needs.

Because we all want to be as efficient, productive and collaborative as possible when working remotely, or even partially remote.

Whether you’re going fully remote or swapping to a hybrid model, work-from-home tech can make or break your teams’ productivity and ability to collaborate—we’ve all experienced the (sometimes painful) ups and downs—and the tech we’re using can look different than in-person office tech.

So, how can you make sure you have the right remote work tools to support these permanent workforce decisions? And which tech will help promote collaboration and productivity for distributed teams?

We have a few thoughts to help guide your tech decisions for today’s new workplace.

Acknowledging the hybrid model gap

An unprecedented 60% of companies are preparing for a hybrid work model. It kinda seems like the best of both worlds, right? Employees who want to stay remote get to keep working from home, while those who enjoy the office can go in person. Or, in some cases, employees may work part of the time in the office and part of the time at home.

But many leaders have pointed out the potential problem spots with this option.

With a separated team, there’s likely to be some difficulty with keeping things fair. And as Zapier said, cliques will inevitably form. Plus, if companies don’t prepare, it’ll be easy for the in-office team to look like they’re getting preferential treatment and the remote workers to feel left out and excluded.

Making this transition successful isn’t as easy as it seems. Leaders need to think about how to bridge the gap between remote and in-office employees. This starts with being intentional with technology to keep everyone connected and on an equal playing field.

What to look for in remote work technology

As we saw in our marketing relationships survey, people are looking forward to returning to face-to-face relationships and interactions. Everyone’s a little tech-fatigued, so it’s extra important to thoughtfully choose remote work technology that helps people feel connected—not overwhelmed.

Here are some of our best practices as a fully remote, distributed tech company:

  • Cybersecurity: Security isn’t the most exciting work-from-home tech, but it’s crucial. Employees are sharing business and customer information and storing company data on remote laptops and phones. Companies with a remote workforce must rethink and prioritize cybersecurity tools.
  • Communication: If your team can’t communicate effectively with each other or your customers, remote work won’t be successful. Studies show that face-to-face and low-tech communication are still the most effective. So, don’t be afraid of encouraging your remote employees to use the regular phone from time to time in conjunction with high-tech communication tools.
  • Collaboration: Collaborating online is still one of the toughest things to get right. You might need to combine several remote work tools to make sure your team can collaborate on anything they would ordinarily collaborate on in the office. In a hybrid environment, look for technology that allows your remote employees to work together seamlessly with your in-house team.
  • Productivity: Even though studies show productivity stays the same or even increases in a remote environment, it’s still important to consider how work-from-home tech can help keep your employees productive and thriving.
  • Team-building: Without office parties, daily check-ins and weekly roundtables, how will you keep your team strong and connected? The best technology for working remotely factors in the human element. It considers how we work together when we’re apart. Adopting these tools can help connect your team and allow them to bond, even if it’s only through a screen.

So, what’s the best technology for working from home?

9 must-have remote work tools

These tools are at the top of our list for businesses transitioning to a remote or hybrid work model.

1. A productivity suite

Several productivity suites are on the market, but the two most popular ones are Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Both software solutions include a host of features, but they aim to be your one-stop-shop for collaboration and productivity.

(Check out our comparison of Google Workspace vs. Office 365 here).

2. Project management software

There’s no shortage of project management solutions on the market. Project management software provides a place for your team to get online and collaborate on projects together in real-time. Trello, Asana and Basecamp are some of the most popular standalone software options. But it’s worth considering platforms that combine multiple functionalities too, like CRMs with project management capabilities built in.

3. Mobile hotspots

You can’t think about work-from-home tech without thinking about the internet. While your employees should already have consistent access to Wi-Fi, there might be times they can’t connect. That’s why some companies are supplying mobile hotspots for their remote team members.

4. Communication tools

From video chat to instant messaging, your team will need a means of communication. A video conferencing application like Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams is a must for hybrid and remote teams.

Ongoing instant messages and message board tools like Slack, Google Hangouts and Discord are all worth checking out. Also, don’t forget the value of plain old phone calls. Remote employees should be equipped with VOIP phones or company-comped cell-phone plans as well.

5. Screen sharing (and screen recording)

It can be pretty complicated (and sometimes comical) to explain what’s happening on a screen without actually seeing it. That’s why screen sharing and screen recording capabilities are pretty important pieces of remote work technology.

Many of the programs already mentioned include these features, like Google Meet (see how easy screen-sharing is in our Google Meet best business practices guide), Slack and Zoom. But there are other standalone tools as well, like join.me and TeamViewer to accomplish the task of screen sharing.

6. Security tools

Cybersecurity tools deserve their own dedicated blog. But as a starting point, here are some types of security tools to consider:

  • Disk and file encryption software
  • Automatic backup software
  • Password managers
  • A VPN
  • Two-factor authentication solutions

7. Digital mediums for analog processes

In a fully remote workforce, there are some analog processes that need to be digitized. For instance, Google’s Jamboard and Microsoft’s Whiteboard help remote workers contribute to in-person whiteboards, and DocuSign makes it easy to sign and share documents digitally.

Think about all your physical processes that will need a digital solution in a remote environment and find remote work tools to accomplish them online.

8. Automation and integration tools

An abundance of remote work tools help with automating virtual workflows. You’ll want to use a solution like Zapier to make as many of your tech solutions communicate with each other as possible to maximize workflow automation. Zapier is a fantastic tool for syncing different tools when there isn’t a native integration—which is why many Copper customers are big fans.

9. A customer relationship management system

Better known as CRM, these systems keep all your customer and contact details centralized. And while a CRM is useful in any work environment, it’s critical in a remote or hybrid atmosphere.

Plus, certain CRMs, like Copper, offer high-level visibility across business workflows to help facilitate collaboration across teams and departments. Another way to put it is: the best CRMs can do more than manage customer relationships. They can help with project management and collaboration too.

A note on technology boundaries in a remote workplace

It takes around 23 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted by a digital message. Now, imagine how challenging it must be to get work done when constant messages, video chats and emails come in.

It can sometimes feel impossible and exhausting.

That’s why one of the most important things to remember is that not everything about technology is positive. Even in a remote work environment, boundaries are important.

In your search for remote work technology, make sure to also think about how you’ll help your employees beat the tech fatigue, so they can focus during work hours and unplug after work. For people already working from home, 27% say that the biggest struggle is the inability to unplug.

At Copper, we developed Copper Unplugged Day to give our employees a much-needed break from virtual tech. Other companies are implementing things like mandatory breaks, tech-free work hours and no after-hour message policies to help offset our new super-tech workplaces. Others are using tech to fight tech with away messages, scheduling and automation.

We’re serious about relationship building and developing meaningful connections. So, we think the perfect remote work tools are those that help you and your employees find the balance between being digitally connected and meaningfully engaged.

Try Copper CRM to get the complete picture of your customer pipeline while simultaneously promoting collaboration and gaining high-level visibility across your team.

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