Home Office Crash Course

Staying efficient during home office quarantine.

If you’re one of the many, that had to switch their usual workplace for a comfy chair and desk at home, you’ve came to the right spot.

Millions of people around the world faced an obligatory change in the working habits – COVID-19 forced them to stay home to work remotely. Even thou statistics show a steady increase of people working remotely globally, month to month, for many it’s the first time they have do their job from the desk at home.

Since we’re a software house, and in the end – we DO KNOW about software. The custom made one is our bread and butter, but we will help you out and show you some tricks and applications that will make the following days easier.

Software that helps with remote work.

It’s easy to say – “Please stay at home, work remotely, nothing changes besides where you are.” – But how to keep your team’s work efficiency high, when even basic discussion about documents is disturbed? Many times, work is done in teams, that are used to regular meetings and group reviews of the proceedings and progress being made. Conference rooms are booked for a few days in advance, and the issues that were to be discussed there – have to be carried out using specialized software.

Let’s check what solutions are available to help you out in these turbulent times.

Efficient communication during home office

Before the job is even started – we would suggest establishing a reliable and simple communication procedures between the team members. For many forward-thinking enterprises, this is already done. In the age of web revolution, phone communications gave way to web apps oriented towards chat agents that make the give business tools resembling platforms they widely use in private life. According to Gartner, interpersonal communication is now favoring text messaging over voice talks. More than 70% of questioned people responded that they prefer to send a text message, over Messenger ( link ) or even SMS, than to call or talk in person.

Messenger, or even Telegram, are of course best employed in private situations, as they lack security and privacy features essential for keeping your business fully secure. So, what’s the alternative?

Slack – perfect for agile teams working remotely

( https://slack.com/ )

The no1. for the current generation it’s as obvious to use, as email was for the previous one. Moreover, the people that begin their careers today, are often referred to as the generation #slack.

Best in class home office communication software – #slack

This simple to use communication software is based on the concept as old as the internet itself – IRC, the internet relay chat, and the protocol’s most known client – mIRC were widespread amongst tech users in the early 90’s, when connection to the internet had to be established over the modem. Back then people loved to hear the characteristic beeping sound of the PPP negotiation – and the next thing they did, after it was finished, was connecting to IRC to join the rest of their virtual friends.

Slack bases communication on the dedicated channels, and favors the creation of workspaces that are dedicated to projects, current issues, and emerging situations. The way it works is perfectly aligned with Agile methods, and allows for a fast creation of channels as they are required.

Conversations between individual users are also possible, and very easy. Slack keeps all your information private, and hacking into your comms network, is virtually impossible.

Opening a slack workspace is very easy and fast – you can do it on #slack website in minutes, and the basic plan, which does not block the amount of users, and just limits the search and storage size is always free.

If you decide to use the paid plan, its charged by the user, and is very affordable. This would be our go-to choice for every team that has to remotely communicate through the quarantine period.

Discord – the gamer’s way to survive remote work.

( https://discordapp.com/ )

Discord is a quite similar solution to slack. The difference is in the “open” structure of this communication software. The platform was initially developed “for gamers, by gamers” and was deployed to allow easy voice communication for e-sports teams, raiding guilds etc. It was quickly noticed by the users, that the possibilities not necessarily end there. Especially younger people, discovered that instead of inventing the wheel for their new businesses and teams in formation, all they need to do is to open a dedicated channel on Discord – turn their gaming habits, into productive method of communication.

Where slack lags in comparison to discord, is access to thousands of open channels that discord offers. Because of the widespread adoption amongst people, you can join open channels that will support your hobby, job, kid’s upbringing, DIY, whatever else you can imagine.

Gamers-oriented design mindset helped Discord create a viable remote comms software.

The privacy and security is a bit of an issue here, especially in comparison to slack, but it serves the purpose very well! Give it a try if for some reason #slack does not work for you.

Microsoft Teams – how corporations manage home office

( https://teams.microsoft.com/start )

It would be unfair not to mention Microsoft – the Jack of all trades of the XXI century. If there is market for it, be sure that Microsoft will try to tap into it.

Microsoft Teams is a solution, oriented towards larger structures and enterprises. It’s expensive. And it’s very good. The problem lies with its complicated deployment and infrastructural requirements that often need a dedicated team to successfully “inject” this communication solution into a working enterprise workflow. If however, your business can afford the money and resources necessary to get the hands-on Microsoft Teams – you won’t be disappointed!

Millions of users work on Teams daily, and thousands of world-famous corporations, rely on the Microsoft’s solution when it comes to supporting a remote teamwork between different cells of the enterprise.

Microsoft Teams lets you work from home with whole team.

Those teams will barely notice any change when they are obligatory pushed towards remote work because of the coronavirus spread.

How to manage paperwork during remote work.

Ok, so we’ve got the talks sorted. Now we need to figure out how to efficiently DO the ACTUAL work.

Depending on your specialization, a multitude of different dedicated tools are used daily by your teams. One type of work is however common to most of businesses – and it’s the… you’ve guessed it – The Paperwork.

No matter if you sell tires, develop custom web applications, run a law firm, organize road transport – you still need 2 basic types of documents: Spreadsheets and Text Documents.

We bet that you already use a solution that has a teamwork, remote-friendly features included, but you might not know of its existence. Simply because you haven’t needed to use them before!

Google Sheets+Docs = work from home as usual.

( https://docs.google.com/ )

In case you have been living under a rock – google for years offers their free document collaboration platform, that gives you a GREAT text editor and spreadsheet software for free. (well you don’t pay with money at least!)

Having all the necessary features, free plans of cloud storage and most importantly – the team features. Every document on google can be commented, edited and reversed to previous versions in a single click.

Sharing to particular users lets you work with specific people from task-oriented teams, and open link sharing allows you to send the documents outside, to customers and other stakeholders.

Google also offers a paid plan, if you need more space and more premium features. There are also extensive integrations pre-made, so you can integrate google solutions with your workflow, and if you are one of the best-prepared teams, that have access to custom made software – API allows for full communication between google and your bespoke web application.

iCloud. Keeping Apples at home during COVID scare.

( https://www.icloud.com/ )

Apple has been offering a proprietary co-working platform for a few years now. After fixing problems that appeared during turbulent launch, and with finally adjusting the pricing to match the market standards, iCloud is now a full-fledged teamwork solutions.

It is going to be especially interesting to the fans and users of apple since the iCloud services are integrated with your beloved Pages, Numbers, Calendar and all other major applications by apple. Oh! And its preinstalled with any new mac that you buy – so it’s never too late to switch.

To access cloud-based teamwork, all you need to do is enable iCloud for selected apps in preferences. After it’s done, you can start sharing documents with other iCloud users. It supports comments, reviews and group changes to spreadsheets, text documents and even… music tracks!

Adobe Creative Cloud. Creative remote work under control.

( https://www.adobe.com/pl/creativecloud.html )

This one is a bit more of a specific solution. If you run a team that works together on design projects, you are well familiar with the Adobe suite. What is less known – is that since Adobe has switched to a SaaS model, it also opened up its cloud platform.

Cowork on design documents, such as graphic files, software prototypes, and other specialistic documents can be done easily with Adobe. The concept is virtually identical to the one that you find on Google and iCloud – with the difference, that commenting and changes are done with Photoshop, Illustrator, XD and other apps from the suite.

If you have not noticed this feature before – now it’s the best time to check them out, before trying anything else. We’re convinced that you will be able to work just as usual, without learning or integrating any new software!

Manage tasks done remotely by your team.

Ok, so we have communication sorted, individual tasks also, but what remains is probably the MOST important part. When you have all the issues delegated to people, it would be convenient to have some way to manage everything, and avoid unnecessary verification calls and messages, right?

Enter – Task / Project management software. The modern ones at least.

Trello. Post-it board for the times of virus quarantine.

( https://trello.com/ )

Simplicity is the king.

Based on a very simple Kanban methodology, Trello provides you time with a virtual post-it board to work on. This ingenious piece of software allows you to split your work into different “projects” (in Trello called – boards), and further divide projects into stages which are represented by columns. Each column tracks tasks on a particular phase, and users “push” them further after their part of the work is done.

Easy to use Kanban board in Trello, lets you manage remote work easily.

It works WONDERS. And with integrations and plugins, you can expand the basic board into sophisticated workflow management hubs, simple and easy to understand even to inexperienced users.

Trello offers a free plan, that is very good for the beginning, and seamless switch to inexpensive premium – to be used when your enterprise grows.

ClickUp. Soft-skill management with ease during home office.

( https://clickup.com/ )

ClickUp, for many, is a holy grail of project and task management. This lean startup has entered the stage a couple of years ago, immediately winning support of less-technical teams, that to this point envied IT for solutions such as Jira.

Soft-skill oriented task management in ClickUp, can be based on virtually any imaginable workflow. You can visualize the work very efficiently, either on Kanban Boards, SCRUM workspaces, Gantt charts, calendars – you name it. If you use it already, it’s there for you in a “click” (pun intended!)

Clickup native mobile support gives you a whole degree of freedom in remote work.

Integrations in ClickUp are awesome. We weren’t able to name a single app that is widespread on the market, and is no integrated into ClickUp.

The best part is – that 90% of the features are always free. All that is locked behind an inexpensive paywall, are some QoL improvements, that while helpful, are unnecessary to fully enjoy the ClickUp experience.

Jira – the tool for developers and techies working at home.

( https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira )

Jira, for years used to be a solution purely for the IT software developers. We work on Jira in codelabs.rocks daily. Its puro! As in great. Perfect. It has exactly the features we need in SCRUM web apps development method.

It’s like you would take the essence from Trello and ClickUp, stripped those of unnecessary fluff, and adopted it to the mindset of a code developer.

It features free plans, and affordable premium that lets Jira bloom.

Downside? Well – it’s geeky. While we love it, some less technical teams might have problems with efficiently using Jira to manage their work. Recently Atlassian (dev behind Jira) has made steps to embrace non-techniques and introduced some outstanding simplifications. So if you tried it before, but got kinda scared off – give Jira another shot. You might be pleasantly surprised!

The most efficient way to work at home.

To remain efficient during the times of isolation – working remotely, you need three basic software pillars. Communication, Collaboration, and Management. Choosing any combination of the apps we’ve preselected will do the trick. However, there’s one more thing, and we know it works best.

At some point in the development of your enterprise, you will reach a point when two factors will overlap on the charts. How big you are and how unique is what you do.

When this happens, it’s a sign that calls for custom made solution. No pre-made software can be perfectly aligned with the unique characteristics of any company. No matter how good those solutions are, they remain what they are – apps designated to fulfill the basic requirements of as many enterprises as possible. Beyond a certain point, you will notice that further adaptation of thees apps leads to increase in upkeep costs. You will need to designate people to maintain those systems and onboard new users. Later, you will have to hire specialists that will customize the apps to fit your needs better. All that together WILL become MORE expensive than hiring a specialized software house, that will accurately analyze your bussiness, and then code a solution just for you.

Let’s work remotely!

That approach might look more cost-consuming – but it is so, only in the short-run. Ongoing costs, in this case, will remain stable, and with each day, it will pay off. Think about it and have an efficient home office!

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