Working remotely and collaboratively in the digital space is an increasingly practical option for both offices and client relationships. As a fully remote team, we’ve updated this article with our recommended collaborative online tools.
In the midst of a global pandemic, the trend towards working remotely has been fast tracked and many businesses have been forced to go fully digital in a short space of time. But even in the most mundane of times, working from home has become an increasingly practical option for both agencies and clients. Sitting in traffic for two to three hours a day so everyone can work alongside each other in cubicles is - let’s face it - not an efficient way to spend your time. With the movement towards flexitime instead of a rigid 9 - 5 work day, working collaboratively in a digital space is key to the modern office.
As trends analyst Dion Chang writes, “The concept of flexitime was spawned way back in the 1970s, but it is remarkable that most corporate companies still don’t embrace the idea, even though technology enables us not only to work flexible hours, but also to work remotely.”
Here’s a list of our seven favourite online collaborative tools to use when working from home:
We have experimented with several options for a solution to our need for collaborative document storage. After trying Dropbox, among others, we chose Google Drive. It’s an excellent online storage facility that’s easy to share in and collaborate with. With access to the ever-useful Documents, Sheets and Slides, users have up to 15GBs of free storage. And you can buy more space if needed!
Share and edit documents live with simultaneous users - no more wondering which version of a document is the correct one - which allows for true collaboration.
Another great feature offered by Google Drive is the ability to open any file in formats not supported by our device or PC - it merely searches the web browser and opens the correct programme in which to view the file. Thank you, Google!
As a team using the G-Suite like Gmail and Drive, Hangouts is a natural fit for us - they integrate perfectly and work well across multiple locations and pretty well on mobile too. Hangouts has screen sharing and presenting modes, though holding effective meetings with a remote team takes some practice and discipline. If your team is spread out then Google Hangouts is worth looking into.
Hangouts makes it easy to present, share files, and make video calls. If you have Gmail and use Google Calendar, a Hangout is automatically created for each meeting booked. Available for PC and mobile devices.
According to Lauren Lokker, Spitfire Inbound Marketing Strategist, Hangouts work perfectly with clients because there is no time limit and it is free to use, so anyone with a Google account or integrated Google account can use it!
Described by Small Business Trends as an “instant messaging and collaboration system on steroids”, Slack not only allows you to chat within your team from anywhere and share files by dropping and dragging, but it also offers integration with a host of other systems, such as Google Drive, Twitter and Trello, allowing notifications across various platforms to be directed to one, easily accessible place so you don’t have to constantly switch between apps!
According to Nicole Sengers, Principal Inbound Marketing Strategist & HubSpot Specialist here at Spitfire Inbound, what's cool about Slack is the fact that you can share large files like designs or presentations in the app. Many companies have file size limits on email so they use WeTransfer but Slack makes the files available immediately and it has a video call function and direct message as well as group chat. And bonus: It integrates with HubSpot too! And it’s not only Nicole who enjoys this tool so much - Lauren Lokker, Inbound Marketing Strategist, says that she finds it easy to share files, run video conference calls and have different channels to collaborate with different teams.
"Teams is an amazing tool because everything lives in the platform - so you're not only able to have a call with your team, you can also share documents right in Teams and make changes on the same document so that there’s no confusion on which draft is final,” says Shiran Sugerman, Spitfire Senior Inbound Marketing Strategist.
Although there are tons of free tools for those of us who have the functionality, Microsoft Teams is an amazing tool to use for collaboration - especially if your business is already using the Microsoft suite. It can be used for video calls, file transfers, collaborative working in documents and so much more. Security is Microsoft Team's number one focus with multi-factor authentication. That gives Reo Monareng, Spitfire Junior Inbound Strategist, peace of mind when working with clients. He says he loves Teams because it creates an amazing digital workspace and allows him to work with his team in real time on documents. Added to this, the pinning tool keeps track of which documents are most important, so that you and the client are always aligned.
Lauren Lokker always looks at privacy and when it comes to Teams and she is seriously impressed: “Microsoft is a global leader in security so if you're using Microsoft 365 it makes sense to collaborate via Teams and it is also secure and compliant with data protection regulations. Microsoft scored highly in 5 Gartner Magic Quadrants for security.”
Skype is the most common online collaboration tool and while it was the first “big one” in the internet VoIP world, the tool hasn't changed much so most people know how to use it. You need a Microsoft account to access and often, because it isn't linked to a calendar, people create groups on Skype for calls. The disadvantage of this is that you often have people you only had one meeting with as a contact. “I personally like to use emojis in Skype chat. There are animated ones!” says Nicole Sengers. If you have good internet access, Skype calls are great and if everybody has an account on Skype it's a good tool. The mobile app and ability to seamlessly move from one device to another is also a useful perk.
Zoom is designed for meetings and because it is cloud-based it installs on a PC without the need for admin permissions. Zoom offers a free plan with unlimited 1 to 1 calls and 40 minutes on a group call. The powerful Zoom account is a paid account and although it’s relatively inexpensive for one host, it could be expensive to roll out across a team.
Spitfire Social Media and Digital Content Manager, Lauren Espach, just loves the ease of communication when it comes to Zoom. She also enjoys the fact that it allows for more personalised forms of communication when physical closeness isn't possible. She has clients in the Eastern Cape and in Cape Town, and it's so easy to communicate with them with this online meeting app. What Lauren loves about Zoom is that when you are a big crowd, you can be sent to different “rooms” to collaborate.
“One tool I love to use for collaboration is WhatsApp. You can send a quick voice note, take a picture or a screenshot and share it with a client,” says Nicole Sengers. WhatsApp gives you access to send messages to large groups of people or only one, but here is the catch! That person must also have WhatsApp installed. Luckily, according to Business of Apps most South Africans' choice of collaborative app in 2020 is Whatsapp. It is a great on-the-go non-professional tool for quick catch-ups or answers for clients.
Another awesome tool for remote teams is Doodle. This tool is a meeting scheduling tool that removes the headache of back and forth emailing for setting up a meeting or a call. Doodle.com was created to help people who cannot look at each other’s diaries to vote on a date that suits them all for meetings and then choose a time that suits everybody’s schedule.. It's so easy to use as well.
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