18 Oct Our Top 10 Digital Tools for Business to Enhance Productivity for Remote Teams
Remote working has become more common in today’s workplace; this means that the need to stay connected with your team has never been greater.
Digital tools have been around for decades, and today more businesses are leveraging them to streamline workflow and communication across distributed teams. Digital tools – for business and personal use – can completely transform productivity when leveraged properly.
When many Australian and global workplaces abruptly moved to a remote structure during the initial lockdowns in early 2020, teams faced a set of new challenges.
For example, communication and collaboration were hindered by the lack of face-to-face interaction between teams and clients.
You may even recall a collective realisation that valuable “watercooler conversations” were no longer possible, making it essential to find better communication solutions. In addition, productivity was substantially affected as employees navigated new challenges working from home with family and other household occupants.
Even before the pandemic, some businesses were already considering a remote team model.
Workplace changes – due to the pandemic – accelerated a worldwide movement to transform team structures to hybrid/remote working. But, despite digital transformation being nothing new, many organisations are not yet leveraging its full potential.
Transitioning from the office to work-from-anywhere
For most employees, the office is where they spend a large portion of their day. For many businesses, this is still true. However, an office location is no longer feasible for companies with employees across multiple locations and time zones.
Transitioning from office-based work to a home or remote setup not only affects employees but managers and the company as well.
Having a distributed team means evolving management style – including the temptation to “over-manage” team members rather than giving them autonomy. Similarly, employees have needed to adapt to a new way of working with their teammates and managers.
The negative effects of not being able to manage distributed teams
When distributed teams are not properly managed, there can be negative effects on the well-being and productivity of employees. Some effects include, but are not limited to:
- Overwhelming workloads due to task mismanagement.
- A lack of adequate communication leading to feelings of isolation.
- Negative impacts on mental and physical health when the lines between work and family life are blurred.
- Dramatic decreases in productivity and team morale.
When employees are overwhelmed, and lack direction, their performance and productivity decrease, and their wellbeing is at risk.
Communication, clarity, workload management, and inclusion are just some ways to promote wellbeing across your team, and digital tools can facilitate all of these for distributed teams.
But, do digital tools make us more or less productive?
It may not have seemed as evident until now, but workplaces have relied on digital tools for many years. From email clients to digital calendars, digital tools have been part of the fabric of daily operations long before employees began to work from home.
The difference today is that most digital tools leverage cloud storage, giving rise to the age of interactive digital tools that facilitate real-time collaboration and enhanced productivity.
In fact, it can be difficult to get things done without digital tools; it’s hard to communicate and share files, plus your team may be working in different time zones. In addition, there are some risks associated with operating a distributed team without digital tools.
For example, employees may not have access to the latest information because they don’t work in an office where they can pop over to a colleague for a quick update.
Like any tool, it is essential to take the time to learn how to use it for maximum efficiency.
The importance of digital tools is clear when we consider optimal productivity across distributed teams, so it’s worth knowing how to properly leverage them – like learning how to get the most out of your digital calendar and hacks to enhance your productivity.
We specialise in coaching employees to get the most out of their digital tools, ensuring their best chances at dramatically improving their productivity.
Our starterPEP program will guide your team through the best practices for performance and productivity optimisation with the power of digital tools.
Cloud-based tools are increasing in popularity as they enable real-time collaboration, communication and instant updates to documents.
Some of the benefits of cloud-based tools are:
- Multiple team members can access the most up-to-date version of a document at the same time.
- Waiting for the most recent version of a document is eliminated.
- They keep workflow moving forward at a steady pace.
- They foster collaboration.
- Allows for secure file exchanges.
- Improved accountability across a dispersed workforce.
Now, let’s take a look at some examples of digital tools to enhance productivity for distributed teams.
File sharing and real-time collaboration
While it’s always a great idea to keep a backup of your documents, gone are the days where you need to take up space on your desktop storage.
Google Drive and Dropbox have revolutionised file sharing and storage. They offer real-time collaboration and eliminate clunky processes that previously resulted in multiple versions of the same document.
Other popular options include OneDrive to keep your files organised and secure, or take things a step further and use SharePoint for an all-encompassing team intranet where you can share files, collaborate and communicate.
How it improves productivity:
- Documents, presentations and spreadsheets can be edited live, without the need to send multiple versions between team members. This saves time, eliminates the need to wait for a file to be sent between team members, and reduces different versions of the same file.
- Files can be stored and shared in a cloud location where all members can access them.
- Live collaboration is made possible with multiple team members working in the document at the same time, with comments and editing suggestions being created and resolved on the spot.
Team and project management made easy with multiple platform choices
It can feel like a new project management platform is created every other week, and it’s for a good reason. But what are digital tools for collaboration?
Each includes features such as tasks to be assigned, due dates, accessible communication and messaging, priorities set, calendar and much more.
It’s worth investing in the right plan to boost productivity and gain clarity on the progress of each project.
How it improves productivity:
- Keep all tasks and projects in the same place so every team member knows where to find the information they need. Project management digital tools enable file uploads and downloads, link sharing and multimedia, making it easier than ever to keep track of every element of a project.
- Email integration means you can create inbox rules and keep track of important communications.
- Team members and due dates can be assigned to each task, so everyone has clarity on what they are doing and when they need it done by.
- Status updates provide visibility on how each task is tracking so you can spend less time following up team members and more time focusing on important tasks.
Communication tools that work for distributed teams and varying time zones
Communication is arguably the most critical element of managing a successful distributed team.
Interactive digital tools like Slack, Skype and Microsoft TEAMS are messaging tools that make conversations quick and easy between teams. It’s not just text; video calls, voice messaging, and phone calls are included in these tools.
It’s also easy to create specific groups of contacts so you can start or continue conversations with groups of people without the need to add everyone over and over again.
How it improves productivity:
- Communication and collaboration are made possible – and easy – with quick links that allow users to talk via video, text or call at the click of a button.
- Team members experience the next-best-thing to collaborating in the office with features that allow screen share, scratch pad, multimedia uploads and chat functions.
- With pre-saved chat groups, checking in with specific groups is quicker and easier than ever.
Email and calendar management and beyond
Managing email and calendar is paramount for productivity on an individual and team level. Outlook 365 continuously adapts and evolves with the needs of onsite and distributed teams across the globe.
With new features being released all the time to support productivity and team collaboration. Google Calendar is another powerful option that seamlessly integrates your meetings and appointments.
How it improves productivity:
- Create folder systems to manage your email workflow and achieve Inbox Zero so you can focus more time on high value tasks.
- Time-block in your calendar so that all important tasks and meetings have adequate time allocated to them.
- Start each day productively with a streamlined inbox and well-planned calendar so you know what to do and when to do it.
Teams are often frustrated with the lack of communication and clarity that often comes with remote work.
We recommend investing in your team to ensure they get the most out of their workday with a course that teaches teams how to use digital tools to increase productivity.
Our StarterPEP program will teach your team about digital tools to enable optimal productivity, file sharing and real-time collaboration, email and workflow management to improve communication and reduce overwhelm.