There was a time when a new worker required a desk, a computer, an expensive phone, and four walls. That time is gone. Whether you hire contracted freelancers or host remote workers at your company, today’s digital environment makes it possible to eschew the usual trappings of office life for a far more digital, remote experience. With the right structure in place, you don’t have to give up the collaboration or personal touch of a traditional office. Here are some of the tools that can help you build that office:
Cloud Storage and Office Management
It starts with your digital infrastructure. How will you store the key documents and files that you share with your co-workers and employees? How can you collaborate on these same documents to ensure that work gets done on time? Here are a few suggestions:
- Google Drive and Google Docs. Whether comparing notes on content for your blog or building group projects for business presentations, you’ll have just about everything you need for remote word processing and more with free Google accounts. Google Calendar syncs neatly with plenty of apps these days so you can automatically schedule meetings and tasks without having to take on additional steps.
- Dropbox. Many business owners today choose to supplement their cloud storage with at least one Dropbox account—just to have a backup. Dropbox’s free account currently offers enough storage for most people to handle the demands of a modern business, but there’s also a Dropbox Business account for more robust team needs.
- Microsoft OneDrive. People who use PCs often find that OneDrive fits in neatly with the infrastructure they already have in place. OneDrive’s easy offline access features also make it possible to handle a variety of business needs even when the Internet’s down—though if you have remote workers, this isn’t usually a concern.
- Use Zapier to automate your most common processes; for example, you can use new tasks on Trello to automatically create Google Calendar reminders for new project assignments.
Meetings and Online Conferencing
What defines a modern digital office is that it’s not limited to the four walls around your computer. But to keep tabs on a remote team, you’ll have to be able to check I from time to time. That means online meetings and conferencing:
- GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting is one of the most popular solutions for handling remote workers, with some 18 million users per month across the globe. They offer easy screen sharing, high-quality video/audio, and great features like commuter mode, voice commands and cloud recording.
- GoToConnect. This easy-to-use secure video conferencing tool allows for one-click screen sharing, personalized URLs, and the everyday features you rely on such as audio, recording, scheduling and remote control.
- Calendly is a nice tool for avoiding the game of email tag that usually happens when you’re trying to match schedules with someone else.
Phone Calls and Voicemail Systems
You no longer need a landline in the modern digital office. But that doesn’t mean a smartphone alone will suffice, either. We recommend that you split up your personal and business calls with a phone system that easily delineates between the two, giving you a separate business phone number.
Grasshopper’s solutions include a separate toll free number for your business, a voicemail system, multiple extensions, call forwarding, and even business texting through your usual phone.
Strategies for Remote Working
A modern digital “office” means you’re not always tethered to one specific location. As long as you have the software and infrastructure in place to handle it, you can simply use an Internet connection to get most of the work done. Zapier has highlighted a wide range of different home offices where many people can get by with a simple Internet connection and a laptop.
But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan effectively. Here are some tips for keeping work going while you’re handling business from the home or on the road:
- Get off of paper as much as possible. Even if you have a business presence that requires a lot of paperwork, there are still some ways to reduce paper usage, including software that tracks printer usage and arranging for as many paperless statements as possible. It’s also a good idea to digitize essential documents to have electronic backups in the case of emergencies.
- Set clear rules and guidelines for remote workers. If you hire a remote worker, make sure that you work with them early on in the process so they understand the expectations of a remote office. How much work will you expect them to do? What are your policies on sick days? Vacations? One rule of thumb is to keep your business running like a traditional business, even if many of your workers now handle their job from a remote location.
- Find co-working spaces when you can. If you work in a digital office from home, you might find it beneficial to find co-working spaces when you can, such as working out of coffee shops with free WiFi or seeking out a co-working space in your area.
- Use an “upside-down pyramid” schedule. In other words, start with the foundation of your work as soon as you can. Begin with the most important task of your day. If you work out of a mostly digital office, it’s possible for your work day to run into all sorts of non-office issues that can derail your productivity. That freedom can be a great thing. But it also means you’re responsible for getting things done without the traditional 9-5 structure. Get the most important work out of the way first to ensure that even if your day gets disrupted by mid-afternoon, you can still recover the next day.
Building a Flexible Digital Office
There is enough technology out there that you can handle most work with a laptop and an Internet connection. But if you want to maintain the standards and function of a larger office, it helps to supplement these basic tools with the infrastructure to maintain the appearance of a full corporate presence—without all the expense.