Many journalists and business theorists are calling COVID-19 the largest work-from-home experiment of all time. While debates are aplenty for in-office versus remote work, the current reality is that many businesses are remote.
Prior to COVID-19, 20% of our team worked remotely so we’ve always placed a value on remote-capable, cloud-based technology. As we transitioned to a 100% remote team, we made a few additional adjustments, but our productivity tools remained the same.
So, we thought we’d share a few of the tools we use to stay connected to our team and keep us working collaboratively and productively from a distance.
Project Management: Teamwork
On a given day, we have 400+ open projects in various stages of production. Some projects are quick web edits, some are 12-month campaigns, some are ongoing monthly management work, and there’s a lot in between. With so many moving parts and projects that can touch as many as 5 departments, having a central hub to house all project details for our team is critical. For the first few years we used Basecamp and about 5 years ago we converted to Teamwork (over a very long weekend!) because it offered some additional features that made sense for us.
Here’s a look at what Teamwork offers:
- Project Planning: setup details, file uploads, to-dos, milestones, and Gantt charting
- Workload Management: properly evaluate team member availability and individual project load
- Collaboration: notifications to included parties, both internal and external
- Billing: comprehensive time tracking features
If you’re deciding on a project management software, both Basecamp and Teamwork are excellent options; here’s an article that compares the features and ideal uses for each platform.
There are a lot of great chat platforms out there for your team – a couple of the most popular are Slack and Microsoft Teams. We chose to use Teamwork because it’s baked into our project management software and is a very easy integration for our team. It offers everything we need: individual chat, group chat, searchable chat history, files sharing, app or desktop accessibility, and messages can convert to tasks within projects.
Creative Review: Proof HQ
Every project we work on is reviewed by multiple people in multiple departments, so it’s important to capture and organize comments and maintain version control. For example, a website design touches 4 departments and may be reviewed by as many as 6 people internally before it ever goes to our client. Here’s a typical web design project for us:
- Account Manager: works closely with client to understand the scope and goals and communicates that to the creative team
- Copywriter: holds a client interview to prepare for SEO content development
- Designer: creates website design based on goals, content, and sitemap
- Developer: reviews website during design phase to discuss pre-dev functionality
- Client: reviews designs and offers feedback, which initiates new versions with edits
And now the website is ready to be built by our in-house team.
Keeping up with the creative changes that happen during these phases is simplified through our use of Proof HQ. We use this to review and comment on all design work; it has built in commenting tools, version control that allows you to view past versions, cataloging of work by client, and so much more.
If you’re looking for a way to creatively collaborate and suggest edits on creative projects, Proof HQ is a great product.
Video Conferencing: Zoom
There are a handful of companies that have seen massive growth during COVID-19 and Zoom is one of them. We’ve used them for a while, but not at the level we do now. Zoom’s daily active users jumped from 10M to 200M in just 3 months, and since March they’ve seen a 728% increase in first-time installations of their mobile app.
Our team has been using Zoom daily for the last 8 weeks of remote work. We use it for departmental huddles, executive team meetings, full team meetings every Friday, client presentations, and 1-on-1 conversations. It’s been a vital piece to keeping our team connected while we’re spread out in our remote workplaces. Their screen share feature has helped us keep business moving forward with client meetings and lead presentations.
We’ve also found some creative ways to use it for culture building during our Friday team meetings. Charades is our favorite, but here’s a few more ideas.
This is another tool we couldn’t do without. Hubspot serves as our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and tracks all our open proposals with leads and clients and allows us to keep thorough notes on progress. We have a custom dashboard that tracks the key metrics that matter most to our team and they are reviewed each week in our sales meeting.
Hubspot is way more than a CRM and it offers great marketing automation tools as well. If for no other reason, visit their website to read their massive library of eBooks, presentations, and articles.
Document Execution: Eversign
If you’ve purchased a home recently you’ve experienced the time-saving beauty of e-sign. There are several e-sign platforms out there, but we’ve been using Eversign and have found it to be very easy to use to execute client documents for approval of estimates, new projects, and contracts.
It once took days to get a returned document (print it out, sign it, scan it back) but now it takes minutes. It has allowed us to send updated contracts to all clients and track who has completed them, all within a well-organized dashboard.
If you’re still using physical documentation, take a few minutes to explore Eversign – you’ll be amazed at the time it will save you and how well it will organize and securely store your signed documents.
One of our core values is relationships, and a big part of our culture is spending time together. When COVID-19 placed staff meals, volunteer days, and pool parties on hold, we needed a way to stay connected. One of those ways was utilizing the Challenges feature on Strava, which is a fitness app for biking, swimming, running, and walking.
Their Challenges allow you to sign up for virtual events and participate as a team. When they announced their Social Distancing 5K, we knew it was a perfect fit and several of us ran “together” on a Saturday morning. We shared pictures, routes, and joked about how out of shape we were. In the weeks since, several of us have continued to ride and run “together.”
As we prepared to transition to 100% remote work, we made sure we could function as close to normal as possible. In working with our IT team, we were able to setup a few more important changes:
- Created a directory on our phone system that forwards calls to our cell phones
- Setup remote desktop access
- Trained everyone on accessing our server remotely
- Tested software licenses for Adobe products to ensure they worked on home PCs
Every industry has a different set of tools and there are some amazing, industry-specific products to optimize your daily work rhythms. These are just a few of the staples for us and many of them are helpful no matter your industry. Best of luck as you stay connected remotely!