Being stuck at your office desk is so 20th century. Today's employees expect to be able to work from wherever they are. Independent contractors working from one-person offices need to communicate smoothly with their customers' teams. Emails and conference calls are not the best way to make any of this happen.
Fortunately, you have plenty of other options, and the folks at AVer, which makes plug-and-play videoconference cameras specially designed to let remote viewers interact with an entire group, have put together a list of tools that can make working away from the office more efficient, and help remote members feel connected to their colleagues.
Here's a look.
1. Google Hangouts.
There are several good choices for remote videoconferencing but Google Hangouts is probably the best of the most commonly used options. If you want something that works very well from a quality standpoint and is a bit more exotic than Google, consider Oovoo, which I find works particularly well on my Android tablet. Both services are free for meetings of small groups.
Whatever service you use, if you're working from home, give a little thought to what's in the background, or (like the protagonist in the new Internet series Home/Office) you might wind up embarrassed.
Communifire is an internal social network and productivity tool that's user friendly and attractive. It allows team members to communicate with each other and also can be used to create online communities for your customers or other groups. In addition to letting you publish internal communications and content, it offers a best practices bank that should be extremely handy for new employees learning their jobs or those tackling unfamiliar tasks. Pricing starts at $50/month for up to 10 users.
Asana is a visually appealing collaboration and task-management tool that gives team members a place to manage and report on tasks and have conversations about their projects. That can create greater transparency and ensure all team members have all the information they need about what everyone else is doing. Team members can use iOS and Android apps as well. It's free for teams of up to 15 using the basic service; the premium service costs less than $9/month per employee.
Although there are several options for live chat and instant messaging among team members, Slack is on its way to dominating this market. It allows team members to chat or instant message in real time, and upload and download a wide array of files as well. Android and iOS apps are available so team members can still communicate when they're away from their desks. The free version, which you can use with an unlimited number of team members, may well be all you ever need. If not, premium versions start at $8/month per employee, with discounts for annual billing.
Draft is a cloud-based document tool that allows teams to collaborate on writing projects in a simple and easy-to-use format. If that sounds very similar to Google Docs, that's because it is. But Draft allows users to control the versions of documents they're working on. In Google Docs, team members either have editing powers, in which case they can completely rewrite a document, or they have read-only access. Draft gives you changes that team members make and then allows you to accept or reject them. It also plays well with other cloud-based services, such as Dropbox, Evernote, Box, and Google Drive. And for more efficient draft writing, it has something called Hemingway mode that forces you to keep writing rather then go back and rewrite your last sentence. Draft is free.
Sometimes you need a place away from home to focus on your work, or to meet with clients or business partners. If you're in one of the dozen U.S. cities or five international cities served by WeWork, it might provide the solution you need. Workspaces come with coffee, tea, fruit water, game arcades, and access to the community of WeWork members around the world. You can check availability or reserve spaces using mobile apps. Pricing for open-area office space starts at $45 for one day and one hour of conference room time per month, with higher pricing for unlimited access and dedicated office space.