Two women are wearing masks because of COVID-19 and using apps for remote work

COVID-19: The 4 Low-Frills Apps Needed to Rapidly Ramp up Virtual Work

By Eric Michrowski

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving a rapid shift to remote work across North America. Most leaders have woken up to the criticality of shifting workers that are non-essential to locations where there is a lesser risk to spread the virus. Those that haven’t yet, might wake up one morning with the entire office quarantined which is a significantly worse outcome.

If you haven’t yet moved to remote work, my suggestion is to get in front of it as soon as you can and before it gets mandated in your community. Having worked with virtual teams for the better part of the last decade and having migrated two different organizations through this process, I can firmly say that most knowledge and service-based work can be done just as effective remotely.

If you already incorporate some form of telecommuting into your routines, the shift will be seamless. If you had the plans in your Business Recovery Plan and tested it regularly, it shouldn’t be too hard to implement. But if this wasn’t planned, it will prove to be challenging at first.

Some experts emphasize the importance of implementing new collaborative tools and technologies. When it’s being rapidly implemented, keep it simple. I suggest four new Apps/Tools that you will want to rapidly implement to create the structure.

1. Some basic form of audio and/or video collaboration tool

Conference calls should become the way of life while people work remotely. Video conferencing can be helpful for collaboration or white boarding but isn’t as essential on a shoestring budget. Considering tools like GoToMeeting, RingCentral, UberConference, Zoom or Webex to name a few of the top providers if you don’t already have advanced internal capabilities.

2. Some basic social/collaboration tool

This will help share ideas, tasks and information that people may require and keep that communication off email which could clog down productivity. Consider tools like Yammer or Slack which can usually be rapidly deployed.

3. A shared workspace or document management tool

I’d keep this simple if you don’t already have such a tool. This could be something as simple as Google Docs where more than one person can collaborate on a document or spreadsheet (possibly while being on a call). Tools like Samepage or SharePoint can also fit the bill but typically are more complicated to setup.

4. A daily huddle (yes, the lowest tech tool)

It’s very easy for people to get distracted when working remotely during a crisis. Many will have to balance childcare arrangements with partners also working from home without the right home office setup. Some people will get lonely working remotely. It’s essential to create a meeting cadence. I suggest the age-old best practice of a daily huddle where you organize a daily 10-15 minute call (30 minutes max) to review the prior day actions, “stucks” and commit to a plan for the day. A regular touchpoint will bring cadence to the work that will exceed what any other form of technology can bring.

This list isn’t comprehensive. It’s just a starting point to get you setup quickly in a remote environment and continue to be productive.

As a consulting firm specializing in these areas, Propulo is an expert in the space of safety culture, process improvement and organizational culture transformation – all of which are components that can support the successful navigation of customer needs. Our experience and knowledge in challenges like these have allowed us to help our clients weather the storm and succeed through these challenging times.


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