Empower your team to be efficient and productive from a home office

As we all work towards overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, a primary urgency for our clients is setting up or expanding their remote work capability. So now is a good time to outline some of the core components of a secure and productive remote work ecosystem, and the best practices to keep it running smoothly.

Most of our clients are already enabled for remote working, with Office 365 and remote desktop access tools, a VoIP phone system, and a free basic version of the Zoom virtual meeting platform. These are all extremely powerful and easy-to-use tools for keeping teams working and organizations delivering for their customers and clients.

This article will look at six tools we use at Leverage IT for keeping our physically separated team members connected and productive. As a company, we have had the ability to remote work for over 12 years. We have multiple physical offices and our IT Engineers work from their home offices in regularly scheduled shifts; all of us have the ability to work remotely at any time and this allows us to be an extremely agile organization.

With remote team members we take full advantage of video conferencing, file sharing, email, instant messaging, team member presence awareness, and culture and collaboration platforms.

Here is a rundown of our tools and how we use them:

Office 365 Tools

Teams: Teams facilitates communication and collaboration for small groups of colleagues focused on shared objectives. For our remote workers, we use Teams constantly to communicate status, needs, recommendations, and help. We also lighten up our workdays with gif images, memes, and playful commentary. Culturally, we keep Teams open and monitored by everyone, to recreate, as closely as possible, the experience of working together in the same physical space.

Teams, as with all the Office 365 tools, has presence awareness that indicates if your colleagues are at their keyboards or away. Presence awareness coordinates with Outlook calendars so you will know if someone is in a meeting or out of the office.

OneDrive: This is what its name implies, a single storage drive for use by multiple colleagues. It lets any member of our team simply upload a document to the drive and then send a link to it via email or text. The document can now be accessed by any colleague with the link, on their office or personal desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Access permissions are easily configured to maintain security. We use OneDrive as the personal file storage tool.

SharePoint: This is another cloud-based shared space on the Office 365 platform. It’s used for departmental and organization-wide file sharing and collaboration. We use SharePoint as our departmental and company file storage tool

Yammer: This is a secure, business-focused, Facebook-like tool for keeping your organization’s culture and communications going. It’s like a company bulletin board. At Leverage IT, we use Yammer to notify each other of process changes, ask questions or request feedback, and share polls and internal surveys. Having a thread of chatter back and forth is invaluable to maintaining the cohesion of any organization.

Yammer may sound similar to Teams however in both practice and design the applications fill two different niches, implied by the way Microsoft named them. Teams was designed for small-group, intimate teammate collaboration and communication; Yammer targets organization-wide announcements designed to include everyone.

Stream: Similar to a private YouTube channel, Stream provides a platform for sharing videos internally within an organization. A company’s Stream account can only be accessed by internal team members. At Leverage IT, we use it for recording demonstrations, giving overviews, and training.

Zoom: We`ve left this one for last because of how important it is. It cannot be overstated how powerful visual contact is for colleagues collaborating remotely. As human beings, we really, really need to be able to see and hear each other. At Leverage IT, we have used just about every video conferencing solution, and Zoom, by far, has the best user Interface and fewest technical issues.

See here for the different Zoom Licenses: https://zoom.us/pricing

Every morning, we hold our team huddle via Zoom. During this meeting, we review our client statuses, open tickets, and team member needs. It really helps us with timely, critical communication and alignment. Our rule is that all team members have to turn their video cameras on during Zoom meetings. This helps immensely with the ability to see, understand, and react to each other.

Zoom basics and best practices

  • Internet bandwidth for video meetings is important. A broadband wired or wireless connection (3G or 4G/LTE) with a bandwidth of 600kbps (up/down) is the minimum, while 1.5 Mbps or better is recommended.
  • For video you need a webcam – use the one built into your computer or one that connects via USB. For USB cameras, these are recommended by Zoom: Microsoft HD Webcam and Logitech HD Webcam
  • For audio, a headset with microphone is recommended. Please see this list of recommended headsets by Logitech.
  • *FYI: If someone isn’t able to join via computer, Zoom has an audio phone bridge function included with each Zoom meeting, so they can attend via a call-in number from their smartphone.

Please note that alongside the rising popularity of services like Zoom are bad actors trying to hack into these meetings. Few shared Zoom meeting links are password protected, so consider adding this simple layer of security for each meeting link you create, especially if members from outside your organization are invited.

A note for those with office VoIP Phone Systems who are switching to remote work: You can easily use your handset, menu attendant, voice mail, and extension dialing from any internet-accessible location. Just connect the phone handset’s cable to your home internet ethernet port, and use it like you would in the office.

All of us here at Leverage IT are confident that our clients will come through this remarkable global disruption stronger than before it began. Transitioning your organization to remote work is one way this event can bring positive change. The key is to successfully embrace remote working’s productivity and cost saving benefits.

If you have questions about remote work or need help in any way, give us a call. We are standing by to support you.