Essential Tools To Make Your Boss Love Remote Working

I’m a firm believer in remote working and the benefits it can have on productivity, work life balance, employee retention and job satisfaction. You wouldn’t believe how many people still believe the traditional way of constant office work is the way forward. Many of my friends literally cannot believe the opportunity I have to work remotely four days a week. They think I am very fortunate and are shocked that I have been given such a fantastic opportunity to work where I am comfortable.

Strangely enough most of them occupy office jobs like I do. Most of them could have the same privilege of working from their own home, removing office distractions and the need to sit in traffic for hours a day. The difference is there boss hasn’t yet seen the vision of remote working. Their boss hasn’t been made accustom to how remote working can not only work but wipe the floor with office based working.
 I genuinely believe the chance to work remotely/work from home is available for us all. We live in a digital age; an age where gen y’s alike should dictate how productivity can be improved by cutting your employee’s a bit of slack. Of course there has to be an element of trust built. I’ve known my manager for over three years and he gets me, he knows how hard I work and he’s well aware that hiring me is good for him too. That trust has to be instilled first. You can’t rock into a new role and two months later ask to work from home. Tiny steps.

Don’t let them doubt the decision one bit. Below I’ve compiled a list of tools you can look into which will make you productive when working from home/remotely. Furthermore there’s some gems of which can help communication and collaborations between work colleagues up without having to be physically sat next to one another. Management is straight forward really. Give your employees the best conditions to perform. Persuading your manager to let you work remotely is also easy; don’t give them a chance to say no.

Most large scale companies use VPN access so those working remotely can access all their files, email and other key areas of a business (intranet, internal chat). Failing that it’s always essential to have other methods of communication and collaboration. You need to make your manager confident that letting you work remotely is the right decision. Hopefully these tools will go a long way to helping him make a decision:
Skype
Skype: http://www.skype.com
Bit of an easy one really. It’s free. Any type of communication is available via Skpe. Instant messenger chat, conference calls, video calling and traditional telephone calls. You name it, skype does it. If your boss wants you to sit on your web cam while you work for the first few days you can….via skype. If your boss is desperate to see if you are working from home every day, he can, via skype.

Skype has rocked the world and literally removes any doubt management will have about keeping in contact with you. Shit you can even get Skype on your mobile so while you are on the toilet your boss can tune into you. If he’s that way inclined J Crap jokes aside, skype is epic. It’s the first piece of the jigsaw. ‘Hey boss about working remotely, totally happy to stay in full contact with you via Skype. I’ve also got a web cam set up so we can video call daily’.

That sentence is more enthusiastic than anything you will hear in the office. Make your boss aware that you want to stay in touch with him; you want to be in regular contact. It will put his mind at ease and keep you well within the loop too.

Dropbox
Drop Box/Google Drive: http://www.dropbox.com https://drive.google.com/start
Dropbox was taking the world by storm until Google drive came along. Not surprising the big bad wolf Google came and replicated an idea and doubled the giveaway Dropbox currently offer. Nice Google nice. Both are truly amazing tools. Dropbox offers 2gb of free storage space whereas Google drive offer 5gb.

What’s amazing about both is that they are cloud storage and free at that. Basically it allows you to store files which can be accessed by your manager of other members of the team and updated by anybody with access to these files. This is all handled securely and can be only accessed via accepted rights.

Cloud storage is excellent for remote workers. Not only does it allow for collaboration efforts from team members and work sheets to be available for all within the same storage facility but it also allows remote workers to add their days work to a file for the manager to check over (if he so wishes).

Cloud storage is essential for any remote workers. Such a tool promotes team work and removes any doubt you’re manager may have that you cannot work as a team with you outside the office.

Smart Sheet
Smart Sheet: http://www.smartsheet.com
This is like excel on acid and best of all it’s all online. Automatically updates with ease, can be picked up very easily and is smooth in appearance. My manager loves this tool and for very good reason. I think this tool is more from the manager’s perspective as it can timeline projects and keep him up to date with the work what is going ahead.

Furthermore files can be attached to specific work streams so that management can review completed work and have any accompanying work attached. This allows management to be safe in the knowledge that they can keep track on what you are working on and what projects you have outstanding. Smartsheet also integrates brilliantly with Google Apps so Google docs can be easily attached to the smart sheet.

Smartsheet is the tool you should recommend to your manager to put he/she at ease. Having a online project management sheet will make remote working easy.

Trello

Trello: http://www.trello.com
Trello, a team workflow platform and list manager is an organisational tool essential for those working from home. Trello is a tool your manager should be looking to use to manage work through within the team.

Trello also works fantastically well for organisations and team members working on different time zones. Members on a different time zone who have completed a specific item of work can make this clear within the Trello boards which can be seen by all with access.

Trello is a collaboration tool that organises your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who are working on what, and where something is in a process.

Introduce this tool to your manager and explain the benefit of using this for work flow management. There were so many times within the past where my manager would drop me an email and ask what I am working on. By using such a tool as Trello they would be able to see my progress and what I am working on by logging into the Trello system. Furthermore it would allow other members of the team to see what’s been working on and improve cohesion within the team.

Working from home sends alarms into any traditional manager’s head. They worry that they won’t know what you are working on when they are accountable for your work. Trello removes this worry quite easily. Propose to your manager to use the tool to manage team workflow and your workflow while you work from home. By having such a tool in place those worries can be easily removed.
Evernote

Evernote: http://www.evernote.com
Evernote is my favourite. This is suitable for anybody. Whether you’re in the office, using your smart phone or your home laptop, everything you write within Evernote is synched between any device with access. Found an awesome blog post but are away from your work computer? By having Evernote you can make a note of this, assign to the correct notebook and move on with your day.

The simple premise of Evernote lets you type, cut snippets of a website into the application and access and edit them on any device where you have downloaded the application. It doesn’t sound much but that’s the beauty of it. It’s an organisational dream.

As I work within the competitive, evolving industry of online marketing I am always finding resources of use. By having Evernote handy I can literally drop the link into a nice tidy file and it will automatically update and sync with all my devices. There’s times when I am away from my work computer but come across an excellent article relevant to my day job. By having Evernote handy I can crop this article, add to Evernote and when I get back to my work computer it will have automatically synced.

You can also separate into folders or ‘Notebooks’ as they are called within Evernote. You can then give access to specific notebooks to other users. i.e: work colleagues and senior management. This is where the tool becomes exceptional for remote working. How often do you share resources at such speed and ease while in the office? You don’t. Furthermore how often is it that a manager can get access to market research you are working on or lists you are collating? They can’t unless you send them it. This is all updated in real time, automatically saved and synced with anybody with access to the specific notebook.

Management may give you a specific task of researching specific websites for all the companies within the FTSE 100. They can be easy collated within Evernote and available to all within the team in a matter of minutes. Lastly it is not labour extensive on your machines operating memory. I’ve never actually seen the device crash and I’ve been using it a few weeks now.

This is my favourite tool. It sits in the background and enables me to organise all my work flow into tidy notebooks. This type of productivity is rarely evident within the office environment; but by introducing your manager to Evernote you can also introduce this productivity and provide another tool for working smarter and working more freely.

Google Docs
Google Apps/Google Docs:

Most larger scale organisations will run from outlook when it comes to mail and file sending however Google Apps/Google docs shouldn’t be ignored. They have the capability for all file sharing, all typical business file types (pdf,ppt,.doc) and allow smooth transition of files between account holders.

Small businesses are turning to Google Apps for business as the tool to use. It also something which larger business should consider. With the integration of Google docs, email, calendar and now Google drive the whole sharing capability via Google apps enables a company to successfully share files, documents, email calendars all within the Google apps system.

Those using Google Apps for business have a significant case for persuading management to allow them to work from home. By using the Google system with its smooth synergy between all aspects of business a senior manager with access rights to your files can stay on top of what you are working on and how well you are working.

The key thing to remember about working from home is the ability to work smarter while having the out of office freedom. The whole concept is around better working conditions and improved productivity. By been open and transparent with your manager about all your work he’ll be more inclined to make this a regular gig.

Physical Tools:

Although all the above tools will improve productivity, teamwork and general management satisfaction there are physical tools which will also improve performance significantly when working from home. These are as essential as the tools above and enable you to work smarter and thus be more productive in your day.

Web Cam:
We talked about Skype above and its capabilities and mentioned the ability to video call. To video call you will require a web cam. Even if your work cannot provide one go and buy one yourself. They are ridiculously cheap and perception wise offer the security blanket for management. As mentioned previously if your manager can see you while in a meeting then they will feel more at ease about your working arrangements.  Be prepared with costs for all your requirements and if some of them are not possible then pay for them yourself.

What would you prefer? To pay for a £10 web cam or be stuck in the office? I know which id prefer.

Headset:
Another bargain but essential. When working from home/remotely you need 100% attention and by having a headset you are able to block out any distractions within the home. A headset allows you to communicate effectively while also been able to proactively take meeting notes while on the call.

Headsets can be picked up for as little as £10 and will improve focus and communication with management or other employee’s while working from home. This is especially crucial if you have young children at home or family pets.

1 or 2 extra monitors:
There’s a reoccurring theme going on here or should I say the choice of word. Productivity. I guess this isn’t just a working from home addition it’s also something you should have within the office. Having at LEAST an extra monitor next to your laptop will improve productivity significantly. Ideally you will have two as this allows you to move across all three screens seamlessly.

The key to promoting remote working is to be very good at what you do while in the home environment. When I am working I regularly flitter between excel spreadsheet (or smart sheet), email and browsing the web. Having each of these on different windows enables me to keep on top of what I am doing, work smarter and work faster.

Your organisation SHOULD invest in monitors for you but they will typically only purchase one. A word of advice would be to go and purchase a second monitor. By proving your working environment is more equipped for productivity than your office environment you will show your manager that the working from home surroundings suit you and are better for the success of the business.

Summary:

Everybody desires the flexibility to work from home. The chance to have more flexible hours, lose the commute, remove office politics and work within an environment which suits you. The big opportunity however which people seem to forget is the opportunity to excel within the workplace. Without the said distractions and through smart working you can improve your work flow considerably.

I’m not sure senior bods within organisations understand the positives they can reap from this. By not having to commute, not having to queue for coffee and not having that awkward conversation with a colleague you can become a better worker. By using the tools effectively and by introducing your manager to the tools you can remove any ambiguity there may be with your rationale for wanting to work from home.

We need to remove the misconception that working from home equates to lazy people. Quite the opposite. It promotes organisation, collaboration and productivity. Implement the above tools and systems, work smarter, work harder and enjoy the flexibility which you will evidently deserve.

Special thanks to Ben Rush for his input.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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