The Remote Workers Toolkit for Communication

As the remote workforce continues to grow, so does the need for effective communication. Cogworks share how to get the most out of these top 5 apps and tools from wherever we are.

We know that business communication has a time, a place, and most importantly a purpose.

Remote-working for some may have whipped the traditional platform of communication from under our feet. With the right tools we can find the place to start talking...(and get a response).

Cogworks has been a hybrid of face-to-face talkers and remote-workers (dotted between London and Kraków) for years so we’re accustomed to both office and remote life. With a considered set-up, applications can emulate face-to-face communication and eliminate distractions.

Here are 5 applications that can house all types of communication and some tips on how to use them for productive remote-work:

 

1. Slack

Coined as the smart alternative to e-mail, Slack lets you inject your company projects and personality (securely) into its features to give you the ultimate notepad for your team and your clients. Here are some pointers to ensure you’re as chuffed as we are that we clicked install years ago.

 

For quick responses to uncomplicated questions.

Create channels that surround the area of your business and invite the right people; well thought out channel names and members means less irrelevant notifications. 

Cogworks have implemented channels and used them with intention based on projects and company values. It’s a good idea to decide on a standard naming convention for channels and update the channel description so everyone is clear on where to start chatting.

Have a peek at ours:

- Between us and our clients - e.g  #client-fed

- Between entire departments -  #cog-leadership-team

- Between the team (probably the digital version of “chat by coffee machine”)  -  #cog-general

Multiple members to a Slack channel means contribution opportunities are not based on situational circumstances, (such as walking through the hallway at the same time as a colleague!).

 

For collaboration. 

Integrate #Polly for Slack (a poll feature that encourages collaboration), perfect for making quick decisions and getting majority feedback in seconds.

 

For team culture.

#OfficeVibe collects valuable team consensus in a frequent yet simple way whilst keeping interruptions to a minimum. Feedback is gathered with an emoji or a click designed to measure team thoughts alongside company goals and values.

 

 

For human connection.

#BirthdayBot reminds us of our colleagues' birthdays so the whole team can have a proper celebration. There are a few birthday bots to choose from in the directory, but this one has a great sense of humour and never forgets. Humans 0  - Bots - 1.

 

Slack for the impromptu chin-wag.

When a message is not enough but a scheduled meeting is too much, use Slack's own feature to voice call, video call or screen share with anyone online.

If you’re already using Zoom like we are, integrate Zoom and use the “/zoom” command to start a meeting with one person or an entire department in seconds.


For agile teams.

We can connect remote teams and push through our blockers with Slack stand-ups. Cogworks use agile development practices like stand-ups to obtain a “no-frills” update on a project.

Whilst there are a ton of great stand-up integrations in the Slack App Directory, don’t forget to check out Slack’s default options. Use the lightning bolt icon to standardise how you collect requests from the team.

Here’s how this automated function could display in your team channels. 

Schedule these daily on specific team channels so that you don’t have to rely on meetings and the team can report back asynchronously. 

 

For transparency.

With a simple Slack status - communicate to the team. We’ve adapted our workflow as situations adapt around us. Recent updates include childcare and teaching to better reflect circumstances in the UK.

 

 

2. Trello

Trello is a real-time collaboration tool that allows you to quite literally look at the bigger picture. 

 

For an overall project view.

Imagine a panoramic view of your project with a visible start and end goal mapped out on your screen. 

Not only is Trello a giant project management whiteboard used for time-tracking and assigning tasks, but it’s also where the team talk detail.  This example board shows the stages of a project left to right. Each card will host a separate conversation guided by a good title and description. As a project adapts...so does the Trello board. Cards are added, moved forwards, backwards, up or down in real-time - perfect for an agile way of working.

 

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The friendly user interface helps to simplify an otherwise complex project, whilst the infinite customization options known as power-ups, allow our developers, designers and project managers to better communicate project stages.

 

For in-depth conversation.

If you’re the type of company that likes to stick ideas onto your office walls...Trello might be your digital solution.  

Your digital Post-it (or card) is a place to store and communicate those big ideas in your preferred format; whether that’s a comment, file, or integration with a favourite power-up.

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You can get out of Trello cards what you put in, to guide relevant conversation:

- Create strong titles. We have adopted a company-wide naming convention that has helped align team members on best practice to create board and card titles so they can be found and understood easily.

Add labels to cards for quick identification for all board members.

- Guide communication in the right direction with a winning card description!

- Add valuable power-ups. We’re fans of custom fields to add more context to cards with dropdown menus, checkboxes, or additional data that can be viewed from the board and exported to a CSV when needed, or Google Drive to bring files and folders to Trello cards.

- @Mention your teammates in checklists or comments for quick responses.

If you’re new to Trello and have an idea, add members to your board and download this template to kick-off collaboration in your distributed teams.

 

 

3. G Suite

Developed by Google cloud, this is the bee’s knees of harmonious collaboration between time-zones and storage for businesses large and small, protected with a 2-factor authentication and deeper security options. We’re all for cloud-based applications because of its flexible scalability to increase or decrease storage capacity as and when you need it.

 

Google Drive for organisation.

Cloud file organization for remote-work can connect us quickly to the task at hand. We have integrated Google Drive into our process because it keeps up organised. We try to use a standard naming convention for file names so that documents are in a logical location. If you do forget where you save a file, G-drives powerful search lets you locate documents off all types by sifting out the search term from anywhere in the document. Clever.

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For ultimate organization for remote-work, download Google File Stream for access to the latest versions of your cloud storage on your device from wherever you are.

 

Google Docs for remote collaboration.

If you’re like us and have teams in different countries, collaborate asynchronously between time-zones (or differing work-hours in the UK) using documents, sheets, and slides. As with Slack and Trello, we like to target our team members as much as possible with a “@mention” to eliminate delays and better direct our questions.

For live collaboration, chat within google documents is a great feature. Google documents work synchronously so it’s collaboration with a boost, (as long as your colleagues are online). Whilst Slack is our main instant messaging tool, this focused chat within documents is ideally placed to collaborate and talk in one place.

 

Google Docs for emergencies.

Having a dodgy Wi-Fi afternoon but still not done with your doc, sheet, or slide? Download the Google Docs Google Docs offline to work without internet...(just don’t forget to turn it on).

 

 

4. Zoom

Zooms' quality and reliability is by far, the best we’ve come across. We’ve tested out a few video conferencing apps but Zoom wins hands down and has been comfortably integrated into daily communications for the past 3 years. 

No matter how intentionally we write on message-threads, the unprompted, organic communication that video conferencing can offer solidifies team bonds and trust. Our Monday morning meetings are a great opportunity to catch up with teammates from all over the world (and put a face to an avatar).

We've turned to Slackbot to keep us informed each week.

For private conversations.

Zoom has soared in popularity in recent months and as the remote-working force continues to grow, so does the security concern. Zoom continues to be our platform of choice as it is frequent and consistent in releasing information and updates. It does help to be active and review the platform as a company too, implementing any changes on a consistent basis to eliminate any concerns. We ensure:

- The latest version is being used. 

- A new ID is created for each meeting.

- A meeting always has a password.

- We share the relevant screen only.

- We use the waiting room.

 

It's also handy if you have a CTO like ours to keep you in check. :)

For a memory jog.

How often would you take your camera out and record your meetings in the office? Zoom recordings can give us the leverage to be super thorough, allowing us to take a look back at our meetings to re-cap or scribble further notes.

 

 

5. 1 Password


Managing access when you’re remote is not easy. 1Password is our password manager that takes care of storing, creating, and utilizing passwords. 

Whilst all of the above apps can make your remote-working life a doddle...they’re no use if you can’t get access. 

As a Cyber Essentials Plus partner, our priority is to protect our organisation when browsing our favourite web-based applications.

 

For secret communication.

Add 1Password to your browser to get quick access to your task with no need to risk an online discussion containing password credentials. Your admin can transfer credentials from one secure vault to another (i.e. from department to department), or add new users to a vault when needed. 1Password suits our security standards as it hosts 2-factor security authentication, uses a personal master password for every sign in and issues an emergency kit should you need to sign in from another device.

From an employee perspective, you never see, hear or remember the password (or risk sharing it with anyone).

 

For productivity.

Only access the tools you need to do your work (and only the relevant tools you need) stored in your personal vault. 1Password not only offers protection; its seamless usability lets us work quickly when we need it most. 

 

 

Final thoughts...

It’s inspiring how remote-working tools are changing the way we collaborate and organise information. If you introduce an application, ensure it’s safe, fall in love with it, and push its boundaries to see what else it can do. If you’re like us, this will result in a toolkit of quality applications that are integrated into the company process, (appropriate for in and out of the office). Used well and they will keep you connected and productive all year round.

 

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