The WHO announced that COVID-19 had reached the pandemic stage in March 2020. And despite an increase in travel bans and restrictions, the new Coronavirus spread quickly around the globe. The spread was likely due to the movement of people who were unaware that they had contracted the virus. Therefore, to curb the spread of COVID-19, social distancing has become key to contain the virus.
Since then, most companies worldwide have rolled out mandatory work from home policies. This new policy has made working from home the new normal.
Working from home can seem like a luxury. You get to be your boss, set your schedule, and work comfortably from any corner of your house. While it may seem appealing, WFH, like any other skill, needs to be honed. We need to learn how to:
- Effectively communicate with teammates
- Provide real-time visibility into our work progress
- Manage our time
- Stay focused and productive
It can become a bit of a juggle while working from home. Luckily, we have tools that can help us tackle WFH challenges and deliver results.
At Fyle, with flexible work from home policy, we have been using softwares that works well for us even when we’re not all in the same room. Whether it is for communication, project planning, or collaboration, here is an insight into some of the tools we use for a successful WFH. Let’s get right into it!
Why do we need remote working tools for a successful WFH
With the current scenario of mandatory WFH, gaps between colleagues can be created easily. Luckily we have tools that have become the virtual bridge that connects us wherever we are working. It helps the team to:
- Communicate proactively
One of the rules of WFH that almost everyone emphasizes is always over-communicating. This is because, with WFH, it can be easy to slip out and fade into the background. We may feel like updating our progress once we have completed every task. But in doing so, it may lead to improper documentation and handoffs.
Communication does not only come in the form of emails, calls or messages. It can be done through a simple comment or update. With so many things flying around, managers can easily miss out on our work progress.
At Fyle, we have learned to share what we’ve accomplished and toot our horns a little if we have to. We share updates of our work in public groups and ensure we mention our managers, so they remain aware of the progress. Doing so can keep teammates updated on our work status and also ensures that things are going as planned.
At Fyle, we use various forms of communication to ensure our messages to each other are loud and clear. Whether it's video calling, texting, phone calls, or email, these tools help bring people together and make sure your messages go across.
- Develop visibility
Working in different places can sometimes feel like driving blindly into the fog. It can create gaps in communication and can become overwhelming with information overload or the lack of it. It may not be possible to receive updates from teammates through modes of communication alone. That’s where project management tools come in handy.
Project management tools help the team to organize and manage time and resources. These tools provide the status of the project. Even if we are stuck somewhere and are taking a long time to complete a task, project managers can look into it and either remove roadblocks or provide additional support to get the task done.
- Collaborate easily
Working in the comfort of your own home has drawbacks of its own. For instance, in WFH, if you have a question or need feedback, you cannot walk up to a colleague and get an answer immediately. You can’t take your laptop up to them or bring them to your set up and resolve issues so you can move forward.
While this can seem like a disadvantage, there are software applications that can help us to connect, share our work, and get feedback. Nowadays, tools are easy to access from anywhere in the world. With a simple virtual sharing option, we can share our work in real-time with collaborators. This way, we can ensure our work is moving even with the absence of physical assistance.
Tools that ease our WFH life
Slack has become one of our most essential tools for communication, as well as for collaboration. From project planning to water-cooler conversations, this is where most of the talk goes down.
With Slack, we share files, get on video calls, and also integrate some of our favorite tools with it. We can have group conversations as well as have one-on-ones with our colleagues. We’ve also created separate channels for different purposes. For example, some of our channels are:
#wfh- Whether we are stepping away for lunch, for a break, or logging off/in for the day, we use this channel to update each other on our availability.
#activities- As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” we make sure we have some enjoyment in between to cool off. From planning a marathon to organizing an online game party, for anyone who is looking to take a break can either join or hold any activity.
#shoutout- Any achievement, big or small, is still an achievement. And this is the channel we use to commend each other for our hard work, smart work, and contribution to Fyle.
WFH can become lonely and demotivating, especially with continuous weeks of doing so. The feeling of being in the office with colleagues and working alone at home is polar. But with video-calling tools like Zoom, it can help us to stay motivated and connected.
From some serious team meetings to our daily chai time, Zoom has become our virtual hangout place to catch-up. Setting up video calls is quick and easy, and it offers real-time chat, screen sharing ability, and calendar integration.
Also, WFH doesn’t mean we have to skip our communal meetings. Just last week, we had our monthly all-hands meeting on Zoom! Finally, everyone together in one (virtual) space.
G Suite tools make sharing and collaborating easier while working remotely. It comprises many productivity tools and software that make life easier. Some of the tools available that we use daily are:
WFH requires overcommunication and syncing up with teammates on a daily basis. Setting up meetings has never been easier with the help of Google Calendar. It gives visibility into colleague’s calendars as well so that we can set the time according to everyone’s convenience. Whenever we set an event, it also automatically generates a video-call link. This makes joining easier without any additional effort.
Some of us also use Calendar to set our WFH schedules.
For example, Gokul has a dedicated lunchtime.
The reasons being:
- While working from home, it becomes easy to get carried with work. We tend to take fewer breaks, as well. Having scheduled time for lunch is a reminder to take a break and
- To stop his mom’s nagging him to take a lunch break.
By setting up your own scheduled break in your Calendar, colleagues can also be aware of your WFH schedule. It becomes easier to set up meetings accordingly, as well.
In addition to other modes of communication, we use Gmail for formal communication both internally and externally. We also use Gmail to share our leave plans, updates, meeting notes, information, etc. with everyone within the organization or department. For times when we need more than email, for example, a quick chat with a colleague, Gmail offers Hangout Meet chat and video call option right in the mailbox itself.
ClickUp has become one of our favorites to manage, track, and organize projects. With the arrival of ClickUp, we were done jumping from one software to another. It centralizes everything in a single dashboard allowing teams to work more efficiently and effectively.
The user-friendly dashboard also enables tasks to be viewed as a list, board, calendar, box, or Gantt. The multiple options available for viewing makes it easy for users to shift views according to one’s convenience. Managers can also assign tasks easily and track progress. ClickUp reduces confusion and allows users to stick to deadlines.
Notion is a collaboration software for teams to plan, write, organize, and work together on a task or project. The software has allowed departments at Fyle to manage a knowledge base of documents, guidelines, good practices, and how to do “xyz”. For example, how to integrate Quickbooks accounting software with Fyle. Adopting the software has reduced the need to go to multiple places to search for the information.
While in office, we would get reimbursed for the amount we spend on meals. But with WFH, the amount we spend on a broadband connection has become our business expenses.
And to get reimbursed, we can simply go to the Fyle web app or mobile app and fill the expense report form. After filling the form and attaching the bill receipt, we then have to just submit it. There is no hassle and does not require any physical interaction.
Some honorable mentions
Visual studio: Visual studio is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that is used by most of the engineering team.
Why Visual studio?
- It supports multiple programming languages.
- It shows when a piece of line was edited and by who within the IDE.
- It increases productivity and is one integrated environment for all development.
Sketch: Sketch is a digital design tool used for all types of digital design work.
- It is vector-based. Thus, you do not have to worry about pixelation.
- Designers and developers don’t need to guess margins and paddings between text fields. (Pro-tip: Sharing margins is made easier with Zeplin).
- There are a number of plugins available.
Freshsales: Freshsales is a Customer Relationship Management product by Freshworks and is used mainly by our Sales team.
- It is a replacement for Excel Sheets to manage leads and tasks.
- It helps to track leads in the funnels, as well as their communication history.
- Easy to maintain multiple tasks such as emails, call logs, chats, etc. under Sales Activities.
Communicate, Collaborate, Conquer
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no way for us to work in a workspace or have a face-to-face interaction. Since mid-March, all of us had to work independently. Working remotely meant our communication with each other had to be healthier and productive. Setting a clear context into discussion also becomes essential so that all the collaborators are well-aware. Clear communication can make collaboration simple and easy.
The tools mentioned in this blog have made it easy for teams at Fyle to achieve WFH goals and keep the business running. And even in this uncertain time, from our Product and Engineering team to our Customer Success team, we are capable of handling our business as usual. To learn more, check out our business continuity page.