The Perfect Working From Home Tool Box
With a lot people adjusting to a new reality where they need to work from home on a regular basis, they are finding that they lack tools to flourish. We have compiled a list of some of our favourite tools, what they are for, and why they are awesome.
Getting some work done:
The best place to get started is to figure out how to do your job at home, with potentially very different resources. The best tool in our opinion for any business user is the Microsoft 365 suite (formerly Office 365). There are a wide variety of tools for almost every use case, and many people are already accustomed to how it works. Let me break down some of the needs and how the different applications fill those for you:
- Communication with your coworkers. Microsoft Teams was built for this exact need. It allows you to create quick and simple text communication, reducing the large volume of email you may now be seeing. You also have the ability to share files and collaborate in real time through Word and Excel. You can even replace your board room by utilizing video chat, Screen sharing, interactive whiteboards, session recording, and even closed captioning.
- Schedules, Contacts, and Email can all be handled by Outlook. This robust tool will help create a unified interface for your business communication, and interfacing with other Microsoft tools like Teams. There is a lot of customization on how you use Outlook, and with the addition of mobile apps and the Microsoft Portal, you can be in communication where ever you are.
- Collaborating and sharing files is accomplished by combining SharePoint and OneDrive. You gain the ability to work on a project simultaneously together, share files inside and outside of your organization, and even create an internal website to keep your files organized and accessible.
- The basic building blocks of most documentation is Word and Excel. Having both of these tools accessible to you is essential for many tasks. With most of the Microsoft 365 solutions, you can install the software on your computer, mobile devices, and even use a handy web interface when you are on the move. These tools integrate seamlessly with all of the other Microsoft 365 tools, ensuring simple usage, with the highest level of productivity possible.
Many of us may now find that we are using our mobile phone a lot more to communicate with our friends and family, why would our coworkers be any different? Now that we are communicating sensitive information we wanted to recommend that you up your security game and utilize a messaging app that utilizes end-to-end encryption with a zero-knowledge infrastructure. Take a look at Signal as a solution for all of your mobile communications. It has text, video and voice chat, like you would expect, additionally you get things like self-destructing messages that can be sent with a time delay and automatically remove themselves. This is an absolutely a perfect option when you need to send a secure message, and want to ensure it never gets in the hands of the wrong person.
Enhancing your workflow:
Now that we have you back to work, let’s look at adding some resources to your tool belt that will help you maintain your productivity from your kitchen table.
With your office being spread out and stopping by the next office over to get a project update, no longer being an option, you are going to need a project management tool to track everything. Trello has been around for a while and sports a very sleek and simple web interface, allowing access from anywhere at anytime. One of the coolest features you will see with Trello is the automated workflow, allowing you to create a process once, and let Trello do the heavy lifting for you while you get more important things done.
Passwords are not sexy, and most people see them as frustrating, and a nuisance to getting things done, especially when you forget a password and need to go through the hassle of resetting it. Implementing a password manager not only increases your efficiency, but it dramatically increases the security of your accounts. You no longer need to remember passwords, you can have incredibly strong passwords generated for you, and you can access these passwords where ever you are. We actually have two recommendations for you depending on your needs. If you are looking to manage not just your passwords, but all of the passwords for the office, allowing you to manage who has access to what, or ensuring your staff are using sufficiently strong passwords for important items, take a look at Keeper. If you are looking for a personal solution and love to be hands on with your software KeePass may be your solution. There are hundreds of plugins available, with a vast amount of customization available. In this modern age, this is a must have tool, check out one of our previous posts all about it: Expert IT Solutions Blog
If you are aiming to level up your password security without any real effort, you will really want to look at adding Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to your online accounts. Most major vendors support multiple methods of implementation and it may seem like a daunting task to implement. A really wonderful tool to consider is called a Yubikey, and it gives you a physical USB device that must be touched when logging in to authenticate you. This doesn’t sound all that more secure but it ensures an attacker now needs your user name, password, and a special USB device that you have with you.
Taking care of your well being:
You are under a lot of stress right now, and it impacts your effectiveness, and can have some serious long term health effects. Here are some suggestions to help you out.
Regardless if you are working from home or an office, getting out of your chair and moving, or taking small stretch breaks are critical to your health. The issue many people run into is that it is so easy to keep working, and now that you are working from home, extended hours become a likely possibility. Stretchly is a simple tool to remind you to move more while you are working. It has a vast amount of options, from cosmetics, to changing the frequency, and length of your breaks, and even how annoying the reminders are, giving you the best possible chance to get up and move a little more during your workday.
You may be finding yourself with some additional downtime depending on your work sector, and this can be extremely frustrating. Why not take that extra time on your hands and look at building up new skills, or brushing up on some old ones. Microsoft offers a lot of free resources to learn how to use their tools, or even get certifications in different areas. Another favourite in our office is Udemy who offers a lot of free courses to compliment their paid options. An additional site that gets a lot of interest is Skill Share, with a tonne of free material, but also a subscription model that allows you to learn anything on their platform, as much or little as you like.
The last tool that you will want to look at, and has likely been overlooked with the rapid changes we have all experienced, is a tool to socialize with your coworkers/friends outside of a business environment. Previously you had the opportunity to chat with others at the lunch room, or in the hall between meetings, with all of this focus on getting work done, a component of working in an office is being missed. There are a lot of ways to tackle this particular problem, but for our last recommendation of this post, go with Board Game Arena. They have a huge selection of games, from short to long, and from classic to modern. You can chat with your friends while you play a quick game of Yahtzee, or setup a more long term game like Chess. This will help replace those social interactions, and team building you may be missing right now.
With some new tools in your belt, and maybe some new ideas to take back to your teams you should better be prepared for this new reality where an entire team never needs to be in the same room.