Over the past couple of years, the world has been evolving at an alarming rate. Technology has made it possible for teams to come together while being scattered across the globe. 2020, in particular, has been a unique year where that technology has come in handy.
Amid this unprecedented event, remote connectivity and productivity are two top priorities for businesses. Here are some of the must-have tools to boost business productivity in 2020, and the future of work.
When people hear the word “fax,” they tend to think of bulky machines, loud noises, and misprinted papers from the years passed. However, faxing is still a sophisticated technology that’s more important now than ever.
Teams are working together from their houses, and many of them are unable to access printers and scanners. As landlines have fallen by the wayside in many peoples’ homes, being able to fax from computer without phone line is another barrier for businesses to overcome in 2020.
Using an app-based online fax service that allows businesses to share electronic signatures and integrate with cloud storage can help businesses stay productive, regardless of where the employees are. Having online storage can also create a paper trail that allows employees to backtrack and access the documents after they’ve been sent.
Quick, well-organized communication is essential for business productivity in 2020. While there are endless ways to stay in touch with someone, having an integrated instant messaging service can keep messages stored for later. It also reduces the distraction of checking emails and missing important information on long, back-and-forth email threads.
When it comes to instant messaging within a workplace setting, no one does it better than Slack. This platform not only integrates with numerous other apps, but it has an easy-to-use, intuitive set-up. Slack allows for quick file sharing and organizing conversations through the use of channels. By using this feature, you ensure that only the people who need information are included. Say goodbye to the endless email conversations in your inbox that have nothing to do with you.
Slack offers both desktop and mobile apps to ensure that you never miss a message. It also allows you to set silent hours so that your team can work uninterrupted. This feature comes in handy when you have team members in different time zones as well, as you can set messages for delayed delivery that won’t risk waking them up with a 3 am notification.
Cloud Storage and Sharing
Gone are the days of attaching documents to emails and finding out that you’ve been working with an outdated version of a file. Cloud storage and sharing allows you to keep files organized and accessible so that your team can find them swiftly and effectively. Services like DropBox and Google Drive integrate with online faxing for enhanced productivity that can keep your business running smoothly.
Cloud-based programs also ensure that everyone has access to the most up-to-date version of a file. Use G Suite to create presentations, word documents, and spreadsheets that allow multiple users to make live edits. Instead of emailing back and forth, you can leave comments that pertain to specific parts of the document and mark them as resolved when outstanding issues have been addressed.
Of all the technological developments the business world has seen over the last decade, cloud-based document building is perhaps the most exciting and revolutionary. If your business is still using Microsoft Word documents marked with a version number, you’re light years behind.
Intuitive Project Management Software
While instant messaging and cloud storage make it easier to stay on track with work, organization can be tricky. Having intuitive project management software in place can help create a high-level overview to keep everyone informed. This centralized platform will show what’s done, what’s outstanding, who is responsible for what, and when things are due.
Trello is one of the easiest project management applications to use with both in-office and remote teams. This cloud-based platform allows users to make live updates that will instantly appear on each team member’s screen. The set-up follows the traditional project management format that looks similar to sticky notes stuck to a whiteboard. You can create project-specific boards, individual boards, and recurring tasks and checklists to help people stay on track.
Monday.com is another cloud-based project management option that keeps things well organized and visually stimulating. This app follows a more structured, Gantt-style, or kanban format, but is no less intuitive than Trello. With Monday.com, you can see everything on your project dashboard, track time spent on various tasks, and generate progress reports.
Social Media Scheduling Platform
Having a social media presence is essential for modern businesses, even at the best of times. In 2020, with daily social media use rates skyrocketing, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t online.
Using a social media scheduling platform can help you automate posting and manage multiple platforms from one centralized location. It can also help your team analyze and redirect based on the successes and failures of your campaigns.
Buffer is a social media scheduling platform that offers a crisp, simplified user interface that’s ideal for both solo entrepreneurs and teams. With a tiered, freemium structure, there’s an option for every business size and budget. Buffer allows you to schedule posts in advance, highlights your successes, and can let you reshare content with the click of a button.
Hootsuite is another favorite when it comes to large-scale social media posting. This platform lets businesses manage comments and engage in social listening, as well as scheduled posting. Hootsuite is more robust than Buffer but comes with a bigger learning curve as a result.
Time Tracking and Audit Software
In 2020, being aware of the time spent is more valuable than ever. With people working from home, it’s easy to lose track of time and watch the days go by. Using time tracking and audit software can help identify low-value activities and help employees set action-based goals.
On the other side of the equation, time tracking is a must for preventing burn out. While some people have issues with staying focused while at home, others have issues unplugging and setting boundaries. Using time tracking apps can ensure that everyone is logging off to take time for self-care.
Harvest comes highly recommended as a time tracking platform. It allows employees to log hours on various projects with the click of a button. From the employee-facing side, Harvest can be activated by clicking the stop and start buttons. From the back-end, employers can see in-depth reporting and analytics regarding what projects and people are using the most time.
For a more in-depth option, Time Doctor takes time tracking to the next level. In addition to tracking time spent on projects, it also audits the user’s activity. Employees can use this to audit their time and highlight distractions or set up alerts that keep them from getting off-task. Employers can use this to ensure that the time being tracked is being used appropriately. The back-end reporting features cover everything from sites visited, to the employee’s keystrokes per hour. It’s important to note that transparency is key when using Time Doctor to ensure trust and manage expectations.
Video Conferencing Software
Video conferencing software offers the merits of a face-to-face meeting without calling on people to leave their homes. Having this form of interaction is often more productive than teleconferencing, as it allows for better communication, screen-sharing, and live working sessions.
Zoom has been creeping up the charts for the best video conferencing software over the past couple of years. With the events of 2020, it’s skyrocketed to the top of the charts for remote teams. As a Zoom subscriber, you’ll get a personal meeting room and robust conferencing capabilities. The base paid plan allows meetings of up to 100 participants without time limits at an affordable rate that’s manageable for most small businesses.
GoToMeeting has been a contender for a while and is still a viable option for teams that need to hop online to work together. GoToMeeting keeps things simple and elegant, removing pins and passwords from the equation. The screen sharing capabilities allow teams to mark up documents being shared, creating a useful working platform.
Shared Calendar and Booking Platforms
Scheduling meetings is an essential administrative task that can get complicated in a hurry. With remote teams, there are often numerous time zones to consider. For people who time block their day to ensure they have uninterrupted periods dedicated to working, being able to limit their schedules is a must.
Using a shared calendar and booking application can help your business cut back on the back and forth emails about what time works for each person. It can also help employees set their hours and maintain productivity all day long.
Calendly is one of the best apps for individual meeting bookings. Rather than having someone ask, “what time works for you?” you can send them a Calendly link with your available time blocks. They click a block, put in their personal info, and you receive a notification that syncs with your calendar.
Doodle is a great free application to use with larger teams. In Doodle, the meeting organizer outlines which times are available for a meeting. Then, everyone votes on the times that could work for them. When the voting is complete, Doodle delivers the common times that work for everyone, cutting out hours of back-and-forth confusion.
Centralized AI Recruiting and Onboarding Program
AI-driven recruiting and onboarding programs were becoming more commonplace before 2020. Now, they’ll be a staple in modern business. It could be a long time before the world returns to normal— if it ever does. Having a centralized recruiting and onboarding system lets businesses manage their new hires from anywhere on Earth.
Zoho Recruit is an applicant tracking system that makes it easy to keep track of applications, the interview process, and onboarding new hires. It covers everything from scanning job postings to running background checks.
BambooHR is ideal for small businesses. It has applicant tracking and onboarding procedures but also allows for continuous employee management. This makes it an ideal option for small businesses that don’t have the resources for a designated HR person. BambooHR also offers employee self-management capabilities that put the onus on employees to update their information and make changes as needed.
Intuitive Accounting and Invoicing Platforms
It’s easy for small business owners to fall behind on accounting and admin related tasks at the best of times. During a global crisis, thoughts of those duties go from being on the backburner to getting pushed right off the stove. Unfortunately, invoicing and accounting is essential to ensure that money is coming into the business, and taxes are being accounted for.
When it comes to invoicing and accounting, the more streamlined, the better. Having the right tools in place can keep your business moving forward without taking too much time away from time-sensitive or customer-facing activities.
Intuit Quickbooks is an intuitive app that offers cloud sharing between desktops and smartphones for on-the-go tracking. The mobile app scans receipts and mileage to ensure you’re all set for tax season. You can use Quickbooks to record payments, send invoices, and get a snapshot of your business finances. In a world that’s largely uncertain right now, having this tool can make all the difference during troubling times.
Focus Boosting Apps
Finally, having fun, focus-boosting apps is a must to keep teams on track and build collaboration and trust. These apps help remove distractions and reduce habit-based behavior. For example, if an Instagram notification pops up on an employee’s phone, they might click it without thinking. Focus apps correct the behavior and remind everyone to keep forging ahead.
Forest is a fun app for both individuals and teams to stay on track. When a seed is planted in your Forest, you are unable to visit any blacklisted sites until the timer is up and your tree is fully grown—overriding the app results in a dead tree that will stay in your Forest and count against your productivity score. Teams are able to do synchronized planting in which one person’s behavior can wipe out the entire team’s Forest.
Staying Productive in 2020 and Beyond
Productivity is a vital soft skill for individual team members and the business as a whole. Using these tools can set your business up for success in 2020 and beyond.