Tools And Hacks For Working From Home
In our previous article we covered some ways in which COVID-19 is changing the world. Today we’d like to delve a bit deeper into one of those topics, namely satellite offices and remote working.
A new way of working
It’s quite surprising to think how fast the world has adapted to the changing social environment. In biology, such a process which almost instantaneously causes the adaptation of a species would be called rapid evolution. Of course COVID-19 is not making changes to the human genome (as far as we know), but it has caused rapid alteration of our social, cultural and socio-economic structures.
Many people have canvassed for the very changes we’re seeing for years, and the fears which
Remote collaboration apps
Many companies have been using collaboration tools or chats for quite some time, but our new way of life has certainly increased the need for high-quality, secure and variegated collaboration and project management tools and platforms.
We go over a few of these tools, including their pros and cons.
Chase is the big daddy of project management software and is used in particular at large creative studios. What makes Chase so powerful is that the software is customised for your company to include or exclude tools particular to your business and needs, and it has practically any and every tool you can think of to make your business run smoothly. The downside of Chase is that it is quite costly and the software cannot simply be installed or accessed online. The company does a presentation at your chosen venue where they do a demonstration and assess your needs. From there a payment is made, software installed and training provided.
Google has taken over much of our lives and though it may irk some that this corporation manages so much of our information, the upside is that Google is relatively simple, accessible and integrates seamlessly with other applications. Most of G Suite is offered free of charge to anyone with a gmail account, but companies can opt for the Basic, Business or Enterprise G Suite packages which cost $6, $12 and $25 respectively per user per month and offer variable functionality such as Vault (for archiving material), Cloud storage, endpoint management, enhanced security and so forth.
Just like Chase, Microsoft Project offers a whole lot of resources and functions to teams and integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft applications. For companies who already use Microsoft on their devices, this could be the top option. However, if the company relies on users working remotely who each have their own software, hardware and devices it could be rather tricky. The software also requires quite a lot of training to get the hang of it and new users will be quite overwhelmed by it. The price is another downer. With users already forking out quite a lot for other Microsoft applications, this app is certainly not suited to smaller businesses.
Trello is a visual project management application which offers chat functionality and boards where projects and tasks can easily be viewed and managed. The free version is rather limited, and if you’re an external provider or contractor on a client or team’s Trello you may find it rather frustrating as you will be able to view and collaborate on their boards, but not have the same functionality as other users. The interface is also not as intuitive as other applications so it may not necessarily be for everyone.
Jira is a project management application that is particularly useful for agile teams who need to track bugs and product issues. It has a lightning fast front end and integrates seamlessly with Confluence and BitBucket. Unfortunately the UI can be a bit confusing and conversely it can be a bit limited to those with enhanced IT skills. The reporting and charting functionality is also quite limited given the nature of the application and you need a rather large team to use it consistently for the software to hold value.
Slack is a collaboration app which is quite easy to use and some of its features mimics other chat apps like Skype or Telegram. It can also integrate easily with other applications such as G Drive, GitHub, DropBox, Trello, Asana and so forth. Unfortunately the app can be rather limited with what it has to offer and some settings cannot be changed retrospectively. The app’s performance can also suffer when large attachments or code is shared on it which can be frustrating to users. For smaller businesses the application can be a bit costly for what you get.
Wrike is a favourite among certain businesses since it offers functionality for different departments (such as operations, IT and marketing) which includes a resource management tool to show a clear picture of resources and capacity of other teams. It can be used in small teams and also has intuitive tracking, analytics, version control and charts. The user interface can be improved upon – especially the scaling between mobile and desktop apps. File and storage management can also be a bit of an issue.
Asana has been used by numerous businesses globally to help with their project management and collaboration. What makes it great is that you can incorporate project creep into your timelines to see how delays may affect your project timeline, and user management is also a breeze. Unfortunately Asana can be quite limited in the functionality it provides, and users have little control over how content is organised and stacked in the application which can be confusing. There is also a bit of a disconnect between desktop and mobile versions.
Skype is one of the best known applications used in the world. This app allows people to chat online via video, voice or text chat and also enables you to place local and international calls. The app offers additional features such as document sharing, a whiteboard, polling, Q&A sessions. Given that it is now owned by Microsoft, Skype also offers integration with Office applications. But Skype has received much criticism for the quality of its application and disturbances during calls and conferencing. Finding help with Skype issues seems to also be a bit of a maze to navigate and people often find themselves running in circles without finding solutions.
Zoom is the latest ‘buzz’ app people use for virtual conferencing and it’s becoming increasingly popular. The application not only offers the same virtual conferencing tools as Skype, but also offers meeting analytics, a virtual whiteboard, in-depth support and integrations. But zoom has come under much scrutiny following the revelation that it has several crucial security flaws. Across the globe, private meetings have been interrupted with bizarre content such as pornography and the app has been infiltrated with spyware and malware which poses several security concerns for individuals and companies holding meetings on zoom. Zoom has also been bashed for poor video quality and features which are disabled at odd times.
There are numerous other options popping up all the time, so it’s good to keep your eye on tech news to see what new collaboration applications will be available in future.
Ironically, the conspiracy theorists among us are right to an extent – the pandemic is expediting the implementation and usage of new technologies such as 5G. But of course these people have it the wrong way around. For the pandemic is not a major international ploy to kickstart 5G (and disseminate the virus via radiowaves instigated by Bill Gates), instead there is a greater need for high-quality, speedy and reliable internet connectivity – it follows that companies and governments would focus on rolling such technologies out at a faster rate.
Living in lockdown means one cannot simply rely on external entities to facilitate better remote working conditions – there are certain steps one must take to ensure seamless delivery to your employers and clients. Some of these include:
Create different SSIDs
Should your wireless sim allow, you can create different SSIDs for your home which will allow you to connect different users or devices on different wireless ‘networks’. This allows you to control the speed and volume of uploads and downloads for each SSID and prioritise your own work over things like Netflix streaming or non-essential downloads.
Change display settings
You can change display settings and resolution for different devices to ensure that downloads aren’t as data-intensive. Watching videos on a smaller screen, for instance, should limit the screen resolution. If not, many devices allow you to change the display settings to reduce the quality.
Schedule downloads and uploads
Since nearly everyone is working from home right now, you’ll notice that the internet tends to be faster or slower at different times. Unfortunately most home users cannot carry the cost of lower contention ratios and eliminating fair usage policies as large corporations can offer at their offices, which means we’ll have to make do with what we have. But you can easily track the internet speeds during the course of a few days and schedule your uploads or downloads for times when less people are online.
Move your services online
If you run a business, however small, it could be beneficial to set up an online shopping platform to sell your products or services. Many people struggle with this – wondering how they will build the shop and how they will action orders, payments and logistics. You’d be happy to know, however, that there are applications, content management systems, plugins and APIs which can do most of the work for you.
Content management systems like WordPress and Wix make building a website quite a breeze. If you add plugins like Woocommerce or Shopify to this you will find your online shop even easier to manage. Then there are secure payment and logistics plugins and APIs you can integrate such as PayFast, Speed Services Couriers, DHL and so forth which will handle the payment, shipping and handling of your products without you having to worry about calculating distances and costs.
If you offer virtual services, your shop can integrate to action downloads on payment or by using a voucher system. You can even accept donations and integrate your website with your social media.
In these trying times it’s important that we adapt and overcome the obstacles in our way.
Schedules and routines
Though we will invariably have the same basic responsibilities when working from home and most of our work duties will remain the same, working from home – especially with a lockdown that restricts movement outside your house – will see you have more time on your hands for other things. But it can also be rather distracting so it may be essential to change your routine.
You can move your bedtime and wake-up time slightly later or earlier depending on your needs. Make sure to incorporate time for breaks, house cleaning and exercise. One can easily get overwhelmed by managing an office at home and it’s hard to put some of your home duties on the back burner while you work. Conversely, having work at home can also make one neglect your duties to the household or affect your health. Be sure to use that extra time you will have spent in traffic to do some yoga, meditation or even art activities. Keeping a schedule is rather crucial to ensuring a proper work-life balance at home, so be sure to make a list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks and check those off once you’re done.
There are several scheduling and task tracking applications which can run on Android, Windows or Apple devices and most of these apps are entirely free and easy to use. Download a suitable one and take charge of your own calendar.
Though banks may be seen as essential service providers during this time, most of us don’t want to risk infection by visiting the bank each time we want to transact.
Most of us are already using some form of online banking application or make payments using transaction functionality provided by our service providers, but there are additional ways in which we can harness the internet to move our finance online.
This may seem rather straight-forward and also part of the reason why many people don’t try it at all, but budgeting tools are quite crucial even if you don’t have a large portfolio to work with. We’re often unaware of funds we waste on small transactions or expenses, and these wastages can accumulate to quite a lot in the long run
There’s never been a more suitable time to compare financial providers and account features. Some banks may offer pros like private banking, but levy exorbitant banking charges for these services. Take a look at what you’re paying for and what you get for your money. Also consider that many banks frequently alter their policies, rates and scope of services so it is good to make these comparisons frequently to see which offering is most suited to your needs and budget.
File your taxes
Another point which should be obvious but many people ignore is the filing of taxes. Indeed, the mere mention of the tax man sends many folks running for the hills, but while these people don’t want to part with their money, they may be missing out on rebates which could significantly boost their income. Not only will up to date taxation keep you out of legal trouble, but it also ensures ease of doing business and acquiring assets.
Rand Rescue to the rescue
Knowing how to manage your finances is hard enough on its own, but add a global pandemic and cross-border finance to it and the whole thing can become a tangled mess of misinformation and missed opportunities.
Rand Rescue has been the trusted provider of financial services to thousands of South Africans across the world. If you need assistance with managing your financial assets, transferring funds across borders, dealing with your SA taxes or converting your Rands to foreign currency, be sure to talk to us and discuss your options. We’ll make sure that you follow the best route at the lowest costs at the fastest speeds. Simply leave your details below and we’ll contact you for a free consultation.