5 Favourite Work From Home Tools

Crazy times, crazy times. 

We're a couple of weeks into the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

If you're like me, you're feeling a bit like a Weeble Wobble right about now.

"Weebles is a range of children's roly-poly toys originating in Hasbro's Playskool division on July 23, 1971. ... The catchphrase 'Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down' was used in advertising during their rise in popularity in the 1970s and during successive relaunches in the early 21st century."
- Wikipedia

 

 

"Weebles Wobble but they don't fall down"
is my personal motto for the next few weeks.

Or will it be months?  Please, no.

 

Anyway, back to the real topic of this article.  The 7-person team at Twin Creek Media has been practicing "work from home" for about 3 years already.  Every Friday, we forward the office phone lines to cell phones and work remotely from our laptops.  It's been an adjustment for everyone, but a very welcome change.

In normal times, working remote is a very liberating feeling actually... Cut the chains holding you to your desk, fly the coop, and work from home, a coffee shop, outside in a deck chair... wherever you have WiFi and phone signal.

In COVID-19 times, working from home is not quite as liberating.  Almost the opposite.  But here we are.  We hope these tools help you or at least sparks another idea that leads to making your day a bit better!


#1 Slack

https://slack.com/

Category: Internal team communications
Cost: USD $0 to $15 per month, per user

Slack keeps the conversation going between remote workers.  Speed and organization are strong points.

Slack keeps the conversation going between remote workers.  Speed and organization are strong points.

Thomas, our Technical Director, on an internal team video chat using Slack in the early days of Coronavirus.  Half of our team was already working from home.

Thomas, our Technical Director, on an internal team video chat using Slack in the early days of Coronavirus.  Half of our team was already working from home.

Slack is our favourite team communication tool.  We used it a lot when we were all together in the office for rapid "text messaging" style conversations.  It's faster than email, but not intrusive like physically interrupting some that's across the room.  Now that we're remote, we use it even more.

Features we love:

  • Organized conversation threads with 1 person, 2 people, or any sized group
  • Fastest way to share links with others
  • Fastest way to share files with others
  • Easy to get people to vote on something/take a poll
  • When typing gets annoying, start a video call with the person/people you're chatting with, just by clicking a single button
  • Easy to create multiple workspaces if you're part of a few organizations
  • Low cost; we were using the free plan for a while but even the paid plans aren't painfully expensive
  • App available for mobile devices and desktops

#2 G Suite

https://gsuite.google.ca/

Category: Office Productivity (in the cloud)
Cost: CAD $7.80 per month, per user (Basic version)

Similar to Office 365, our team prefers G Suite for it's range of fundamental office tools like email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and file storage.

Similar to Office 365, our team prefers G Suite for it's range of fundamental office tools like email, calendar, documents, spreadsheets, and file storage.

G Suite is Google's alternative to Microsoft 365.  Both are at the core of millions of businesses.  Our team prefers G Suite for it's modern and smooth usability.  Some software is so good it just begs to be adopted.  The power of G Suite is that it's cloud-based... meaning it's NOT installed software on your local computer.  You generally need an internet connection, but that's it.  Just log in, from anywhere, from any device, and get to work.

Features we love:

  • It's all cloud-based (see blurb above)
  • Gmail - the world's most popular email
  • Calendar - organize your appointments (and your life!). Printed calendars are still nice to hang on the wall though.
  • Docs - similar to Microsoft Word, just less clunky
  • Sheets - similar to Microsoft Excel, but not quite as powerful for uber advanced things
  • Drive - like a massive filing cabinet in the sky.  Upload your files and access them anywhere.  Great for photos and videos.  Invite different people to access different folders when you need to collaborate with internal or external people.
  • Your documents are always backed up, even as you're working.  There's a revision history where you can go back and look at previously saved versions—great if you messed something up.
  • Low cost
  • Apps available for mobile devices

#3 Asana

https://asana.com/

Category: Project Management
Cost: USD $0 to $30.49 per month, per user

Asana is basically a supercharged "to do" list for yourself or a whole team.

Asana is basically a supercharged "to do" list for yourself or a whole team.

Alternate views of projects lend themselves to different types of workflows.

Alternate views of projects lend themselves to different types of workflows.

Asana is the software that our team has been using for a few years to manage all of our projects. As a project management tool, it's easy enough to learn and start using on day 1, but powerful enough that you're still improving workflows a year later.  It grows with you.

The "board" view lets you drag 'n drop cards from one status to another—sort of like sticky notes on the wall.  There's also a nifty timeline view as well to see Gantt style calendars with dependencies.  It's doesn't have time-tracking for hourly workers (unless you plug-in the Harvest add-on) and doesn't handle financial matters, like quotes (check out PandaDoc or Proposify) or invoices (check out Quickbooks Online).

Features we love:

  • It's all cloud-based
  • Simple to use right away
  • Keeps your projects ultra-organized (assign deadlines, assign to people)
  • Low cost
  • Apps available for mobile devices

#4 Zoom

https://zoom.us/

Category: Video Conferencing
Cost: CAD $0 to $27 per month, per host

Christina, our Digital Communications Director, used Zoom to interview a number of potential hires this March.

Christina, our Digital Communications Director, used Zoom to interview a number of potential hires this March.

Larger groups, webinars, and training sessions are easy with Zoom.

Larger groups, webinars, and training sessions are easy with Zoom.

Zoom is our go-to video conference tool for external meetings.  Although it's perfectly capable of running internal meetings, our team uses Slack's built-in video call functionality since we're already using that tool for chatting with each other.

Zoom is one of those tools that just works.  It's super easy to use and very easy to invite people to a meeting.  As a host (person running the meeting), you can share your screen which is perfect for training situations.  There's a drawing tool to write on someone else's screen, which comes naturally to folks who like talking with their hands! 

Features we love:

  • It's cloud-based
  • The ability to host webinars with large groups or smaller training sessions, share your screen, and/or collaborate makes Zoom perfect for external communication.
  • Makes meeting with people far away a piece of cake
  • With the social distancing rules this winter/spring due to COVID-19, it's a better choice than meeting face to face, even with locals.
  • Meetings can be recorded as videos so you can go back and watch them later.  A handy 1.5x (or faster) playback speed makes for efficient scanning of material and you can still understand what everyone is saying.

#5 Pets

Category: Mental Health
Cost: Love, food, water

When you're working from home, there aren't any rules how big your "office pet" has to be.  I find horses great therapy animals. - James

When you're working from home, there aren't any rules how big your "office pet" has to be.  I find horses great therapy animals. - James

Churro, our office dog.  Since we are all working from home during the Coronavirus times, everyone's has their own pet to help them manage.  If you find your cat a little too good at 6ft social distancing, it's time to find yourself a dog. ;-)

Churro, our office dog.  Since we are all working from home during the Coronavirus times, everyone's has their own pet to help them manage.  If you find your cat a little too good at 6ft social distancing, it's time to find yourself a dog. ;-)

Okay, pets aren't tools, but they belong on this list!  We all need a break.  We all need some stress relief in times like this.  All of a sudden millions of people across the country are home all day to avoid the spread of COVID-19.  Ironically, our pets just won the lottery!  They are loving every moment and will miss you like crazy when you head back to work when things go back to normal.

Features we love:

  • Not cloud-based.  They're real and right with you!
  • Heartbeat
  • Unconditional love.  Did you just screw up big time?  They don't care and don't judge. They love you, even in your PJs or if you forgot to brush your hair.
  • Most are furry, fuzzy, or feathered.  Fish are cool too.  And lizards.  My son has ants... hmm, would prob draw a line there.
  • Since you're home anyway, it's a great time to start your own personal therapy farm.  See https://www.facebook.com/earlyrisersfarm/ for inspiration.
  • Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.
    - National Institute of Health