With a nationwide lockdown coming into effect from midnight on Thursday 26th March, President Ramaphosa has ordered businesses to close.

However, the president has also urged those businesses who can continue to work remotely to do so.

While many businesses asked employees to work from home as early as last week, many more will be making their homes their offices soon.

With that in mind we’ve collaborated amongst ourselves here at Hypertext to compile a list of applications you can make use of to stay in touch as a company while working remotely and keep your workflow moving.

We should state that while we have used many of these applications, we cannot vouch for how they will play with your processes and your security measures. We recommend doing your due diligence before implementing any solution for your own cyber safety.

We recommend shopping around and testing a few solutions out before settling on one. We will be looking at free services, or solutions which offer free tiers, however, paying will often open up functionality the free tiers don’t offer.

Without further ado, let’s get to work.

Communications

With everybody working from home and a variety of internet connections now in play, communication is going to be vital and having a clear, simple way for folks to connect is vital.

Our first recommendation is always Slack because we use it daily. Slack boasts a free tier which gives you access to 10 app integrations, one-on-one video calls, two-factor authentication and the ability to search through 10 000 messages.

The alternative to Slack, Microsoft Teams is also currently free given the state of the world. We should note that Teams is not always free but in light of COVID-19, Microsoft has made the service available for free to users up until at least January 2021.

For video calling, Zoom is currently the king. The free tier is slightly limited but you can host up to 100 people in a video call and Zoom is removing the 40 minute limit on group meetings in some countries.

For teachers we highly recommend Discord as you are able to host a livestream to 50 people on the service’s free tier. This is great for a lecturer or teacher who doesn’t need to be able to see every student but still needs to deliver a class. That having been said, Zoom also works for education

Of course Skype is a stalwart in internet communication and updates in 2019 mean you can now host up to 50 people in a video call.

Facebook’s Workplace is also available but we haven’t had much experience with the solution. It is free for 30 days so if you’re looking for an alternative to the above, consider giving Facebook Workplace a try.

As a backup we recommend making use of instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Create bespoke work groups so that folks are able to let managers know if the internet or power goes out during office hours.

We’ve found over the years of working from home that clear lines of communication are vital to keeping operations running smoothly.

Collaborating

Something we do miss about working from an office is being able to lean over to a colleague and ask for advice or feedback.

However, that is still possible in a sense.

For instance, on big stories we make use of Google’s G-Suite. Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are all web-based versions of the popular Office applications you know and love (some people are incredibly passionate about Excel) only, better.

We often collaborate on stories using Google Docs and we use Sheets for all administrative purposes such as our leave roster or our global contact list. Changes are tracked so you know who changed what and when.

Working on the web also means your files are stored in the cloud so even if the power goes out or your internet drops, your files are safe.

Unfortunately, G-Suite does carry a price per user.

We can’t talk about G-Suite without talking about Microsoft’s competitor, Office 365.

Office 365 can be purchased outright for one year or you can pay a monthly subscription. Unfortunately there are no free versions of Office 365 available at this time, so you’ll have to spend money to collaborate with Microsoft’s tools.

For those who don’t have an office suite and desperately need a free alternative, LibreOffice is an open-source alternative to Office 365 and is able to open just about any file you throw at it.

Workflow

Working from home it’s easy to get lost in your own world and focus solely on what you are doing.

At Hypertext we find workflow solutions incredibly valuable. These solutions help us keep tabs on what everybody is doing and allow us to provide input. We should note that while Slack and Microsoft Teams can be used for workflow, we prefer using a bespoke app as the functionality is slightly more primed for that purpose.

For example, Robin-Leigh may be working on a story about a school using tech to teach remotely. Using Trello he creates a card and if I have a suggestion I can pop it into the card. From there we can track how he is getting along and subscribe to the card so that when proofing is needed, we know without him having to say a word.

Trello is our choice given it offers a free tier with some limitations but it is by no means the only workflow solution available.

Another option offering a free tier is Asana. The service is limited in what the free tier offers but for small teams of two to 15 people, Asana will help you get the job done.

Another name you may recognise if you spend some time on YouTube is Monday.com.

Unfortunately Monday.com doesn’t offer a free tier and it can get pricey. However, if you need automations, integrations with existing apps, dashboards to track workflow and other features, Monday.com is robust in its offering.

While we’ve listed a few solutions we are aware of and that are reputable, we recognise there are many more solutions available to business owners and employees to keep working in the most testing of times.

For that reason we’re calling on you to recommend communication, collaboration and workflow tools that you and your company use.

You can pop us your suggestions in the form of a tweet or by contacting us on Facebook.

We’re all in this together so let’s help each other out and keep the economy ticking over as best as possible.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]