Working Virtual? Here Are Some Tools We Use:

We have offices in Cedarburg and Madison – but in reality, we work all over the place (or did, until we all started working from home). Making that happen seems pretty easy, especially with technology, but getting the right mix and hitting our stride took time – and there were bumps in the road. Along the way, we picked up tools that helped and made things actually pretty easy. Here’s a few:

Microsoft Teams

Teams is Microsoft’s answer to Slack. (We are Slack converts, by the way.) Slack or, instant messaging generally, is pretty ubiquitous in the larger business world – but in our industry…not as much. From a feature standpoint, I’ll be the first to admit that we’re not leveraging Teams to its utmost potential, but we get a lot of mileage out of it.

The benefit: Teams moves quick conversations OUT of your Inbox, encouraging conversation and discussion from afar (without fear of “yet another e-mail”). Also, the search feature is pretty cool – so finding “old” conversations is easier than searching for one e-mail in a sea of spam.

The drawback: a tendency to forget the phone exists too! With more written conversation (especially the “quick” kind that Teams is good for) there is more room for misunderstandings and misconceptions. (Sometimes I’ll catch myself saying, “I hope she read that in my ‘nice’ voice!”)

Asana

Asana is, at its most basic level, a “to do” list. We use it as a “task board” Kanban style. It does a great job of letting you see a high level view of what is going on, what everyone is working on, and the status of particular projects. Again, Asana has a large number of features that we don’t use – but we get a ton of use out of it.

The benefit: No more “status update” e-mails and a dashboard to keep everyone on task.

The drawback: Sometimes Asana is too good! I live and die by our Asana board – if it’s not on there, I’ll probably forget about it, which is never a good thing! The lesson? You can’t rely on one tool too much.

Text Expansion

I’ve mentioned this on LinkedIn before but text expansion IS THE BEST! Basically, a small piece of software sits on your computer, waits for a combination of keystrokes, and inputs a particular phrase into a document based on the combination. In other words, when I type “PCW” on my computer, in any text field “Phone conference with” pops up. That’s just what I setup, you can make whatever abbreviations you want.

The benefit: Timekeeping anyone?! Oh, my gosh! So much easier now (not to mention uniform!).

The drawback: Basically…no drawbacks. Unless, you want to type “PCW” for some reason and DON’T want “Phone conference with” to come up. If you have a Mac, OSX will port these over to your phone too…so it can get annoying depending on the jargon filled text message conversation you’re trying to have.

Zoom

We literally just started using Zoom for video conferencing – but are loving it so far. No drawback to speak of, but the benefits (especially right now) are huge. Our experience with Zoom specifically is that it works better (and is better at handling low bandwidth connections) than Skype and Google Hangouts\Meet.

We use other tools also, and are always happy to discuss them with you.

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