New technologies and devices have made remote work more practical and popular than ever before. About 70% of the world’s workers now spend at least some of their week working remotely, with some going so far as becoming digital nomads – maintaining an on-the-go working lifestyle with no fixed address. But remote technologies are also unwittingly being adopted by static, office-bound teams, opening more businesses up to a distributed future. Here are six remote technologies changing the way we work you’ll want to check out.
5G, the next generation of cell networks, is rolling out across America this year, and it promises to make remote work a lot easier. Providing speeds that are up to 100 times faster than 4G – and designed to handle more devices than ever – the network may make it practical to work from anywhere you can get a signal. A fast, stable connection is elementary to remote working – particularly for CPU-intense video communication apps. Where remote work locations may have been previously limited by connection to Wi-Fi or ethernet, 5G will help to expand potential job sites and thus providing more opportunities for distributed working.
Video conferencing tools like Zoom, and business instant messenger apps like Slack and Twist, are helping to transport everyday team collaboration to a remote setting. They offer a cheap, easy solution for distributed teams looking to replicate an in-person synchronous experience. Virtual reality is already promising to take this to the next level. While many VR meeting tools are still in beta, they provide a good idea of what a virtualized meeting environments might look like. For fully-remote companies teams looking for a more personal and authentic conference call experience, VR is set to be a powerful new development.
Remote work offers people unprecedented autonomy in how they structure work and manage their environment. But by relying on individual self-reporting and self-organization, remote work introduces a complex new layer of admin into employees’ lives. To ensure collaboration, performance management and accounting all stay fluid, they need to ensure their work activities, schedules and expenses all stay visible. Thankfully, automation means that this new digital coordination need not come at the expense of a remote worker’s efficiency. A slew of smart technology has already solved the biggest offenders: automatic time trackers like Timely can now create accurate time sheets for employees and keep managers on top of remote workloads; AI scheduling apps like Dewo can intelligently book meetings around remote team schedules; and smart expensing apps like Expensify can instantly document company receipts via a quick scan from a mobile phone camera.
While autonomy directly supports employee motivation, being completely responsible for how you structure and manage your work can be daunting. Remote workers need to quickly understand how they work in order to manage their productivity – from peak times of concentration to distracting behaviors. A growing collection of tools designed to help remote workers optimize their workflows and stay on-task makes the whole ordeal more manageable. Productivity personal assistants can use AI to provide actionable insight into a user’s working patterns – revealing how much they switch context, as well as the apps and websites that sink their time. A new market in anti distraction apps also serves to protect remote workers from disruptive Slack and email pings when they’re trying to lock focus.
Many in-house teams already rely on cloud storage to create quick backups, keep company documents in one shared space, and enable access from multiple devices – think Google Docs and Dropbox. But cloud computing and cloud-based tools are quickly becoming the norm. For just about everything, there is now a cloud-based version or alternative that can be accessed from anywhere. Since many in-office teams are already using these virtual tools, a significant amount of businesses are already sitting on the basic means for geographically untethered working – they just need the culture to support it.
Remote working poses huge challenges for first-day orientation. For companies with a global remote workforce, it’s often not practical to fly in new team members for a week of onboarding, assuming they actually have a physical HQ. But thanks to technology, bridging that gap is now easier than ever. A host of tools let remote teams intelligently collect and communicate company-wide knowledge through engaging, hands-on experiences. While designed for developers, best-in-class screen pairing tools like Tuple help remote teams overcome the challenges of demonstrating new information and tools without being physically in the same room. Webinar apps like BigMarker let companies pre-record standardized sections of training to keep the whole process more efficient. A range of tools can also be used to create a self-service company knowledge base, where people can intuitively search to find useful templates, documentation and company guides.