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blog2020 10 08 6 online tools that make working from home a breeze

Tools that Make Working from Home a Breeze

When COVID-19 hit, office spaces had to adapt to a new normal. What is your new normal? Ours is filled with our family, dogs, and new team building experiences! Even as a tech company, going fully digital meant flexibility on the part of our staff and leadership team in order to set ourselves up for success. Check out some of the ways in which we created a fun and efficient work-from-home environment!

How local recycling App SkipTheDepot is thriving in a socially distant time.

When the spread of COVID-19 forced businesses to close their doors in March, downtown Calgary looked like a ghost town. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that between 13,097 and 42,159 small businesses in Alberta are at risk of closing shop.

Amidst the fallout, many businesses have confronted a new reality and moved operations online. For some business owners, the pivot to a digital world means adopting different online tools to maintain a productive work-from-home environment. Now, as the dust settles, some workplaces have found that they are more productive with their employees working from home.

For the team at SkipTheDepot, this has proved to be the case. In fact, some employees may choose to work from home permanently. Inherently, as a local tech start-up, our tech-savvy staff have flourished in this new environment with the help of a few handy tools like Slack and Gitlab.

Without these tools, an efficient online operation is a tall task, especially considering the fact that SkipTheDepot is in the middle of an expansion. After the pandemic started, SkipTheDepot expanded bottle pickup services to Lethbridge. With the team growing, these tools have also helped with the onboarding process for new hires. New employees can access online documents instantly, seek help through a variety of communications channels, and even bond with the team playing games over group chat. Our personal favorite is Scribble.io, an online version of Pictionary.

As some of the team comes back to the office, we intend to keep using these tools without the separation of screens. In light of these successes, it seems that what started as a temporary adaptation has become a permanent change moving forward.

Without having to commute to work, employees have more time to spend with their families or pets. Another thing we are experimenting with is incorporating socially distant team-building experiences like outdoor pumpkin carving for Halloween.

Below are some must-have tools that the SkipTheDepot team uses for better productivity and collaboration online!

Communication Tools:

With a team working remotely, one of the biggest hurdles is communicating effectively. Using software like Slack and Discord keeps people connected through direct messaging, audio calls, and video chats.

Slack

Slack, Slack App, Business Communications Tools

Slack is a powerhouse communications tool that every team should have in their arsenal. Currently, there are over 750,000 companies that use Slack.

With the use of channels, each department can have its own group chat. In each chat, team members can host meetings, share documents, and share links. Instead of trying to keep up with an email chain, slack keeps a record of all conversations and files in one place.

Discord

Discord, Discord App, Discord Software

Similar to Slack, Discord makes communication easy with information organized in different channels. Although Discord has text-based channels too, the SkipTheDepot team primarily uses it to host team meetings and one on one calls. One of the handiest tools on Discord is screen sharing. Team members can teach, share, and learn in real-time with screen sharing.

Teamwork Tools:

Another hurdle to working remotely is keeping files organized. Working collaboratively becomes care-free with Google Drive and Google Docs facilitating easy workflows on the cloud.

Google Drive & Google Docs:

Google Docs, Google Drive, Document Sharing

With cloud-based storage, each team member can backup documents, videos, and photos to one location. As files start to pile up, the built-in search engine helps with finding the documents you need. Google Drive allows team members to attach notes or comments to pieces of work, making editorial processes seamless.

Where we get excited is with the use of Google Docs because it allows for real-time collaboration on documents. Now, multiple people can work on the same document at the same time.

Task management and organization:

Last but not least, tools like Harvest and Gitlab are essential for any business looking to keep track of progress on projects.

Harvest

Harvest, Harvest App, Time Management

Like a modern-era time clock, Harvest allows for employers and employees to see how everyone on the team is spending time. You can break down progress tracking for an individual, a team, or a specific project. Through tracking how much time each person spends on a certain project, you can accurately estimate how much a project costs.

Gitlab

Gitlab, Gitlab App, Project Tracking

The SkipTheDepot team also uses Gitlab to help track projects through various stages of development. This software allows team members to see who is working on a specific task, what stage it is in, and what needs to happen next. Although Gitlab is traditionally used for software development teams, our marketing team uses it to track projects as well. Having our sprint methodology help indicate what is in the planning phase, what is currently being worked on, and what needs review, keeps people on top of what they should prioritize.

What our day looks like:

Our methodology consists of planning a project during standup meetings on Discord and documenting tasks to complete on Gitlab. After everyone is aware of what they need to do, updating and checking off tasks in Gitlab keeps everyone in sync. With Gitlab, you can assign someone to a task, indicate it’s priority level, and label when it should be completed by. As things get completed, employees can move the task to different areas on the sprint board. At SkipTheDepot, projects are labeled in the “To Do” section, moved to the “In Progress” section when working on the task, land in the “Needs Code Review” section for peer review, and end in the “Closed” section when finished. This sprint methodology allows all team members to streamline collaborative efforts because everyone has access to real-time status updates on all projects. From start to finish, the average project for our development team takes three weeks and a month for our marketing team.

How it has helped us:

Not only have these tools made working from home efficient, we now have more time to focus on what matters, like helping customers give back to the community. Throughout the pandemic, we have been working diligently to help charities with their fundraising efforts. We have helped raise over $340,000 for charity in 2020. With contactless bottle pickups, SkipTheDepot provides a safe way to conduct bottle drives. Learn more about our fundraising program here!

To book a pickup visit SkipTheDepot.com, download our app on the App Store, or Google Play Store. If you would like to keep up to date with SkipTheDepot, follow us on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

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