It may feel like the country is collectively suffering through a bad case of déjà vu with yet another lockdown restricting our working lives, but there is a positive to it! We’ve been here before, we’ve picked up tips and tricks from the last two lockdowns, and although not an ideal situation, there are plenty of apps and tools out there that can help us make it through this third (and hopefully final!) lockdown.
Here at The Edwards Company, we are virtual through and through and, luckily for us, always have been. Our team is office-based, but we’ve communicated virtually with clients for the last eight years and therefore thought we’d share some of the best apps and tools we’ve found for successful virtual communication.
While video calling might not be everyone’s cup of tea (is there anything more awkward than being the first person to join a virtual meeting?), seeing your clients face-to-face is crucial for building and maintaining customer relationships. Discussions over email may get lost or forgotten about and, although phone calls still serve a purpose, they’re not quite as good at enabling you to get your point across.
You’re all probably pretty familiar with the world of virtual meetings by now, but with so many video conferencing apps out there to choose from, we thought we’d point out the two that work best for us:
- Zoom – great for family quizzes, but equally as useful for team meetings! Zoom allows you to communicate face-to-face with your team members safely, mimicking the atmosphere of an in-person meeting. The screen share option enables presentations and notes to be viewed by all participants, and the app itself is easy and quick to use.
- Microsoft Teams – another great one for video conferencing, but also great for coordinating tasks and sending out reminders. The instant chat option also allows you to quickly communicate with your team without switching between multiple devices and apps.
When you’re working virtually and need to send files to your team or your clients, doing so by email isn’t always the most effective method. Emails get missed, lost, or end up in the dreaded spam folder. When this happens, you run the risk of missed deadlines and duplicated efforts, costing you time and potentially money. Luckily for us, all those savvy internet geniuses out there have picked up on this and have developed a cornucopia of apps and tools to make file sharing simple.
- Google Sheets – this is a fan favourite at The Edwards Company. Although widely used before lockdowns became a thing, Google Sheets has now become one of those can’t-live-without tools for working through a pandemic. If you’re unfamiliar, Google Sheets simply allows you to create documents (spreadsheets, presentations etc.) that can then be shared with other members of your team. These documents can be edited in real-time by you or your team members, allowing for collaborative efforts and avoiding email back-and-forth.
- Dropbox – a sharing tool that is great for sending large quantities of files or images at once. Available in app form or website form, Dropbox allows for quick and easy sharing of your work, again without the hassle of sending/losing/finding emails. We’ve been using this app a lot recently while collaborating with a creator who is designing some images for our Instagram and website. Very handy, quick and straightforward!
Planning and Time Management
One of the biggest challenges to overcome while working through a lockdown is the sheer lack of in-person communication. This can make it incredibly difficult to effectively plan projects that involve multiple team members, particularly when deadlines are in place. Without an office, planning whiteboard or just the option to call across the room to your colleague about a particular task, things can get messy; miscommunications, missed information and accidental duplication of efforts again become a concern and may hurt your business in the long-run.
To resolve these issues, at least temporarily, it really does help to have all your projects and planning in one place, where everyone has access to them. That’s where these tools come in:
- Trello – essentially a giant, interactive planning board, Trello is great for project management. You can set up different projects, assign tasks to team members and set deadlines for task completion. All team members can keep up-to-date with progress, nothing gets missed, and everyone is clear on what they need to do. Lockdowns are stressful for everyone, and this is a great way to relieve some of those stresses for you and your team.
- Toggl – similar to Trello, Toggl acts as a virtual calendar or diary and is great for time management. There’s even an option that allows you to track the time you’re spending on each task – perfect if you’re working for clients and need your hours to be recorded accurately.
While lockdown won’t last forever (at least, we hope not!), using as many apps and tools for virtual working as possible really does help to take the pressure off and remove some of the stresses that come with this new version of the working world that we seem to have found ourselves in. If you haven’t already, give them a go! You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference they can make.
Apps and Tools not enough? You may need a Virtual Assistant!
For some businesses, a few virtual apps and tools won’t be enough to help them through the lockdown. Many companies have been forced to scale down their staff, and some are struggling with high numbers of staff shortages, meaning that a video conference here and there and a virtual calendar just isn’t going to cut it. But there is something else you can do; outsource to a Virtual Assistant.
Outsourcing behind-the-scenes tasks like credit control can make a massive difference to the smooth running of your business. It means essential tasks don’t have to be forfeited and affords you more time to concentrate on navigating your business through the pandemic.
Here at The Edwards Company, we have offered Credit Control support to clients all over the UK for the duration of the pandemic and will continue to do so for as long as is necessary. We have a team of highly-skilled credit control experts who can work safely from our West Midlands office. All our communication with clients is, of course, done virtually so you can rest assured that the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic will not impact our services and the help we are able to offer.
Need more convincing? Check out our blog post, ‘Coping with Covid – 4 Ways Outsourcing Could Save your Business.’
If you’d like some help with your Credit Control during this lockdown (and beyond!), we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch via our website and let’s get through this pandemic together.