For our industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a tremendous amount of change in a very short amount of time. With varying degrees of lockdowns and “shelter in place” orders ongoing, most companies have gone from being office-based to relying on distributed teams working remotely. This has, unsurprisingly, brought with it a whole host of new challenges.From making sure that you can retain productivity to ensuring your customers don't experience disruption, correctly navigating this new normality in work is vitally important to staying in business. Customer demands, business workflows, and employee requirements now pose challenges that are vastly different than they were only one month ago.
While the pandemic is temporary, it’s likely that many of the changes it brought about in working practices might stick around for a lot longer. Getting remote working right is now more than just a matter of weathering the storm. For many companies, this will be a key opportunity to become future-ready.
While for some remote orientated companies, stepping into this transition will be relatively fluid, for many, it won't be. If you are new to remote working and want to make sure you have the right tools for your team, read on for our comprehensive list of tools to help you keep your business going in these challenging times.
Productivity often suffers when employees work remotely, but it doesn't have to. While remote working might change your operations and project management processes, there is no shortage of tools to help mitigate disruption across your business.
- Insurance management. Employees that work from home need more than just access to their emails. For example, they might also need access to shared documents, client databases and financial data. With an agent management system (AMS), such as Bind HQ, your employees can manage policies, reports, customer relations, payments, and more, all within a single application. What’s more, they can connect anywhere, anytime — as long as they have a reliable internet connection.
- Electronic document signatures. The days of printing, signing, and scanning documents are over. Nowadays, e-signing software lets clients sign agreements from virtually anywhere. DocuSign is a popular option, but we also really like the competitively priced SignEasy and Secured Signing. The latter has a video confirmation feature that can help prevent document tampering.
- Project management. Stay on top of company projects, even with newly remote teams, with collaborative project management tools such as Trello and Asana. Trello is based on the Kanban method and is easier to use, but Asana more robust workflow functionality. Experiment with both to see which one suits your IT, HR and operations team better.
- Document scanning. Some of your employees mightn't have a scanner at home, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t scan their paperwork into PDF files. As long as your employees have a company secured smartphone, they can capture images of agreements and insurance policies using apps like CamScanner, Microsoft Office Lens, or even Google Drive.
- Time-tracking. If you’re worried that your employees might take advantage of the current work arrangement, consider investing in remote employee monitoring software, like Time Doctor, Toggl, or Rescue Time. Some of the best time-tracking tools let you see the tasks your team is working on, the time they spend on these tasks, sites they visit, and times they log in and out.
When your team is no longer co-located, communication can suffer. To help you stay in touch, here are three tools that can be effective in keeping your internal communication channels open.
- Team messaging. Simplify office communication with a team messaging app, such as Slack. With Slack, your employees can communicate with one another in real-time, share links and upload files, search message threads, send private messages to each other, and even call other users (a Slack call can have 15 participants in total). You can create separate “channels” (public or private) for different projects or departments and customize your notification settings. Microsoft Teams is a similar product available to companies already using Office365.
- Appointment scheduling. Tools like Google Calendar and Calendly can help minimize the back-and-forth that’s often involved in finding a meeting time that works for everyone. All you have to do is block out time slots on your calendar that other people can reserve. Once the meeting is scheduled, all other calendars will typically update automatically.
- Video communication. Schedule conference calls between your team or clients with Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom. Note that Zoom has had its fair share of reported issues and security concerns.
Your employees are going to be handling highly sensitive information at home. Endpoint security threats coming from employees' devices is a major concern for many insurers. Here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of hackers stealing personal data about customers.
- Virtual private network (VPN). A VPN hides your internet protocol (IP) so that none of your actions online are traceable. This not only ensures that no one can spy on you but also stops hackers from seeing any sensitive messages or data. If you have a business VPN, ensure that your employees have access to it when they’re working from home. If not, consider setting up a VPN now and asking your employees to use it going forward.
- Password manager. Again, if you have a business password manager already, make sure that all workers have access to it. And if not, get a password manager immediately — it can help prevent a data breach. Now that employees are working from home, it’s likely they’ll store passwords unsafely.
If you’re struggling to stay afloat, AngelList has put together a great list of financial resources for startups and small businesses. From SBA disaster loans to Facebook grants, take a look, and see if any of the financial support listed applies to your company.
The site also links to unemployment aid by state, so check it out and forward it to your employees if they’ve lost wages, or even hours, due to COVID-19.