Here at Sunderland Software City we’re working hard to help North East companies overhaul how they function and best serve their customers, following disruption and new ways of working caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

As businesses largely shift to working from home, separating their teams and dispersing their resources, digital adoption and embracing innovative technology is relevant now more than ever. 

Here are some key things to consider when you’re shifting to working from home:

1. Hosting remote meetings & conference calls

Social distancing doesn’t mean you'll have to cancel all meetings. There are a variety of technologies available that can help you host meetings remotely. Examples of software can include Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or even WhatsApp video. Most of these have a free version that minimises either the duration of the call (Zoom has a minimum of 40 minutes) or the number of people who can participate (Skype’s freemium version limits phone calls to one-to-ones). Most teleconferencing software will also enable screen shares, which allows you to refer to live documents and websites to show colleagues what you are working on.

If you are working in a team and are investing in a teleconferencing software, it is worth exploring a shared calendar that can be used as a booking system to avoid double-bookings. This can be as easy as an Outlook or Gmail calendar.


2. HR and Team Engagement

While working remotely it’s important for teams to still function and feel like a team, despite being physically isolated. Regular one to one and team-wide video calls are a great way of keeping everyone on task and feeling included.

Alongside video calls, online chat systems such as Slack (free to use) are beneficial to keep in the loop with team members. Slack enables users to set up separate channels that can be dedicated to specific projects or departments of the business. We’d also recommend setting up a ‘random’ channel to keep everyday life conversations going so you don’t go stir crazy!

We’ll leave it up to you to decide if a ‘cat gifs’ channel is necessary...


3. Staying safe. Cyber Security

As staff are working remotely, it is important to ensure company documents and communications are kept secure and confidential. 

It’s imperative to ensure all staff members have appropriate security software installed on their devices. At the most basic level this should include virus protection software, such as AVG or Avast, and a web browser extension such as Web of Trust. These are all free to use.

In addition, working from home can blur the boundaries between personal and professional use. While we encourage a good work-life balance, we would advise staff to be careful surrounding the use of both personal and professional emails and social media accounts, and to double-check which account they are communicating from.


4. Continuing to build value to the business

Now is the perfect time to reflect on your business and build value. Reflect on past purchasing behaviour and listen to what customers have been saying about your product on social media. Are there any ways you could improve your offering and capture more audiences? Are there any innovations you might wish to introduce? To listen to audience feedback, you can use social media monitoring platforms such as Hootsuite to track specific keywords or mentions of your company. You can also use tools such as Answerthepublic, Google Autocomplete and Google Trends to learn about the most common questions people are asking in your sector, which might provide new opportunities to innovate.

In addition, there are ways you can easily and freely engage with customers. Audiences are, more than ever, active on social media and looking to engage meaningfully. This could be a great opportunity for an ‘ask the expert’ Twitter thread and for new, useful blogs that fit within your marketing strategy. If your website doesn’t feature a blog section, Medium is a great example of a tool you can use to start writing content at no cost. Finally, you could consider engaging audiences through webinars and interactive videos. If you are investing in a teleconferencing software, you might be able to use that tool to host a webinar. We’ve hosted interactive pitch training sessions through a variety of video software tools which helped facilitate new audience engagement.


5. Project Planning Tools

There’s nothing like a good team meeting with post-it notes and a whitewall to plan a project. However, there are digital alternatives available that can help you and your team develop new ideas and strategies. For example, Airtable is a useful tool that can be used to share GANNT charts, project actions, logos, and documents with fellow team members. For a more simple project chart, Google Sheets enables colleagues to work collaboratively on Excel sheets and project charts.

If you are more visually-minded, there are a number of free visual chart tools available such as Smart Draw which enables you to make flowcharts online and easily share them as a PDF file.

How are you transitioning to working from home?

Are you facing any other digital adoption challenges that we haven’t yet mentioned? Let us know! 

During such challenging times, it is important that businesses are able to understand and adopt the right technologies to sustain and continue their growth. We want to help. Whether this involves referring you to the right supplier or organisation, or just serving as a friendly listener who can relay your needs to the UK government. We’re here.

To reach out to us about how COVID-19 has impacted your digital adoption challenges, you can contact Jamie Hardesty, our Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, at jamie.hardesty@sunderlandsoftwarecity.com or via 07597573869.