headset with laptop on table
From instant messaging software to productivity trackers, there are several helpful tech tools available for employees now transitioning into remote work. — Getty Images/Lashkhidzetim

The outbreak and rapid spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, has prompted many companies to implement emergency work-from-home protocols to avoid exposure in the workplace. Even some of the world's biggest tech companies, like Google, Amazon and Facebook, are urging their teams to avoid commuting and traveling for work.

If your company has never had a full-time remote workforce, this can be a challenging transition. However, thanks to modern technology, it's very possible for many employees to be as productive at home as they would be in the office, if not more so.

Here are a few essential tech tools you'll need to get through the virus outbreak. While you may already be using many of these tools, they may take on a new function and significance during this extended period of remote work.

[Read: 7 Things to Do When Creating an Emergency Work-From-Home Policy for COVID-19]

Chat/instant messaging

Communication within the team can be the biggest challenge when your workforce is remote. Chat software like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow seamless communication between individual team members, departments and the entire company. Different chat "channels" allow people to discuss work, brainstorm ideas and stay connected to each other throughout the workday. Many companies already use these instant messaging tools, but you'll want to encourage your staff to pay extra attention to their messages right now, as this will likely become the primary method of communicating during your quarantine.

Video conferencing

Video meetings where the attendees can see each other's expressions and react to one another in real time can replicate the benefits of face-to-face meetings you would have had in the office. Video conferencing software typically includes screen-sharing capabilities, recording and live chat, which can add an extra layer of communication and understanding to your meetings. Popular choices include Google Hangouts and Zoom.

Project management

Keeping your team on track and maintaining everyone's regular workflows while you're all working remotely will require a top-notch project management tool. If you're not already using software like Trello, Basecamp, Asana, Airtable or Monday.com, now is the time to set it up. It's easy to assign and break down tasks, and status updates and project progress are available at a glance.

[Read: Coronavirus: 8 Things Your Small Business Needs to Do]

When working from home, it can be easy to get off task — especially if employees are quarantined at home with their families.

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Cloud storage

One of the challenges of working remotely is the lack of access to your company’s internal servers. This is where cloud storage applications like Dropbox and Google Drive can come in handy. By moving all your files to the cloud, you ensure that your team has uninterrupted access to important documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos and more. Plus, it's easier to collaborate in real time and avoid sending edited versions of documents back and forth.

Productivity and time trackers

When working from home, it can be easy to get off task — especially if employees are quarantined at home with their families. Productivity and time tracking apps like Toggl, Todoist and focus booster can help you balance your time, track your progress and remind you to take breaks. With your time being managed you can be more productive while working in a more comfortable environment.

Should my company go full-time remote until the virus slows down?

If you're concerned about worker health and safety, and most people's jobs can be done remotely, then the answer is a resounding yes. With the above tools, it's easy to keep in touch and ensure that everyone is completing their regular tasks. You may even find that your team enjoys working remotely and make it a permanent policy, or continue using these tools when you return to the office.

If you absolutely must have employees in office, follow these measures from World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Keep your employees informed and up to date on the most recent updates on COVID-19.
  • Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic and regularly clean them.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.
  • Do not come into the office if you are feeling unwell or fear you have been exposed to the virus.

For more recommendations and advice compiled from the CDC, download the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Coronavirus Response Toolkit.

[Read: 5 Ways to Manage Coronavirus Concerns When Employees Can't Work From Home]

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 16, 2020