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Nancy Powaga
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 |  April 08, 2020

c-suiteIf you’re like the majority of workers today, you’re reading this article from home. Many businesses have had to make speedy decisions and transitions, including implementing mandatory work from home (WFH) policies and giving employees the tools they need to get their jobs done remotely. While telecommuting has been on the rise (increasing by 159% between 2005 and 2017) our new “normal” has left many organizations scrambling to come up with ways to manage distributed teams.

Meanwhile, some employees are also floundering, trying to figure out how to quickly adopt new technologies all while having to juggle and manage changes in the home. We’re all starting to feel the stretch.

While WFH comes with some challenges, companies like AppSheet are rising to the challenge — providing tools, online plugins, and resources to help teams not only survive, but thrive.

Quick transitions

Many businesses that historically haven’t had remote workers are having to suddenly manage a distributed workforce. Nearly overnight, entire organizations have had to shut down office doors and have everyone work from their home offices (if they’re lucky), dining room tables, and living room couches. Employees are struggling to stay focused and productive during normal business hours while also having to help kids transition to distant schooling or having to care for others who may be in or outside their immediate home. And worldwide pandemic aside, there are inherent issues with working from home. Let’s dive in.

Communication

Communication can be a challenge, even when everyone’s working from the same location. Factor in essential staff working in the office or field while others work from their makeshift home offices, and communication becomes more crucial than ever. This is especially true with fast-changing policies, shifting work priorities, and employees who may be struggling with social isolation or other ramifications of the quarantine. Online communication and project management tools, video conferencing, emails, IMs, and more are mission-critical. And providing ways to effectively communicate with large and small audiences alike is a must.

Collaboration

Employees may also have a difficult time with remote meetings and collaboration if they’re used to face-to-face interactions. Nearly overnight, teams that are used to rallying around a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas or collaborate are having to find new workarounds. Organizations of all sizes and industries have to provide the online tools, applications, and resources their employees need to not only get their work done but to also foster creativity and collaboration across newly distributed teams..

Connectivity

How often do you say or hear, “How about now? Can you hear me?” The ability to communicate and collaborate online entirely now depends on employees’ IT infrastructure at home, and many aren’t set up to access online services securely from home. Some homes aren’t equipped with enough bandwidth to reliably access large files or stream video conference with colleagues without bringing their Internet to a crawl. Do you have a contingency plan for when your company’s VPN isn’t working or when WiFi isn’t available at workers’ remote locations? You need a strategy to help staff do their jobs whether they’re online, offline, or some combination of both.

Culture

When you don’t have proper communication and aren’t collaborating well, workplace culture can suffer. In fact, simply lacking a central physical gathering place (like the iconic water cooler) can damage morale, and in turn, your company culture. Meme-sharing on Slack, Zoom happy hours, and Google Hangouts get-togethers make up for the lack of in-person interactions to a large extent, but be mindful of the sudden change in interactions that may have some people thrown. Provide creative, virtual social outlets and opportunities for letting off steam and for simply communicating and connecting — no matter where people are based.

How AppSheet can help

We recently held an Office Hours webinar to demonstrate how key features of AppSheet can support remote workforces and improve productivity. Because AppSheet allows anyone to create apps without any coding (or IT team reliance), team members can still build and maintain apps from their new home office and keep everyone on the same page during these difficult times.

Here’s a recap of what the AppSheet team covered during the webinar:

Onboarding

Add an onboarding experience to your no-code app to give users a place to start – especially when you add new assignments, functionality, or roles and responsibilities for remote workers. Maybe you have a new team of volunteers handing out food and supplies for the first time. Adding onboarding details can help them understand how to use the app and properly track what they’ve distributed and where. Or perhaps you have a project management app and need to help your offsite team understand how to review and check off completed tasks. Onboarding is an easy way to support first-time users, as well as return-users who may be seeing an updated version of your app.

Offline capabilities

Not all of your remote users will have a stable internet connection throughout the day (or even have any access to it at all). For situations like these, AppSheet’s Offline Use functionality helps keep your app users connected even when they aren’t. AppSheet lets you control how the app behaves – whether your data loads every time the app opens, when data syncs are delayed, or if it’s accessible offline.

offline

And since remote workers may rely on mobile devices for access, AppSheet allows you to  select online syncing options so your users can save their valuable mobile data by only using WiFi to sync when their access is restored.

Commenting

Communication is key to collaboration. Depending on your app, you may want to consider adding AppSheet’s commenting functionality, which allows users to share feedback on specific projects within your application. This can be incredibly useful for any kind of project management or task-driven application. It’s as simple as creating a table in Google Sheets and then toggling between a handful of settings on your AppSheet interface.

Notifications

Reliable message delivery is another important part of both communication and collaboration. AppSheet provides several options for alerting and notifying your users, including email and SMS text messages. You can also set up push notifications.

push-notificationsThink about what works best for your team and organization, what will enhance their ability to communicate and collaborate across locations, and how to best keep them informed and up to date.

Dynamic sizing

AppSheet also supports dynamic sizing across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, ensuring that no matter what technology your users have, they receive the best possible experience.

As we’ve learned with Covid-19, anything can happen, and we may not always have a lot of lead time to prepare for big changes in the way we live and work (together or apart). Make sure you’re thinking about what your team will need even beyond these next few months so you’re ready for any challenges ahead. The collaboration tools you put into place today will help prepare your organization for tomorrow.

Visit our COVID-19 support page to learn more about how you can use AppSheet to help response efforts.

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Nancy Powaga

Nancy helps app creators build and learn with AppSheet.

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[Productivity Apps, Offline apps, Collaboration]