7 Remote Working Tools That Every Virtual Team Needs

Every day that we wake up to news about new confirmed cases means that we have to stay at home longer.

We cannot predict with accuracy when this Covid-19 crisis will be over.

We are forced to adopt the “wait and see” attitude. The anxiety in business owners and their staff members is unimaginable.

However, one thing is clear. We will never do business as we did before Covid-19. Everything will be different.

In fact, you do not want to take the risk of being caught unawareness again. If your team is working is remotely, here are some tools that will make it easy.

The tools are working for us as app developers in Kenya and will work for your team as well.

1. Zoom

Collaboration is the first aspect of remote working that every employer must consider. Whether you are working with teams or just a few individuals, you need constant updates.

In the current situation, remote working is not optional. However, it will be optional in the future.

Zoom helps virtual teams to hold meetings online as you would in an office setting. Video conferencing is the next best thing after physical meetings.

You can see the responses and reactions of all team members in real-time on your screen.

One advantage of Zoom is that it allows members to join a meeting via audio set up only. Hence, for quick meetings or slow connections, you do not need to see everyone’s face.

2. Slack

Slack has worked for us for years even before we allowed our developers to work remotely.

The chat platform allows users to share files and collaborate where a meeting is unnecessary.

In fact, if you use Slack well, you will eliminate the need for several video conferences every week.

The platform allows chats between individuals through direct messages and teams through channels.

You can also pull a thread from a conversation in a channel to avoid a mix-up of topics.

As app developers in Kenya, we work on many projects simultaneously. Slack enables our developers to follow up on the progress of each project.

Nothing lags behind because the progress of each task is visible to all members at all times.

3. Google Drive, Docs and Sheets

Google offers these three services separately. However, we will discuss them together because they serve the same purpose for virtual teams.

If you use the free version of Slack, you will soon run out of storage space.

Google Drive offers free storage space for both individuals and team members to store and share files.

Instead of sending large attachments, a team member will save the file in a location that every other member can access remotely via a link.

Google Sheets comes in handy when virtual teams are compiling reports. It saves the time and effort needed to compile individual reports into one.

Any member with access to a Sheet can edit it.

Remote workers need the same convenience of saving large files. Cloud storage saves users from overloading their devices’ memory.

ALSO READ: Covid-19 Crisis: Pros and Cons of Remote Working for Business

4. InVision

InVision is a great tool for design companies like Muva. However, your virtual teams will still need it even if you are not a design company.

Occasionally, you will need to design presentations for your clients or for conferences.

Your team might also need to redesign your website or app. Marketing teams use it to design e-flyers.

The collaborative tool helps a design team to move quickly from the concept stage to the final design.

Virtual teams can create and share prototypes that both team members and clients can view.

Prototypes show how the final product will function before developing. Once a team agrees on a prototype, the design and development processes move fast.

The platform allows messaging for team members to share ideas and give feedback on changes to the design.

Project managers find this tool useful when managing different phases of projects. It is easy to hand over a project from one team to another across developmental stages.

Mobile app developers in Kenya, media houses, and other technology companies use the tool extensively.

Try it for any design or development project in your business.

5. GitHub

Here is another tool for virtual developers and designers. We always end up with amazing software because our team uses this tool efficiently.

We are working remotely effectively but even in the office setting, most of the collaboration among developers happens on GitHub.

It enables developers to share and review codes until we come up with quality codes.

Github is also great for individual developers to share their work with potential employers.

Remote workers can store their personal projects here.

6. Google Calendar

You may not think that you need a calendar for virtual meetings but you do. It is easy to call a few people for a meeting, whether online or in a room.

However, as your team grows, everyone needs to set reminders on Google Calendar.

The tool is necessary for managers overseeing several teams and multiple projects. You easily lose track of meetings.

Remote workers often commit to different projects simultaneously. Even with the best virtual meeting tools, meetings will only run efficiently when all members log in on time.

Google Calendar works for us because of the numerous meetings we set with clients.

We have several meetings in a day with different clients. It is impossible to prepare and show up for each meeting without such a tool as Google Calendar.

The advantage is that it also sends reminders to clients of the organised meetings.

Related: How to Work Remotely Effectively During the Coronavirus Crisis

7. WhatsApp

This may come as a surprise because WhatsApp is mostly used as a social platform. Businesses also use it to advertise products or reach out to their customers.

However, in this era of remote working, WhatsApp is proving an effective collaborative tool.

A virtual team may not share work-related messages on the platform because of data privacy issues. However, it is a great platform for building relationships away from work-related conversations.

Social media replaces the conversations that teammates share over tea and lunch breaks at the office. It eliminates the sense of isolation and loneliness that comes with remote working.

Encourage your employees to hold healthy discussions here that do not fit the work-related tools outlined above.

Final thoughts

Remote working is now a reality and as app developers in Kenya, we have taken the challenge to explore it. The effectiveness of virtual teams largely depends on the tools available to a team and individuals. Pick the right tools from this list that will best fit the flow of work in your business. The advantage of these tools is that you can still use them in a physical office setting to improve collaboration and efficiency.

Top 10 Trusted Mobile App Developers in Kenya

A good mobile app developer in Kenya should create a revenue-generating tool for your business idea. For this reason, people are looking for someone who can make their idea explode and make them a profiting entity.

By looking at the need in the market, there are companies that have gained a good reputation due to their commitment to quality app development in Kenya. These companies have mastered the skill of developing award-winning and user-friendly apps.

Each one of them has a solid foundation of top developers backed up with heart-winning strategies and exceptional technical skills. You don’t need anything else other than choosing one among them, particularly one that matches your specific business idea and needs.

Here are the top 10 trusted companies for app development in Kenya.

1. Muva Technologies

This company has a wide variety of app solutions meeting the needs of different clients. Muva develops applications for BBM, IOS, Java, Android and Windows phone as well. There is almost everything you need around the design and development of your app. Customizations are made based on your needs. More than that, the professionals will offer guidance to you if you are not conversant with the mobile app world.

2. TrendPro Systems Limited

This is a software design and development company based in Kenya. TrendPro Systems Limited provides user-targeted software for both established businesses and startups. They are experts in web development especially using Ruby on Rails. They have also established themselves in the mobile app development industry in Kenya with Swapp CRM Mobile app as one of their best projects.

3. Appological

Appological will not only develop an app for you but also follow it up and monitor how it is fairing in the market. The company makes applications for organizations and individual clients as well. They have offices in Nairobi and London. Among the key apps that they have created include Root Checker Pro and Betting Tips Chat among others.

4. Zoom IT Limited

This company has had a major contribution in the education, agribusiness and security sectors in Kenya in terms of app development. Through their expertise, the company has made agricultural activities easy, enhanced security measures and made education easily accessible.

5. Elan Telemedia Limited

With more than 6 years of experience in the industry, Elan Telemedia has established itself among the top trusted app development organizations in Kenya. The company has a team of professionals who are masters in apps design and development.

6. Smart Web Kenya

Smart Web Kenya started out as a web design and development company. Later on, the company diversified into the development of mobile apps mainly for android phones. The company has established quite a number of partnerships with several learning institutions and created learning and institutional apps as well.

7. Kenya Web Developers

More than doing web hosting services, this company has been at the forefront developing apps in Kenya and has, as a result, won the hearts of many. Most of their apps are inspirational and are inclined to conveying some positive message.

8. Litchman Consultants

A Nairobi-based Digital Solutions Company involved with the development of mobile applications alongside other website services. They are the minds behind such projects as Wakilipro and the Stock Brockers Research Portal among several other works.

9. Space Kenya

Any applications in the field of geography, mapping, location identification and allied aspects are in the heart of Space Kenya. More than that, they also develop gaming apps for use on android platforms.

10. Umptech LTD

Umptech LTD has also found a place in the app development industry in Kenya. They design and make applications for both android and windows platforms, serving different needs as dictated by their clients.

App development is a costly investment and therefore, making the right choice of uncompromised quality and delivery of your app is the best thing you can ever do. To be confident of your move, here are the top 10 trusted app developers in Kenya to choose from.

COVID-19 Crisis: Pros and Cons of Remote Working for Business

Remote working is not a new term for employers. The current health crisis has just pushed the discussion further on having a remote workforce

A few months ago, allowing employees to work from home was optional for businesses.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced employers to consider remote working to remain in business.

The changes are so sudden that many employers are still struggling with the required adjustments.

Is it a good or bad thing to allow employees to work from home? Should business owners consider the same after the crisis is over?

Pros

1. Increased productivity

One of the highlights of the discussions on remote working is that employees encounter distractions at home.

However, most remote workers understand the demands of working from home. Employees know the changes necessary in their environment to work effectively.

In fact, the office environment sometimes offers more distractions including unplanned meetings, movements, and announcements.

While working remotely, employees can choose the most productive hours in their day when they can work with minimal distractions.

The result is higher productivity, which is good for business.

2. Longer working hours

Tied to higher productivity is additional working hours that many employers hope for from their employees.

Workers spend hours on the road due to heavy traffic during rush hours. Unfortunately, most of them cannot escape the daily nightmare on the roads.

Remote working minimizes movements. Most employees turn the extra time into working hours even without realizing.

For mobile app developers, extra working hours are always welcome.

3. Reduced costs

Hiring a new employee means setting up a fully equipped workstation that probably did not exist.

The business covers the cost of setting up and maintaining the workstation. Sometimes labour costs are higher than revenues from some employees.

In times that an economic downturn is expected, maintaining the office setup is not only expensive but also risky.

Bear in mind that transactions have declined across all sectors. Business owners are staring at declining revenues without an end in sight.

Remote working is an advantage for businesses because employees meet most of the costs.

All businesses have to deal with now is paying salaries and ensuring that employees remain connected in terms of communication lines and the internet.

4. Scalability

Let us face reality. It will take some time before everything falls back to normal. In fact, we must brace ourselves for a new normal.

The advantage of remote working is that it is easy to scale the workforce.

Employers can reduce or increase the workforce depending on the situation at hand.

An alternative is to change the nature of engagement while considering the welfare of employees such as reducing the number of working hours.

Employers can then adjust working hours or even hire new employees when revenues begin to increase.

Remote workers have the option of working more than one job. Hence, they are less likely to leave or terminate their contracts because of such changes in working hours or salaries in a recession.

5. Access to expert skills and talent

Remote working opens a business to a global tank of skills and talent in all fields. A business can hire anyone from any location or country with the necessary skills.

Such talent is inaccessible for a physical office setup. A firm can choose to hire experts for a specific task or period.

A large pool of talent also means that employers can negotiate for the best deal.

Highly skilled employees demand high salaries and benefits that businesses can hardly keep up with when in a crisis.

The global market also provides talent that is unavailable or limited in the local job market.

Also Read: How to Work Remotely Effectively During the Coronavirus Crisis

6. Fewer absenteeism cases

Employees get tired of the daily routine of commuting to and from work. Some of the reasons for absences from work are poor.

Luckily, with remote working, employers have fewer requests for off days to deal with within a month.

Remote workers have more control of their work engagement. Hence, they can easily take some hours off where necessary and resume without disrupting the workflow.

Sometimes all a worker needs is a few hours of rest and not a full day off.

7. Flexibility

Remote workers have flexible working hours. The level of flexibility here depends on the nature of the job.

For instance, for mobile app developers like Muva, collaboration is essential throughout the day.

Even with such jobs, employees still have a flexible schedule. Virtual teams can choose the most convenient times to collaborate or hold meetings.

The basic assumption is that remote workers are always working from home. Well, in times of a crisis like the COVID-19 crisis, that is expected.

In normal situations, employees can move from the home office to any other location like a quiet library to work.

The result of such flexible is improved employee satisfaction, which in turn leads to reduced turnover.

A business achieves all this while saving costs, which is good for any company even after the COVID-19 crisis.

Cons

1. Poor relationships and collaboration

Even with the best of technologies, virtual teams lose some aspects of healthy relationships.

In fact, remote workers are at a high risk of social isolation. Think about demanding jobs like software development that require hours of concentration.

Programmers may spend days indoors until a project is complete.

Poor internet connectivity might also interfere with collaboration among team members and with their leaders.

Employers must consider such challenges and advice their employees on steps to take when collaboration issues arise.

Remote workers need constant reminders to balance their work with social events and outdoor activities.

2. Cybersecurity issues

Data security is a major concern for employers, especially when employees are abruptly sent to work from home.

Employers have little control over the internet providers that workers choose.

Public unsecured networks are a major threat to a company’s data security. Hence, the preparation period for remote employees must include data security.

Employees need the training to differentiate between secure and insecure networks.

The training should also include steps to take in case employees suspect a security breach.

Simple lessons like creating strong passwords and keeping them a secret are equally important.

3. Lack of trust

Some business owners have a hard time trusting remote workers.

Although, the employees may participate in online discussions and video conferences, it is hard to verify their commitment to work.

The problem may not arise with employees that just transitioned from the office setup to remote working.

However, hiring new remote employees comes with trust issues. It takes a while before employers can trust them with some details about their business.

Remote workers must work hard enough to eliminate such issues. An easier way is to have occasional physical meetings with remote workers where possible.

Nevertheless, running a business involves taking risks and hiring remote workers is one of them.

Conclusion

Remote working has various benefits for businesses as outlined in this article. However, the concept works differently depending on the type of business. Some firms must maintain a physical office or production unit. If your business allows, a shift to remote working might be the best thing you can do to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

How to Work Remotely Effectively During the Coronavirus Crisis

We just ended the second week of working remotely as a company because of the Coronavirus crisis.

We promised to share our experience as we go along to help you understand what it takes to keep all staff members engaged remotely.

One thing we need to agree on is that no one saw this crisis coming. It was a “Chinese problem” until it began to affect other nations.

The Kenyan government was quick to catch on with the safety measures to control its spread. We have moved from calls to work from home to mandatory dusk to dawn curfew.

Our journey of working from home got better in the second week. Here are the lessons shared by our team so far:

1. Set up your new office

If you have been working from your employer’s office for years, chances are that you have no working space at home.

Our team had the same challenge as shared in our previous post. Setting up the workspace does not happen overnight.

We cannot predict when it will be safe for us to work closely again in an office setting and neither can you.

The temptation is to curl on your couch or bed with a laptop. We have tried that. It does not work as you expect. You will be snoring after an hour or so!

Even with limited space at home, you can set up a new workstation with a comfortable desk and seat.

Here is the danger of working from your couch. By the time the crisis is over, you will be complaining of back and neck pains.

Your couch was designed for rest, TV, and family talks, not long working hours.

You may start there but by now, you should have an ergonomic workstation.

The workspace will help you in the future when you need to do assignments or personal studies at home.

2. Create boundaries

We know this challenge so well. Everyone is on a mandatory quarantine. All your family members are working from home or just staying at home.

You are a bit lucky if you live alone but the situation for many of us is a family setting.

The fireplace stories are back. For parents, your kids need attention all day.

We are moving from watching the latest news to sudden meals in the kitchen.

How do you get work done in such an environment? Set boundaries!

Call for a family meeting if you need to and agree on working hours. This means that they cannot ask for anything or walk into your workstation at certain times.

If you are a parent, explain to your kids that you are not out on holiday. Give them assignments to do while you work.

Where possible, ask for help with the kids during your working hours.

Here is a tip with boundaries. Respect other people’s boundaries if you want them to respect yours.

If you constantly interrupt others, they will do the same.

3. Constant communication

You have covered the situation at home, created the workspace you need and communicated your boundaries to everyone.

Your team members are doing the same in their new office setups.

We have noticed that we move faster when everyone is online at the same time. Communication is important when creating an app or website remotely.

You must communicate your progress at every stage and respond to your team members promptly.

This is only possible if the environment at home allows you to focus on your tasks throughout the day.

We understand that technical hitches may come along the way. For instance, a team member may lose power or internet connection.

You may hit a snag with an assigned task and need assistance.

Such a team member has the responsibility of informing others of the challenge immediately.

Luckily, we have multiple channels of communication at Muva Technologies. In our planning period, we advised the team on the best way to use each channel.

Communication is not just for a smooth workflow. Your workmates are like family depending on the relationships you create in the office.

We work more or less like a family. Everyone must check in daily with the current health status and all.

We are also sharing tips on how to stay safe and navigate the uncertainties of the day.

4. Maintain an office-like schedule

Well, this proved tough at the beginning but we are slowly catching on with the schedule.

When going to the office, you set your alarm at a certain time. For most of us, you are ready to start your day at 8am or 9am.

Do not break the routine. Remember that we are working remotely just for a season.

It will be hard to adjust after the crisis is over.

The greater benefit is that maintaining your routine helps you manage your time effectively.

Take the breaks as usual. This means that you might need to prepare your meals earlier or ask for help.

Here is a quick one, do not adopt unhealthy eating habits and blame it on the crisis.

Maintain your discipline in preparing healthy meals before or after work.

Using an office-like schedule means getting off your desk at 5pm or your usual time. This brings us to our last tip for the week.

5. Balance

We get it. You want to prove to your boss or supervisor that you are working effectively from home.

You might be tempted to work extra hours into the night because you can. You can use the time you spend in traffic to work.

However, you need balance to maintain the daily routine. Your family still needs your attention.

If you do not give them the usual time, they will have a hard time keeping the boundaries you created.

You need time to catch up with your friends, catch the latest news, and keep the hobbies you can.

Outdoor activities are limited but you still have options for indoor activities besides watching TV.

Remote working offers an opportunity to do more every day where your work and personal development is concerned.

Learn something new. Learn new ways of doing your job. Develop a new hobby. Spend more time your family now that you can.

At the end of the crisis, you should have tangible results of how you spent the extra hours.

Stay safe!

My First Day of Working Remotely Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

My name is Faheem, a developer at Muva Technologies.

The Kenyan government issued a directive that from Monday 16th March 2020 learning institutions should be closed. The government also urged companies to allow employees to work from home where possible among other precautionary steps against the spread of COVID-19.

Working remotely has been a huge topic of interest since the advent of the internet and now more than ever remote working has to be called into play. It seems that we have all the facilities for it, that is, internet at home, laptops rather than workstations, Skype, Slack, and team viewer. This should have been a breeze.

NO, I did not take into consideration some factors. For instance, I do not have an actual worktable. I have to use the dining table with a quite uncomfortable chair, which did not seem bad at first.

As a developer, I need to be online for a good part of the day granted not a 9-5 work schedule but deadlines pre-Covid-19 had been set.

The kids are home and who does not love kids? My 3-year-old nephew loves my back-lit laptop keyboard.  My day 1 of quarantine was spent teaching him how to switch the lights off and on. This was fun for the first 2 minutes but we soon wanted to watch kids TV.

Our favourite song baby shark just happened to be recommended when searching for nursery rhymes.  So, like a good uncle, we watched it over and over and over.

 Eventually, I did get most of my work done but the efficiency was lacking.

The upside was that Muva Technologies gave me a few tips that have proved quite helpful.

 1. Communication is key:

The first thing I got was a good communication channel. At Muva, we use slack for internal communication.

All staff members gave their contact information on the Company’s slack channel. The details required include our names, phone number, email, Skype ID and the projects we were working on.

This proved essential, as I was able to communicate with my project team.

The morning started with checking into virtual work by a simple good morning message followed by the objectives for the day in the following format

– what I did yesterday

 -what I will be doing today

 -prevailing challenges

 This was simple and effective in letting the team know what they should do and what will be achieved by the close of day.

 2. Priorities

The reason for working from home was to prioritize our health. According to our leaders, the company must prioritize its employees’ health at all costs.

Nonetheless, as said earlier, deadlines were set and we have to meet them. As much as the client would understand the pandemic at hand, we must deliver as promised.

To us, this meant to get as much work done as early as possible and the push your code online or as our leader quoted, “Eat the frog first thing in the morning “– Thomas Oppong

 3. Flow

Try to stay focused for a good period of time. There are many distractions at home but once you get into the rhythm of getting your work done, stick to it for as long as possible.

A good tip would be to use the tomato timer , that is, doing 20 minutes of work and taking a 5-minute interval, though this timing varies from person to person.

4. Teamwork

This is tied to communication with an addition that as much as you need your team, your team needs you. Use all the tools provided to keep tabs on your work-mates not only for the work-related aspect but also keeping tabs during this period.

As for the meetings with clients, Skype and Zoom are both reliable software as we are urged not to come into physical contact.

Where possible, avoid meeting the clients with the whole team. Pick a representative and advise the client to do the same.

5. Stay safe

Maintain personal hygiene and I cannot stress this enough, WASH YOUR HANDS.

Secondly, avoid getting information from memes and conspiracy theorists; stay updated with data from relevant sources like the World Health Organization (WHO)

We will continue blogging and providing relevant information on remote working and our personal experiences throughout.

God Bless