Working in a small business no longer means just opening-up shop in your parents’ garage, (even though 50% of all new start-ups start from a home office setting). Both figuratively and literally, small businesses are going mobile, and now that the idea of the ‘virtual office’ has become reality, your phone has turned into the most important business tool in your arsenal.

A / B Testing collaboration

Developed by Stewart Butterfield, the creator of online photo-sharing app Flickr, Slack has revolutionised conversations in corporate settings so entire offices can communicate instantaneously doing away with the slight delay of email delivery. Its multi-channel functions allow projects to be compartmentalised, and available most importantly through an efficient mobile app so you can stay on top of things no matter where you are. It’s great for sharing gifs when you need a pick me up too (a likely contributor to its recent $2.8 billion evaluation and 1 million active users).

Coming to an office near you

For those who need to be seen and heard, GoToMeeting has taken the traditional concept of the group presentation and offered a platform that delivers seamless audio, video and desktop content between users in real time over 4G or Wi-Fi. Connecting to your meeting schedule, GTM allows works by a one-tap dial to access group meetings wherever they are. Slide presentation, design mockups, spreadsheets, and even DropBox files can be sent, and accessed in a split screen format, allowing meeting members to brainstorm together from opposite sides of the globe. On a tablet, you can even workshop from an on-screen whiteboard.

Remote tools for your business

If your small business takes you around the world, keep your employees back home informed with WorldMate – an online itinerary viewer that lets your colleagues know when and where you will be available to connect. Whilst you can’t stop crises mid-flight, your employees will know just how long they have before you touch down.

After all your meetings, you will probably need to sign on a few dotted lines. CudaSign takes the hassle out of scanning for signatures with its e-signature design, allowing signatures direct to your smart-device’s screen. You can even send documents over email through the app for signing, with printing, photo ID, PDF and archive features available depending on signees needs.

If your team are often split out of office, Soccoco works as a ‘virtual mothership’, generating a visual office floor plan to track and chat with employees where necessary. While relatively basic, this digital workspace is different to others on the market in that it gives users the ability to digitally join rooms with fellow employees in the boardroom, and jump in meetings with side-by-side presentation displays remotely. The app’s usefulness is being recognised by companies like KPMG, who have commenced integration of virtual offices in their employee assessment programs, measuring workflow and priorities in an in-yet-out-of-office setting.

Paperless note taking

Collaborating on non-text documents like drawings, equations and creative design has proved a challenge beyond the arduous task of printing, editing and scanning. Though currently in kickstarter phase, Phree works as a ‘virtual pen’ – usable on any surface to correspond to your nearest smart device. You can make hand-drawn notes on images, add to equations or simply hand-write notes on a table without a pad and pen.

Coupled with the powerful encrypted storage options of Dropbox, the instant and collaborative document generation of Google Drive and free to use phone services like Skype and Viber working out of the office has never been more collaborative.

Tips for working from a ‘virtual office’

  • Use the right format to communicate effectively. Use a mixture of voice (i.e. Skype or GoToMeeting) for broader conversations and brainstorming, and text (e.g. Pie) for less-intensive queries between employees.
  • Even though are working remotely, your colleagues may not be on top of what you’re doing — keep them updated with regular contact regardless of location or workload.
Canstar Blue Most Satisfied Customers Small Business Mobile Phone Providers 2017

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Tanya Phull

Tanya Phull