It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most hectic time of the year for small business owners. As people travel to spend the holidays with loved ones or simply spend more time at home, that doesn’t mean the work stops.
Working away from the office or working from home is a growing trend in the working world, but perhaps your business doesn’t allow for this or you simply haven’t tried it out. For small business owners that plan to travel or be away from the office, here are six steps to staying efficient, vigilant, and tuned-in while working remotely.
1. Pick the Right Device
These days, you might be able to forego a laptop and use a tablet or even your smart phone when you’re on the go. Whatever you choose, be sure you’re set up to stay in sync with your employees.
If you’re already set up with cloud storage to share documents with your employees, be sure the correct apps are available on your device and are downloaded and ready to go before you leave.
2. Get Connectivity
Most business owners these days need to be connected to the Internet to get things done. You probably want an upgrade over hunting for free wifi, which can be unreliable and frustratingly slow.
Some phone carriers will let you use your smart phone to create a wifi hotspot, but some don’t. Even if it is allowed, it can be a drain on your phone’s battery as well as data plan limits. Alternatives include getting a tablet with a data plan of its own or a mifi hotspot — a portable device that has a data plan and acts as a wireless hotspot. Some wireless carriers offer shared data plans that you can use across multiple devices.
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3. Organize Documents & Collaborate
Collaboration with your trusted employees is key any time of the year, but particularly so when you’re out of the office. Fortunately, the age we live in affords us the opportunity to use cloud sharing platforms to do so. Here are a few apps worth looking into to stay connected with your employees and get work done during the holidays.
Google Apps for Work (formerly Google Apps for Your Domain) — This not only gives you a Gmail account, but also Google Calendar, Google Docs, and 30GB of storage for file syncing and sharing. Plans start at $5 per user per month (or $50 per user per year).
If you’re looking for a budget alternative, you can always use the free personal versions of Google’s apps. It just requires some more manual setup to get your team collaborating, but has great features to keep everyone on the same page.
Quip — A step up from Google Docs for online documents and collaboration, their product is designed for your phone or tablet, but also works seamlessly on the web. A key feature for those on the go is that the phone and tablet apps will continue to work even without an Internet connection, so if you travel for work a lot, you can continue working even during wifi-less flights.
Dropbox — If your business doesn’t do much with documents or you prefer working with documents on your hard drive, you should look into a cloud storage solution so you can easily share and access files from anywhere.
4. Stay in Touch with Your Team
In addition to email, it’s often important to be able to communicate more quickly or personally with your team. Chat and video chat apps are integral to communications when collaborating remotely.
Slack — Lets you create different channels (chat rooms). You can create a channel for each team or project you have and invite the relevant people. They also integrate with other apps and tools. For example, with their Twitter integration, you can automatically import tweets that mention your business or product, so you don’t need to constantly check Twitter for new updates.
Their desktop and mobile apps work really well and make it easy to stay in touch. And better yet, you can use it free with as many users you want. There are some limitations with the free version (for example, their search feature is limited to the most recent 10,000 messages), but that may not be an issue.
Google Hangouts — Works pretty well for video chat, especially when you need to video chat between 3 or more people. It works as well with Google Apps for Work and personal Google+ accounts, so it basically is a free service you can take advantage of.
5. Keep an Eye On Your Finances
Apart from the time you put into your business, the money that fuels your work is perhaps the most crucial element of your business. If your banking app allows for alerts, be sure to set those at anytime of the year, but especially when you’re away for the holidays.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on your business credit. Credit reports in general are prone to theft and fraud, and business credit reports are no exception. You can keep an eye on your business credit score with Nav
6. Enjoy Yourself
You work hard to keep your business running, you’re busy. While your role in your business will require that you keep at least one eye on things, don’t forget to give yourself time to relax and enjoy time away. You’ve earned it.
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