Being connected is more than a voice on the telephone. Being connected can also mean sharing a vision, sharing control, and chatting. The right tool can get everybody on the same page, when they’re not in the same room, instantly. My virtual success happiness factor went up a notch after I mastered several virtual tools.
Technology is the great equalizer. It’s cheap, pervasive, and transforms today’s work environment. Software that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars a year is now often cheap or free, which is fueling a surge in startups.
Use technology to make connections, share expertise, collaborate, and communicate. Some employers and clients provide a virtual work support structure. Other companies might require that you introduce your own mobile work resources. Here are some favorites that my friend and Virtual Success presentation partner Ann Grove and I are pleased to recommend:
Whether you consider Google your best friend or your Big Brother, it has awesome tools for virtual workers who need to build their own work infrastructure.
At www.google.com, click More and then click Even more to see tools including most of the following:
- Calendars: You can add the calendars for each country that comprises your team to recognize global holidays. Add a team calendar for vacation days.
- Gmail: I adore my free Gmail account, which I have had for many years. I can use google search for all of my mail. I never misplace an email message. It’s easy to keep contacts current. (Especially handy when integrated with a Droid smartphone.)
- Documents: Google documents live “in the cloud” which means others can view and edit them simultaneously. Great for collaborative writing and editing. Note: Use of styles is very limited.
- Sites: Create and manage your own websites. I have a google site for my personal travel (because I am an intrepid adventurer and because the site privacy enables to share my plans appropriately). I also have google sites for STC chapter activities and other collaborative activities.
- Books: Preview an excerpt or read for free from thousands of books. Searches full text of over 15 million digitized books.
- Scholar: Academic research tool.
- Translate: Translate into other languages or back from other languages, but it isn’t perfect. A colleague of Ann’s translated from English to Italian something like “How are you” and because she could read Italian, she understood that the translated text actually said “Good morning, princess.”
- Google Talk: A downloadable text and voice chat application http://www.google.com/talk/about.html. Keep your online status current. Make domestic phone calls at no cost. I use Google Talk when my cell phone is out of batteries or has bad service.
- gimp: Free image editor software, an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. http://www.gimp.org/
- inkscape: Free vector graphics editor, an alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
- Screen Hunter: Free screen capture software, an alternative to SnagIt and HyperSnap. http://wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter_free.htm
Conference call tools
Conference call tools that let you schedule and record conference calls.
- AccuConference.com: http://www.accuconference.com/
- FreeConference.com: http://www.freeconference.com/
- FreeScreenSharing.com: http://www.freescreensharing.com/ provides a useful static URL and dial-in number
- Skype: Free video and voice conferencing from your laptop or telephone. http://www.skype.com/
Listing this tool twice, because this conference call tool is also an excellent new (and free!) meeting dashboard at http://www.freescreensharing.com/ that allows you to host an online meeting and share your screen with up to 96 participants. Your meeting URL and dial-in details are static, which makes advance and repeat scheduling a snap.
File sharing tools
File sharing sites enable you to securely distribute and manage large files.
- YouSendIt: Free for a single user, up to 100 MB maximum file size. http://www.yousendit.com/ https://www.yousendit.com/
- SendSpace: http://www.sendspace.com/
- Megaupload: http://megaupload.com/
- box.net: http://box.net/
Other nifty virtual work tools
- Doodle: Online scheduling tool. Can be integrated with Google calendars and gmail. http://www.doodle.com/. Especially useful for low tech participants, because invited participants do not have to create an account.
- Speed Test: Test your upload and download speed on your internet connection. http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/