We all have a bit of the control freak in us. And when you’re running a business, it’s hard to relinquish the reins - even when you know you need to ease up
Switch off without stressing out
When you run your own company, holidays can be a tricky business. You need to balance the need to switch off with the need to stay in touch.
Today, it's easier than ever to stay updated. Cloud computing and mobile apps put information at your fingertips, so you can keep a finger on the pulse of your business. You just have to be careful not to get dragged in too far.
To help you stay in touch while you take a break, here are ten useful apps:
1. Trello - for project status updates
Farah Radford of creative marketing agency Digivita uses Trello to stay up to date with what her colleagues are working on. This online project and task management tool gives you a central location to track and store the details of projects.
“I use Trello when I’m abroad,” she explains. “I can easily track the progress of different projects as my team members update the details there. This means I don’t need to send emails to make sure things are going to plan.”
2. WhatsApp - for quick messages
WhatsApp is a massively popular messaging service. People first adopted it as an alternative to sending text messages (it uses a data connection from your smart phone, avoiding text message charges).
The service was bought by Facebook in 2014 and now offers a range of features that are useful for business owners. For instance, you can set up group chats to share important messages and key pieces of information.
Also consider: Telegram, another online messaging service that can help you stay in touch. You can also just use good old-fashioned text messages.
3. Google Drive - to keep documents on hand
“When I’m away from the office, the Google Drive app lets me access any file from anywhere.”
You probably won’t want to make a habit of checking company documents while you’re away, but using Google Drive means you can always get hold of something if you need to.
4. Accounting software - to check your finances
If you only keep an eye on one thing during your holiday, perhaps it should be your company accounts. If you use cloud accounting software to manage your finances, you’ll probably find that your package includes a mobile app.
Jules Quinn runs The TeaShed, which sells interesting teas. “I use Sage One accounting software to stay on top of my invoices and cash from wherever I am. Drawing up invoices and sending them through the app is really efficient.”
“It’s great that other employees and my accountant can check invoices on the go too to ensure we’re a collaborative team. It also means that someone else can access the accounts when I’m out of the office.”
5. Skype - to check in with the office
You can use Skype to make free calls to other Skype users, and to call standard phone numbers at reduced rates.
Skype places calls over your smart phone’s data connection, so if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network then you can call home for a fraction of your network’s roaming charges.
“I have Skype on my phone,” confirms Julie Thompson Dredge from Frame PR. “It allows me to make a quick call back to the office every day or two, just to check in.”
Learn more about using Skype while abroad.
Also consider: Google Hangouts, which lets you make audio, video and group calls with other Hangouts users.
6. Slack - to see what’s happening straightaway
Slack is a team messaging app that gives you an online chat room through which you can communicate. You can also set up ‘channels’ for different topics, share files and search through your past messages.
Slack offers mobile apps for most major devices. Just skimming through the latest messages will give you an overview of what’s been happening in your absence.
“We use Slack for communication internally and with external consultants,” says Nick Katz from Splittable, an app that helps housemates share bills and other costs. “The mobile app is great, so it’s easy to see at a glance what's going on in the office when I’m travelling or on holiday.”
7. Online banking - to manage your transactions
Many major banks now offer mobile apps that work with their internet banking services. This means you can sign in from your smart phone or tablet to check account balances or arrange payments.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need to manage any transactions while you’re away, it’s a good idea to install your bank’s app, just in case. If you require any other items to log in and use certain functions (like your business debit card or a chip and PIN reader), be sure to pack those, too.
8. Hootsuite - to keep an eye on social networks
You might decide that keeping track of social media is a task too far for your holiday. After all, it’s easy to get sucked in to Twitter or Facebook.
However, if there’s nobody you can hand your social operations over to, you might have to sign in while you’re away. In that case, Hootsuite makes it easier, by combining your social accounts in one place, letting you schedule updates and keeping track of where you’ve been mentioned.
9. Pingdom - to make sure your website stays online
Your website will keep working for your business even when you’re not — but only if it’s online and functioning properly.
Pingdom monitors your website for problems. If you use the mobile app, you can get notified in the event of a problem and view details of uptime and outages.
Learn more about monitoring your website for problems.
10. Microsoft Remote Desktop - to use your main computer from afar
Remote desktop services are less important than they used to be, because cloud computing makes it easier to access data anywhere. However, they can still be helpful if you need to access something that’s on your office computer.
When you install Microsoft Remote Desktop onto your mobile device (it’s available for Android, Apple and Windows Mobile), you can control another computer from your mobile device. You’ll see your usual desktop, software and everything.
Remote desktop software isn’t ideal for getting things done while you’re on holiday. But if you absolutely have to access software on your main computer, it’s an effective way to do so. Just remember that the computer you want to access must be switched on.
Do you really need to stay in touch?
Elizabeth Varley is co-founder and CEO of TechHub, the global home for technology entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and collaborate.
As a prominent figure in the startup world, you might expect her to be connected at all times. But, as she explains, that may not always the best course of action:
“I firmly believe that when you’re on holiday, you need to take a proper break. That means stepping away from work completely, so you can relax, recharge and return fully refreshed.”
“If you try and keep in touch while you’re away then it can spoil your holiday and affect your productivity when you get back. I’m strict on this with my own team, so there are no apps that I’d advocate using.”