5 Smart Tools to Manage Your Remote Workforce
BY: TRACY VIDES ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2015
If you go by the numbers from Global Workplace Analytics, at least 2.6% of the American workforce works from home over 50% of the time. That makes it 3.3 million employees who need to be managed by supervisors that don’t see them, spend time under the same roof with them or even share the same commute as they do. Add to this scenario the possibility that these employees are spread across the length and breadth of the country, straddling different time zones, and you have an even bigger problem on your hands.
However, if there ever was a time to work remotely, this is it. With the slew of tools and technology applications that modern companies have at their fingertips, managing a thriving and productive workforce that works remotely is no big deal. Here’s my pick of the five best tools for a happy and productive remote workforce.
Remote working does not mean team members should be left out of the loop. A project that is being handled by multiple members of a team ought to have inputs from each member equally. A project management and collaboration tool like Wrike does just that. It helps team members share, discuss and co-create content without geographical distances making any difference to the process. It allows users to see what other team members are accomplishing and pace their own work accordingly. Files of all kinds for a given project can be stored in Wrike with ease. Get your team to onboard Wrike and eliminate accountability gaps, missing data or even missed deadlines.
2. Rescue Time
Anyone who has ever worked from home knows how big a time-suck the internet can be. From doing ‘research’ on Google, to spending hours updating your Facebook profile or shopping online, each of these activities takes away from productive time spent doing real work.
Rescue Time as its name suggests helps ‘rescue’ precious time from things on a computer or mobile phone that pull your employees away from what they ought to be doing. Once you sign up for it, Rescue Time quietly works in the background of your computer and tells you exactly how much time you spend on each website or app. It allows you to label ‘time waster’ websites and block them for fixed periods of time e.g. your team members’ local work hours. Rescue Time even takes sneaky screenshots of your team member’s screen at random intervals and shares it with you so you know exactly what they were working on during office hours. Its dashboard even offers a snapshot of all the accomplishments your employees made during the day – a quick and painless way to assess their productivity.
It’s so easy to simply walk up to a coworker’s desk and ask them about something urgent related to your project and get the bottleneck out of the way in minutes. Unfortunately, your remote employees don’t have the luxury of walking up to their coworkers’ desks and clarifying pressing doubts. That’s where you need to step in and introduce systems that help the entire team communicate with each other instantaneously – like HipChat.
HipChat is an instant messaging tool for the workplace that shrinks distances in seconds. It combines the serious tasks of storing and retrieving key elements of conversations with the playfulness of emojis and animated GIFs. It not only offers text messaging, but also supports video chats and screen sharing between members. Like Twitter you can call attention to individual team members using @mentions. The best part? It’s free.
One would imagine a remote employee typically hunched over their bed in their pajamas replying to official communication. Or tossing together a fancy salad in the kitchen while attending that conference call with the rest of the team. However, there also exists a breed of remote workers who find better productivity outside their homes than inside. These are people whom you find tapping away furiously at their keyboards in coffee shops, libraries or bookstores.
WorkFrom is aimed at your nomadic employees who hunt for alternative work locations other than their homes. It is a community of freelance or remote working professionals who pool in their resources and their information about the best, non-intrusive and infrastructure-wise sound places to work from across a slew of cities in the world. From shared office spaces to hotel lobbies, there are a variety of locations waiting to be picked on this hugely useful site.
With email hacking, financial data theft and identity theft becoming an everyday affair these days, the focus in most workplaces is squarely on securing all their data. Companies install firewalls and anti-viruses so no one or nothing can be disrupted and work as usual never gets affected. This is not an option for remote employees. All they have is the cloud and their own VPNs or home WiFi systems to depend on when they transmit critical data across thousands of miles
One way of combating hacking attempts and safeguarding critical information is using complicated and hard to guess passwords for cloud software and other critical shared software resources. This problem is compounded further with the huge list of tools for which users need to remember to keep the company happy and to get basic work done. A tool like LastPass remembers all your passwords in one place so you have time and energy leftover to focus on fun stuff after working hours.
As the digital economy gets stronger and more pervasive, the phenomenon of workers choosing to or even being forced to work from home is only going to grow. Equip your remote army with the tools they need to make them feel at home and bring them at least virtually closer to the rest of your team. Have any secret weapons in remote team management that you use yourself? Share your thoughts and spread the love!
Image via Shutterstock