If you’re already working with a remote team, you’ve already gained a significant advantage over your competition. Remote employees come with all sorts of benefits, such as reducing employee stress or increasing overall company productivity. Remote work, however, isn’t all flowers and rainbows. Managing a remote team can be tough, more so than with a real-life team.
In an office environment, for example, you could just drop by Dave’s cubicle and ask him for that new report due today. With a remote team, though, dropping by Dave’s cubicle might mean a trans-Atlantic flight & 20+ hours wasted. To get the most out of your remote team (and avoid unnecessary flights), you’ll need to figure out how to digitize every aspect of a day-to-day office life.
Here’s the complete list of tools you’d use for each, divided by their respective function…
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In any remote team, it’s essential to establish an easy means of communication between your employees. Whether it’s a quick direct message or a face-to-face meeting, these tools help get the job done.
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Settling for basic and cheap project or task management tools is the biggest mistake you can ever make. You get what you pay for. If you try to save a cent - you will lose a dollar. Wasted time (at $40/hour) is far more expensive than the cost of software. There's a huge difference between process management and project or task management. Processes relieve stress, make things predictable - and help you grow and become efficient. Projects and tasks are just ad-hoc, unpredictable chaos.
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Anyway ... sorry for the interruption! Let's resume the rest of the article.
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For any work environment, a direct messaging tool is a must. With a remote team, you can’t just ask a coworker real quick about that project they’re working on. Slack works as both a chat tool & a replacement for email.
It has pretty much anything to simplify office communication, such as chat, file sharing (and storing), reminder setup, etc. It also allows for 3rd party integrations with other apps, which can allow for additional functionalities such as task management.
While direct messaging can be used for most office communication, it simply can’t replace face-to-face conversations. Skype allows for messaging, voice calls, as well as video calls, making it the perfect tool for online meetings.
In case you don’t want to install a dedicated app for online meetings, then there’s Join.Me. It simplifies online meetings really well – all you have to do to schedule a video call is send someone your link. This is a better choice if you’re working with an external client, and don’t want to ask them to install Skype or some other app.
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Anyway ... we'll continue from where we left off above.
For a real-life project team, there’s a lot of different ways to keep track of everyone’s to-dos. You could have a whiteboard with a list of tasks, for example, or even a dedicated Kanban board. As such, you’ll need something similar to keep track of your remote team’s tasks and projects.
Basecamp is an all-in-one project management tool, offering different functionalities such as task management, calendars, meeting scheduling, and so on. It’s perfect for small-to-medium sized businesses, as its super simple to set up and start using.
The way it works is, you create different projects (can be a one-off project or something you do on the go) and populate them with different tasks. As a given, you can set task ownership, deadlines, etc.
If you’re looking for something that packs a little bit more punch than Basecamp, there’s Asana for project management. It has a bit more functionalities than Basecamp and is geared more towards larger organizations.
In addition to project management, it can be used to store files, communicate with coworkers, create reports, and several other things. Of course, the added functionalities give Asana a steeper learning curve than the alternative tools
Since you can’t be looking over your remote employee’s shoulder, tracking their workflows is the next best thing you could do. The software gives you a dashboard to keep track of all of the remote employees, including how they’re progressing, how far the deadline is, etc.
One popular use-case for workflow management is working with a VA. More often than not, VAs tend to have a list of tasks they complete on a daily basis. To ensure that they don’t miss any important steps, you could create a workflow that’ll enforce the entire process.
If a full-fledged project management software isn’t up your alley, Trello swoops in to save the day. It’s a minimalistic to-do app based on the Kanban methodology. You create a separate board for each project team and populate it with different to-dos on different stages of completion. If you’re just starting out as a remote team, this might be the best & easiest tool out of the three.
Since you can’t be on 4 different continents at once, you really can’t be sure what your employees are doing. They could be working hard to meet that important deadline tomorrow, or they could be playing with their cat. Tracking their time & tasks can help clear that up.
If your remote employees are working hourly, a time-tracking tool is essential. Toggl can help do that, as well as several other things. It can provide analytics on hours worked per task, which can help judge your remote employee’s productivity level.
It’s also super convenient to use, to boot, as you can use it both online and as a native app for both iOS and Windows.
In an office environment, a supervisor looking over an employee’s shoulder ensures that they’re actually being productive. A pet cat in the remote employee’s home-office just doesn’t seem to cut it as much.
To ensure that you’re employees are actually working on what they’re supposed to (and aren’t being side-tracked by Facebook), TimeDoctor keeps track of their work. It helps measure activity levels (keys pressed per minute), as well as taking periodic screenshots of the employee’s screen.
One of the biggest problems with running a remote team is that company culture takes a major hit.
In an office, it’s easy to recognize and reward one’s performance. You also tend to celebrate each other’s birthdays, have a teambuilding here and there, etc. With a remote team, though, it might seem that the employee’s only coworker is their laptop. These tools help solve that.
Unless your employee achievements are rewarded, they tend to get demotivated. What’s the point in putting in your best, unless it’s recognized by your employers?
WooBoard allows you to recognize employees for their work, awarding them “Woo Points.” This helps create a livelier online workplace, keeping everyone engaged with their work. Once your employees reach certain point milestones, you could reward them with different prizes, whether it’s cash or physical gifts.
Professional achievement is only one part of employee recognition. They also want to feel like a part of something, as well as being appreciated as individuals and not just as employees.
Awesome Boss helps you be, well, an awesome boss. It has a bunch of awesome functionalities, such as event tracking (tracking employee birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) or employee profiles (can’t remember what Dave from Accounting is into? Now you will!).
Anything that doesn’t really have its own category goes here. Namely…
An on-site company tends to have its own network of computers, with all the security benefits that come with it. For a remote team, though, you’d need an online alternative. Today, however, filesharing software is very common. Some of our favorites include Google Drive and DropBox. Both companies allow for cloud storage with maximum security and safety for your files.
Filesharing software is also extremely cheap, to boot. For Drive, it starts off free for up to 15 Gigabytes, ranging up to 30 TB for $400 per month.
As a remote company, you’ll be using a lot of different tools. In addition to all the basic collaboration software we mentioned, there are all the tools you’d need for your industry or field.
So, how do you ensure that your employees remember ALL of the passwords, without exposing the company to a risk of cyber threats? They could put them in a text file, along with the corresponding software name, for example. But that, as a given, would obviously compromise security.
Login-Sharing tools such as LastPass can make sharing login credentials significantly easier. It allows you to log in to whichever software using just a single click. It’s also completely safe, to boot, as the company uses state of the art encryption to protect your passwords.
These are just some of our favorite tools for managing a remote team. Have you used any that didn’t make the list? Maybe a couple of your must-have favorites? Let us know down in the comments!