Businesses large and small are continuing to embrace the remote workplace - even startups are getting on board. Gallup's State of the American Workplace reveals that roughly 39% of companies allow some employees to work remotely.
What's even more interesting is that the survey revealed remote workers tend to log more hours than their in-office counterparts and tend to be slightly more engaged. Remote work also forces you to step up your game with communication, because a lot more of what you have to say is done in writing.
But if you're managing a remote team, how can you really be sure everyone is on task, staying productive, and collaborating appropriately? There are a variety of online tools that can help you keep your team humming along daily.
Asana is a straightforward cloud-based tool for communicating with your team without relying on hundreds of convoluted email threads. This service includes task management as well as conversation tracking, team assignments, and project archives.
You can trial the task system for free, or upgrade to premium services for a more robust experience. Even the team at Asana uses Asana. "I knew we were onto something when our system started being used by everyone in the company," says Dustin Moskovitz, who co-founded Facebook and later co-founded Asana in 2008.
"I could see people get excited about it by walking around the office. It felt similar to the moment before I decided to drop out of Harvard to start Facebook - I noticed that four out of five people on campus were on Facebook. It was the same here. Every desk I walked by, I would see our tool up on screens."
2. When I Work
When I Work is a great application to help with tracking employee hours and scheduling. With the mobile app, employees can punch the clock wherever they are. For remote teams, it's the perfect tool to improve communication, eliminate excuses, boost accountability, and let you focus on growing your business.
There are also plans to continue growing the platform into a more robust resource management tool. "We are going to look at what we can do, and the companies we can work with, from a talent-management and training aspect, too," says CTO Dan Olfelt. "We could transform the way they work and interact with technology."
This online tool makes it easy for your team to provide daily updates by replying to an email at the end of each work day that includes a list of their activities. The next morning, you'll receive a report of everyone's workload.
Not only is it great for task tracking, but it also integrates with a variety of other services including Slack (mentioned below). The service is trusted by big-industry names for task tracking, including Shopify, Mozilla, TripAdvisor, and Twitter.
If you need a project management system with a little more functionality than Asana, then Basecamp is a good choice. You can monitor tasks, discussions, documents, scheduling, milestones, collaboration, and more, in a user-friendly dashboard. It's functional at a number of levels.
Owners can stay on top of every project in the business and always see the big picture, what's in progress, what's coming up, and who's in charge of what. Project managers can easily delegate work, set deadlines, review, and evaluate what's left to do. For remote employees, Basecamp includes all the tools they'll need to never miss a deadline again.
A wired team working remotely is likely to have a pretty varied schedule. To ensure that social doesn't get left behind and your content marketing stays on track, you can use Buffer to schedule out posts in advance so they always publish at just the right time.
When you need a reliable online meeting program, there's no shortage of choices, but GoToMeeting is the go-to choice. It's reliable, it has terrific value-added extras, and it makes collaboration easy when an audio or video meeting is required.
When you want to just chat in a less formal environment than a team meeting, Slack is a great option. You can one-on-one chat, group chat, or even break off into multiple channels/environments if your team needs uninterrupted workspace. It's as close as you'll get to a virtual office.
For remote workers, this is a big one, because not everyone performs superbly outside of the social office space. Having an open chat environment where everyone can stay active together fosters a better bond among the group.
Sharing large files doesn't work well over email, so a Dropbox account can make it easy to sync files and collaborate together. It's also a great way to organize work from freelancers and your remote team when they need to submit projects.
With so many cloud-based services and accounts, you'll definitely have to keep track of a ton of login credentials. LastPass keeps everything stored securely to make it far easier for your team - especially new additions to the team - to access the necessary services.
Whenever you need to take notes on something, you should do it in Hackpad. When you have to spec an idea, brainstorm, or flesh out concepts with your team, you should be using this tool. Give your team access to all the Pads so you can comment and collaborate on the fly in the fastest, simplest way possible - no matter where you are.
When it comes to using cloud-based tools to manage a team, make sure everyone is on the same page. As entrepreneur Dan Schawbel recommends, "In order to align your team, everyone must be using the same tools, so make sure that if you decide to use technology as part of your collaboration strategy, it becomes a policy instead of a suggestion."
Choose the right software and get your employees on board, and you'll be well on your way to building a more productive remote team to help grow your business.
Do you work remotely or have remote employees? Tell us about the tools you use for efficiency and productivity in the comments below: