There are a lot of advantages to hiring a remote team — cost savings, happier employees, and increased productivity, to name a few. But there are unique difficulties, too. Working together is different when you’re not all in the same room, and communication, collaboration, and accountability are a common challenge for remote teams.
Luckily, as remote work has surged in popularity, so have apps and tools to help manage remote teams. If your business is getting started with remote employees, these are the apps to add to your toolkit.
1. Time-tracking tools
Overall, remote workers are more productive and call off less often than in-office employees. However, that doesn’t mean remote teams are immune to slacking. When employees are out of sight, it’s harder to know who is pulling their weight and who isn’t, but time-tracking tools like Toggl and TimeDoctor solve this problem by tracking hours worked and analyzing productivity.
2. Password managers
When employees work from anywhere, so do their devices. While convenient, this puts your business’s data security at risk. Password-management tools like LastPass and Dashlane are a must for enforcing a password policy that requires strong passwords and frequent password changes.
3. Knowledge-sharing platforms
Remote teams are at risk of communication overload due to frequent back-and-forth questions. A centralized knowledge base lets remote employees answer their own questions so that communication between team members is limited to the important stuff. A knowledge-sharing platform is also an effective way to establish policies and procedures that keep your team aligned.
4. Meeting tools
Remote teams still need face-to-face communication for the big stuff. When getting the whole team in the office is impractical, use video-conferencing tools. Skype is still a favorite, but businesses using Google apps may prefer Hangouts.
Of course, getting everyone on a call at the same time isn’t always possible, especially if your team spans several time zones. In these cases, you’ll want an automatic note-taking tool to transcribe meetings so they can be shared with remote employees and freelancers. With prices starting at 10 cents a minute, these tools offer big cost savings over manual note-taking. When using an automated transcription service, accuracy will depend on audio quality, so make sure to reduce background noise as much as possible.
5. Chat apps
If your team uses Slack to communicate, as many do, you’ll want to choose a video-conferencing tool that integrates with the chat app. Luckily, many of the most popular video chat tools do, including Skype, Hangouts, and Zoom. In fact, it’s integrations like these that make Slack such a popular tool for remote team communication. In addition to video conferencing, the chat tool integrates with calendar, file-sharing, time-tracking, and project-management apps, among others.
6. A virtual assistant
As useful as these tools are, it’s still a lot of work managing a remote team. If scheduling meetings, distributing call notes, and fielding questions is taking your attention away from growing your business, consider hiring virtual assistant freelancers to your team. Virtual assistants are a natural fit for distributed teams and an affordable alternative to an in-house administrative assistant. As with other remote hires, you’ll want to find a virtual assistant with experience working remotely.
7. The right remote employees
Working effectively with remote employees requires more than the right tools. You also need the right people on your team.
In addition to being good at their job, remote employees need great communication and organizational skills and self-discipline to stay productive sans micromanagement. These qualities are hard to glean from a resume or interview, so many companies prefer to hire candidates with a history of remote work. Not only have these candidates proven their ability to work remotely, they’re also more likely to know the most popular remote team management tools. Still, you may want a probationary period or paid work trial to ensure a candidate is a good fit before committing.
Don’t let the challenges of managing remote employees scare you away from adding virtual employees to your team. With the right tools, managing remote employees isn’t any harder than managing an in-office team, and it comes with massive benefits for your business.
Tina stays busy as a life coach and works hard to help herself and her clients achieve a healthy work-life balance.