Telecommuters and remote workers bring a host of benefits to companies – lower real estate expenses and higher productivity levels are just a couple – yet there are challenges that employers face when dealing with off-site employees.
Most remote work challenges arise due to a lack of engagement between those working on-site and those working from home or other remote locales.
With nearly 20-25% of the global workforce presently commuting at least some of the time – 43% of them comprising of U.S. employees – companies are relying more and more on technological solutions to keep their remote workers from feeling forgotten.
Here are four major technological solutions that make it easier for remote workers to engage with management and other on-site employees as if they were actually working from within the office itself:
Email is often times too slow to keep up with the real-time communication needs of remote workers and their respective employers these days.
Luckily, there are great alternatives that help keep the mailbox from being clogged with group conversations.
This group messaging app allows teams to create “channels” which are like real-time chat rooms where they can discuss projects and other relevant topics in real-time.
Remote employees no longer need to keep opening their emails and siphoning through threads to find what they are looking for. They can find and inquire about what they want and need all in one place at the speed of a click through this app.
Sometimes just reading a message is not enough, actual face-to-face engagement is needed between team members to resolve an issue or understand a project more clearly.
This is where video conferencing comes in. Skype is the default option for many, which is not surprising since it has been around for 16 years and is still going strong. Nowadays, Skype has offers features tailored to businesses and remote workers in the form of Skype for Business.
Skype has turned into an all-in-one communication platform that allows remote workers to easily collaborate with their team at the office or with any team member around the globe for that matter.
Fuze operates much in the same way as Skype, however, it is able to work on all desktop, laptop, and mobile devices at the same time giving it more flexibility than other video conferencing platforms.
As with Skype, Fuze also offers an at-office, out-of-office and global outreach among employees, management, and team members but also includes the added benefit of free conferencing as long as there are less than 25 members participating at a single time.
Traditionally, access to company information and data was only possible at the office. Cloud storage and sharing services have made this a thing of the past.
The ability to access company information from remote locations and also upload information into a cloud storage server being used by the company gives remote employees the flexibility and ability to access and share such information from anywhere, at any time, and through any device.
Most of the cloud storage/sharing servers that businesses employ these days are run by cloud service providers. The 3 major ones include OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox.
A file-hosting service that is part of Microsoft 365’s business-driven suite, OneDrive offers big, medium, and small companies with 4 major file-sharing benefits:
- File Security (Secure Socket Layers (SSL) and Data Encryption)
- Remote Access (files and folders can be retrieved, edited, and uploaded from anywhere and from any operating system – Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux)
- Collaborative Editing (multiple users can share, edit, and offer feedback all at once and in real time via the Internet)
- Secure External File Access (OneDrive allows users to share files and folders with external users using several safety features)
Google Drive is actually the predecessor of OneDrive – it was introduced by Google in 2012 – and functions as a cloud storage platform where companies and remote workers can store and share all their files and folders in one central location.
Files which can be stored and shared within the platform include the following:
- Documents (Word, Text, PDF, etc…)
- Slide Presentations
Google Drive, specifically the more advanced version, Google Drive for Work, offers businesses the traditional benefits of the platform plus some added bells and whistles to better support remote working capabilities. Some of these features include:
- Unlimited Storage
- Collaboration (24/7 remote access capabilities offered to multiple users in real time from any device that can access the Internet)
- Customization Features (includes visual alterations)
- Admin Security Features (ability to edit, share, upload, and download files by authorized personnel, which can be monitored by management in real time)
This cloud storage system is ideal for remote workers who need to share large files with their home office and respective team members.
Dropbox for Business offers even more features than its basic platform. These features are as follows:
- File Recovery
- Flexible Storage Plans
- Team Management Options
- Desktop Syncing
- Admin Dashboard (Management Monitor)
- File Transfer Tools
- Security Features (Wiping Stolen or Lost Files)
- 3rd-Party App Integrations
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One of the biggest challenges with working from home or away from the office is visibility – the ability to actually see what is being done on a project in real time.
Project management software has done a great deal to speed up remote workflow by allowing employees at the office and employees working outside of the office to “see” a project’s progress as it happens.
Companies who use project management software are able to complete 83% of their projects early or on time, as well as produce a 15% profit margin on those projects.
Project management software like Asana, Basecamp, and Teamwork Projects allows managers to view their remote workers progress in real time, while also giving remote workers the chance to see how their work is affecting the project as a whole.
This web app helps teams manage, organize and track their work from remote locations. Originally, the app was designed to help team members at Facebook to improve their productivity.
It is an organized platform where emails, tickets, files, etc… can be stored all in one place for easy access. It has superb visual aids – separates different stages of a project into easy-to-read templates and formats.
The timeline structure and calendar help with an overview of different deadlines for different stages of a project to keep everyone in sync and on track, and tracking helps monitor how each part of the project is progressing in real time.
This project management tool operates in real-time and helps team members keep track of priorities and stay on task. Basecamp’s interface is easy-to-use and has intuitive features pre-programmed into it which makes it easier for both office and home workers to collaborate on.
Basecamp is a good option for those searching for a tool that has:
- Deadline Features (Due Dates)
Teamwork Projects was designed for larger organizations and therefore is a bit more complex than the other two project management solutions. It has most of the same tracking, deadline, and communication capabilities as Asana and Basecamp but has more in-depth charts and reporting features.
Teamwork also splits its project management features into two distinct categories:
- Marketing Team (task assignments, communication, and tracking progress)
- Enterprising Team (security, training, and support)
Businesses often find that they lack the proper tools to keep track of their remote workers, especially when it comes to keeping an eye on the more mundane tasks that are often not a part of a specific project.
Likewise, remote employees find it beneficial to be able to report what they are working on a regular basis as it makes them feel more accountable for the work they do and helps them to stay focused and motivated on their day-to-day work activities.
Timely is one of the simplest time-monitoring apps available on the market today. Being simple does not mean less effective, however, for this app is a one-stop-shop when it comes to managing efficiency, productivity, and profitability. It’s a good choice to get you started.
Many business professionals agree that TimeDoctor has everything that is needed for monitoring remote employees. One particular characteristic of TimeDoctor that makes it stand out from the rest is the ability to customize each of its features to each individual remote employee.
It can track time, breaks, attendance, monitor chats, web, and apps used, and even provide webcam shots and screenshots.
HiveDesk has tracked over 1 million hours for their clients thus far, so they know a thing or two about remote time tracking. Three of their main features include random screen samples, automated check-in, and check-out functions, and easy-to-use time sheets, with other notable features being time reviews and activity reports and graphs.
From cloud-based storage platforms to real-time tracking apps, technological solutions for monitoring, collaborating, and sharing information with remote workers have helped both management and remote staff work together as if they were doing so in the same office.