Did you know that the percentage of telecommuters is expected to rise to nearly 43%?
The percentage isn’t entirely astonishing.
When you think about it, it’s actually surprising this trend toward hybrid and fully remote workplaces didn’t increase sooner. The technology is in place and, in many cases, has been for quite some time now.
So, now we’re dealing with all sorts of different issues that never existed before – like how to manage our workforces scattered across the country, or even internationally without completely losing our minds.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of tools and applications to ease the process and make mobile workforces a success. Here are a few recommended tools (all of which can be free) that can help you better manage and collaborate with your remote team.
Let’s be honest, email is antiquated. Inboxes are downtrodden with spam messages, there’s no easy search functionality, and it’s hard to collaborate real time within an “email dialogue”. Slack is solving all sorts of problems for remote teams that are looking for an easy, brainless way to communicate real time with one another. Skip the phone, and delete your draft emails because sending a Slack message to your team is significantly quicker and more effective than the alternatives. Slack allows you to send private direct messages to individual team members, to start private slack channels with a number of different team members, or even to open public, company-wide channels for anyone to participate in. Slack is changing the way we communicate at work and it’s made remote relationships that much easier to maintain.
2. Google Calendar
Perhaps your company already utilizes the G-Suite, but are you really using all the capabilities? Are you enforcing expectations behind how to use and manage your calendars? Remote teams don’t have the luxury of shouting over the cubes to see who’s in and who’s out to lunch so maintaining a central calendar is an absolute necessity. Google Calendar provides the robust platform to maintain your calendar and also to view that of your team members without needing to send silly email messages about scheduling.
We’re beginning to move beyond traditional whiteboarding practices and it’s about time. 21st century white boards are called Trello boards. Trello is an incredibly robust (and free) task and project management tool that allows you to manage just about anything you can think of on the cloud. If you’re looking for a simple way to manage your backlog of blogs, or even just to keep track of your to-do list for the next big project, Trello is probably an ideal solution for you. Customize your boards and collaborate with team members easily on the incredibly intuitive Trello interface.
4. Google Drive
One of the major pitfalls that remote teams deal with is a failure to store all of their documentation and files in one place. Companies that are looking to find success working remotely would do well to decide on a central file sharing/storage tool and stick with it. For many companies, Google Drive does the trick. Once you decide on the tool, load everything relevant into it, and train your staff on how to use it. Create a naming scheme for files, and enforce it. When your entire team names everything the same way and stores all files properly in the central location, they’ll waste less time searching for what they need – it’s a win/win for everyone.
Remote teams still need some face-to-face human interaction every now and again. Try not to undervalue the importance of actually seeing, firsthand, the people you work for, the people who work for you, and the people you work with on a daily basis as coworkers. Use a tool like Zoom to video chat with your teams. If your team isn’t too big, you might even benefit from a monthly company-wide video call. If that’s not possible, at least try and meet with your direct team biweekly. As happy as your remote teams might be about their work-from-home arrangement, fostering the sense of community through video chatting can go a long way to retaining your staff and avoiding the loneliness that can sometimes percolate amongst remote workers.
Going remote is the way to go these days even if it’s a hybrid arrangement. Teams that implement a remote agreement enjoy less overhead costs, greater employee productivity, less distractions throughout the day, and better talent all around. But the benefits of a remote workforce are only reaped if businesses go through the motions of implementing the right tools and processes to enable a successful remote work relationship.
So, moral of the story, spend time with your teams to discuss the right tools for you and then spend even more time, once you’ve decided, on creating guidelines and expectations as to how those tools should be used and supported company-wide.
Chuck Fried is the president and CEO of TxMQ – an IBM Business Premier Partner and enterprise solutions provider supporting customers in the US and Canada since 1979. He is also a frequent writer, blogger at ChuckFried.com, dad, husband, and much more.