Today’s workforce is more mobile than it has ever been, with at least 63 percent of the workforce expected to be working remotely by 2018, according to Telework Research Network.
The face of telecommuting is changing too: telecommuting is not just done by a 20-something working from the nearest coffee shop or a mother with young children working part-time from home.
In fact, the typical telecommuter is a “49-year-old college graduate—man or woman—who earns about $58,000 a year and belongs to a company with more than 100 employees,” according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, as reported by the New York Times.
As the telecommuting movement grows, enterprises of all sizes need to not only design work practices that support remote workers, but also provide supportive technology solutions. Sure, we may not miss our annoying co-worker in the next cubicle complaining about someone stealing his food from the break room fridge. But when we have a project problem, the inability to track someone down in the office for an immediate solution can hinder productivity and lead to unnecessary communication breakdowns.
Rather than investing in expensive, top-down software solutions, businesses are turning to flexible, web-based tech tools for streamlining common business problems. Could your company benefit from these tech solutions?
The problem: A lack of centralized task management means your remote workers are repeating each other’s work while urgent to-do items slip through the cracks.
The solution: Get everyone on the same page with web-based project management.
Web-based project management software is an absolute must for businesses with teams of remote workers or freelancers. I like Redbooth for managing freelance teams. The platform includes virtual workspaces where team members can connect via HD video to remotely share ideas and brainstorm; that’s a big plus for creative project development.
If your to-do lists are spiraling out of control, I recommend Producteev, which features a real-time workspace that functions like a to-do list for assigning tasks, running status reports and tracking deadlines. If project task management has taken over your email, try Asana, which tracks conversations with member all in one place so actionable tasks can instantly be added to the project list.
The problem: With the team leader in Seattle and your office in Boston, it’s impossible to get everyone in the same place for a meeting.
The solution: Save on expensive airfare and schedule weekly virtual conferences.
Image via GoToMeeting
While GoToMeeting has long dominated the virtual meeting space, Adobe Connect, join.me and Cisco’s WebEx are both popular alternatives. For a completely free option, try Google Hangouts or Skype, although as a word of caution, both can sometimes be a bit wonky with connectivity and won’t include the option for screen sharing that you get with GoToMeeting and join.me.
The problem: Your client sent everything in an un-editable PDF and can’t find the original file.
The solution: Convert the PDF to an Excel or Word document.
Image via BlueFox
If you have a complicated PDF and need to make edits before re-using it, it’s natural to feel frustrated by the PDF’s non-edibility. A host of free and low-cost PDF converters can batch convert PDF files to word documents, excel files, HTML, JPG and TIFF files. I like Cogniview for complex financials, price lists and inventory lists; BlueFox for general file conversion; and Nitro Software’s PDF Converter for PowerPoint conversion.
Related Article: “Secure Cloud” is No Longer an Oxymoron
The problem: Data storage has become a nightmare.
The solution: Head to the cloud.
If you’re not already using cloud storage, now’s the time to get on the bandwagon. An estimated 65 percent of all global small and medium-sized businesses are adopting cloud services for data storage, according to a 2104 report from Acronis. And with "secure cloud" no longer an oxymoron, 93 percent of US-based small businesses are backing up some or all of their data to the cloud.
OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box are all popular options for small businesses that offer varying amounts of free storage with paid add-on storage options. For a detailed comparison, check out CNet’s recent guide to cloud storage services.
Image via Cnet
Bottom line: The benefits of telecommuting are numerous: increased productivity, reduced turnover rates and improved morale for starters. But in order to maximize these benefits, your business needs a smart strategy in place from day one to resolve common telecommuting tech problems. Whether it’s a unified data storage plan or a fast solution for document conversion troubles, these tech tools will help your business work smarter.