Employees who work remotely can be tough for employers to manage, unless they have the right tools.
In 2016, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent time working remotely, according to a New York Times report on a Gallup poll. For a small business owner, there are several benefits to hiring remote workers. Startups can save on office space costs and IT services, and employees with flexible schedules are often happier, which can equal more productive employees. But that doesn't mean there aren't downsides.
Some employees may abuse the right to work remotely, and your house or a coffee shop may prove more distracting than a traditional office environment. Team communication can definitely be a challenge. So it's important for small business owners to consider the different productivity tools that are needed to ensure remote team members are firing on all cylinders.
Slack's dynamic chat platform, which features team huddles, company-wide channels and individual messaging, reflects a communication model that's like an actual office setting. In addition to messaging, Slack offers audio and video calling. Slack is free for small and midsize teams, around $7 per month for larger companies, and roughly $13 per month for advanced features such as single sign-on (SSO).
Asana allows teams to create tasks and projects, track progress, and communicate all through one platform. Through managing various projects, everyone in the company can stay on the same page without constant progress updates. Asana is free for up to 15 members, while the premium version is $10 per month. Asana also offers an enterprise option with such advanced features as heightened security.
Zoom is an app that connects workers through video-based meetings. When you're managing remote employees, face time is crucial in building team chemistry. Zoom offers a variety of plans, ranging from a free service to $15 per month depending on your company's needs.
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Appear.in is another great way to hold video meetings with remote employees. Unlike Zoom, Appear.in is completely online and can be used on any device without registering for an actual account. The free version supports video meetings with up to eight people, and Appear.in offers a premium version that supports up to 12 callers at one time. This tool is ideal for startups and small team meetings.
Basecamp organizes projects and messaging so it's easy for remote employees to track what's going on in the company. The program is ideal for keeping everyone up to date by assigning tasks within each project. Basecamp offers its full service for $99 per month. This is ideal for larger businesses, as there is no price bump for the number of users included.
Trello features an interactive to-do list. Employees can create tasks on cards, comment on them and move the tasks to different channels to indicate progress on a company board. This tool is ideal for managing remote employees who are all working on several different projects at one time. The best part about Trello is that it's free.
When I Work
When I Work provides business owners with a simple way to create online schedules and track employee work hours. Using this app, employees can clock in and out and track their schedules on a master schedule. When I Work is free for up to 75 employees.
Figure It Out
This Chrome extension is a great tool for managing employees across different time zones. Once installed, the program displays selected time zones on your browser's homepage so you can schedule meetings, conference calls or deadlines for remote workers across the globe. Business owners who don't use Google Chrome can access a similar service at EveryTimeZone.com.
Quip integrates documents, spreadsheets and messaging so that team members are always communicating and collaborating in one distinct place. It's ideal for businesses looking to communicate and build on specific projects without using multiple platforms. Quip is available for $30 per month for a team of five, with another $12 for each additional member.
Dropbox Business provides all the great services of Dropbox with heightened security features. This allows business owners to store sensitive company and employee information in the cloud while also using a great file-sharing system. Dropbox Business offers a few plans, ranging from $12.50 per month to $20 per month depending on how much space you need.