Distributed teams, in which employees and contractors are based at home offices throughout the United States or even the world, are becoming increasingly common: Successful companies making use of a virtual workforce include Automatic, makers of the popular WordPress content management platform.
There are many benefits to using a virtual team: You have the ability to recruit talent from anywhere in the country; you can save money by avoiding rent for a physical office; and many employees find that telecommuting offers a better work-life balance. However, it can be challenging to properly manage a remote workforce when you can’t see or meet with employees regularly. To keep things going smoothly, you’ll need to make use of software tools to stay on top of projects and communicate with staff.
Some of the most popular and highly regarded software tools that can assist with virtual workforce management are:
Skype – This popular video, audio, and chat VOIP service provides the ability to communicate with anyone in the world online for free, or at minimal cost if dialing another party’s landline. Skype is an ideal tool for businesses, as it allows multiple people to join chats or calls, and it’s possible to send files directly through the chat, enabling real-time feedback. Larger companies may wish to purchase a Skype Business account, which enables group video chats as well as one-on-one conferences.
Basecamp – This simple project management tool allows your company to set up internal groups for setting project milestones, in which your team can easily upload files and discuss projects. You can also share files and discussion threads with your clients, so the tool can be used to manage every stage of the collaboration and easily track progress.
Toggl – If many of your employees are working on an hourly rate, it can be difficult to keep track of their hours when you’re not supervising them directly. Toggl is a simple, stopwatch-based time tracking tool, available for both desktop and mobile, that enables employees and contractors to easily track their time switching between tasks with the click of a button. You can then easily take note of how much time is being spent on different tasks and compare your employees’ efficiency. If your business is client-focused, this tool can also help you easily monitor how much of your company’s work is billable to each client, versus time spent on internal projects.
Dropbox– When your staff is working all over the country or all over the world, it’s important to create a repository of company assets that can be accessed from anywhere, rather than only from the company’s headquarters. Cloud-based data storage tools like Dropbox for Business enable you and your team to upload any type of file to a secure account, which can be accessed by anyone you’ve granted permission to.
Of course, along with a great set of software tools, it’s important to make sure your team has the right technology to use them—so if you’re hiring employees rather than contractors, make sure to factor in an equipment budget that allows for a good laptop and smart phone for each person, to help them stay connected to your business no matter where they travel.
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Disclaimer: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is a document filing service that provides general information. We cannot render legal or financial advice and your use of this site is subject to additional terms and conditions. HBS is not affiliated with Harvard University.