Over the past few months, the world of work has experienced a necessary shift. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, companies around the globe had to move to remote operations — some for the very first time ever.
While the change has not been without its challenges, it has also been a positive development in many ways. Remote work has long been a sought-after perk among employees, who are generally happier and more productive when allowed to telecommute. And once people start working from home, they don’t want to go back: In one survey, 99 percent of remote employees said they want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. It’s little wonder why: Remote work can offer employees better work/life balance, provide a sense of autonomy, and save a great deal of stress (especially when you consider how frustrating the morning commute is for some people).
Yet, as with most things in life worth having, remote work arrangements aren’t simple. They require time to roll out effectively and effort to maintain over the long term. Managers need training on how to best support remote employees, and companies must provide remote workers with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs off site.
If you don’t have the right technology in place, remote work can quickly become an aggravating and isolating experience for employees. So what tools do businesses need to support remote work and manage remote performance effectively? Here are five categories of tech tools that are vital to any remote work initiative:
1. Task Management Software
Whether they’re working remotely or on site, employees can only stay productive if they know what they are doing, what is expected of them, and when their tasks are due. Keeping track of all that information can be difficult, especially for remote employees and their managers. That’s where project and task management software comes in.
Tools like Teamwork allow employees and their managers to set priorities, assign tasks, and establish deadlines. Perhaps most importantly, they also foster accountability by allowing all involved parties to track progress toward tasks together. Ultimately, task management solutions facilitate effective communication and crystal-clear expectations, two vital drivers of success in a remote work environment.
2. Time-Tracking Software
This is an admittedly controversial topic, and many managers believe tracking employees’ time is more harmful than helpful. They argue that time spent on work isn’t as important as the work that is achieved, and therefore companies should monitor goal progression and task completion instead of hours at a desk. Some leaders also worry that mandating time-tracking software indicates a lack of trust in employees, which can ultimately result in decreased productivity and morale.
However, for organizations just getting started with remote work for the first time, time-tracking software can help to smooth the transition by assuring managers that work is being done. Certain tools, like Hubstaff, even take periodic screenshots of employees’ screens, so managers can see what they’re actually up to.
3. Performance Management Software
Performance management needs to be carefully planned when employees are working remotely. Managers need to make a special effort to maintain regular communication, deliver feedback, and check in with employees to ensure they are getting all the support they need.
Tracking the performance of a large virtual team can be a difficult task, especially if you are meeting with your employees on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss performance, as most forward-thinking companies are doing today. To keep on top of performance, progress, and productivity, companies should consider investing in cloud-based performance management software. Such software facilitates remote check-ins, helps track objectives and key results, and monitors individual employee development while also tracking team goals.
Remember, while remote work can offer many benefits, some employees may find it isolating at times. Your performance management system should be designed to support employees of all kinds through the building of relationships and the encouraging of continuous communication.
4. Team Communication Tools
The reality is that communication is very different when your employees work off site. They can’t bond near the water cooler. They can’t simply turn around to ask their colleagues a question or pop by their manager’s office to discuss an issue they may be having.
Most remote teams rely on team communication tools such as Slack to facilitate in-the-moment discussions between colleagues and managers. Many contemporary team communication tools allow for the creation of various channels dedicated to different topics, including informal channels where employees with common interests can socialize virtually with one another. What’s more, with team communication tools, you can spare yourself a lot of unnecessary emails.
While platforms like Slack are great for quick connections, they cannot fully replace face-to-face communication, which fosters relationships and maintains levels of engagement in ways that chat platforms simply cannot. Thats why your team communication tools should also include videoconferencing software like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. These can be especially effective venues for team meetings or one-on-one performance conversations.
5. Cloud Storage and File-Sharing Services
Because your remote team members will be distributed around various locations, you will need a central cloud-based storage solution where employees can easily save and share important files with one another. Google Drive has become a popular solution for this purpose; its functionality that allows multiple employees to work on one document simultaneously makes it an especially powerful collaboration tool.
File-sharing services can prevent a lot of the confusion that arises when many different versions of the same file are flying around. With everything saved and securely stored on the cloud, you can also be sure no important information will be compromised by tech problems on the employee’s end.
Stuart Hearn is the founder and CEO of Clear Review.