To remain relevant in today’s digital information and marketing economy, you likely rely on people who don’t come into the office every day. In the past, people came to work, put in about forty hours at their desk, and then checked out for another weekend. That old pattern is getting less common. As a boss or manager of contributors, you’ll need to know the best tools for remote teamwork.
The Workplace is Changing
Younger generations of workers have not fallen into the patterns of the 9-5, 40-hour, in-office workweek. It isn’t just younger workers that have shifted the way they work today, but they are less likely to have ever worked that way before.
There are many reasons employment patterns are changing. Laws, benefits, and taxes incentivize businesses to maintain fewer people who qualify for full-time benefits. To make ends meet, or to take greater advantage of the hours of the day, workers are embracing the “gig economy.” They find success by working many smaller jobs. A modern career might include a portfolio of different income sources from freelance work, to splitting working for a boss with managing one’s own “side hustle.”
Great digital tools make it easier to stay in contact, more workers today skip the commute and work from home.
A Wide Array of Remote Teamwork Tools
There are many great tools for remote teamwork available today. It is in your interest to carefully select which tools to use and to get your team into a good rhythm using them. Once you establish the workflow, it will feel like you are all working together even if you’re hundreds of miles apart.
Many of us are information workers to some degree. Information and the nature of our work take on many forms. At the heart of a good remote teamwork portfolio of tools is a good platform for communicating and sharing documents.
Email, chat and document sharing must work seamlessly. You could call this the nervous system of your team. Google Docs and Microsoft Office stand out as well known tools. You can use these along with Dropbox if you need to store digital files for the team to access. If you need your team on a unified platform, these can supply a branded email address so everyone who communicates outside the company will have you company’s domain in their addresss.
Video Conferencing, Telephone and VOIP
Email doesn’t always allow for fluid, efficient conversations. Sometimes you need to talk live with one another. Facetime and live discussions with your team are very important to a remote team. Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Skype for Business, Lync, etc. allow you to talk live, by voice or on video.
You might share folders or documents in the cloud for teammates to add thoughts and record findings. You could achieve this with a few of the above options. Many overlap as each software company competes to be your one-stop-shop. Check out Evernote of you just need to scratch ideas into a common space for future reference.
For team brainstorming, you might elect one member to track the discussion using a mind mapping tool. These help you capture divergent thoughts as they come up. Then you can visualize and prune from a big picture level afterward. Mindmeister and Freemind are two good examples.
Scheduling and Tracking Assignments and Progress
Several richly featured tools act as digital project managers for your team. You assign work to specific contributors, provide notes, then move the projects through your team as they get closer to delivery. Many of these tools also provide storage for the related documents, or they can link to files in a storage system like Google Docs or Dropbox. Three big names for assignment tracking tools are Trello, Asana, and Basecamp.
Leading Well Remotely
Try to restrain yourself from trying every new tool and exasperating your team every time they have to change gears. Keep it as simple as possible!
It isn’t easy to manage workers remotely. The best bosses will be able to keep up with their employees and also coach them to understand that you have a life and boundaries as well. Here is Forbes offers this list of traits a good leader needs to manage their remote workers. Keeping everyone in the know and feeling good about their participation is very important in this new way of working. Keep progress and enthusiasm up, while minimizing feelings of isolation. Most importantly, find what works for you. You and your team are unique.