American business is quickly embracing the remote workplace. By 2014, 10 percent of all workers, from sales assistants to engineers, worked from home. According to a 2014 Stanford study [PDF], allowing employees to work from home increased productivity for one organization by as much as 30 percent, thanks to a reduction of office space, improved employee performance and reduced turnover. But how can you be sure your remote workers are being as productive as possible when you aren’t in their physical location? A variety of online tools are available to help you not only ensure your telecommuting employees are working when they say they are, but also help them reach their top performance levels.
If you need to manage projects and communicate with your team without relying on hundreds of emails, Asana may be the right tool for you. The cloud service helps you manage tasks and track conversations with remote employees. Online conversations are sorted by task, and tasks are organized by project. With less time spent sorting email, the more time you and your team will have to get work done. You can try Asana for free, and, if you like it, upgrade to the paid service starting at $21 per month.
With Trello‘s help, you won’t need to keep track of lengthy email threads or hope that team members update tracking spreadsheets. The web tool uses a “card system” to help you and your team stay organized by creating task lists you can update any time. As tasks are completed, cards can be dragged and dropped between different lists, updating their progress. To reprioritize tasks, just reorder the lists. While the basic tool is free for anyone, Trello’s Business Class tools give you even more control over your boards and start at just $5 per user per month, or $45 per user annually.
3. Google+ Hangouts
Google+ Hangouts allows you to hold meetings with as many as 10 people with a Google+ account, and it’s absolutely free. Unlike other tools such as Apple’s Facetime, Google+ Hangouts allow people to conference using devices running on Apple, Android, or Windows operating systems, so your entire team can participate anytime from anywhere.
If you want to track remote employees’ productivity, Hivedesk can help. Each day, workers can check in, and the program tracks their time, automatically completes weekly time sheets, and even snaps random screenshots so you can see if the’re truly on task. After a 14-day free trial, you an keep using Hivedesk starting at $15 each month.
Freckle runs in your web browser, so there’s no need to install software, and it not only tracks remote workers’ time, but it also helps you track unlimited projects, create invoices, and track expenses. Freckle offers a 14-day free trial and costs $49 a month thereafter.
Another time-tracking service, Worksnaps offers extra details for business owners who want a better way to track remote workers’ productivity. The online tool not only takes a screenshot every 10 minutes, but it also logs keyboard strokes and mouse movements. Worksnaps catalogs the applications employees use, so you’ll know just how long they spent working in an Excel spreadsheet or reviewing a Word document. After a 30-day free trial, Worksnaps plans plans start at $20 a month.
Another way to to track remote workers’ productivity levels is with MySammy. Instead of tracking an employee’s every movement, this web tool displays a bar graph that shows active time in green and nonproductive time in red. The business owner or project manager gets to determine what applications are productive or not. Try MySammy free for 30 days. After that, plans start at $7 per month per user.
This online tool with a grammatically incorrect name allows you to see daily updates of your remote employees’ activity. Workers simply reply to an evening email each day, listing their activities for that day. The next morning, the you receives a report of everyone’s work. The best part? IDoneThis costs just $5 a month.
Web-based tool WORKetc combines systems to help you manage projects, billing, sales, support, and even employee collaboration. Not only can you manage remote employees with WORKetc, but you can also manage your entire business from home, at the office or on the road. After a 14-day free trial, you can sign up starting at $78 a month.
The venerable Basecamp can help you keep your team’s tasks and client projects organized and on track. You can use it to monitor project discussions, tasks, documents, scheduling, and other milestones in a user-friendly format for $25 a month after a 60-day free trial.
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