Perhaps you hired your first contract worker, or maybe your employees have begun requesting to work remotely. But what does that mean, anyway?
Not quite the same as telecommuting, truely remote teams never or rarely come into the office. Your employees may be located in different cities, states, or even countries. Remote work has numerous benefits — including boosted productivity and a better work-life balance for employees.
Our Remote Work Starter Pack
Thanks to apps and the web, it is easier than ever to manage a remote team without sacrificing time or straining your budget. It fact, many basic tools are free to use.
The biggest part is deciding what you need. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of tools available, and fret over which one is best for your business.
To make things easier, we focused on tools that are easy to use, affordable, and are common enough that your staff may already be familiar with them. From general communication to task management, we have you covered.
1) General Communication
For a small team of 1 to 25 people, Skype is probably the easiest software to get used to. Not only can you have individual chats, but you can also have group chats and share your screen for presentations. Since Skype combines messaging, video chats, and calling, it’s almost indispensable.
The software is also free, and being a dominant force in communication software, it’s available worldwide. And unlike other software, Skype offers gracious limits of how many people can be in a video call and call duration.
While there are alternatives that cover each aspect — like Slack for messaging, and Zoom or Join.me for calls — there are limitations. For example, the free version of Zoom only allows for 40-minute calls.
2) File sharing
File sharing is another big task. Sure, you can message attachments back and forth on Skype or email, but that gets messy — fast.
Even if they don’t, you can send a link to let your team view or edit folders, documents, and other digital assets. Inside the drive, your staff can directly create slideshows, documents, and spreadsheets with a format similar to Microsoft Office.
The best part? Your first 15 GB of storage is free, which is more than enough for most small businesses.
Of course, if you run out of space, you can always upgrade your Google Drive account or shift to a paid Dropbox account, which offers not only more storage but other advanced features like file recovery.
3) Scheduling Calls
We talked about calls on Skype, but how about negotiating when you’ll call? Emails and messages can get lost, but there is a way to directly schedule calls into your calendar.
Calendly is a free platform that allows you to effortlessly schedule calls to check up with your remote employees and contractors. All you need to do is set what times you are available, and send the link to your remote employees, who will select a time that works for them. Once they confirm the appointment, you both will receive an email. Even better, if your account is synced with your calendar, it will automatically be added as an event.
One concern with remote teams is security — especially if you need to share passwords and usernames. One solution is to use a keyword manager like 1password
While it’s not free, 1password allows you to save all of your usernames and passwords and decide who to share them with. In addition to being notified of security breaches, you’ll be able to set permissions to determine who has access to what, and you can store sensitive documents like W-9s without worrying about sending it via email.
5) Task and project management
Project management is a big one for remote teams. After all, you want to be sure each task is finished in a timely manner. For smaller teams, Trello is fairly easy to manage. This software allows you to move project cards like index cards or post-it notes on a virtual board. The task columns are extremely customizable and easy to use.
But if you have large teams and complex tasks, it may be better to shift to Asana, which allows you to break down a task into even smaller parts. The layout resembles a checklist, so it’s easy to use. And like Trello, you can attach finished documents and images to each task.
Both platforms have free versions, but if you want to collaborate with more than 15 team members on Asana, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version.
It’s not just remote
The best part about these remote tools is that they can be integrated with your own-site team and operations to make your day-to-day activities cohesive — even if some of your team members are an ocean away.