Not that long ago the idea of a team working entirely remote was a considered a logistical nightmare.
Monitoring projects, exchanging data and resources or sharing those resources in real time was only possible in the most basic forms.
The reverse is the case today, entire teams and in some cases organizations work remotely from different parts of the world.
Today, a business of any size can share employees, software, research tools and more through the internet. And they are able to communicate, manage and remain accountable regardless of their location.
Organizations now realize that it is entirely possible for employees to work together productively without needing a physical office.
Our offices at Mallee Blue Media are a good example.
There are only four people here. Everybody else is working remotely. My staff are in West Africa, Australia, the United States and Southeast Asia.
We may not share office space but we are able to work on multiple projects together, communicate and share resources and deliver client projects on time.
Not only can a remote workforce be cost-effective, but it has also been proven to increase the performance of employees. They no longer have to spend hours in traffic getting to and from work.
Based on our own experience over the last 10 years, here are some of the tools and strategies we have used to get the most out of our remote work teams.
1. Remote Planning and Reporting Strategies
Planning is essential when working remotely. Team members need to have access to project work plans and workflows in order to work cohesively together, manage time, arrange resources and meet deadlines.
Some of the tools we use are communication tools such as Skype and WhatsApp for meetings and planning and proposal templates such as Qwilr that allow us to collaborate on single multiple events together.
Qwilr provides online event planning templates that help your team coordinate client and company events. It offers business, marketing and planning templates, among many others that can be disseminated among teams and clients.
Video and audio tools allow us to see one another and communicate in real time.
Our planning and collaboration tools mean that we can respond quickly to changes, monitor our workforce progress and intercept projects that are running in the wrong direction.
We also use collaboration tools in our reporting in-house. We want our remote workforce to view their employer as a professional outfit and thus increase staff loyalty.
And so we ensure that not only are we producing quality reports and plans for clients but that our own internal reporting and planning are high -quality, branded and attractive to read and sue.
By writing engaging reports that are visually appealing and which deliver truly useful data, we are able to capture are teams’ attention and motivate them to back our brand as a class outfit. We are also providing reports that people want to read.
2. Simplifying Communication
Our remote teams and freelancers need to be able to talk to three entities:
- Other remote workers
- Home office staff
Rather than have everyone working from their personal set of tools, we give them access to a few key tools that cover each of these areas of communication.
Freshdesk is the quiet achiever in the world of online communication. It lacks the hype of tools such as Slack and Basecamp but has the advantage of bringing together all three of the above communication needs.
FreshDesk is a paid-for tool, but even the free version is fantastic and so far it has never let us down.
All of our client communication comes through FreshDesk. With it we can:
- Schedule replies
- Add Calendar entries
- Localise all client contact data and files in one place
- Communicate between team members
- Transfer tasks
- Track complete histories of all communication
It integrates nicely with Microsoft applications, MailChimp, Google Suite, Shopify, Slack, Magento, WhatsApp, Social Media and more.
WhatsApp is ideal for small teams and one-to-one meetings. The WhatsApp Web App for desktop means that we can shift things to PC and are not restricted to smartphone-only communication.
With WhatsApp on the web and desktop, we can easily synchronize all of our chats to our office machines and carry those conversations over to any compatible device.
It’s especially good for when we just want to communicate a few short thoughts, grab an update or pass on some information in a simplified form. It can handle and share video, text, audio, just like Skype, but is less laggy and more secure in our view.
3. Data and Document Management
Google Drive, along with Google Suite is a popular choice for many businesses and there is a good reason for its popularity. It is seamless, efficient, has tonnes of very practical tools for collaboration and storage.
But, it is not necessarily the most secure place to put your business resources and data.
To begin, you have to assume that Google can view everything you have in those folders, even if it isn’t indexing it.
That may not matter to a garden nursery but it may matter to any number of corporate competitors, SEO agencies and multi-national companies.
In the same way that Microsoft is a target for malicious software 9and as a result, we do not use any Microsoft products), Google might be considered a target for hackers – not to mention Google’s own motivation for peering at your data.
Their recent data breach is but one example that should be cause for concern. For that reason, we tend to favour other, perhaps lesser-known, but totally cool data and document storage tools.
We collaborate, store and work out a lot of our web design and graphic design work here together. We use it for Social Media marketing, presentations, creating .pdf documents, logos and more.
Canva allows simple collaboration so our remote staff can work together on graphics and rich image projects for clients. It offers a lot for free, including folders, teams, sharing and collaborating – not to mention the massive number of configured templates designed to suit almost any demand for visual media.
Dropbox took off in 2008 and remains one of the biggest cloud services to date. yes, we know that, like Google, it has suffered some insecurities of its own.
But it appears to have learned its lessons and has gone from strength to strength. Linking in with Freshdesk, Dropbox allows us to store a massive amount of client data, including our client site backups, reports research and more.
Its collaboration capabilities mean that our teams have access to the same data and the push of a button. We like the fact that it can store anything and that it integrates well with both browsers and desktop applications.
Multiple groups and team folders can also be created and linked based on a client project, workflow or company sector. In our case, we split up our SEO services, Consulting services, web design and content marketing services.
While these “client types” are kept separate, there is always plenty of overlap. Dropbox allows our remote workers to connect information across folders without running into collision.
Dropbox has excellent security and plenty of App integrations and so we can grab what we need while in any of our other applications.
Rounding Things Up for Remote Teams
Remote teams are part of the modern workforce. Growth is expected over the next 15-20 years as more and more industries outsource their labour.
We think there needs to be a balance between handing things over to others and maintaining company loyalty and security. if your data, or designs, or projects or whatever other assets you can think of, is not in your hands, then it is in somebody else’s.
Security, cohesion and loyalty should be at the top of any team managers list when it comes to remote team projects and the sharing or your projects and often sensitive data.
The tools that are most likely to maintain these loyalties and staff productivity should be the first tools to start using.
Feature Image Pexels License CCO
Originally published 6/2/19; updated 3/30/20 with infographic and additional updates.
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