Working Remotely: Tools & Tactics to Consider

Remote work is on the rise and quickly becoming the “new normal.”  According to a survey by Upwork, by the year 2028, 73% of all teams will have remote workers. now, with companies around the world making the emergency-transition to remote work to flatten the curve of the global Coronavirus outbreak, small businesses have more questions than ever on how to do it right

All jokes about working in pajamas aside, working remotely has its advantages and can be a great solution for many businesses. Studies show working remotely leads to an increase in employee morale, productivity, job satisfaction, overall health, environmental awareness, earnings potential, and more. 

Looking for tips on how your business can make the remote transition? We’re here to help with some tools and tactics to consider below…. 

Maintain Scheduled Team Check-ins

With employees working from home, you can’t have the same type of quick check-in meetings you could have at the office. Figure out a time that works for you to have a one-on-one call with each team member. Put it on your calendar and stick to it. You can change it if need be, but try to reschedule rather than cancelling. Even if it’s just a quick glimpse on video chat and a brief five minute chat, it will keep your team feeling connected.

You don’t need to fill a meeting room to check-in with your team

Use Cloud-Based Programs and File Naming Conventions

One of the best things you can do is implement a system for document storage that’s simple to use and easy to navigate. Programs in the Google Suite like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and more allow teams to create and share information virtually. Google has even taken measures to give free access to Enterprise-level functionality through July 1st as more companies go remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important that you create a standardized system for naming files and folders and that all team members understand the process. Teach your employees how to effectively search for documents. Innumerable hours could be wasted if employees don’t know where to look for things. 

If Work is Task-Based, Utilize a Task Management System

Depending on the nature of the work, you may need to utilize a task management system. Perhaps you’re already using one at the office, which is great! Figure out how to translate this system to a remote workforce. If you are new to task management systems, there are many great options! Some are even free.

While it might seem overwhelming at first – the core feature of all project management programs is the ability to track progress on projects, collect important documents in one place, and alert team members of new updates. Here are some options to consider, all with a free option. In addition to tracking day to day tasks and giving your entire team a place to collaborate, goes deep to keep your organization on the same page (and looks good doing it). 

TrelloTrello is a lightweight and easy to use project management system that organizes your tasks into boards, lists, and cards to make priorities clear and communication easy.

BasecampWith built-in message boards, to-do lists, automatic check-ins, and group chat – many teams love the simple, straightforward functionality of Basecamp. 

Find a Program To Manage Hourly Tracking & Reimbursements

If your employees are hourly, you’ll need a way to track their hours remotely. Toggl is a good free option. There are many others like For member businesses partnered with Savings4Members, you also have access to heavily discounted HR, payroll, and time-tracking resources from ADP. 

Likewise, if you have employees that purchase anything for the business, you’ll need to set up a plan for reimbursing them. It may be something as simple as a shared Google Sheet.

Ultimately: it’s most important you have a process that everyone is informed on.  

Maintain a Space for Healthy Employee Chat

Since the proverbial water cooler is nonexistent, find a way to keep employees chatting. You don’t want them distracted, but you want to encourage healthy conversation and communication. This will boost morale and strengthen teamwork. Slack and Discord are a few good options.

Video conferencing through Slack, Google Hangouts, and Zoom can provide a platform for employees to see each other through video chat. It is important that they feel connected and engaged – and video is a perfect way to do it. 

Keep Expectations Clear

Since you’re not interacting with your employees regularly, you’ll need to reinforce your expectations. On your regular check-in calls with team members, make sure they know what you’re looking for. Without in-person feedback on projects and reports, employees may wonder how they’re doing. Be transparent with them and give feedback like you would in a regular office environment.

Be Smart About Scheduling

One reason employees wish to work from home is flexibility. Other times, it’s necessity. In normal circumstances, your remote employees might have kids they need to pick up or daytime obligations they can’t avoid. Figure out a schedule that works for both of you while ensuring their work gets done. If a certain meeting time is critical, make sure they plan around it. Otherwise, scheduling with your remote employees should be fairly simple.

And then there’s other reasons for working at home….

As we have learned with the global spread of Coronavirus, sometimes it’s just safest to stay home. If a large part of your staff suddenly has to work from home – your approach to scheduling should be a little different. In situations like this, make the transition to working from home easier and more predictable by sticking closely to your regular hours. The new found flexibility is great, but adjusting an entire team to remote work takes communication, understanding, and transparency in bulk – and that’s easy to accomplish when you’re all working at the same time. 

and last but certainly not least...

Consider the Technology Requirements

But most of all, remember what it’s for: communication & productivity

Find a system that works for you without getting lost in it. Depending on your business, your technology needs will vary. You may need to work with IT support to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so your employees can log into your company network from home. Everyone’s needs here will be somewhat different. But you’ll need to make sure they have access to a computer with a camera, possibly a large monitor, office supplies, and more.

Be ready to run into some roadblocks here and there. Every team and every task is different. You might find that one solution or another doesn’t work. Be flexible, be willing to adjust, and most of all: communicate, communicate, communicate. 

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