Toolkit for managing remote workers and work from home employees

15 min read

Using the right toolkit for managing remote workers and work from home employees is critical the success of remote teams.

Managing remote workers can be difficult, especially for those without experience. But even an inexperienced manager will benefit from using the right toolkit – a combination of tools and processes for managing remote workers.

Managing Remote Workers

Managing remote workers starts with hiring. If you hire the right person, management becomes easier. Not everyone is cut out to be a remote worker. If you hire the wrong person, you will struggle to get anything done no matter how hard you try and which toolkit you use.

Onboarding is the next crucial step. This includes educating the remote employee about your company, its products, processes, and systems. Onboarding includes setting expectations about what you expect from him, how you will evaluate and reward his performance. A good onboarding process ensures that the remote workers know what to do, how to do, and what to expect from you.

Once the remote worker starts working from home, you need a process and a set of tools to manage the quality and quantity of his output. The tools and process you use must match your management style. If you are a delegator, you will be happy with tracking just the results. But if you are detailed oriented, you may want to see more details.

Let’s look at the toolkits for each stage in managing remote workers:

Toolkit for managing remote workers

Once the new worker starts working, you need tools to assign work, track progress, generate timesheets, manage the payroll, communicate with the worker and facilitate work.

Project/Task Management Tool: A project or task management tool is a basic requirement for assigning and managing tasks to remote workers. There are several tools that would do the job depending on the work and level of detail you want.

Asana
Asana is one of the most popular and easiest tools for project and task management. You can organize to-do lists, projects & meeting information, conversations, and emails in an easy-to-read dashboard. Team members can stay on top of all information allowing you to quickly identify issues that need your attention.

Asana is especially useful for keeping your remote workers or contractors on the same page with the rest of the team. Asana is free for teams up to 15 members. You can access to all features like data export and additional dashboards by upgrading to paid plan. Learn how to use Asana for project management with our detailed guide.

User Review – Steve R at BRUNNE:
“I absolutely love the user interface – it’s pretty seamless across mobile, tablet and desktop. It’s pretty intuitive to the average non PMP-certified person. Drag and drop allows me to easily merge or separate personal and work tasks. Of course, it’s fast and free so that always helps.”

Basecamp

Managing remote workers with BasecampBasecamp is one of the most popular an easy to use project management and communication tools around. It claims to have over 100,000 customers of varying sizes. It has a web based interface for project, task & time management, team collaboration and reporting. It eliminates the need for teams to have separate tools for project management and communication. Everything is accomplished inside Basecamp.

Basecamp can significantly reduce the complexity of managing a team of remote workers.The first project is free but if you want to set up a second one, pricing starts at $29/month.

User Review – Kit Mullins at Jemully Medias:

“Works fabulously! As a business owner, I love the easy way Basecamp coordinates tasks, communications, and project calendars while integrating with Tickspot – our time keeping app. I like the overview of all projects, or tasks. I can look at assigned tasks from the perspective of the project, from the perspective of the user the tasks are assigned to, or from the perspective of the due date. We currently use Basecamp 2 and have signed up for Basecamp 3 which offers even better team support and functionality. 

Custom Templates for project creation. Email directly to a project. File storage, text docs, tasks, and discussions all in the same project. Fantastic customer help/support. Quick and informative.”

Trello

Managing remote workers with TrelloTrello is a project management tool that makes collaboration fun and makes it easy to manage remote workers. Ditch the sticky notes, spreadsheets and email for managing your projects, hook on to Trello. It allows you to add as many boards and people as you want with your free account.

Pricing for business plan for App integrations, team overviews, and security starts at $ 8.33 per User/ Month

User Review – Pall Musaev tells:
“I love the visual nature of Trello and how easy it is to manage tasks and assignments. I use it on a personal and business level and like how both can meld into one interface. Very visual and easy to use. User experience is good”

Increase productivity, take screenshots, track time and cost, and bring accountability to your team.

Time and cost tracking tools

While excellent tools for tracking project progress,  project management tools don’t track time your remote workers spend on the projects. Depending on your business, tracking time may or may not be high on your agenda. If you bill clients by the hour, you definitely want to track time your employees spend on each client project. If your remote workers are contractors or part-time employees, you need to track their time for payroll. Tracking time also builds a good database for you to use in estimating time for future projects.

HiveDesk

Managing remote workers with HiveDeskHiveDesk is a popular software for managing remote workers and virtual teams. It is a time tracking software with screenshots, activity levels and productivity reports. It has a simple, intuitive user interface to easily manage your projects, assign tasks, track time and even grab screenshot of worker’s computers.

HiveDesk provides a platform that makes it easier for businesses to manage remote staff. Employees can check-in remotely and HiveDesk will log their work sessions. It makes sure that you get the desired level of productivity.

For outsourcing companies it’s a great tool for both employee monitoring as well as for backing up invoiced hours. Many digital marketing agencies use HiveDesk to manage remote workers and contractors. HiveDesk provides complete transparency to their clients and builds trust in their services.

User Review – Phil from Brickman Group:
“I think the product is exceptional. It will optimize work from different aspects and bring employees together easier. I would most definitely use this product.”

Team communication tools

Timely and transparent communication is critical to the success of remote workers. It builds trust, loyalty and motivates employees to give their best. Frequent communication keeps your entire remote team on the same page and helps identify issues before they become a big problem. You will need both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.

A synchronous tool requires everyone to be connected and present at the same time like a team video call. It’s a great way to build team bonding and discuss issues. But it’s not always workable if your employees work in different time zones. Zoom/Skype are probably the best synchronous communication tools for managing remote teams.

An asynchronous communication tool is great for such situations. People can post and respond to messages whenever they are available. This works very well for non-time sensitive issues, quick chat or end of day updates.

Slack

Managing remote workers with SlackSlack is perhaps the most popular and effective asynchronous communication tool for distributed teams. Slack is a team messaging app.

It’s great for any team but more so for teams with remote employees or contractor. It brings all your communication into one place and integrates with your tools you already use. Setting up Slack is easy and using it is even easier. It’s your virtual office and using Slack is like sitting in a room with your team members.

User Review – Andrew M. at CSPO:

“Slack functions like my own personal Command Centre. We can chat, I embed/upload files, and I have integrations with the other services I use, such as JIRA and GitHub that allows me to see what’s going on with the requirements I enter and what deployments / pulls happen when. Additionally, we also use it for fun with a Twitter integration where we follow the various food trucks from around the city to help the dev team determine where they want to go to lunch.”

HR/payroll tools

You need a HR and payroll system for managing your team. Even with a small team of contractors, you need to do some compliance work such as generating 1099. You can use PayPal Payouts to make it easy to pay multiple remote workers and keep your costs low. This works best if you have part-time workers.

With full-time workers, you will need a HR software like Gusto to take care of taxes, unemployment insurance and other compliance issues. You can also outsource it to your accountant or a payroll professional.

If you hire international remote workers like so many other US businesses do, you can use Transferwise or PayPal to pay them. A tool like HiveDesk is useful in paying hourly workers as you can generate online timesheets using tracked hours.

International remote workers prefer Transferwise because it offer a better conversion rate compared to PayPal and also has lower service charge. We also put together a blog on how to pay remote workers that you will find helpful.

Besides these, you will also need a few collaborative tools like Dropbox for storing, sharing and working on files.

Dropbox

Managing remote workers with DropboxDropbox is very easy to use, and it’s very likely that the person you hire may  be using it. So there won’t be any training or setup overhead.

Whether you want to keep your personal files in one place or share files with your global team, Dropbox is your solution. Files on Dropbox are backed up and synced which can be accessed from desktop, mobile or laptop. Your important data and documents are always with you for free, up to 2 GB of storage or upgrade to a pro version with 1 TB storage for $9.99 /User a month.

User Review – Brian Lawrence at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting:

“Dropbox is the Best Way to Store Documents. I have been using Dropbox for many years, and i love the ease and versatility of it. The ability to save documents and easily access them from any of my devices, smartphone, tablets, work or home computer is awesome. It is easy to organize with folders however you would like and to search.”

Depending on the work, you way need some additional, specialized tools like GitHub for managing code.

GitHub

Managing remote workers with GitHubGithub is a software project management tool specifically suited for small and distributed software development teams. You can manage versions of source code, create wiki for knowledge sharing and use the built-in ticketing system for bug tracking.

HiveDesk Features Bring accountability to your team

There is a free version but you should take a paid plan unless you are working on an open source project you want to share with the world. Your remote developers from anywhere in the world can check-in their code or access code written by others. You can use the wiki to make sure everyone in the team has the correct information and knowledge to work on the project. The ticketing system allows you to effectively manage the entire project in GitHub by creating and tracing tickets for tasks and bug fixing.

You can also integrate GitHub with third party tools, from project management to continuous deployment, for building software in a way that works best for you. It can be accessed on Windows Desktop, Mac & Mobile.

Pricing starts at $10/month for up to 10 users.

User Review – Marc Morel at groupe Green & Biz / Remade In France:
“Best code sharing tool for open source project. Github is a state-of-the-art git-hosting service (well, actually they invented that concept). Very easy to use, to collaborate and to host code. Nice interface and well-documented features”

Make sure you have these tools setup properly so you can enable your remote team to perform at its best.

Once you have a few employees, it will make sense to buy a Process Street subscription to automate some of your administrative tasks. This is especially helpful for managing remote workers working in different locations and time zones. The time and hassle you save will be much more than the cost of the software.

Remote worker hiring toolkit

LinkedIn / Facebook Groups / Upwork / Reddit

These are great platforms for sourcing candidates.

LinkedIn is the ideal recruitment tool due to its global reach. You can post the job opening on your profile and in relevant groups. You can also run recruitment ads on LinkedIn.

Facebook Groups is a great tool for sourcing candidates for remote work. There are thousands of members in city or role specific Facebook groups across the world. Many members in Facebook job groups are active freelancers. They are ideal for remote jobs since they have the experience of working remotely and know how to produce quality work.

Upwork is a marketplace for freelancers and contractors. You can find a freelancer or remote worker for almost any role you want to fill. Upwork is project based and charges you a hefty fee for using its services.

Many entrepreneurs post a small project on Upwork to find and test remote employees. Once they find someone they like, they hire them directly to cut out the fee that can be as high as 12-15% of the contract value. You are better off investing the savings in other tools you would need for managing the remote team.

 Zoom / Skype: A video calling tool like Zoom or Skype is ideal for interviewing remote workers. It’s a great way for you to look for visual clues during the interview and to test the home office setup of the applicant. A good office setup with dependable internet is one of the basic requirements for a remote worker. The video interview helps you test both.

Managing remote workers with ZoomZoom is a Video Conferencing and Web Conferencing software. It enables up to 50 participants on a video conference for free! (Skype limits it to 10).

If you need to hold an online meeting with more than ten remote workers, try Zoom. For $10 a month (or no charge if you can keep your meeting to less than 40 minutes), you can add up to 25 people to a meeting.  Zoom works on your mobile device and supports HD video and audio.

User Review – Eddie Hanson at Transportation:
“This easy to use, easy to deploy and easy to manage application has saved our agency time and money compared to our old video conferencing solution.”

Skype

Managing remote workers with SkypeSkype is a communication and collaboration tool that combines video, voice and text chat. Skype keeps you connected with the entire team for free. If your team size is small, Skype can be a great communication tool from communicating with remote team members. You can include up to 9 people in a call.

You can also buy Skype credits or subscription to call others on their phone or forward calls to your phone. In any business, there are times when you need to take out the phone and call someone up directly. Skype credit can be handy for those situations. It can cut down your long distance and international calling costs significantly.

Pricing for Skype business starts at $2.50 user/month.

User Review – Patrick Clements at SherpaDesk:

“Great for inter office communication. We use Skype to handle communication with our virtual team. It’s been a fantastic tool to screen share, pop on a call or get some quick feedback on a question.”

Applicant tracking system/O365/G Suite: You will need a tool to track applications you receive the candidates’ progress through your hiring process. Ideally, you need an applicant tracking system (ATS) like Zoho Recruit to mage the hiring process.

If you don’t want to spend on an ATS, you can use Excel or Google Sheets to keep track of candidates during the selection process. Create a spreadsheet where you can keep candidate details, your observations and comments. Upload the resume to G Drive/Onedrive and save the link in the tracking spreadsheet. This acts like your own document management tool and helps you stay organized during the selection process.

Google Apps

Managing remote workers with Google AppsGoogle Apps is a suite of productivity applications hosted in the cloud. You can create spreadsheets, documents and presentations that are stored in the cloud.   Since everything is stored in the cloud, it can be easily accessed by anyone from anywhere, making it a great fit for teams with remote workers. Managing Google docs is easy – you can restrict access to people using their Gmail. The best part- it’s free. You can even host your business email with Google but it ain’t free.

If you are managing remote teams, Google Apps is one tool you cannot ignore.

User Review – Derek R:

“Gmail is pretty much the perfect email client, and I’m sure most of you have used it. Either for your personal email, work email, or school email.

Everything is customizable, which means you can make it just how you like it. You even get themes to customize the background and the text and stuff. They recently added CSS support for custom themes that you write yourself.

Google Docs is pretty much the only online office suite, so I can’t find any reason not to recommend it. Good collaboration tools, easy to use, etc. It’s a Google product, it works.”

Office 365

Managing remote workers with Office 365Office 365 is a Microsoft product. It’s your favorite suite of Microsoft office products, offered as a web based service You can access all popular Office tools such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

With Office 365, you also get 1TB of online storage for each user to store files and data. Each license allows you to use Office365 on desktop / laptop, mobile phones and tablets. You can activate up to three devices for each user making applications and files available seamlessly across the devices.

It’s an easy way to make sure all your remote workers have access to the same software. The online storage allows for easy collaboration between team members irrespective of their physical location.

Pricing starts at $ 7.38 per user/month.

User Review – David A at NoBlue:

“The ease of access and single version approach that this brings. Microsoft have finally made sense of the ongoing subscription and upgrade process. All of your favorite office admin tools at your fingertips.”

Toolkit for onboarding remote employees

Process.st: Process Street is an excellent tool for creating workflows and documenting processes. They even have a bundle of most popular process templates that you can download for free from Appsumo. While it may seem like too much to document a process when hiring the first remote worker, you will see its value as you expand your team.

If you need some inspiration, look at this nice collection of best practices in onboarding remote employees by Remote.co.

You will also use Zoho/Skype to talk to the new hire during onboarding. You will set up the employee in your HR/Payroll software during onboarding. If you hire a full-time employee in the US, there may be other legal compliance to take care of during onboarding. If you are hiring a contractor or part-time employee, then you will have less stuff to do during onboarding.

Onboarding is the best time to train the new hire about your culture, work ethics, process, tools and expectations. You can create training videos, documents and checklists to make sure the new hire is correctly onboarded. If you have a larger team, you can also set up a learning management system (LMS) for your employees.

While it may seem like you need many tools, processes and some discipline for managing remote workers, benefits of hiring remotely make it worth it. The best people don’t live in one place. So hiring remotely can give your business an advantage because you can hire the best across the world.

Let us know if you find this blog useful.

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