Remote work is the future.
Does that sound preposterous to you? Then you probably didn’t know one-third of Americans consider themselves to be freelancers or self-employed.
There are many advantages for remote workers. For starters, they have more free time; they don’t have to commute or pay for transportation; and they get to work from a personal space of their choosing. The benefits are also attributed to why remote workers are more productive, and they tend to work longer hours—including when they’re sick.
Businesses are starting to see the advantages of bolstering a remote workforce, as well. That’s why the number of remote workers and freelancers in the country is expected to grow 40 percent by 2020.
But as great as a remote workforce may be, there are limitations. For example, communication and collaboration are both more difficult when your team is spread across the country—or even the world.
Luckily, there is a variety of tools, including collaboration platforms and strategies, to help your team become more productive.
1) A traditional communication system is a necessity
Think of this as the oldie-but-goodie tip. At the most basic level, teams need to be able to stay in touch in a reliable way. A team separated by distance will need multiple ways to communicate, including a traditional phone system.
There are many kinds of cloud-based platforms, VoIP service providers (voice over IP) and traditional landline solutions. The best system for your business and team will depend on your individual needs. You should definitely have a phone system installed at your main location, and set it up so remote workers can tap in.
It’s possible to have your phone system integrate with desktop apps or employees’ mobile phones, which is something you may want for additional flexibility and team efficiency. Not only will your teams be able to communicate with one another from wherever they are, but integrations with tools like Salesforce can even allow you to keep records of calls and call times automatically.
2) Modern chat and collaboration tools add extra support
Chat tools and collaboration platforms like RingCentral Glip are also necessary when used alongside a more traditional communication system. Get your team on board as soon as possible! That means choosing a platform and deploying it immediately.
They allow you to keep track of your entire team and set deadlines for specific tasks. You can see who’s working on what, and when they will be finished. Team members can also get support and chat with anyone on the team when they need advice or guidance.
Think of them as social networks for work.
3) Cloud storage lets you take work anywhere
Normally, if you want to take your work with you, you have to transfer documents and files to a portable drive or physical media. Then, you must carry that media with you at all times.
Cloud storage simplifies this by allowing you to store important documents on a remote server, which you can tap into from anywhere, with any device. It’s also an excellent medium for collaboration because multiple parties can access a single document or group of files. So, ultimately, multiple team members can be working on a single project or task together.
By storing documents in the cloud, you can do things like finish a business proposal during your long commute home, or late at night when you’re relaxing on the couch. This system is excellent for remote teams that divide their time between working from an office and at home.
4) Staff meetups are a good idea
Just because everyone is spread far and wide, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There are loads of virtual meeting tools available to get your team together online, or organize location-specific meetups in person.
There’s no way you’ll be able to relocate everyone, but having a staff meet up once a year is not out of the question. It doesn’t have to be work- or project-related, either. There are plenty of team-building exercises and fun events you can plan.
You might be wondering how something like this would help productivity. It allows your team to get to know one another better and bond. That will create more effective teamwork and collaboration, which will result in a better working environment for everyone — even when that team is spread apart.
As you can see, with just a few changes, additions or well-chosen technology services, your remote workers can be brought into the fold like never before. Has your company embraced remote working yet?
Originally published Nov 17, 2016, updated Apr 18, 2021