COVID-19 pushed many firms to expand their remote working model, shifting quickly to a virtual workplace. Now, more than a year later, when Intuit® asked its employees whether they would rather be in or out of the office, only 6% said they want to return to the office full time when COVID-19 ends.
Over the past year, I worked with seven tax and accounting professionals to help them build visibility for their practice through public relations and search engine optimization. Each one of these small firms had five to 15 full-time employees, and shifted to remote work. It was a big change for all of them, since running the practice out of their offices was the status quo. The challenges included managing employees remotely, as well as figuring out how to build a culture in a firm remotely, while inspiring and engaging employees.
Remote working is now the new norm, and it seems employees are happily embracing it. If your firm is already managing remote teams, or planning to do so, here are five tools that can make managing remote employees easier.
1. Pyn: HR communication
Pyn started in 2020 and has quickly gained ground as an employee communication tool. Pyn can be used to automatically send relevant and well-timed messages to employees. Here are a few examples:
- For new employees, Pyn can send welcome emails and onboarding documents.
- If an employee is promoted and will have direct reports, Pyn can deliver training or educational material on how to manage staff, conduct performance appraisals, or boost team morale.
- When an employee returns from leave, you can use Pyn to send the employee a back-to-work plan, or update them on pertinent or urgent matters.
- If employees are traveling for the first time, Pyn can send information on the company’s travel policy and how to submit expense reports after the trip.
2. Time Doctor: tracking employee productivity
One of the biggest concerns that some companies have with the remote working model is tracking their employees’ productivity. How do you know that your remote employees are actually doing what they are supposed to do – when they are expected to do it? By using a remote employee monitoring system such as Time Doctor, you can monitor the following:
- When an employee logs in and logs off.
- What they’re working on.
- How much time they’re spending on a task.
- Which online sites they are visiting. If they are spending time on social media sites, the app can prompt them to get back to work.
- Inactivity. When an employee hasn’t touched the keyboard or mouse in a few minutes, the time tracking stops and resumes when they start working.
If you bill clients based on time, a time-tracking app helps you bill the correct number of hours.
3. Hive: project management collaboration
When multiple employees work on a project from different locations, keeping track of things can be a challenge. To make it easy, you can use Hive, a project/team management platform that tracks your progress, and includes scheduling and communication features.
Hive has flexible project views, including Gantt and Kanban, and integrates with many other work applications, including Jira, Gmail, Microsoft Teams, Dropbox, Box, Zoom, and Slack. As a result, all team members, including contractors, can easily communicate and share information from multiple platforms in one place.
4. Nextiva: business phone system
Nextiva isn’t just a cloud-based phone service or a business VoIP system; it’s a robust communications system with voice, video conferencing, and text messaging functionality — for external communication with clients and internal communication among employees.
The built-in CoSpace communication tool keeps your team connected with group chats, file sharing, scheduling, notifications, and reminders. Plus, you have the option of adding external people.
Nextiva is cloud-based, and integrates with sales and CRM software. This allows your team access to real-time data. A mobile app is also available, so employees can use it on any device and remain connected when traveling or out in the field.
5. Zendesk: help desk software
You can take your client service from mediocre to exceptional with the right customer service tools. Zendesk is a help desk system that enables more efficient team collaboration.
Being web-based, you can access it even if everyone works from different locations. They’ll be able to see the last interaction with a client and immediately pick up on where the last staff member left off.
Ticket status is clearly visible from the dashboard, and employees can add notes so that others know what action or tasks are outstanding. Managing the team is also easy. The administrator or team supervisor can create workflows and assign different levels of responsibility.
Making the most of your remote software
These five remote working tools also offer good analytics and reporting capabilities to help you track and measure your team’s outputs. This can help you identify where your team is performing well, where challenges lie, and which employees may need additional support — all vital information to keep your team engaged and productive.
And, remember, if your IT and software costs have changed since moving to a remote environment, you can always look into software asset management. This will allow your firm to review and optimize how much you’re actually spending on tools. You may not require those two or three tools that were once needed in the office!