In 2018, a survey from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics noted that only around a quarter of all Americans said they could work from home with their current employer. Just two years later, COVID-19 has driven more than a quarter of workers to remote work, and organizations are doing the best they can with the circumstances.
Many people are working from home for the first time in their lives, and numerous businesses are facing the problem of remote team management for the first time as well.
It can be a frustrating situation for companies that haven’t handled remote teams before, and many don’t realize that there are solutions already on the market to meet almost all their needs. For years, firms in industries such as finance have used high numbers of remote workers, and field service teams are used to tracking each other and staying in communication via software and devices.
Organizations new to this remote workflow can take a page from businesses that have already worked out many of the kinks and developed numerous best practices. One of which is to make use of remote team management tools to keep you working efficiently.
Here are five ways the right software can help solve remote team challenges and improve your efficiency and overall morale during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Keep Communication Lines Open for Everyone
Remote team management tools help you keep communication lines open. Without the right tools, CEOs and managers might resort to tactics such as daily emails, prerecorded video messages, or even Facebook Live.
While those measures can help shore up employee morale during an uncertain time, they’re limited in scope. They’re either one-way (as with pre-recorded video) or they create confusing threads that invariably leave someone out of the know (as with email).
However, many team management tools include communication solutions designed to help keep everyone engaged with leadership and each other without these issues. Look for options that offer chat capabilities for sharing general information or asking questions of the entire team. The ability to limit access, such as with private channels or threads, can also be important when you want to address a sensitive matter with a single employee or keep from cluttering general channels with information that’s only relevant to a single workflow.
2. Provide Documentation Support
In normal times, work-at-home situations are typically created with a lot of forethought and planning. Teams and businesses have time to build robust intranets or portals, offering digital solutions and access to training materials and other documents.
Emergency situations, such as the rush to get people working at home in response to the spread of coronavirus, typically result in less than ideal preplanning. Workers may realize days into their remote stint that they don’t have a document they need.
Remote team tools that include document management, control, and sharing functions can help leaders disburse the necessary documents or information in real-time, reducing any efficiency lag. Look for tools that make it easy for everyone to scan documents (such as those that accept scans from mobile devices) for streamlined digitization during this time. Depending on your workflow, industry, and what kind of documents you’re dealing with, you might also want a solution that allows access management to help protect employee, customer, and business information.
3. Manage Milestones and Look to the Future
COVID-19 might be shutting down nonessential activities and business locations, but that doesn’t mean you and your team don’t have work to do. Whether it’s business as usual, albeit from home in your PJs, or you’re using this time to get a new project off the ground, remote team management software can play a critical role.
Project management solutions let you brainstorm via digital methods, document processes, and thoughts. They also allow you to assign various tasks and keep track of milestones. During a frightening and uncertain time, the ability to come together virtually to work on something that’s important for the future of the team or company can be a huge morale booster. The ability to do it efficiently thanks to remote tools helps you protect your business’ bottom line.
Consider looking for solutions that let you plan and schedule work, budget for projects, and manage workflow as pieces of the project move from one person to the next. You may need to combine project management software with other solutions for communication, such as Slack.
4. Reduce Unnecessary Rework
Rework is a huge time and money waster for many organizations, and if you’re not careful, it can increase substantially with everyone working remotely.
Without direct oversight or access to team members and trainers, employees are more likely to make mistakes in their work. This is especially true for newer workers or those who aren’t as experienced in a particular task, but it can happen to anyone. Employees might also work over each other, creating rework by unknowingly doing the same task.
In many cases, teams are used to in-person queues that help reduce some of these issues. They might be able to view a physical workflow board to understand which task is next or lean around a cubby to ask a neighbor for help with a task. The best remote team management tools create these same systems in a digital format.
Choose solutions that make it easy for team members to ask for help and consider tools that include intelligent workflows. Work can flow from a larger queue to each person’s individual queue, or teams can pull from a digital environment where they can see if someone is already working on a certain task.
5. Minimize Anxiety About the Unknown
Finally, perhaps the biggest impact of a good remote team management solution is that it normalizes this current situation in a way that calms your employees and allows them to get back to work efficiently.
If you’re relying on workarounds based on emails, shared Google sheets, and FaceTime sessions, employees are probably taking longer to do their jobs than they ever did at the office. In a time when people’s kids are also at home trying to manage distance learning, and many families are having to get creative about entertainment or even food options, no one wants to spend double the time on their work.
Choosing solutions that reduce the insanity and help create a stable, viable workflow for everyone does more than protect your business. It helps employees make a new normal in this time that’s not at all normal for anyone. It also allows them to see that you’re making smart business decisions during this time, which can increase their confidence that their job may be safe and that they have a solid future with your company.
For many businesses, the coronavirus has caused havoc and disarray. But if you’re able to have your teams work remotely, you don’t need to live in panic and disorganization throughout the pandemic. Start looking now for remote team management tools you can use to normalize processes, create efficiencies, and support your team in the most positive ways possible.
Chances are, you’ll find many of these tools invaluable and stick with them even when you’re able to bring everyone back to the office again.