10 tools your employees will need to make working from home successful

Employees Working Remotely Is a Viable Option with These Tools
Companies of all sizes are starting to realize the inherent benefits of allowing staff to work from home. Whether you have hired a remote employee or your current employees want to occasionally work from home, specific tools are required for them to succeed.

The process of setting up a successful telecommuting team takes organization and planning. To make working from home a success, here are 10 tools either you or your staff will need to supply for their home offices.

Landline or VoIP Phone
Whether it’s weekly meetings or off-the-cuff conversations, the phone becomes a centerpiece of communication when you work from home 2home. Instead of popping into someone’s cubicle, your team will pick up the phone for a quick chat.

While cell phones are ubiquitous, landlines or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones still provide more reliable, higher quality connections. Because your telecommuting team will be on the phone more, make that time effective by eliminating poor reception and spotty service with a more permanent phone option.

Laptop
Some companies require in-office workers to use desktop computers, but if your employees work from home, it’s important to equip them with a more portable computer. If the power goes out at home, telecommuters can simply grab their laptop or notebook and bring it to the nearest coffee shop or coworking space.

But if they’re required to work from a desktop computer, productivity will be lost every time the power fails or their Internet service goes out.

Company Message Board
Building a company culture with telecommuters is a challenge. A company message board is an excellent way to allow remote workers to interact, get to know one another, and participate in “water cooler conversations” even though no one shares a break room.

Yammer is one tool that allows remote teams to engage in fun group conversations, share successes, wish each other happy birthday, and post pictures of recent vacations. You can design the message board to be used for any purpose, but the end goal is always to bring the team together.

Reliable High-Speed Internet
Of course, the Internet is an obvious choice for this list. Some companies require employees to perform an Internet speed test to determine if they have download speeds above a certain MBPS threshold. Remote teams need to have reliable home Internet service, ashome 1 well as several backup options should they experience a service disruption.

Ask the team to spend a little time making a list of other options for Internet service in their area, such as coworking spaces, coffee shops, or the public library. Or, for emergency situations, issue smartphones to the team that have an option to become a personal wifi hotspot.

Project Management System
As a telecommuting team you’re also a virtual team and you’ll need to be able to share pretty much everything you do virtually. Whether you create a simple spreadsheet in Google Drive, or invest in a project management program like Pivotal Tracker, it’s important to have a system for managing all of your projects. Programs designed to do this will help keep everyone’s tasks and responsibilities organized and running together smoothly.

Document Sharing
Along the same lines, your team will need to easily share documents with one another. If you plan to use a non-web-based document system like Microsoft Office, then something like Dropbox, which allows you to share all types of files, is your best option. If your team plans to make use of cloud solutions for document creation and sharing, Google Drive allows you to do both in one place.

Online Chat
A chat or instant messaging program is a must-have for a successful telecommuting team. Because it’s so useful for quick questions, clarifications, and simple communication, it will greatly help your team avoid email overuse.

There are free, easy-to-use programs like Yahoo! Instant Messenger or AIM or the built-in chat function that comes with Gmail, or you can opt for a customized enterprise instant messaging system for your business, such as BigAnt or Openfire.

Web Conferencing Program
home 3Because remote teams don’t have the ability to gather in someone’s office to look at their computer screen, web conference software is a must-have. Programs like Skype, Join.me, and GoToMeeting allow telecommuters to share their screens, take control and “drive” other people’s screens, and view the same documents, all while chatting on the phone. Some also include options for video conferencing if you want to have the team meet “face-to-face.”

Online File Backup
Whether you allow telecommuters to connect to your company’s internal network, or you share everything through other means, online file backup is extremely important for data integrity. With remote workers, IT troubleshooting is a bit more complicated because a support specialist can’t show up at your desk to determine what happened to your files.

Online file backup programs like Carbonite help retain and restore data that would otherwise be lost, and because these systems can be set for automatic backup, it won’t add to your team’s to-do list.

Meeting Calendar
Constant and clear communication is one of the most important traits of a successful telecommuting team. Use calendars to track people’s schedules, days off, or upcoming events. It’s also important to schedule regular meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Built-in calendars like those found in Microsoft Outlook or Gmail will work just fine, allowing people to see each other’s schedules, request meetings, and schedule events and work in advance.

If you’ve decided to let part or all of your staff work from home, full-time, or you hire remote employees, set them up for success with the right tools, comfortable office equipment, and a strategy for communication.

If your current employees request to work from home part-time for convenience or concentration, these are the tools you need to require so that their remote work is successful for them – and for their colleagues in the office.

These 10 tools go a long way in making your telecommuting team members successful.

Source: About.com, May 2014
By: Sara Sutton Fell
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