The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly contributed to the WFH (Work From Home) practices across the world. In Gartner's recent online snap poll, 91% of the HR leaders agreed to have already implemented WFH arrangement in response to the pandemic.
But while remote working offers a host of benefits to the employees, it also has its share of challenges. More often than not, these challenges are not limited to the remote workers but even the team/project managers and the organization as a whole. Businesses with no remote working experience could suffer the most.
Fortunately, the same technologies that make remote working a possibility are also the solution to all the common remote working problems. There are now a host of tools that could be used by businesses of every size to better manage their remote teams.
Here is a list of some common challenges related to remote working along with recommendations of some of the best tools that could help businesses overcome them effectively-
It is essential for the project managers to always have a detailed insight into the availability of resources, their allocation, and utilization as it helps in determining the team's overall productivity. Moreover, effective resource management could also help managers foresee problems and take precautionary measures to avoid them.
Overall, this provides project managers a better hold or control over the projects, which could otherwise be challenging when team members are working remotely. Here are a few top tools for businesses wanting to improve their resource management-
Developed by Enbraun, eResource Scheduler (eRS) is a leading resource management software that is relied upon by small and large businesses across the world. With features like drag-n-drop planning, Gantt chart view, user access rights, and more, eRS can help add a high level of efficiency and transparency to the whole resource management process.
eRS: Drag-n-Drop Resource Scheduling
The software also has advanced reporting features and can generate utilization reports, availability reports, and financial reports in real-time to not only simplify resource management but also help with other crucial business processes.
Paid plans start from:
Teamdeck is also a popular resource management solution with features spread across activities like resource scheduling, timesheets, time tracking, and leave management. It allows project managers to instantly assign bookings based on the availability and expertise of the team members. The software also tracks resource utilization along with billable hours for complete transparency.
Teamdeck: Resource Booking Interface
Teamdeck is also an excellent leave management solution allowing managers to easily approve or dismiss leave requests directly from the software. The approved leaves are then added to the calendar view so that resource booking is always in line with resource availability.
Paid plans start from: $3.99/resource/month
nTask Manager is an advanced online project management software with a host of features to help project managers efficiently manage their resources. From scheduling, prioritization, tracking, to collaboration, the online tool helps you manage all the vital aspects of resource management with utmost ease.
nTask: Task Board
It also has an innovative issue management system to help managers foresee problems such as project delays, resource unavailability, etc. so that preventive steps could be taken to avoid them. File attachments, risk matrix, notifications, time tracking, and task visualization are some other top features of nTask.
Paid plans start from: $3.99/user/month
Project managers looking for a powerful resource management and project planning solution for their remote teams can also consider Float. With features like resource scheduling, multi-project planning, forecasting, capacity management, and time tracking, Float can help organizations with all the different aspects of their resource and project management processes.
Float: Resource Scheduling
It also comes with a wide range of integration options, including Slack, Google Calendar, Teamwork, Zapier, Outlook, and more, to ensure that the team members always stay in sync. It also has an intuitive iOS and Android app so that managers and team members can track schedule changes on-the-go.
Paid plans start from: $5/resource/month
Resource Guru is also a smart solution for managing human and non-human resources online. It comes with drag-n-drop resource scheduling and full team visibility feature so that project managers can effectively assign resources with utmost accuracy and convenience. It also allows users to add custom filters and fields, making it a great choice for every type of business.
Resource Guru: Leave Management View
The online tool also has a built-in leave planner with features like sick time and absence management, holiday planning, time-off planner, and more. The software also has robust reporting features to offer newer insights into critical business processes.
Paid plans start from: $2.50/resource/month
Communication continues to be the key even when employees are working remotely. But as remote workers are unable to simply drop by a coworker's desk or pass each other in the hallway, there should be adequate arrangements to ensure seamless communication between team members and project managers.
Also, communication should not be limited to just emails. While emails are useful for professional conversations, there should be other not-so-formal channels where team members could openly communicate with each other. Here are a few tools that can help-
One of the best tools for holding virtual meetings is Zoom . Available as a desktop client as well as a mobile app, it can be used for scheduling, launching, and recording virtual meetings with team members. The members can join these meetings from their computer/laptop, mobile phone, or even a dial-in-phone if it is a voice call.
Zoom: Virtual Meetings
Zoom also has screen sharing features so that team members can watch presentations. It also has built-in chat functionality, which can be used by your team members for file sharing and even cross-platform messaging and communication.
Paid plans start from: $14.99/month/host
The popularity of Gmail and Google Calendar has also made Google Hangouts a convenient communication tool for remote teams. It can be used for messaging and even voice and video calls with team members across the world. Hangouts also allows you to create messaging groups with up to 100 members.
Google Hangouts: Video Calls
The communication tool also supports group voice and video calls with up to 10 members. Apart from the web, Hangouts is also available as an app for iOS and Android devices. Moreover, all the Google products and services, including Search, Maps, News, Calendar, Gmail, etc. can be easily accessed from within Hangouts.
Paid plans start from: Free tool
Skype is already a very popular video and voice calling tool. It allows project managers to host virtual meetings and also create chat groups. Moreover, the paid version of Skype comes with a host of great features, including video calling with up to 50 people, call recording, calls to mobiles and landlines, mobile screen sharing, and more.
Skype: Group Video Chat
Users can either use the free version of Skype or subscribe to one of the paid plans based on the location of people they'd like to call. Alternatively, Skype Credit can also be purchased to make voice and video calls to mobiles and landlines all over the world.
Paid plans start from: $3.59/month
Slack is a one-stop communication platform for all your formal and informal communication with team members irrespective if they are working from the office or their homes. The digital portal enables seamless communication among team members so that they can share their ideas and comments in real-time to positively contribute to the success of projects.
Slack: Team Communication
Remote teams can use Slack channels for collaboration and messaging so that the entire team communication is conducted at a single place. This could also make it easier for project managers to manage their remote teams. Apart from web access, Slack also has iOS and Android apps.
Paid plans start from: $2.67/month
To facilitate communication between remote team members, project managers can also consider using Flowdock. It is an instant messaging website and app where managers or team members can create 'Flows' or open spaces where they can collaborate and communicate. Project stakeholders can also be invited to these Flows so that they too can stay updated.
Flowdock: Messaging Interface
Flowdock also comes with integration option for tools such as Jira, Trello, Asana, Basecamp, and more. With the help of Appear integration, Flowdock also allows instant screen sharing and video chats with team members.
Paid plans start from: $3/user/month
Having a lot of time at hand and effectively utilizing it are two very different things. While WFH eliminates the need to commute and helps save a lot of time, a lot of employees who are new to remote working take this for granted. As a remote employee, you should take into account other duties that you might need to perform now that you are working from home.
This could include helping your spouse take care of children, cooking, organizing workspace, cleaning, etc. All of this should be positively managed along with your full-time remote job. Remote employees and project managers can consider these tools for improved time management-
While Teamwork is a project and work management tool, it has excellent time tracking and other features to boost the productivity of your team members. It can be used for creating custom time reports based on the logged time of each team member on single or multiple projects.
Teamwork: Tracking Project Progress
All the tracked expenses and time can also be instantly invoiced with a few clicks. Moreover, the time logs and reports can be exported as PDF, CSV, or Excel and shared through multiple mediums from within the tool.
Paid plans start from: $9/user/month
Kickidler is also an advanced employee monitoring solution that can be used by managers for tracking the working hours of their remote employees. It comes with a host of powerful features, including employee productivity analysis, time tracking, screenshots, efficiency dynamics, and more to help team members make the best use of their working hours.
Kickidler: Employee Time Tracking
Moreover, Kickidler also allows managers to remotely access the computers of their team members to offer instant support, maintenance, and to collaborate.
Paid plans start from: $9.99/computer/month
If you are a project manager looking for a time tracking solution that could help improve the productivity of your team members, Time Doctor can be a considerable option. The tool allows you to track how the team members are managing their working hours so that they can be highly productive even when they are working remotely.
Time Doctor: Pop-up Alerts
It also has features like alerts, notifications, automated screenshots, and more to help managers ensure that the team members positively contribute to the projects throughout their working hours.
Paid plans start from: $12/user/month
Google Calendar is also an excellent scheduling and time management tool for managers and remote teams. The same calendar can be shared with all the team members, and managers can then schedule meetings, tasks, and more on preferred dates. As soon as an entry is made to the calendar, it will instantly be updated in the calendar shared with team members.
Google Calendar: Scheduling Meetings
Event details can also only be shared with selected team members, and Google Hangouts can be added to the events for conducting voice or video calls at the chosen date and time.
Paid plans start from: Basic version is free, but Google Calendar for Business (Part of G Suite) starts at $6/user/month
Another major challenge for remote workers is distractions. When you are working from home, you'd probably be surrounded by your kids and family members. In such an environment, it is very much possible to overlook your professional responsibilities.
Moreover, now that you don't have anyone monitoring your work, it is also very much possible to spend more time on social networking platforms or watching online videos. These tools can help limit such distractions-
Serene is a macOS app designed to help remote workers effectively block distracting apps and websites throughout the working hours. For instance, it can be used for blocking sites and apps like Facebook, YouTube, and more so that you can focus on your work for longer durations.
Serene: Website/App Blocking
It also comes with innovative features like focus music, break reminders, and countdown timers to further boost productivity. Users can also set daily goals at the starting of the day, which the app will break down into smaller sessions to increase the chances of success.
Paid plans start from: $4/user/month
If you are regularly distracted by app notifications during your working hours, Daywise can be an excellent solution to your problem. It allows you to select a schedule for displaying app notifications. This means that you can completely block distracting notifications while you are working.
Daywise: Blocked Notifications
The mobile app creates an inbox where you can easily track all the blocked notifications. Moreover, you can also add VIPs who are people from whom you'd like to receive messages/notifications even during the working hours.
Paid plans start from: Free app
RescueTime is another very popular distraction blocking and time tracking software solution for remote teams. The tool automatically tracks the time one spends on websites, apps, etc. without displaying any timers or notifications. At the end of the day, users can check detailed reports on how they spent their working hours.
Rescue Time: Setting Weekly Goals
Apart from online activities, its offline time tracking feature also lets you track the time you spend away from your computer/laptop. Block distracting websites, set daily goals, real-time alerts, and integration options are some of the other top features of Rescue Time.
Paid plans start from: $9/user/month
Building High-Performing Remote Teams
The remote working trend is here to stay even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This makes it an excellent time for businesses across the world to focus on their remote working practices as WFH, or hybrid remote setups could be the new normal in the future.
It is only when the management and team members work together that high-performing and productive remote teams could be built. While adopting WFH can be challenging, technological solutions like the ones in this post can help make this transition easier and effective.
Have you tried any of these tools? How was your experience? Any other remote working tool that you'd like to recommend? Do share your experience and suggestions in the comments section below.