One of the benefits our team enjoys from providing digitally-based services like website support and development is that our work can be done any time, from anywhere. Whether we’re visiting family, lounging on the beach, or hopping from airport to airport, all we need is our laptops and a relatively steady internet connection. We’ve been working like this for years now, to the point where it almost feels like “why would anyone work any other way?”… which makes it easy to forget that at one point we, too, were struggling to build processes and set up infrastructure that enabled us to truly be productive and efficient at our work, no matter where we found ourselves physically.
Most of our clients, however, work from brick-and-mortar spaces; many of them haven’t found an immediate need to implement tools and processes that remote businesses rely on. While it’s still totally possible to run a successful business without using tools like task management apps, cloud document sharing, or real-time messaging platforms, integrating them into your own business can be beneficial. Remote-work tools can increase flexibility, improve collaboration, give you access to talent, result in cost savings, and ensure business continuity.
By adopting tools used for remote work, not only can you improve your existing operations, you can also give yourself and your existing team the option to work remotely when needed and make it easier to delegate work to contractors and vendors who are likely already very used to remote work. Fortunately, there are many, many options when it comes to building the right-for-your-team set of tools. In this post, we’ll explore how to choose and manage tools that will increase your efficiency when working with folks who don’t share your physical space.
Choosing a task management tool you’ll actually use
Task management tools — things like Jira, Asana, Trello, and Teamwork — can be powerful aids for managing projects and tasks both in-house and remotely. Here are a few tips for choosing the right one for your team:
- Start by assessing your team’s needs: What features do you need? What are your goals? What are your pain points?
- Research different tools and compare them based on your needs: Look for a tool that has a user-friendly interface and is easy to learn (either with in-platform tool tips or easy-to-navigate how-to documentation).
- Make sure the tool allows for collaboration and can be accessed from anywhere: does your tool have an app or is its web-based interface mobile-device friendly? Can you easily invite others (like vendors, contractors, or clients) to use the tool?
Once you’ve picked your poison, use the tool to track progress and communicate updates with your team. Depending on the tool you choose, you can use it to track deadlines and milestones, assign multiple people to tasks, log time and task progress, and even create information archives that can be referenced later.
Communicating with in-house and external resources without going mad
Effective communication is essential for managing any team, but when you involve remote team members, it becomes even more important. Chat/communication tools like Slack, Voxer, and Zoom can connect team members in real-time as well as create an archive of those communications that can be referenced later or even searched for keywords. A few tips for choosing the best chat tool for your purposes:
- Consider the size of your team and the frequency of communication. Does your team prefer voice, video, or text? Will your team use it mainly for real-time communication or for asynchronous messaging?
- Make sure the tool can be accessed from multiple devices. This will allow your team to be flexible as well as make it easier for vendors, contractors, or clients to adopt it.
- Ensure the tool is secure and has the necessary permissions levels for your team’s needs. If you expect to only ever need one-to-one communication, Slack might be overkill for you… but if you know you’ll need multiple group chats happening on an ongoing basis that would benefit from categorization, Slack would be perfect.
Document Sharing Requires High-Availability and Permissions Management
Document sharing is an essential part of working with distributed and remote resources, but can benefit your in-house team as well. High-availability, managed-permissions tools like Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive can help ensure everyone on your team has access to the documents they need, when they need them, without having to wait on someone who’s working a schedule opposite their own. Here are a few tips for choosing the best document sharing tool for your team:
- Consider how much storage space you’ll need. If you have a team of 10 creating 20 blog posts per day, you’ll need way less space than a team that is building complex graphics, videos, or audio files. You can use tools like disk usage analyzers or storage calculators to estimate the total storage space you’ll need. These tools can help you identify large files, duplicates, and unused files, which can help you optimize your storage usage and reduce costs. Make sure to choose a provider that can scale with your team’s needs and provide sufficient storage space.
- Look for a tool that has version control and collaboration features. Being able to leave comments, have multiple editors working at the same time on one central document, and rolling that document back to a previous version in the event of a big error are all key requirements for cloud-based document management.
- Ensure the tool has the necessary security and permissions for your team’s needs. For example, you’ll want to make sure that your production team can’t see C-level resources like salary information… but you’ll also want to make sure that your sales team isn’t bogged down by sorting through endless versions of graphics files when they really only need access to the final approved document. This also comes into play when a team member leaves — you don’t want old employees to have full access to your ongoing work product.
- Check that the tool can integrate with other tools your team uses. Being able to connect your document storage tool to your task management tool can make work much more efficient, cutting down on time spent searching for files or opening up another platform and cluttering your workspace.
Once you’ve chosen a document sharing tool, it’s important to manage it long-term. Here are a few tips for doing so:
- Set up a system for organizing documents and ensure everyone on the team follows it.
Establish clear guidelines for who has access to what documents and what permissions they have.
- Regularly review and update permissions to ensure they’re up to date.
- Keep an eye on how much space you’re currently using so that you are upgrading to more space before it’s absolutely necessary.
Don’t become a file hoarder!
Keeping your digital files organized and tidy is just as important as dusting your shelves and throwing away old clothes that don’t fit. Get some tips on spring cleaning your digital files in a recent post from the BIPi team, “Tips For Spring Cleaning And Organizing Your Digital File Archives”.
The final challenge: getting buy-in from your team and ensuring easy accessibility for outside resources where necessary.
Once you’ve chosen a specific tool, it’s important to make sure your team adopts it as well as uses it effectively. It’s key here that you, as the leader or manager, commit to using the tool. Without buy-in from everyone, starting with you, no tool will be truly effective. Some tips for helping your team get the most of your chosen tools:
- Create clear guidelines and best practices for using the tool: how your core team uses the tool will be different from other teams. Establish your processes as soon as possible and revise them on a regular schedule.
- Set up training sessions to ensure everyone knows how to use the tool. For some folks, individually-driven training will be best; others will benefit from group sessions. When you first adopt the tool, make sure your team has time allocated for self- and group-training sessions.
- Set up regular check-ins with your team to ensure the tool is truly working for everyone. You may want to designate two or three enthusiastic members of your team as owners of your best practices so that they can assist others who are struggling or train new team members. Encourage everyone to provide feedback on how the tool is working for them.
Managing asynchronous, work-from-everywhere resources can be challenging, especially when you’re used to working in the same physical space, but digital tools make everyone’s work easier. By choosing the right tools and managing them effectively, you can help your whole team — whether they’re employees, contractors, vendors, or clients — stay connected and productive, no matter where they’re working from.
You might be interested to know that this post was created with the help of generative AI tools like ChatGPT. Find out more here.