To adopt telecommuting you first need to ensure you have the appropriate tools for employees to stay connected and productive through the day.
By Michael Gutman
Part III of III
Telecommuting has huge social and environmental benefits but how do telecommuters stay productive and connected all day? What are some mandatory tools that can help telecommuters? I spoke to a few innovative companies that are finding unique ways of minimizing their social and environmental footprint while keeping their employees productive and motivated. Seven distinct tools emerged from our conversations:
Sqwiggle is a cloud-based office that recreates that tap on the shoulder experience from anywhere. Everyone is just one click away from having a video conversation with each other. Sqwiggle is designed to offer a fun way for telecommuters to be with their team all day, while making video conversations instant and frictionless.
I asked Sqwiggle cofounder Matt Boyd how his app is helping remote teams work more efficiently:
"Telecommuting can be lonely and isolating. Remote workers are disconnected from their team and human interaction is limited to a few daily meetings, phone calls or electronic messages. What about the rest of the day? Because Sqwiggle allows people to actually see and talk to their colleagues all day, just like in an office, team cohesion is strengthened and communication becomes seamless.”
Besides, with tools like Sqwiggle, employees gain freedom and the ability to manage their time – personal and professional – much more efficiently, he said.
Trello is a project management tool that makes it easy to organize, collaborate and stay transparent on projects from idea to completion. The interface is easy to use and every action is instantaneous, so there’s nothing standing between you and your productivity flow.
Ben McCormack is on the Trello Product Development Team. Here's how he described the tool:
“Trello gives us a way to see what everyone on a team is working on for a particular project. Plus, being able to have targeted conversations on the back of cards has virtually eliminated lengthy email conversations. For remote workers, Trello is even more important because you can't just walk into someone's office and visualize a project on a whiteboard. With Trello, you can.
“McCormack also noted the incredible advantage of telecommuting, admitting that since starting in 2013, "most of our new hires have been remote and several current employees have moved back to their home state. We've been able to hire incredible people who otherwise weren't interested in moving to New York City.”
HipChat is a group chat and IM tool designed specifically for teams. People can share ideas, code and files with their teams in real time. Rooms are perfect for individual projects, teams or entire departments.
HipChat's Marketing Manager, Elena Gorman, put it succinctly:
"HipChat specifically helps teams collaborate in real-time with persistent chat rooms, simple file sharing, integrations with other software tools that keep their businesses running.
"Research suggests that remote workforces are just as productive (if not more) than their counterparts in a central location. We think the remote workforce includes team members across the globe as well as team members looking to balance work with family obligations,” she noted.
FlexJobs is a platform that helps companies find qualified candidates specifically interested in jobs that offer flexible work options. Job seekers pay to view postings and each employer is carefully screened before being able to post a job.
As CEO of FlexJobs, Sara Sutton Fell said in my recent interview with her:
“Telecommuting is a greener way to work and our company is committed to promoting environmentally-sustainable practices wherever we can. It's only natural that as a company whose mission is to help people find telecommuting jobs that we'd all telecommute ourselves.”
iDoneThis is a tool that helps telecommuters report their progress every day. It is as easy as replying to an evening email reminder with what you did that day. The next day, you get a digest with what everyone on the team got done. It's that simple.
Inc enables you to easily share links, notes, files and have discussions within your team or company. So rather than sharing interesting things one email at a time with a select few, Inc allows people to share and store everything in one place so you can reference it again in the future.
Zapier connects all the web apps you use. With so many tools and applications out there, all of them don’t integrate well. Zapier makes that easier by building API integrations to allow different web apps to talk to each other. This way teams can easily move data between different web tools and automate tedious tasks.
Have you used any of these tools before? Or would like add one to the list? Leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
Related: Legalizing Telecommuting: Corporate Responsibility or Environmental Compliance?
Adding Telecommuting to Your CSR Program: What the Data Tells Us