5 Tips for Managing Remote Workers

Effectively Manage Remote Employees

cats

Remote work offers a number of advantages for employers and employees alike, including cutting down on employee commute time, saving on office space expense, and enabling work to get done wherever an employee may be. However, there are also drawbacks to remote work which can cause anticipated productivity gains from the practice to fall short of expectations. These include:

  • Lack of oversight resulting in reduced remote worker productivity
  • Difficulty with communication due to a lack of face-to-face contact
  • Difficulty in working together as a team
  • Distracted working behavior due to suboptimal working conditions

The tips outlined below are designed to help you overcome these and other potential pitfalls of managing remote employees.

Be Transparent

transparancy_1501710992-1024x682

It takes more effort, generally speaking, to get remote workers to learn and buy-in to a company’s corporate culture. On-premises employees often naturally pick up your company’s goals, objectives, and way of doing business by social interaction as much as by reading company manuals and guidebooks. Given that remote workers aren’t able to take advantage of this effect, you should go out of your way to make sure that remote employees are kept informed of the company’s objectives and expectations.

Transparency is crucial for accomplishing this. Being transparent means informing workers about not only the company’s goals, but also the progress the company is making to achieve them and what it means to the company (and its employees) to achieve those goals. In other words, what success looks like. Being transparent about an employee’s role in achieving company objectives helps generate buy-in and improves overall worker productivity.

Written documentation is key to fostering transparency by providing material employees can search through for information regarding company policies and procedures at a time of their choosing. Remote workers should be provided with access to any and all general information that they need to function on a team.

Lack of access to this type of information, or selective disclosure of it, can lead to suboptimal results or even failure to achieve team objectives. Sharing information of this type with team members has been made easier by the development of collaboration tools which facilitate communicating and sharing information.

One such tool is Slack, which allows you to make updated data relating to your team’s progress available to all team members in a format where they can communicate with you and others about the project. This type of transparency helps you keep everyone on the same page about a project’s goals and progress.

Track Performance and Stress Accountability

Stressing accountability is a must when it comes to getting the most out of remote employees. While remote work offers cost savings, it also makes it more difficult to determine how much work an employee has completed. To ensure that remote employees aren’t using the lack of direct supervision to slack off, perform rigorous tracking of their productivity. A variety of tools can assist you in this process by logging hours worked and progress made on specific tasks.

Inform remote employees that their performance will be tracked. This lets them know that they will be held accountable for working productively. This ties into the idea of using transparency to help promote beneficial outcomes. If employees understand that working remotely does not imply any lack of accountability when it comes to what is expected of them, you improve your ability to maximize the value of using remote workers.

Emphasize Communication

Remote workers can’t chat over coffee in the employee lounge or walk across the floor to ask a colleague a question. This makes it incumbent on you as the manager to take steps to make sure that communication issues don’t prevent your remote team members from being as productive as possible. Taking steps to provide a communications structure that helps to avoid miscommunication is highly recommended.

In an on-premises scenario, miscommunication can often be smoothed over by face-to-face contact. This is not the case when it comes to remote teams, so paying careful attention to the communication channels and procedures used for remote team communication is necessary to reduce the chances of encountering problems of this type.

To address communications issues, you can take the following steps:

  • Make yourself as available as possible to talk with your team members if they should have any questions about a project or task
  • Emphasize that team members should err on the side of over-communicating
  • If team members have any questions or comments about a project or policy, encourage them to call, email, or message someone on the team to seek clarification

There are a variety of communications apps that can be helpful when it comes to effectively managing remote employees. Video conferencing apps such as Skype allow you to speak face to face with distant employees, while teamwork management apps make it easy to message and collaborate with remote employees. Make sure to clearly specify to your team which communications tools should be used and how they should be used.

Host Meetings on a Regular Basis

When holding remote meetings, make them subject to the same preparations and procedures as meetings that take place in person. Work up an agenda with action items and prepare any slides or videos necessary for the presentation. Visual images can help keep a remote audience engaged, so try to include at least some visuals in your meetings when possible. Given their nature, remote meetings should be short and to the point. Keep attendees engaged so their attention doesn’t wander.

These meetings should be held on a regular basis to ensure that remote workers feel that they are connected to their colleagues and valued by their employer. In addition to a functional component, such meetings also have the social purpose of increasing team member buy-in. Taking the time to speak with team members voice-to-voice or face-to-face, either via voice or video conference calls or having them meet on-premises from time to time, is essential for building a strong bond among the team.

Given their nature, remote meetings should be short and to the point. 

Help Remote Workers Be Productive

Working remotely, for all its advantages, can present the opportunity for workers to pick up some unproductive habits. These can take a variety of forms, including:

  • Procrastination
  • Unproductive multi-tasking. For instance, watching TV while working.
  • Atrophied social skills due to infrequent human interaction
  • Working remotely can blur the distinction between a worker’s home and work life, leading to workaholism, which can hurt an employee’s productivity in the long-term.

To help remote workers overcome these and other challenges of distance working, there are a variety of steps you can take. One of these is emphasizing positive work habits by stressing the need to take time to attend to one’s physical and mental health.

This could include physical work-outs, eating healthy, taking mental breaks, practicing yoga, meditation, or some other relaxation or contemplation technique that helps keep an individual focused and happy. Different approaches will be appropriate for different people, of course, but, in general, promoting a holistic view to work-life balance among your team members can pay dividends by enhancing remote worker productivity.

Another aspect of remote work worthy of focus is the work environment. Remote workers who work mainly at home may find that they must deal with a plethora of distractions, including spouses, significant others, kids, roommates, television, neighbors, and the list goes on. It can be helpful to advise workers in such a situation to establish an alternate work site so they can avoid facing these distractions on a continual basis. Such sites could take the form of a quiet coffee shop, a local workspace colocation facility, or some other location where they can get away from the home environment to avoid distractions from time to time.

When it comes to fostering social interaction, holding frequent meetings, even if they are short ones, offers remote workers the chance to establish a social bond with their coworkers and avoid feeling isolated by their work. In terms of procrastination, using productivity tools can cut down on this tendency and help workers be productive by providing them with reminders of deadlines and milestones relating to important tasks.

Nuvro is a robust online project management tool that helps you manage your entire team whether they’re across the room or on the other side of the world. With Nuvro you can gain control and peace of mind over all of your projects, tasks, team members, workload and everything else important to your company. In addition to the project, task and collaboration features found in most PM tools, Nuvro also provides a company dashboard, a team dashboard, team member performance reviews, secure document management, an internal alternative to email and more. Nuvro is perfect for busy teams looking to accomplish more. Learn More…

Advertisements

Introducing Project Template

You might need to create and manage multiple projects, and in many situations you want to set up the projects in a similar way. For example, you want to allow users in your projects to be able to add tasks, you do not want the Observers to see the rate of the users in the project, you want to prevent your users in the project from discarding logged screen shots, and etc. These options are not the default options therefore currently you need to adjust them manually after the project is created. When the number of projects is large, this could become quite tedious and time consuming. Now we have come up with a new feature called Project Template that allows you to pre-build a set of settings of a project and save them as a template. When you create a new project, you can use the Project Template to populate the settings to the new project. This will greatly reduce the effort to configure each new project and make the process much more efficient.

Here is how it works. First, you go to Manage >> Manage Templates to create a new Project Template. You will be presented with a 3-step wizard that guides you through setting the necessary options. These options are pretty much replica of those in a real project.

create_project_template_00

Continue reading

Introducing Always-Active Task

Sometimes, a user does not always use computer to do his work. For example, one might need to make phone calls, have meetings, read documents, or write notes. These tasks are not necessarily performed using computer. Even on computer, the user might just be having a Skype call, in which case he does not really need to interact with computer therefore he might appear to be idle. In order to facilitate the tracking of these activities, we have introduced a new feature called Always-Active task. When a user logs time by selecting an Always-Active task, the time logged is always considered to be active, regardless whether the user has been interacting with the computer or not. This way, when a user needs to go to do work off the computer, he can simply switch the task to an Always-Active task and keep logging his work time.

When creating a task, a Manager can set the option to make the task Always-Active. It is completely to the discretion of the Manager.

always_active_task_01

After a user logs time to the Always-Active task, it appears slightly different on the Track Time page. The color indication is little different and the activity meter is always in full strength. Here is an example.

always_active_task_03

By logging time using Always-Active task, you have the benefits of (1) eliminating the need to manually add offline time later, and (2) still keeping the screen shot record if you do work on computer such as Skype call or watching video.

We hope that you find this feature useful. For more information about the feature, you can find it in this help document.

As always, we will be glad to hear your feedback and comments.

Basecamp 3 Integration is Available

We are happy to announce that Worksnaps now works with Basecamp 3. Basecamp 3 is the newest incarnation of the hugely popular project management tool. It is the 3rd revision and 37 Signals (the company that created Basecamp) claims that it is so much improved that it is a game changer. You can read more about Basecamp 3 here.

Worksnaps has been supporting integration with the previous two versions of Basecamp (called Basecamp Classic and Basecamp New, or Basecamp 2). Now Worksnaps can work with Basecamp 3. The projects and to-do’s from Basecamp 3 can be imported into Worksnaps and users can log time against those projects and to-do’s (we call them “tasks” in Worksnaps). For those who use Basecamp as project management tool, you will find Worksnaps enhances Basecamp with time tracking  and makes it even more powerful.

To integrate with Basecamp 3 in Worksnaps, you can go to “Profile & Settings” >> “3rd Party Integration“, you will find the Basecamp 3 section where you can link your Worksnaps account with your Basecamp 3 account. Then you will be import your Basecamp 3 projects and to-do’s into Worksnaps and start tracking time against them.

basecamp_3_integration

For a detailed description on how to set up the integration with Basecamp 3, you can look up this help document.

We hope that you find the Basecamp 3 integration useful and look forward to hearing your feedback.

 

 

 

 

Worksnaps Mobile Version

We are happy to announce that Worksnaps mobile version is available in beta release. You can use the browser on your mobile device to go to our web site, then you will be directed to the mobile version once you log in. The mobile version allows you to easily check the stats of the logged time and view each user’s screen shots and detailed activity.

mobile_screen_shot_01    mobile_screen_shot_02

We hope that the mobile version will provide a convenient way for our users to check the project status and logged time on the go. It is a beta release now so there are still some details that we are working to refine. We will continuously improve it and provide better experience.

As usual, we welcome and appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

 

 

 

New Screen Shot Viewer

We are happy to release a new screen shot viewer that has much improved usability. Now, if you go to Track Time page to view your users’  time, you can click the magnifier icon next to a thumbnail image to bring up the new screen shot viewer to see the image with full resolution. The screen shot viewer will show as a overlay on top of the thumbnail page so that you can easily go back and forth without leaving the page.

The following is a diagram that explains various functions on the screen shot viewer.

screen_shot_viewer_03

(Click to enlarge the image)

With the screen shot viewer, you can easily navigate the screen shots by moving forward or backward for the next or previous image. For each screen shot, you can zoom in/out either by using the buttons or by using your mouse scroll wheel. You can use mouse to grab the image to pan it (when the image is enlarged and overflows the viewer). On the right-hand side, the information for the time slot (such as task, user entered description, activity meter) is displayed, as well as the detailed activity history. You can also adjust size the default image panel to suit your viewing comfort. If you select the largest size, the screen will fill the whole page and the right information panel will be suppressed, which is handy if you wish to see only the screen shot image.

We hope that you find the new screen shot viewer useful. As always, we welcome any feedback, comments and thoughts from you.

 

New Worksnaps API Documentation

We are happy to announce the availability of the new Worksnaps API documentation. As you might know, Worksnaps APIs have been available for more than 3 years. Many customers are utilizing the APIs to do useful and interesting things such as generating customized report, integrating with internal accounting system, embedding Worksnaps time tracking into their own business workflow, or building pages that are more adapted to their own interface framework.

We see APIs as an important part of our product offerings. Why? There is an abundance of software solutions, especially as SaaS offerings, available to businesses to improve productivity. Worksnaps participates in this ecosystem by providing a leading solution for remote work time tracking. Businesses will pick and choose best-of-breed and most fitting solutions for their specific needs. No one solution can solve all the problems. Therefore it requires many of these solutions to work together in complex business processes. An open and flexible API will be crucial to make this happen. That is why we put a lot of emphasis in designing and providing a robust and flexible set of APIs for our customers.

api_documentation

We use Swagger to create our new API documentation. Swagger is a powerful tool for generating beautiful API documentation. What is best about it is that you can test the API calls within the documentation. All you need to do is enter your API token and prepare necessary input data (if needed), then you can launch the API call right there. It is explained in How to Test API section in the documentation.

Also, one quick reminder — the API entry URL has been changed to https://api.worksnaps.com/api as previously announced in this blog article. Please make any necessary adjustments in your programs where the API calls are issued.

We hope that this new API documentation will help you better understand how to use Worksnaps API and make use of it. As always, we will be happy to hear your feedback and suggestions.