Do you manage remote employees and need a way to ensure they are working on the right project at the right time? How do you know if your virtual employees are working as much as they bill for, and how can you help them do their best work? Trusting remote workers to do the job they are hired to do without slacking is difficult, but if you can track the work efficiently and easily, you won’t need to worry about new hires taking advantage of your company.
Below are five of the best tools for remote worker time tracking and communication that can help increase business productivity.
1. Feedback and Communication
Forget about tedious status reports. 15Five is a slick cloud platform works as a communications backbone for companies by prompting employees to spend 15 minutes a week writing about their successes, challenges, ideas, and morale in a report that takes a manager only 5 minutes to read. Managers decide the questions 15Five asks, such as “What’s going well in your role?” or “What challenges are you facing, and where do you need support?” With the click of a button, managers can include an employee comment in their own report. Whenever an executive responds to an idea or issue, both the manager and employee receive an email notification, so they can hop back onto 15Five to continue the conversation.
15Five recently implemented two new features; Question Bank and Goals & Accomplishments. Managers can use the Question Bank to search by keyword or category and discover the right question to inform meetings, inspire creative thinking, or maintain a strong company culture.
With Goals & Accomplishments, employees enter their goals for the next 7 days directly in the platform. In their following 15Five, they can check off the goals that they accomplished, while the ones that they missed are automatically marked with an x. Employees can add additional accomplishments at the bottom that were not contemplated when they filled out the report during the previous week.
2. Project Management and Time Tracking
Hubstaff is a remote worker time tracking and project management application designed to take the difficulties out of managing contractors, staff and projects that are completed online. Not content with being just another project management tool, Hubstaff is designed to run alongside whatever your business is already using; be it Basecamp, Asana or other supported software integrations.
Hubstaff tracks time spent on projects and monitors remote employees with innovative features like optional randomized screenshots and activity levels. The concept is designed to bring virtual managers closer to the projects and contractors they are overseeing, and the software makes it easier to produce progress reports, payslips and renumeration documents. Hubstaff is lightweight, quick to install, and can integrate with your existing project management software in a few clicks.
Some of the features include:
- Time tracking with automatic reports
- Automated timesheets
- GPS location tracking
- URL tracking and application monitoring
- A lightweight desktop app that runs quietly in the background and operates offline
- Multiple software integrations.
- Provides manual or automatic payments to remote employees based on time tracked with the app
- Works on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
For more information, watch the video below.
Track Remote Time with Hubstaff
Free for 14 Days
3. Face-to-Face Meetings
For a two-person video call, Skype is easy and free. But if you want to Skype with up to ten people at once, someone in the group has to upgrade up for Skype Premium, which starts at $5 a month.
For that reason, I recommend using Google+ Hangouts, which is free for meetings of up to ten people. You must have a Google+ account to use their Hangouts feature, and iOS and Mac users can also take part. In contrast, Apple’s FaceTime isn’t available on Android or Windows.
Google has added some pretty cool features into Hangouts, such as Hangouts On Air, which lets you live-stream any Hangout to Google+, record it to your YouTube channel, or broadcast it to your website. You can also share screenshots, snap photos of the Hangout, and pull in apps like SlideShare and Cacoo to give presentations and enable drawing, respectively.
If you need to hold an online meeting with more than ten participants, you might try Zoom. For $10 a month (or no charge if you can keep your meeting to less than 40 minutes), it lets you include up to 25 participants. And like Google+ Hangouts, Zoom works on your mobile device. Unlike Hangouts, however, Zoom supports HD video and audio.
4. Payroll Management
Intuit’s Online Payroll, which easily lets you export data to sister products QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online, is perfect for small businesses. For one thing, it gives you tons of assistance as you enter data during initial setup. This process can be complicated because you have to deal with so many variables, from your pay schedule to federal, state, and local taxes. Intuit’s setup wizard generates a to-do list that identifies required and recommended tasks, and its email reminders help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Intuit Online Payroll lets you access payroll information from a Web browser, smartphone, or tablet. It comes in three flavors. Basic, which starts at $25 per month, is strictly for paying people. Enhanced (starting at $35 per month) generates paychecks, automatically fills in W-2s and federal and state tax forms, and reminds you when payroll taxes are due. Full Service (starting at $99 per month) takes care of paying workers as well as filing and paying taxes. Under each plan, there is an extra $2 per month fee for every employee you pay. For an additional $3 per person per month, you can add a time-tracker module to the service. Employees can then track some time working and complete their own timesheets, eliminating the need for double entry.
5. Expense Tracking and Management
Expensify—offered by a San Francisco startup whose tagline is “Expense reports that don’t suck”—is an online tool and mobile app that greatly simplifies tracking expenses and creating and submitting expense reports. When installed on your employees’ mobile devices, the mobile app lets them record expenses on the fly, snap photos of receipts, use GPS to figure out how many miles they’re driving, and tracked employee time being spent on a project. This is especially handy now that Expensify offers invoicing features.
Once back in the office, workers can access the Web app, which syncs with information entered on the mobile app. From there, they can use Expensify’s SmartScan technology to analyze photos of receipts and automatically fill in date and amount fields. If users import bank and credit card transactions, the platform will generate e-receipts for expenses that will pass muster with the IRS, so nobody has to keep files of paper receipts.
Expensify integrates with many popular products, including Evernote, FinancialForce, FreshBooks, Google Apps, NetSuite, QuickBooks, and Salesforce. You’ll need a premium subscription to connect to some of these accounts.
The free version lets bosses accept, review, and approve the expense reports of two employees. Coverage of additional staffers costs $6 per person per month. Users can upload as many receipts as they want to Expensify. Free SmartScans are limited to ten per month, after which they cost 20 cents each.
What tools do you use for online communication, expense management and remote worker time tracking?