If you manage remote workers, virtual employee tracking is important more efficient and important than ever to ensure timely, high-quality work that gets results. In today’s world where telecommuting has become so popular, how do you know whether a virtual employee is actually working or simply spending some quality time with their laundry? And, even more important, how much work are they actually doing?

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Virtual employee tracking has become such a big issue that large companies such as Yahoo have instituted regulations on the practice. Best Buy sets strict limits on its work-from-home policy. The news has been negative for both managers and employees who rely on the flexibility that telecommuting can offer.

However, telecommuting is easier than ever in modern day, thanks to many useful employee management tools that can help keep virtual employees productive, accountable, and in touch. Most of the tools are so cost-effective and easy to use that even the smallest businesses can rely on them.

Here are the six that we recommend, with tips on how to make the most of them so you, too, can manage online virtual employees.

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1. Hubstaff for virtual employee time tracking

hs-vertical-logoHubstaff is time tracking software with randomized screenshots and activity levels. With intuitive, easy-to-use timer that’s compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux devices, it’s the go-to choice for seamless time management.

Online virtual employees need only to sign up, download a desktop timer, then begin tracking time to individual tasks and projects. The time tracker is accurate down to the second, and Hubstaff creates automatic reports, timesheets and monitors productivity levels.

Hubstaff also integrates with numerous project management tools, so if you’re already using and loving Clickup, Trello, or any other employee management tools in your virtual teams, you can streamline your business processes seamlessly.

Hubstaff was started in 2012 by Dave Nevogt and Jared Brown, two entrepreneurs from Indianapolis, Indiana. They were using remote freelancers and wanted a better way to manage them. The software is built and utilized by a small team spread across the globe. The company’s office space is virtual and no one misses commutes or the overhead costs. Hubstaff is actively used by more than 3,000 agencies, freelancers, website owners and virtual teams all over the world.

Hubstaff also has an iPhone app which enables employee location tracking, if the need be. It does so by tracking their locations in real time through it’s built-in GPS feature. This helps in managing remote teams or team members who are on-the-go.

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2. Skype for voice and video calls

skype iconSkype is a virtual communication tool that allows you to make voice and video calls online for free. All you need is an Internet connection. If you want to access added features and functionality for your online virtual employees, Skype also offers a premium account.

Skype Premium allows you to have video conference calls with up to 10 people, so you can meet with every member of your team from their desk, in office or out, and everyone will be able to see the entire team.

Having conference calls and group chats puts all of your online virtual employees on the same page. Additionally, the premium service allows group screen sharing, which is useful for teaching and demonstrating tasks to virtual employees.

3. Dropbox for online cloud storage

dropboxDropbox is an online file storage service that allows you to collaborate with anyone you choose to via the cloud. You can give people access on a folder-by-folder basis, allowing you to share documents with the team members who need to see them.

Better yet, Dropbox allows you to use the service with up to 3GB of storage space for free. If you need more storage space, you can upgrade to the 50GB plan for only $99 dollars per year (larger plans are also available).

Use Dropbox to share files with everyone from online virtual employees to your accountant. Your office manager can scan contracts to a folder available to you and your partners and scan bank statements into yet another folder accessible to your accountant. You can have another folder of contractors for your lawyer, and a folder of design work for your graphic designer. Dropbox is the simplest solution when multiple people need access to various files in different locations.

4. Google Calendar for schedule organization

google calendarThe popular, and free, Google Calendar service allows users to share their schedules online with specific people or groups. It’s great for setting up meetings, organizing work schedules and more.

Your company could dedicate one calendar to project deadlines, so all online virtual employees know when a project is due. You can also set up another calendar to show travel dates so that remote workers know when their colleagues will be away.

Google Calendar can also be used to organize an editorial schedule for blogs, so everyone on the team knows when they’re due to be posted.

No matter what kind of schedule you need to organize with your staff, Google Calendar is a great project and employee management tool.

5. Shoeboxed for expense tracking

shoeboxedShoeBoxed is an online receipt management tool. It enables you to upload your receipts via email, which then can be categorized by expense type. You can send expense reports from anywhere and keep track of remote worker spending.

With free DIY plans and paid plans starting at only $9.95 per month, it is an extremely economical (and useful) tool for virtual staff to submit receipt expenses and for off-site accountants to be able to access them at any time.

Additionally, ShoeBoxed also allows for business card scanning and is compatible with QuickBooks.

6. Yammer for communication and social

yammerThink of Yammer as a private Twitter platform for companies to communicate securely online.

Yammer is great as a communication tool in virtual teams, or to build company culture in remote work settings. It can be used as a motivator or online water cooler for online virtual employees. Remote workers can communicate as a group in real time and create camaraderie without the rest of world listening in.

Your turn

Do you manage online virtual employees? What are your best virtual employee tracking and management tools? Let us know in the comments below and we’d be happy to get them added to our list.