4 Best Tools to Manage Remote Employees & Improve Workflow

In this article, we list our favorite tools to manage remote employees and help you understand how to build better systems for distributed teams.

The modern workplace is slowly turning digital. While most companies expect employees to commute for hours and host unnecessary office meetings, others are already testing hybrid or fully remote-setups.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition. Many companies are only now starting to realize the benefits of remote setups. Still, some managers seem to worry about the effectiveness and productivity of a remote team. According to them, it is hard to keep an overview and build a good workflow.

Using software tools to manage remote employees effectively

To tackle these issues, we decided to introduce 4 of the most important tools to manage remote employees. From task-setting to messaging, these software tools will help you get the most out of this inevitable shift in the office environment.

1. Asana

Asana pricing: FREE - $ 24,99 per month

Asana is a digital tool that helps teams organize, track, and manage their work. The remote collaboration tool has many different applications but is mainly used as project management and goal tracking software. Asana is often praised as one of the best ways to help remote and distributed teams focus on their project goals and is therefore widely used in such environments. The free version offers a wide range of functionalities and is good enough for small to mid-sized teams.

Benefits for remote employees include:

  • Co-creation and planning - Creating different projects where members of your team are assigned to. Each member can assign tasks for themselves or for other team members.
  • Cross-departmental communication - Improves communication between team members and offers a structured overview of all projects.
  • Integrations - Connects with Slack, Google Drive, Outlook, Gmail, Zoom, and more than 100 additional apps, to keep all your tasks organized.
  • Asana time tracking - If you need to track the time spent on a particular project - for example when paying freelancers on an hourly basis - consider adding the Harvest or TrackingTime extension.
  • Chart development - If you want to create illustrated time charts, you can either upgrade to Asana premium or use an extension like Instagantt.

Note: If your team is located in different time zones, you may want to consider Monday.com instead. While the latest is less popular than Asana, it is increasing in market share due to its focus on remote teams.

2. Slack

4 Best Tools to Manage Remote Employees & Improve Workflow

Slack pricing: FREE - $11.75 per month

Who doesn't know Slack? Being one of the most popular tools to manage remote employees, Slack is an excellent way to build a fully virtual office. The channel-based messaging platform helps people collaborate effectively, connecting their preferred software tools, and finding the information they need to do their best work.

Benefits for remote employees include:

  • Better overview - Create a virtual office by using channels for each department and connect Asana to link tasks to each channel. By linking the two software tools, you can have a better overview of your team's remote performance management.
  • Messaging history - Stay engaged with your team at all times and browse through older messages to find information that you need when you most need it.
  • Third-party linking - Connect your Slack channels with external parties, like stakeholders and partners, to communicate efficiently. This is especially useful when outsourcing part of your work to agencies and freelancers that need to stay in the loop.

Note: When it comes to video conferences, many remote employees like to record their sessions in order to watch them later. Since Slack does not support video call recording, many users choose to have meetings on Google Hangouts instead. However, that is not necessary. You can simply download Hippo Video plugin and record all your meetings directly through Slack.

3. Team Viewer

4 Best Tools to Manage Remote Employees & Improve Workflow

Team Viewer pricing: FREE - $124.90 per month

TeamViewer is a remote access software that allows users to take control of and work from other computers. The tool is often used for desktop sharing, web conferencing, online meetings, and file transfer between computers in different locations. Most remote workers are perfectly satisfied with the free version since it gives full functionality to a single user.

Benefits for remote employees include:

  • Remote access - Access and work from your office computers when working from home or during business travels. This allows you to access private files and even print locally.
  • Increased safety - Access remote servers safely no matter where they are. This is especially useful when the work network is accessed using VPN, which often doesn't work when using public wifis from cafes.
  • Connect with your team - Easily resolve work emergencies or take over tasks of other employees. For example, if an employee is experiencing a technical issue, a developer can take over and solve the issue quickly.

4. CharlieHR

4 Best Tools to Manage Remote Employees & Improve Workflow

CharlieHR pricing: Starts at $4.45 per month (per employee)

CharlieHR is useful for companies that take a hybrid approach towards remote work. This is because it takes care of most HR tasks linked to full-time employees. If your remote team consists solely of freelancers or agencies, it may not be necessary. That being said, bigger companies that hire full-time remote workers can easily streamline all HR processes.

Benefits for remote employees include:

  • Streamlines HR activities - Helps HR managers keep a better overview of recruitment tasks and candidate applications.
  • Collaboration between parties - Helps different parties communicate and independently schedule their holidays, work-from-home days, and sick days.
  • Integrations - Can integrate with project management tools, including Asana. This helps managers improve their planning to maximize employee performance.

Learn how to use these remote management tools

Each tool has educational material for new or inexperienced users. When it comes to the options discussed above, make sure you consider the following:

  • Asana - Check Asana Academy for courses, webinars, and educational blog posts. Most course material is translated into multiple languages.
  • Slack - Check Slack Resources for webinars, ebooks, virtual trainings and even testing for official certifications.
  • TeamViewer - Read the latest version of TeamViewer's remote control manual.
  • CharlieHR - Visit the guides section for ebooks and reports.

Final note on remote employee management and tool selection

Managing remote employees is a skill that will increase in importance. The concept of location-independent work is already overtaking most office-based roles and will most likely become the new work standard.

Obviously, the tools you use along the way will help you build effective processes and maximize work efficiency. Without them, you will struggle to keep an overview and find yourself in chaotic situations. The 4 tools we introduced above should be a good starting point. However, keep in mind that more is not always better.

Most remote teams can build effective processes by simply using a combination of:

  • A project management tool (e.g. Asana)
  • A remote communication tool (e.g. Slack)

Aside from these tools, you will most likely need to use a cloud storage service as well (e.g. Google Drive). This will allow your team to distribute files fast and easy, and can be integrated to both of the above tools.

We invite you to explore the tools we discussed in this article and see which option(s) fit the current setup of your company. The earlier you decide to take your planning and communication online, the easier it will be to transition into a remote-first company later. If you want to explore the topic of remote work further, make sure to browse through the FAQ section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following Q&A delves into more detailed information related to remote work.

Which roles are responsible for virtual office management?

There are two roles that are usually involved with managing remote teams:

  • HR manager - For hybrid setups and small to mid-sized teams, remote work management falls under the tasks of the HR manager.
  • Head of Remote - Larger companies with a hybrid approach or fully remote teams usually hire a dedicated manager to keep track of remote employees and improve the workflow.

The candidates that fulfill these roles will need to have experience using virtual office software tools that are used for communication and project planning (e.g. Asana, Slack, etc.).

Head of Remote - What are the responsibilities of this role?

The Head of Remote tries to define and minimize processes that maximize the efficiency of distributed teams. According to Andreas Kliger, Head of Remote at Angel.co, these processes can be defined as "explicit expectations".

For example, you may have an explicit expectation that developers review code every morning, before starting with their tasks. This is done so that other remote team members are able to perform their tasks as fast and efficiently as possible.

Overall, the goal for a remote team manager is to set up a well-functioning team where each participant doesn't depend on each other and is able to make individual decisions with confidence.

How can I reward a well-performing, virtual worker?

You can use employee recognition software like WooBoard or BlueBoard. Both tools offer creative ways to reward good employees, improving virtual company culture.

What are some good practices when switching to a hybrid setup?

  • Set up communication processes where remote workers are not seen as "second-class citizens". The latest is often true as most office workers find it easier to communicate by talking and feel annoyed when they need to send a message.
    How to get it done: Have at least some departments transition to remote-first. This means that processes that would normally happen within the office are transitioned online (e.g. Hangouts meeting instead of meetings in the office).
  • Meet up as often as possible in person. By getting to know all remote team members in real life, communication is strengthened and most process problems are resolved easier.
    How to get it done: Try to work with remote workers from the same continent, and fly them over to your office headquarters frequently. This can be during important events, like a quarterly or annual meeting, or less formal meetings, like an employee party.

What is the best software for project management?

In our opinion, you can’t go wrong with using Asana for most of your project management tasks. Based on our experience working with many early-stage companies, we can confidently say that Asana’s free version is the best project management software for startups. And once your team grows, you can always consider upgrading to the premium option.

What is the easiest project management software?

A tool is only as easy as the consistent practise you put into it. You can always go extremely simple by simply using Google Calendar (we don’t even list this above). By scheduling your Google calendar, you can organize your and your employees time on a basic way. However, if you want to perform the best possible job and keep a good overview of every part of the process (including high level taks), you are best off using Asana. The tool can be used in a very basic way as well, making it a great solution for those that are not used to project management software.

What software do project managers use?

Project managers have a wide array of tasks, which links them with pretty much all the departments within a startup company, including remote employees. As such, when talking about the best tools to manage remote employees, we can assume that they use (1) a project management software like Asana, and (2) a communication software tool like Slack. The following question will help you find some more alternatives in case the ones you have are not the ones you prefer.

What are examples of project management tools?

If Asana doesn’t really do it for you, or you find it hard to get ahold of it,feel free to explore some of the alternative options listed below:

  • ClickUp
  • Google Calendar
  • Trello (Best Asana alternative)
  • Workzone
  • ProofHub
  • MeisterTask
  • Monday (explained briefly above)
  • Teamwork (up and coming option)
  • Podio

What are examples of team communication tools

If Slack is not the best option and you’d rather explore some alternatives, make sure you check out the following tools. Most of them cover the same functionalities and help your team stay up to date and properly organized:

  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype (yes, Skype of one of the most popular startup communication tools)
  • Cisco Spark
  • Workzone
  • Hive
  • Glip
  • Jabber
  • Let’s Chat
  • Mattermost
  • Rocket.Chat
  • Samepage