After the recent flurry of controversy surrounding the leaked internal memo from Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer that has curtailed her employees ability to work from home, the pros & cons of telecommuting have been fiercely debated. The main argument from the perspective of Yahoo management is that a team of telecommuters won’t benefit from serendipitous innovation that comes about through casual discussions at the water cooler. Other entrepreneurs and leaders have agreed with the policy, arguing that there is little camaraderie fostered when team members work from home more days than they work in the office.
Of course, these disadvantages of telecommuting are not reasons to forbid the practice entirely. The drawbacks created by Yahoo’s telecommuting culture are just as prevalent amongst multinational companies contracting their work into different time zones, as well as amongst self-employed entrepreneurs starting as a company of one. Communication is always an issue when distance is involved. Fortunately for everyone, there is a selection of modern technologies in place that facilitates long-distance communication, collaboration and project management. Don’t shut down your home offices just yet.
After the decision to work from home has been made and you have chosen the best laptops, office furniture and personal stationary for your new role, you need to consider what apps can make telecommuting easy and productive. Here is a timely roundup of the best programs that every telecommuter, entrepreneur and contractor should use.
GoToMeeting provides users with the ability to organize and attend online teleconferences with up to 25 individuals; if you use the related program GoToWebinar, you can include hundreds of participants. Attendees of the High Definition (HD) videoconferences can sign-in from their laptop or smartphone, making the program a good choice for workers on the go. The host can share all or part of their computer screen, program files, mouse control and specific applications with the other delegates.
In a team of telecommuters, it can be hard to keep track of what is going on – and how efficiently everyone else is working! This piece of free software allows a team to record the time they spend on particular tasks. Inputting tasks, deadlines and estimated completion tomes into the Tasklist function automatically creates a schedule to help workers manage their load. The program then allows timesheets to be downloaded at the end of each month, bringing transparency and accountability to the delegation process.
All the facets of project management are brought together into a single-page format with the Basecamp program. With the aesthetics of a social networking site, things like uploaded files, discussion forums, To Do lists, calendars and text documents are viewable to the team from a main page. Real-time updates and emailed reports are available to participants automatically to make sure everyone remains in the loop on project developments and is aware when a task is delegated to them.
This program is perhaps the closest online contender to “serendipity at the water cooler”. Evernote allows individuals to collect their moments of inspiration, storing them in a centrally accessible collection. Webpages, documents, scanned papers and uploaded photographs are all categorized, and it is easy to search tag labels for colleague’s recorded ideas afterwards.