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Managing A Virtual Workforce

Overseeing your troops when they are stationed in far-flung places can prove challenging. With miles–and, sometimes, an ocean–separating you, it can prove tricky to create a unified front, work in tandem to get the job done, and defeat the competition. To successfully complete this mission, you will need to make sure that your army is well-equipped for the task. Yes, in order to succeed in the seemingly hostile world of telecommuting, your arsenal must contain all the right tools.

What exactly does it take to ensure that your virtual workforce comes out on top? The tools that will enable them to keep in close contact, stay on top of projects, and function as if you were all in the same office, of course.

Tools for Keeping in Touch

When the majority of people think of the “workplace,” they conjure up images of desks or–insert groan–cubicles, side-by-side, with workers collaborating, visiting one another’s workspaces, and noshing on lunches in Tupperware containers. Traditionally, it is this hobnobbing and working in close proximity that fosters a sense of team.

According to “Use Cloud PBX to Engage and Involve Virtual Employees,” the biggest risk to virtual teams is this work environment’s innate lack of in-personal communication due to the aforementioned reasons and, also, because an important part of face-to-face communicating is reading one another’s non-verbal cues.

There are tools that enable your team to keep in touch and pick up on facial expressions, body language, and the other subtle nuances of communication. Skype, for example, can be used for more than just chatting with far-off relations. It is also a valuable business tool, enabling team members to talk virtually “face-to-face.” If you wish to maintain the illusion of closeness throughout the entire workday, Sqwiggle may be the perfect solution. In “Telecommuting: 7 Tools to Help Your Employees Stay Productive and Motivated,” Sqwiggle co-founder, Matt Boyd, states that this product “allows people to see and talk to their colleagues all day, just like in an office” and that “team cohesion is strengthened and communication becomes seamless” because of it.

Managing A Virtual Workforce

Tools for Sharing Information

There are likely times when your team members wish they could call a co-worker over to look at their computer screen. Enter ScreenHunter. With the ability to capture everything from single objects and images to entire screenshots and web pages, this sharing tool will enable your teammates to see exactly what you see. And, as “The Top 34 Tools for Managing Your Virtual Team” adds, forgetting to record your progress is not a worry due to ScreenHunter’s ability to auto-capture screen shots at recurring intervals.

If you have a team member who prefers to put pen to paper, these old-school preferences can be easily accommodated thanks to the LiveScribe Smart Pen. Yes, they can easily record everything they write or sketch–even their finest doodles–and easily transfer them to their computer. With the ability to turn handwritten text into additions to their Contacts Lists, Daytimer, or any other computer file, this is one useful writing accoutrement. And it is perfect for sharing those handwritten brainwaves.

Tools for Storing Data

Imagine having a virtual filing cabinet that your entire team can use to access and update files. Well, dream no more. This fantastical idea is a reality. Thanks to Dropbox, your company’s files can be shared by your team members without the security woes brought on by stolen laptops or lost flash drives. In “3 Tips for Managing a Virtual Workforce,” Caroline Green, Principal of IT Support Company, IvanExpert, states that tools like Dropbox enable her “to avoid the confusion of having multiple versions of documents e-mailed back and forth” thanks to Dropbox’s ability to automatically synchronizes your files as soon as they are saved.

Now you’re armed for business success. While the cache of available tools is massive, this sampling will greatly enhance your ability to complete your mission and deal your competition a lethal blow. Go get’em soldier.

What tool do you find most useful in managing your virtual workforce? Why?