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Tools to Keep Remote Employees Motivated and Productive

October 4, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228674

For some people, the idea of working from home can be an appealing, flexible option to commuting into an office every day. According to information from Stanford University, about 10 percent of U.S. employees now regularly work from home.

But being at home and disconnected from your team at work can be a recipe for failure. Working remotely can make some people lose their focus and motivation. And for business owners, it can be difficult to track an employee's progress and accomplishments when the person is working outside the office.

Here are three types of options you might want to consider to help keep your team motivated and productive when working remotely:

Stay focused: Freckle and Harvest
Freckle is best suited for smaller businesses and includes unique features like unlimited projects, simple, yet effective invoice and expense tracking, and it runs in your browser with no install necessary. This time-tracking tool is priced at $39 for up to five users, $79 for up to 15 users and $159 for up to 30 users.

Harvest is a time-tracking tool most often utilized by larger businesses, but can be handy for businesses with a small team as well. The tool offers detailed timesheets, robust invoicing features and mobile-friendly expense reporting to help business owners track multiple aspects of their company's day-to-day operations. This option for helping your business stay focused starts at $12 a month for up to three users.

Related: 3 Web Tools for Managing Employees Who Work From Home

Collaborate efficiently: Conference Calling and Oovoo
Conference Calling is a tool for regular conference calls with your team members. The tool is effective for small businesses due to its ease of use with features like reservationless conference calls, its recording capabilities that easily save an MP3 of your meeting and an easy-to-use web manager to help give the moderator of the call insight on who's on the call and who's talking. The service is available in three pricing plans for small businesses, starting at $19 for unlimited conference calls for up to 15 callers a month.

Oovoo is another video conferencing and collaboration tool that offers a free version for up to 12 minutes of 12-way video chat, available on desktop, mobile, tablet, web and Facebook. The premium version is $29.99 a year or $2.99 a month, with no ads and offers video storage of up to 1,000 minutes.

Oovoo allows for a video recording of your meeting, desktop sharing, text chat, the ability to watch YouTube videos together, send up to 25 MB of files and high-definition video streaming.

Keep organized: WORK[etc] and Basecamp
WORK[etc] is a web-based tool that helps organizations of all sizes stay organized, especially smaller companies with remote teams. It combines the functionality of a customer relationship management (CRM) system, project management, billing, sales, support and collaboration in an all-in-one cloud platform across all devices. It is a total business management system that helps organize your sales team, projects, operations, finance team, support team, management and business owners as one unit. WORK[etc] starts at $195 a month for three users with $39 per month for each additional user with 10,000 contacts and 15 GB of storage.

Basecamp is a popular project management tool that can help your team stay organized across their various tasks and clients. It's a scaleable tool for an organization since it is both simple to use due to its intuitive, user-friendly design, as well as fast to load and build onto a project. Discussions, documents, milestones, scheduling, tasks, questions and more all live alongside your projects, making it easy to understand what's going on from a high level since your efforts are centralized. Basecamp starts at $20 a month to manage up to 10 projects at once for businesses of all sizes.

Related: How to Maintain Security When Employees Work Remotely