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Bosses without borders: Essential tools for managing remote workers

Christina DesMarais | Aug. 6, 2013
Remote working is on the rise: remote workers put in more hours and are slightly more engaged than their office counterparts.

Asana's cloud platform (which resembles the three-paneled Web app that Evernote uses) gives you a wealth of information about a given project. On the left you can filter what will appear in the main, middle section by project or team member. Click a particular task there to get more details about it in the right pane--information such as due dates, people assigned to the project, and comments that team members have made about it. Asana lets you attach files from your computer, Google Drive, or Dropbox to any task. The company also nudges new users toward a demo video to make the process of getting started less difficult.

If your employees are coders, you might try Pivotal Tracker, a project management tool for software development teams. It starts at $7 a month for three collaborators and five projects.

For 'face-to-face' virtual meetings: Google+ Hangouts or Zoom
For a two-person video call, Skype is easy and free. But if you want to Skype with up to ten people at once, someone in the group has to ante up for Skype Premium, which starts at $5 a month.

For that reason, I recommend using Google+ Hangouts, which is free for meetings of up to ten people. Though you have to have a Google+ account to use one, iOS and Mac users can also take part. In contrast, Apple's FaceTime isn't available on Android or Windows.

Google has baked some pretty cool features into Hangouts, such as Hangouts On Air, which lets you live-stream any Hangout to Google+, record it to your YouTube channel, or broadcast it to your website. You can also share screenshots, snap photos of the Hangout, and pull in apps like SlideShare and Cacoo to give presentations and enable drawing, respectively.

If you need to hold an online meeting with more than ten participants, you might try Zoom. For $10 a month (or no charge if you can keep your meeting to less than 40 minutes), it lets you include up to 25 participants. And like Google+ Hangouts, Zoom works on your mobile device. Unlike Hangouts, however, Zoom supports HD video and audio.

For payroll: Intuit Online Payroll
Intuit's Online Payroll, which easily lets you export data to sister products QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online, is perfect for small businesses. For one thing, it gives you tons of assistance as you enter data during initial setup. This process can be complicated because you have to deal with so many variables, from your pay schedule to federal, state, and local taxes. Intuit's setup wizard generates a to-do list that identifies required and recommended tasks, and its email reminders help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.


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