Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Ways to Communicate with a 100% Virtual Workforce

With so much of our activities centered around digital technology, many businesses no longer need their employees to work onsite. Individuals can work anywhere they are able to access the internet and a cellphone signal. So how do employees and their employers stay in touch and avoid communication lapses in this virtual office? Here are ten means of communication that they are utilizing to keep them all on the same page.
  1. Email – Electronic mail is the big one. You can communicate back and forth with your entire workforce at once by sending out an email to everyone in an established contact group. Responses can come back to the whole group, or to you privately, in the same manner. You can send documents, photos, videos and audio files as attachments. In addition, your whole conversation is available for review in your mail program. No excuses for forgetting what was on the to-do list.
  2. Skype – For those who’d prefer a face-to-face conversation for time’s sake and a more personal means of communicating, Skype has become a favorite. It’s easy and it’s free. All you need is a webcam and microphone, and you’re communicating visually, just like the Jetson’s.
  3. Instant Messaging – For quick chats, IM’s work really well. Instant Messaging clients provide you a list of which of your contacts are currently online, so that you know if someone is working at their computer or not, and are available to discuss an issue or answer a question.
  4. Fax – The fax is getting used less and less, but it hasn’t disappeared just yet. For sending a copy of a signed document, this is still often required by some virtual office managers.
  5. Cellphone – Mobile technology has allowed us to answer  and make phone calls from almost anywhere, at any time. Virtual workforces use their smartphones for voice, text, email and instant messaging. It is the handheld office.
  6. Landline – For some virtual employers or employees, the landline telephone is still their preferred means of voice communication. Cellphone service can be unreliable in some areas and reception unclear. For a more professional connection, the landline wins hands down.
  7. Regular Mail – There are a few things that either can’t be shared digitally or would be costly to obtain in a digital form. Other times, there are legal reasons for using regular mailing methods to communicate with virtual workers, but it is still done.
  8. Google Docs – Google has created a virtual online workspace where documents, calendars and other items for collaboration can be shared with a group. This allows the whole workforce to contribute to a schedule or keep track of a task list.
  9. GoToMeeting – Like Skype, this online product allows video conferencing, but it goes beyond that. It also allows individuals to share access to their computers. This can be particularly helpful for training on software programs that you are requiring your virtual workforce to use.
  10. Basecamp – This is a great productivity tool for the virtual workforce. Task lists and deadlines can be posted for individuals or groups. Files can be uploaded and shared. Messages can be posted regarding projects. It even includes a time tracking feature so that your virtual employees can clock their hours worked on a virtual time clock.
This virtual worker is sitting at the kitchen counter typing on a laptop. I’ve never seen my employer’s face or heard his voice, but I’m quite confident that he truly does exist, because my paycheck faithfully arrives via Paypal, his virtual banker, each week.

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