There were 17.2 million telecommuters in the US in 2009 and the expectation is that numbers will increase significantly over the next decade. With the increase in people working from home, and the creation of a “virtual office” environment, there is also an increase in the need for software designed for the virtual office.
Software tools designed to replace the “benefits” of an office
There are several perceived and real benefits of an office environment versus working virtually. Let’s take a look at these and see how virtual office software tries to compensate and provide enough of these benefits to enable staff to work from home effectively:
- Face to face communication – working in an office environment enables communication and collaboration to take place face to face.
- Better collaboration – the fact that employees are sitting next to each other can help to improve collaboration and teamwork.
- Attendance and time management – ensuring that staff actually turn up to work on time and are working (not watching TV in the living room). This lack of management trust that staff will actually be working is a significant reason that companies are less likely to allow staff to telecommute.
Lets take a look at some of the software that can be used to create an online virtual office and provide these same benefits of a real office space.
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Refog Employee Monitor is a software surveillance product that has a pretty comprehensive set of monitoring features: Keystroke recording, viewing web history and recording screenshots. This product is very different to Time Doctor, but they both can be used for remote employee monitoring, so let’s take a look at the different approaches.
Refog is really purely a monitoring program. Time Doctor is focused on improving the time management of a team with enough monitoring to make sure that a person is really working. Time Doctor also tries to strike a balance by not being too intrusive in what is being monitored versus making sure that management have enough information to make sure that staff are actually working.
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oDesk is a fantastic service for finding contractors and remote staff from any country in the world. Typically, web developers, writers, admin assistants and programmers are easy to find. Anyone can search and find workers or teams, view ratings, work history and competencies. The oDesk platform also provides a service to contractors to guarantee payment from employers.
oDesk also has a very handy set of evaluation tests which help to quickly review potential applicants. The “oDesk Team Tool” is used to track team members working hours (with screen shots and activity tracking to make sure that employees are accurately recording their hours worked).
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