Social Tools Make Managing Remote Workers Easier

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Social tools such as Skype and instant messaging, along with social networks that help workers connect with each other, can make it a lot easier to manage remote teams than it used to be before the web came along — and doing so has become even more necessary as globalization has put increasing pressure on companies, oDesk CEO Gary Swart told the Net:Work conference on Thursday.

“The world has changed, and the future of work is going to look very different,” Swart said. The combination of a difficult economy, the rise of globalization and the democratizing force of the Internet has made it even more crucial for companies to figure out how to make use of remote workforces and freelance contractors in different locations, and social tools can help with that, the oDesk CEO said.

“Managing people is hard, regardless of whether they are on premise or remote,” said Swart. “So you face a lot of the same challenges you have with your local population [such as] finding and hiring the right people in the first place, setting standards for measuring their performance.” Add to that the difficulties of communication, time-zone differences and cultural differences, he said, and “there’s a whole bunch of complexities you add into the mix.”

One of the things that helps employees stay in touch now, whether they are remote or not, is social networks and social tools, said Maynard Webb, chairman and CEO of LiveOps. “People are used to staying in touch with people they are loosely connected to” because of the use of networks such as Facebook, he said. And while you have to communicate a lot more with people who are working remotely, Webb said “I don’t communicate a lot with people on the third or fourth floor of our building sometimes — and our contractors are often more connected and happy than the people who are in the corporate office.”

Gary Swart said that oDesk has “work-from-home days” on Tuesdays, and because social tools have become so pervasive, “I feel just as connected on those days as when people are sitting in the cube next to you.”

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Deborah Fike

I love the “work from home days” idea. A workplace can be a lot of distraction, but using social tools to remove distraction and promote more productivity can really help a business grow.

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