The term “online work” refers to work that can be performed remotely instead of commuting to a work location. Examples of online jobs predominantly done online include graphic designers, website developers, online tech support, customer service providers, and content creators. Employers manage online workers using online work management systems, online work order systems, and online work management tools.
The COVID-19 pandemic is fuelling demand for remote workers every day, even though remote work has been around for decades. According to the PwC’s US Remote Work Survey released in January 2021, most executives and staff think remote work is a success.
(Image source: PWC)
Managers and employees have had to adjust to new remote working styles. An online work management system makes online work better for both employers and workers. It helps both parties gain insight and plan workflows while employers better control labor costs and improve efficiency.
What is an Online Work Management System?
An online work management system works in tandem with an online work order system and is supported by an online work management tool. These tools make it easier for online workers and managers to work from anywhere at any given time.
An online work management system is designed to manage teams of workers by allocating tasks and monitoring completion. After the work order is created, an online work order system ensures the systematic flow of work assignments, management, and fulfillment.
Below are some of the benefits of an online work management system:
- Accountability: Online work management systems usually come with a summary report feature of all tasks. This feature ensures everyone is accountable for their assignments.
- Organization: An online work management system stores project files and workflow tools in one place. This feature provides quick and seamless access to data.
- Visibility: Online work management systems improve collaboration. Everyone in the organization has a clear view of the project’s status. Workers and managers can share the project status, identify projects at risk, and monitor timelines. This transparency improves strategy and planning.
6 Features to Look For
If you need a system to manage remote online workers, we offer six tips below to help you identify the best online work management system that suits your unique needs:
- Project budget management: Does the tool have a budget management feature? This helps with fiscal planning, billing, and all the project’s financial issues. An excellent online project management software should integrate with most of the leading SaaS accounting platforms to ensure seamless data sharing and synchronization.
- Resource management: Prudent resource management is critical to project management. It would be best to have a tool that will track aspects such as project materials, time spent on tasks, and other resources.
- Reporting: Ideally, an excellent online work management system should come with advanced analytics. However, the presentation of the analytical data should be simple enough for a layperson to understand. Reporting analytics helps management glean insights that can be used to make future staffing and other operational decisions.
- Documentation: Good work management software should store all data in one place. Spreadsheets, while the defacto project management tools are bulky, technical, and not the best for collaboration. An online work management system eliminates human error, and the cloud storage feature ensures fast data access from anywhere in the world.
- Collaboration: A project comprises team members working on different tasks. When working within a team, team communication, data capture, and file-sharing must all be easy and seamless. You must consider how easy it is to use the online work management system for team collaboration. Some tools on the market are great for collaboration, while others may be weak in this area.
- Planning and Scheduling: Working with a project requires outlining the tasks and responsibilities of each team member. Good planning management software should allow employees to prioritize and schedule project tasks quickly.
At this stage, you must have noticed that we are using the words “online word management system” and “project management software” interchangeably. This is the norm even though “work” and “project” don’t mean the same thing. Some examples of free project management software online include; LogAlto, Jira, Instagannt, Asana, TeamGannt, Wrike, Trello, and many more.
The Do’s of Using an Online Work Management System
Using an online work management system calls for a change in management ethos. Below are a few examples of best practices to follow:
- Finding the right people to work with for your business to achieve your goals: You need to find the right team. Not everyone is fit for online work; since it requires a lot of self-discipline.
- Use of the right tool: Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Please don’t use a tool simply because your competitor uses it. Conduct an audit of your requirements and then purchase an application that is suited to your unique needs. Also, take note that free tools come with limited features.
- Have a reward system based on merit: Remote workers also need motivation, and one of the ways to do this is to have a reward system.
- Video calling over emails and chatting: As much as possible, use in-system video calls to communicate instead of email and chats. This approach ensures your staff act and behaves like they are in an office setting. No one wants to get into a video call with the boss while still in their pajamas or with massive eyebags due to partying late into the night. Video calls are a great deterrent to stealing company time.
- Create a professional working environment: Distractions are probably one of the biggest problems of working online. Project a corporate environment to boost efficiency. How you do this entirely depends on your creativity.
- Making sure work hours overlap: Your team members might be working from different parts of the world. Making time where each member is present is very important. Being online simultaneously to get information and progress briefing allows each member to perform their assigned duties.
- Being clear about expectations: Have clear expectations of your team. It helps to have clear work manuals and technical documentation explaining how the system works to prevent performance bottlenecks.
- Tracking the team’s progress: Assign jobs and tasks and let the online work management system do its thing. Work strictly with the deadlines set and avoid communication outside the system. Give your employees a work schedule with all the tasks included. This gives them the structure they need to perform their duties.
- Organization and flexibility: Corporate working hours may differ from online working hours. It is essential to maintain flexible working hours. Your employees’ decision to work shouldn’t matter as long as they get the work done with deadlines in mind.
- Remember to listen: Feedback is critical. For the success of a project being performed remotely, team members must listen to one another. Communication, trust, and progress tracking are possible without having to resort to micromanagement. Understanding one another goes a long way to foster teamwork in the organization.
An online work order system is responsible for handling online work orders. A work order is a task that is scheduled and assigned to a virtual team. The work order may be in the form of a customer request or formed within an organization. Work order processes generally characterize online work order systems. A streamlined work order process determines the success of a business.
A work order process works with computerized maintenance management software. The software is responsible for handling work requests, data mining, downtime tracking, scheduling job information, creating scheduled and non-scheduled work orders, work order tracking, and so on.
Online work management tools are crucial in an online work management system. The benefits of including these tools in online work management include:
- Easy time tracking: Having online work management tools such as Toggl will help track time spent on tasks and overdue tasks.
- Best facilitators of online work: For online workers, having online working management tools such as Zoom makes remote communication easier.
- Happy clients: The use of some of these online work management tools helps teams complete their tasks fast and accurately, ultimately resulting in more satisfied clients.
- Centralized document sharing: For example, using Google Workspace tools will help you keep and manage documents in one place. This feature makes it easier for you to work on your projects from one location without the hustle of mixing them in different areas.
- Improved communication: Communication is always in line with collaboration. Online work management tools facilitate easy commenting by team members on the projects. It cuts off long chains of communication, primarily attributed to email and chatting.
- Easy internal and external collaboration: The seamless collaboration offered by working with online management tools is immense.
Having several work management tools to support your online work management system is highly recommended. Online work management tools range from communication tools, calendar and scheduling tools, reporting tools, and workflow management tools, depending on the work you want to accomplish. One can choose to work with either one of them or all of them. The great thing is that many come with customization options to cater to every business need.
A monthly subscription for an online work management tool depends on the number of users in an organization. The pricing is usually based on a “per user per month” model. This final cost also factors in the desired features, functionality, and user interface.
There aren’t any good totally free online work order system software out there, but there is a good number with free versions that have good features for a startup or small business:
Below is a list of software that comes with free versions:
- Zoom: This is probably the newest kid on the block. It is a great video conferencing software that facilitates up to 100 team members. It allows screen sharing, has excellent audio and video quality. Zoom features enable teams to collaborate more efficiently when working on a project.
- GitHub: This is a cloud-based software that is one of the essential tools when handling projects. The basic version is free and suitable for small teams.
- File Stage: This software allows storing, arranging, and monitoring of files. It has customizable task automation and workflows.
- Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite): is a workspace that allows collaboration by bringing Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentation, email, and more under one roof. It also has other features that support collaboration, such as commenting features and task assignments.
- Toggl: This tool comes with a drag and drop interface and collaboration functionality. It allows the creation of and modification of tasks and projects. The collaboration functionality helps teams schedule tasks, share project timelines and goals. All this is transmitted via email or text notifications.
- Basecamp: This an online project management tool that is considered one of the best file sharing, team collaboration, and project organization tools. It has robust integrations that include every project management need under one roof. It is free for up to 20 users.
- Trello: This is an online project management tool used to manage work and workflows. It allows managers to organize budgets, projects, and tasks.
- GoToMeeting: This is an online collaboration tool that allows multiple desktop sharing and video conferencing. It will enable a meeting of up to 250 participants.
- Monday: This software allows you to drag and drop over 30 column types. These column types help create a custom workflow whereby you can automate routine tasks and maximize productivity. It is free for individual use.
- Smartsheet: This is software that offers web-based collaboration tools. The automation and resource management tool balances allocation and prevents pinch points.
- ClickUp: It is free software that offers many features that other tools offer in premium packages. It is a practical project planning tool that offers customized views for tasks, workload management, task management, and reminders.