When your team is based remotely, a lot of your success depends on having the right processes and tools for the job in place.
Collaboration and communication become extra-vital because you can’t simply hang out over coffee or have a casual conversation at the watercooler. What you need is a good set of apps to help you include all of your team members and streamline for efficiency wherever you can.
Some Thoughts on Remote Teamwork
By far, your best asset is always going to be (or at least should be!) the people who you hire into your remote roles. Quite simply, not everyone is wired to be suited to remote work. They need the drive to just get on with the job on their own, without the face-to-face contact that a co-located office brings. For some people this lack of social contact would be torture.
Your remote team members should naturally be good communicators. You can have the best apps in place for communication but they’ll be useless if a) they don’t get used or b) the person using them simply can’t get their messages across well.
Good, productive work habits and processes for making them happen are a must. While tools won’t substitute for skill or habits, they can become an essential part of the process for aiding those things.
It’s also worthy to note; there are a lot of possible tools out there, so many that your head may spin trying to come up with the right combinations. Our suggestion? Before trying to explore all tools, put together a list of the essential functions that you really need. Tools on tools on tools can be tiring to manage, so err on the side of using only what you really need.
Tools for Remote Teams
It’s not easy to come up with a short list from all the available tools out there, so we’ve chosen some popular tools the teams we work with tend to use. Generally speaking, they need tools that will facilitate communication, collaboration, productivity and workflow management. (Note that we also love Slack and Trello, however have covered them previously). Here’s our list:
#1. Teamwork PM
Teamwork actually offers a range of tools for, well, teamwork. These include project management, helpdesk and team chat options. Teams like it because it pulls together a lot of features and has an interface similar to the previous version of Basecamp (for those who preferred it).
Despite having a lot of features, Teamwork is rated for being relatively simple to use. One of the standout features is that file sharing is centralized. While you can still attach files to tasks within projects like other project management apps, you also get the option of accessing files via a central files tab.
Other popular features include the ability to integrate and create tasks via email, while there is also a Google Drive integration. Pricing is tiered and begins at free.
#2. Google Docs
Shared docs are often one of the cornerstones for remote teams. You need to be able to collaborate, keep essential docs where everyone can access them and have a way to monitor version control (just in case!).
Google Docs/Drive/Sheets is a good free solution for editing and storing essential documents, particularly those that are needed often. It doesn’t have the best organization (you have to sort that out yourself), but virtually everyone has a Google account so it will be readily accessible to team members.
Wunderlist is a competitor of Todoist (which we have reviewed previously) and compares favorably in the task-management category. The app allows users to create to-do lists and share them with others who need to be involved.
Wunderlist works across devices and will send reminders when tasks are due, no matter what device you are on. Unlike Todoist, it does not have location-based reminders, so if this is an important feature for your team members, look to Todoist. (If you want to have one view of all your apps, Wunderlist is one that integrates with Rindle).
Asana is a very popular project management tool choice for remote teams. It easily facilitates collaborative project and task management in teams, including allowing file sharing and messaging from multiple devices.
The interface is simple (and tends to be more popular than that of Teamwork) and users receive automatic notifications of any changes. Team members like it because they get to prioritize their own workspace, organize tasks, delegate and report simply and accurately.
GoToMeeting is one of the more popular choices of video conferencing apps. You will need to meet with your team or with clients and it provides a simple, reliable streaming service. The app is easy to use, although it is very basic so doesn’t have the bells and whistles (such as polling or recording) that other meeting apps have.
Your team members might be remote-based, possibly even working in their pajamas, but team meetings via video conference can add an extra social element to your remote team. It helps to break the ice with team members and help them to know each other a bit better.
Simple really – remote teams need a reliable cloud-based storage for the files they need to share and keep easily on-hand. Dropbox is one of the original and most popular solutions for cloud storage.
Many apps you use now will have built-in integrations so that you can easily share data between the other apps you use. Data centralization is another cornerstone of productivity for remote teams. It helps if you can save time and reduce errors by removing any need for manual data entry.
For apps that don’t have a direct connection, Zapier may be able to assist. It works by forming the “bridge” between apps and is triggered by “zaps,” which are rules created. Rules are based on triggers; “if B happens in A app, then send B data to app C.” The more you can automate, the less likely things are to fall over in your team.
Do different members of your team need to be able to access various business accounts that have a password? Good examples might include WordPress, social media accounts or CRM software.
Meldium allows you to add users to your team account and give them access only to those accounts that they really need. They can access them easily through the Meldium browser extension or by logging into their Meldium account.
HelpScout is excellent from an external client perspective for providing help desk services and answers to FAQs. From an internal perspective, it’s a great way to keep communication with clients in one place and ensure the right people on your team have access to it. Rather than diving through your inbox, look for the thread in your HelpScout account.
What does this screen still and video capture have to do with remote teamwork? Well, if you work in the kind of business where team members might need to learn new software or procedures that are easier to share by doing, then making a screen-capture video or screenshots with captions is your friend.
Instead of spending a whole lot of time on one-on-one training for new team members, record your repetitive tasks and store them where they are easily accessible to the team.
Successful remote teams begin with the right people but are facilitated by the right processes and tools.
Collaboration, communication, productivity, task management and even team building can happen with the right tools, just make sure you know the features you really need first.
Find the right combination of team members who are suited to a remote work environment and figure out what works for your own work environment. Document your processes and procedures and keep them where team members can easily access them.