Remote teams have unique needs. Depending on your industry, team size, locations, and company structure, your remote setup might look vastly different when compared to another team. However, there are a few basic tools that every remote team needs regardless of what they’re doing or how the team is structured.
Here are the 7 types of tools that every manager needs to keep up with their remote team:
The first priority for most remote teams is getting information around the group quickly. You need a tool that allows you to centralise assignments, communication, and other activities related to your workflow. A good collaboration tool acts like a virtual office space.
A virtual office isn’t all about work. The purpose is to keep people connected. What you’re doing is creating space for your team to check in, chat, interact, and pass information in a central location.
Slack is one of the most commonly used collaboration tools, followed by Microsoft Teams. Lesser known tools like Flowdock or Dapulse also offer a similar setup. The most important parts of any collaboration tool are ease of use, ability to organise, and accessibility to all team members. As long as the tool fits your team in those three areas, the specific tool doesn’t matter.
The next step down from a collaboration tool is a project management tool. While some people lump project management tools in with collaboration tools, they have very different functions. The main point of a project management tool is to make it possible for remote workers to follow the flow of work in real-time. These tools allow individuals and teams to track the progress of a project any time.
Another major benefit of project management is the freedom for each team member to work in their own time. They know the deadline, process, and expectations. With this information, they can plan their schedules to align their individual preferences and needs with your team needs. Caitlin Reddington, junior editor for All Things Hair, says this about scheduling: “Sticking to a consistent schedule and routine has helped me stay productive while working from home. I’ve also enjoyed taking advantage of my extra free time.”
Trello is a great example of this. For each team you manage, you can have a central Trello board outlining projects in a broad view as well as smaller boards to provide a detailed look at everything that’s happening. Good project management tools are a visual aid to help everyone grasp the size of a project, the progress, and their individual responsibilities. These tools create and maintain a work process everyone can follow.
Besides Trello, there are also tools like Asana, Basecamp, or ProofHub.
Remote teams need a central place to pin information. Consider a notetaking tool to be the equivalent of a whiteboard, a sticky note, an information database, and a bulletin board combined. These tools often integrate well with popular collaboration apps, or they may come as a built-in feature (Teams has OneNote built in, for example).
Notion is one of the most versatile notetaking tools. It has the flexibility to allow everyone to customise their notes into the most useful form with both public and private note boards. For a remote team, Notion is one of the better options. Other tools include Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep, or Apple Note.
Any team that works remotely is going to have a lot of credentials to keep track of for company accounts and individual accounts on different apps, tools, websites, and services. For security purposes, it’s wise to set up a process for every team member to make it easy to create and share credentials safely.
Password management tools make security a lot easier. You can generate unique passwords for every account to avoid password reuse, share passwords with relevant team members seamlessly (often without them seeing the actual password), and keep track of every account in a secure location. If someone stops working for your team, you can simply revoke their access to account information.
LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password are examples of password management tools. If you already use a VPN service or other online security service, check first to see if they offer a password management platform as well.
A quick and easy way to improve your operations, while giving time back to your team, is automation. Almost any repetitive task can be automated, and the biggest culprit is often finance. Just think about how many times you forward an email to accounts, or download an invoice, only to upload it again.
With Bluesheets’ bookkeeping automation for accounts and expense management, your team can do away with tedious financial processes. The real time processing speeds up turnaround times, and the machine-learning system guarantees data accuracy. So you can remove processing headaches and eliminate errors in one swoop.
For other menial tasks like email automation and document management, Integromat is a lesser known product that can piece your systems together. With the right automation tools, you can dramatically improve efficiency in remote work.
Good communication is essential for remote teams. Set a specific communication protocol and make a certain tool your standard tool for passing information along. While tools like Slack might work well in collaborative communication, there’s no built-in video or voice calling features. Teams has this built-in as part of their platform.
If your existing tools don’t offer communication options, or if those options aren’t sufficient for your needs, get one of the many free or inexpensive communication apps. Skype, Zoom, and GoToMeeting are some of the top video, audio, chat, and screen sharing tools.
Every team is different. Depending on the nature of your work, you may want to consider a few other practical tools to help you and your team work more efficiently. Here are a few examples of practical tools that might be must-haves for your team:
Printing, signing, and scanning a document isn’t efficient. You can’t count on everyone having a printer and scanner readily available. Instead, find a useful tool that allows you to do digital signing. Examples include DocuSign, HelloSign, RightSignature, and Adobe Sign.
Your team likely already has access to a basic office tools, but it’s worth setting up a standard process be deciding on which tools to use and giving your team access to them. Microsoft Office and Google G Suite are the two most common creation toolsets, with both including tools for word processing, spreadsheets, slides, and other types of file creation.
If your chosen collaboration tools don’t offer a central place to share files, get another tool to fill the gaps. Remote teams who share larger files with each other may have more need for these tools, especially if video files need to be shared. Microsoft Teams gives you access to SharePoint, but other independent tools include DropBox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. However, there are endless options for file sharing that might fit your needs more closely.
If you’re going to be doing any collaborative design, such as simple picture editing for blog posts or social media, a cloud-based design program may be useful. Something simple like Canva or Pixlr is usually sufficient, but tools like Design Wizard or Infogram give more tailored options.
Sometimes remote teams lack accountability. For any situation where accountability could be an issue, or if billing is done on an hourly basis, time tracking tools are helpful. Some collaboration or project management tools have built-in time tracking features. Otherwise, look for tools such as Toggl, Time Doctor, HubStaff, or Harvest.
Tools enable your remote team to work efficiently without having to be together in the office. With the right set of tools, you’ll be able to get everything done just as well as you would if you shared a space together.
Author bio: Georgi Todorov
Georgi Todorov is a digital marketer. He recently started his blog DigitalNovas. His passion is to help startups grow and thrive in a competitive environment.