As more and more companies begin to take advantage of the numerous possibilities and benefits of using remote workers, the demand for platforms and methods for optimizing these workers has grown exponentially. The explosion in remote work can be correlated directly to these new methods for collaborating over long distances and various time zones - instead of needing to gather all employees in a single location, or coordinate your team on a single schedule that might occur during the middle of a night at a remote worker’s location, technology now offers a variety of solutions for creating, collaborating with, and managing a team no matter where they may be.
So what are the tools and platforms that you should be using to maximize your team’s productivity and better achieve your company’s goals? From group messaging to planning, collecting work to payroll, we’ve gathered some of the most essential remote work tools that every project manager, company founder, or remote employer needs to know.
While chat tools have existed for as long as the Internet has, they were often limited by a lack of features, inability to share files of most sizes, and problems with security and creating specialized groupings for teams on specific projects. Then Slack entered the picture, and has become the must-use communication tool for most modern companies and startups attempting to coordinate teams across the world.
What helps Slack stand out from other messaging apps (like Google Hangouts, for example) are the variety of options for customization and grouping your team. You can create specific channels for certain projects, customize notifications for yourself and for members of the team, and share files and resources easily directly through the app itself. Slack also offers Google Drive integration, which means you don’t even need to step outside the app to share documents or spreadsheets with members of your team for remote editing and review.
Finally, Slack’s mobile app is intuitive and well-designed, and also offers integration with other modern business tools that track customer engagement or sales activity. This lets you receive support tickets, payment processing notifications, and error messages directly to your Slack channel, saving you several steps of collecting and sharing information and letting your team fix problems and find solutions more quickly.
Video conferencing has long been a source of hope and frustration for the tech community - there have been a variety of conferencing tools that have shown promise, but issues from connectivity and bandwidth load to integration with other apps have inhibited video conferencing software from reaching its full potential. While meeting one on one with remote employees is fairly easy through FaceTime or Facebook chat, holding a conference with a dozen employees, while much more needed in the business world, was often frustrating and unproductive.
Enter Zoom - the newest advancement in video conferencing tools. While there are several video tools that exist, Zoom offers a combination of easy-to-use functionality and reliable tools for video and audio that make it easier than ever to gather a team from across the world and simulate an in-person meeting. This is critical for companies hiring remotely, as keeping tabs on remote employees and making them feel like part of the company culture is critical to maximizing success and productivity.
While this may be more for the employees than the employer, depending on their technical knowledge, anyone who has developed an app or platform from scratch knows how critical it is to avoid coding missteps and duplicate work. While the most talented programmers often won’t live right in your company’s city, getting them all on the same page is even more important once you have built your coding team.
Enter GitHub, which not only allows your app team to produce, edit, and host code, but also has tools for oversight and feedback that streamline the process for getting features designed and developed for the lowest cost and hassle possible. No matter what tech stack your team may be working with, where they are coming from, or what their role on the team is, you can craft a personalized team dashboard to ensure that everyone is working together and designing and developing effectively.
Whether you have always been on top of things and organized, or you are constantly running late or scrambling to finish things at the last minute, keeping track of to-do lists and needs for projects is a necessary element of professional success, regardless of industry. Where once this might require a daily planner or frequent emails and updates, project planning apps like Asana and Trello now make keeping your team organized easier than ever before.
Think of Trello like a digital whiteboard or set of Post-it notes - you can create different project lists, and then add tasks and to-do reminders to each of them. You can then also share each specific Trello board with different collaborators, so that much like Slack, you can manage different teams or groups more easily.
There are a few more reasons that Trello stands out from the pack - integration with other apps, and ability to manage notifications. Trello can be paired with Slack or Calendar, which makes it easy to assign due dates to tasks you add to your boards and then automatically add them to employee/worker calendars. Finally, while other apps swamp employees with notifications, to the point that they may ignore them or miss important ones, Trello’s ability to assign different levels of importance and alerts lets you ensure that reminders and calendar updates are purposeful and useful.
Protecting access to your app’s database, payment processing accounts, analytics, and social media accounts is critical for any company. There is no greater danger to any company, large or small, than having unauthorized access to accounts that are responsible for everything from the operations of a company to the information of its users and clients. Look at any of the major personal privacy breaches (and the massive settlements that resulted from them) if you need more proof.
However, with a team working across the world, it’s impossible to simply jot down a password to a critical account on a piece of paper and slip it to a co-worker. This is where LastPass and similar platforms have stepped in. By providing a third-party platform that allows you to host all of your app’s account login info, and share them with specific people, LastPass removes the danger of sharing passwords or sending them digitally. This also helps minimize the chances of hackers or others intercepting communications that include sensitive information like this.
Even better, LastPass can allow you to set different levels of access for different employees. As such, you can give an employee access to your payment processing software to check on an issue without giving them the account login info. This not only lets you keep access privileged to only trustworthy members of the team, but also ensures that if an employee leaves or needs to be fired, the off-boarding process can go much more smoothly.
At this point, you may be wondering if integrating all of these tools with your business practices might add a whole new layer of hassle and complexity to collaborating with your remote employees and managing teams. However, that’s where Zapier has decided to step in. You can think of it almost as a silent coordinator of all of your productivity and workplace apps, automating specific tasks and workflows to let you free up your actual team members’ time to complete other tasks.
Offering both free and premium packages, Zapier follows a simple “If A happens, then B” approach, and can be integrated with hundreds of popular workplace systems, including all of the previous entries on this list. While the free option is necessarily limited, the premium plan can make up for the cost through the thousands of employee hours you can save by using the platform.
The last entry on our list is especially important for companies trafficking in more sensitive industries that often require important documents signed for legal reasons. However, as more and more employers begin to sign contracts with remote workers, having a platform that can collect digital signatures that can hold up in the legal arena is becoming increasingly critical, and that’s where DocuSign is here to help.
With a simple interface that works similarly to Adobe Acrobat’s digital signing features, DocuSign can allow you to leave your digital mark on any document, collect signatures from multiple people in multiple locations simultaneously, and automatically email copies of the finished documents to all users or team members. Aside from saving on the time, cost, and hassle of sending out sensitive documents through traditional mail (and waiting long times for returns if you are speaking globally), DocuSign lets businesses keep digital records of important documents for easy reference and duplication later.