Remote work has become more common than ever before, both for freelancers and enterprises. And even though COVID-19 is often pointed out as responsible for the evolution of work, it is only thanks to the development of new hardware and software products that remote workers can achieve equal if not greater results than they would if working on-site. Not to mention the fact that working from home can save up to $15,000 a year for companies.
This article will discuss the top tools every remote team should use to stay connected, productive, and competitive. We will also recommend a software product for each tool type.
Teams don’t exist without communication, and when team members can't work next to each other, they must rely on communication platforms to chat in real-time, share files, and conduct virtual meetings. In this way, communication platforms ensure everyone is on the same page and make available the information exchange history between colleagues.
Likewise, virtual meetings, whether for a quick check-in or a more extensive and formal call, allow team members to stay connected and collaborate face-to-face.
Slack is a popular choice for many teams for real-time messaging, file sharing, and video conferencing. Slack also has a wide range of integrations, including Google Drive, Trello, and Zoom, making it easy to switch between different tools without leaving the platform.
Whether large or small, teams need a tool to stay organized and on track with tasks and deadlines. With project management tools, team members can assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress, all in one place, ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget.
In addition, project management tools provide remote teams with tools to judge the progress of a project, such as Gantt charts. This can help managers and team members identify and address any issues that may arise and act upon them.
One of the more popular solutions is Redmine, an open-source project management web application. Track tasks, issues, and project progress in one central location. It also offers a wide range of features that make it easy for remote teams to collaborate and stay organized. In addition, Redmine offers a wide range of integrations with other tools, such as communication platforms, time tracking, and source code management tools.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Remote teams are not exempt from adopting cybersecurity best practices, including using a VPN. Team members should use a VPN while working on a public network or when connecting to the company’s network from a remote location. VPNs create a secure, encrypted connection between a user’s device and the company’s network, protecting the user’s data and activity from potential cyber threats.
VPNs can also protect remote team members’ identities and locations. This is vital for remote team members who may be working in countries where internet censorship is in place, and a VPN can help to bypass these restrictions and access the information they need.
For example, NordVPN offers military-grade encryption and has a no-log policy, meaning that it does not track, collect, or share any information about the user’s online activity. However, other attractive alternatives are depending on what devices team members employ to do their job. For example, in the case of mobile devices, check out the best VPNs for Android.
File sharing and storing
Like any other team, remote teams need software for sharing and storing files to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations without overlapping and to keep their files in sync.
File-sharing tools also sync files across multiple devices, so remote team members can work on a file from multiple devices, making it easier for team members to check and work with files regardless of their location.
Google Drive is perhaps the most popular tool to easily share and collaborate. Google Drive also has very intuitive applications for both desktop computers and mobile devices, as well as a wide range of integrations, including Slack, Trello, and Asana, making it easy to collaborate with other apps. Even though the free version of Google Drive can be enough for some, Google has storage options to fit the size and demand of any team.
Traditionally, showing up to the office was considered the start of work. Nowadays, to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget, team members need to accurately track and record the time they spend on various tasks.
What’s more, time tracking tools can also create time reports that help to identify areas where the team may be able to improve efficiency. Reports can be generated for an individual team member, a project, or the entire team, giving managers the ability to see how the team is performing as a whole.
Kimai is an open-source tool for time-tracking, invoice creation, and time statistics. Kimai is a great option for those who prefer self-hosting or the solution to be used in the cloud for free. Besides, the previously mentioned Redmine also features time tracking.
In comparison with the other tools categories we have seen, automation does not seem as urgent for teams starting to go remote. However, once implemented, automation tools get rid of repetitive tasks, freeing up time and resources for more complex duties. Hence, automation is essential to increase productivity and also enable remote teams to scale their operations more easily while freeing up everyone’s time—especially, decision-makers.
Approveit is a tool that integrates with your workflow and provides options for automating through trigger actions based on certain events or conditions. Use cases for automation include purchase order approval and automated purchase approval.
The bottom line
Remote teams are the present and future. However, they will only succeed upon learning best practices and applying the tools we have reviewed to stay productive and connected: Communication platforms, project management tools, security measures, file sharing and storage, time tracking, and automation tools are all essential for remote teams.
What’s more, in addition to the features of each tool, teams must find ways to integrate them to improve their workflow. While some offer straightforward integration options, others might require extra tweaks to fit together.