It can be tough to stay connected as a remote team. While we love the benefits of working wherever you want, it can also be difficult at times.
When you work in the same location, it's much easier to pick up on a variety of cues (body language, facial expressions, etc), but the benefits of being remote outweigh many of the downsides.
Fortunately, over the past few years, there's been an increase in the number of tools for remote teams for the ever-increasing number of remote-first or fully remote companies. These will help your remote team be as productive as possible and improve remote team collaboration, even if you're remote a few days a week.
I've worked remotely for about three years, and have had the chance to try many remote working tools available on the market. I've outlined some of my favorites in the post below.
Yep, we are biased as this is our software. Friday is like a complement to Slack or Microsoft Teams that helps you easily automate routines and team updates at work.
It's a top remote working tool to stay connected as a remote team. We only have 2 regular meetings every week (both 1-1s) because Friday eliminates the need to share information in meetings.
Friday also empowers individual employees to improve their personal productivity with the Friday Daily Planner and Focus Time. Users can roadmap their day, make a to-do list, connect with the project management tools they use most, and even set Focus Time which stops you from visiting certain websites so you can do your best work.
I've used Slack for a couple years now and it's a great communication tool for a remote team. Specifically, it's a great way to go back and forth with peers, either in 1-1 conversations or in "rooms" (group conversation). It's like using Facebook Messenger at work, with specific features and integrations with Google Docs, Trello, and other remote work tools.
With that being said, Slack won't solve all your team communication or collaboration problems. In fact, it can present new problems for your and your team, so it's important to be thoughtful when using it.
For example, it's easy to create "channels" (equivalent to a group chat room), but if you don't set clear team communication boundaries, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the number of conversations happening.
In addition, there are times when employees will be overwhelmed by the number of outstanding messages they have. Imagine going to the dentist and coming back to dozens of notifications and conversations to catch up on. However, one of the benefits of Slack is integrating several Slack apps (such as Friday!) to streamline your work and communication flow.
In late 2020, Slack was acquired by Salesforce, giving them a larger foundation to compete with Microsoft Teams, which is another chat app and video conferencing tool.
Trello is a great project management and productivity tool. It's a visual way to manage projects and make sure things stay on track. Based on a kanban approach to project management, It uses "boards" to organize tasks and you can create columns with tasks inside them.
It works for remote team management, because it clearly shows the stages for different tasks and commenting is simple which makes asynchronous communication easier.
Typically, I hate to-do apps because I find being too "organized" restrictive. But I love Trello because it's so easy to use. It's also highly customizable and by far my favorite collaboration tool for getting things done. There's a variety of add-ons, and it's free to get started (with paid plans starting at $10/mo).
If you're looking for a simple way to share team or company-wide knowledge, you should check out Tettra . Their tool integrates with Slack, Github, Dropbox, and other services.
Why should you use this? It's pretty simple. As a remote team, it's important to have some structured repository for "institutional knowledge" and file sharing. It's a core part of remote collaboration. Sure, you can spend your time searching for something in Slack, but those conversations tend to be lower quality. The act of writing something down in a structured way increases the quality and shelf-life.
Video calls for a virtual meeting became an inescapable part of 2020 during the pandemic. We all became way too familiar with Zoom as a video conferencing tool. But you know what? Every experience I've had with it has been awesome from a technical perspective. The video quality is extremely high-quality, you can easily record the call, and there's a variety of adjacent benefits (you can hold webinars with it).
We may all have Zoom fatigue but maybe because it worked too well.
I've also used Google Meet before and it's a mixed bag. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't.
As mentioned earlier in the article, it can be tough for members of a remote team to understand each other's nuances and preferences. That's why we recommend signing up for Crystal and taking a free personality test.
It's a great tool for learning more about individual employees and how you work together. With the results, you can learn about differences in style for each person on your remote team. Additionally, Crystal provides tools to help you see these personality insights in Gmail and on LinkedIn. They also have awesome job reports (see below).
Stop guessing about how coworkers like to communicate, let them tell you instead.
Looking for an alternative? Check out Predictive Index.
If you enjoy listening to music when working, make sure to check out Spotify. For $9/mo, you can have access to virtually any piece of music in existence. I use it daily and love how they automatically create a personalized playlist (Discover Weekly) according to your tastes. It’s also created because you can download the music and listen to it offline on a mobile device.
In recent months they’ve launched podcasts and other audio content. I expect that trend to continue in the future. If you like music, you need Spotify.
Looking for an alternative? Check out Pandora.
If you're looking for a high-fidelity method of screen sharing with your virtual team, you need to check out Screenflow . Screenflow is a Mac app that makes it easy to record your screen (and audio) and share with coworkers. I recommend the basic plan ($129) and there's a free trial you can use to see exactly how it works (it adds a watermark to your videos). It also has one-click publishing and file sharing to Dropbox and gif export, which is nice.
I've used it to discuss mockups/designs. You can also record company/team meetings for people who may be unavailable. It's also a fantastic tool for remote user-testing sessions, as you can instantly share the results with your team.
If you’re an engineer (or write code), we recommend Gitlab. Github allows engineering teams to remotely collaborate around code in an organized way. It's like version control, but with more features and functionality to build applications and streamline deployments.
Compt is another pick on our list. Compt helps you offer personalized perks to your employees, no matter where they are based.
Most companies offer a default set of perks because most people are in a single location. When you have a remote workforce, it becomes more difficult to offer perks and rewards.
Compt gives each person the ability to pick the perks that make sense, so everyone is happy. It's a compliant approach that won't get you into trouble with the IRS 😉
RemoteHQ is a virtual workspace for remote teams that brings all your team's disparate tools, content and communications together in one place.
Their superpower is the ability to turn all your team's web apps instantly collaborative (make them behave like Google Docs) with only cloud storage, so everyone can collaborate in real-time.
For teams who need time tracking software, we recommend Time Doctor. Time Doctor is useful for companies running remote teams, digital agencies, software teams, and companies with remote support agents. They are used by well-known companies like Apple, Home Depot, Verizon, and more.
The company is also fully distributed and has been a vocal supporter of remote work for a while.
Even when far apart, you and your team can collaborate on different projects with the help of Miro’s online whiteboard. You can use Miro during synchronous meetings or even asynchronously if you have team members in different timezones.
The virtual whiteboard has an abundance of features that make the work possibilities endless. You can take control of projects from the brainstorm period all the way up to the finalized outcome. The perks of using Miro’s whiteboard is you can add files like photos and images to your projects, and you can integrate with other tools to keep everything in one place.
Miro makes it easy for you and your team to bounce ideas off each other in real time and get the best work done as if you were all together.
Threads is a forum software if you want to pose questions to your team and receive responses in a place simple and easy to locate. When working with distributed teams, it can be difficult to ensure everyone is on the same page 24/7.
You can keep your team on track with this forum. Create different thread posts depending on the topic you choose. Your team can respond when they are available. You’ll also be able to look back on the discussions and thread, to keep things from getting too messy and disorganized.
PizzaTime and their closely aligned partner CoffeeTime are two of my favorite services to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will arrange for your whole remote team to get pizza and/or coffee around the same time. They even have a Slackbot to help organize everything.
It's a great way to foster social interaction and to reward your team for a job well done, no matter where they are located.
As more and more teams transition to remote work because of COVID-19, we expect to see more and more tools specifically designed to help distributed teams.
If you're looking for the right tool to keep your team up-to-date with daily stand-ups and an easy-to-use planner, Friday has you covered.
It's been amazing how the technology has advanced over the past few years, and we're excited to see what tools come next.