Remote work has been on the rise in recent years in many industries. It has a lot of benefits: convenience, saving time and money, increasing productivity, allowing for more focus and flexibility. For 65% of workers, working from home is a reason to like their job even more. According to FlexJobs survey, telecommuting is the most in-demand type of flexible work arrangement (80%), followed by flexible schedules (71%).
However, for business owners in 2020, switching your company to a remote mode – completely or partially – may become a survival strategy for even more reasons. Now it is not only a smart way to cut costs, launch multinational operations, work with foreign partners. Remote work is also a way to adapt and provide your team with the required social distancing for dealing with the global pandemic.
Luckily, there are enough tools and platforms that allow seamless online operations and work-related communication. When you manage remote employees, it’s important to know which productivity tools and online collaboration tools to use and how they will help you manage your company from anywhere.
We asked 13 remote companies to share their favorite collaboration tools that you can consider for your business.
Jonathan Holloway, No Exam
As a company that is 100% remote, we rely heavily on Google’s suite of products for collaboration. Google sheets and Google docs are huge for us. Their suite has everything we need, from video chat to conference calling to file sharing and document collaboration.
We’ve tried other products in the past like Slack, Trello, and Airtable. We found that it’s easiest to have one place to go for all our needs, rather than having to manage a handful of different services.
We’ve been in business since 2013, going fully remote in 2015. We are a digital life insurance brokerage. We found it easier to higher remote salespeople, as we were struggling to find qualified talent in our area. Since then, we’ve decided that requiring people to come into an office is not necessary. It’s the #1 perk you can provide to employees.
Katie Horgan, Giving Assistant
We use dedicated Slack channels for instant messaging to our remotes that the entire company is invited to join.
For video chats, we use Google Hangouts whenever possible.
Greg Mercer, Jungle Scout
Until last year, we were a completely remote team, and even now only about half of the team are in offices (based in Austin, Vancouver, and Shenzhen).
As a team, we heavily utilize Slack, Zoom, Airtable, and Google Drive. We use Slack for our quick and daily communications, as well as ways to celebrate birthdays, accomplishments, or have random banter. We use Zoom for any meetings we have. Airtable is used to keep track of individual and team tasks, and the progress that has been made on a specific project. For file sharing, we find Google Drive the easiest to share and collaborate at one time, as we often do as a team.
Rhiannon Payne, Sea Foam Media
In order to keep internal business and sales processes smooth, we use the following tools:
- Trello (project and task management)
- Slack (internal communication)
- Telegram (external client communication)
- Google Docs
- Qwilr (client proposals)
- HelloSign (contracts)
- MailChimp (email campaigns)
Trello is the real MVP here because it allows us to remain agile and scalable as it’s so simple yet highly customizable. My project manager and I have spent a lot of time over the past year A/B testing different strategies for making the most of Trello, and we’ve now gotten our processes well dialed-in, but are always open to new ideas for optimizing things further.
I have also customized Trello boards specifically to help me manage our sales funnel, as we have lots of new client leads and partnership opportunities coming up constantly. It also helps that Trello is free to use, and because we are already spending a lot on other tools like Premium Slack, that monthly cost savings makes a big impact.
For someone just getting started with Trello, it can sometimes be intimidating because it *is* so customizable. I recommend watching YouTube tutorial videos on how to start setting up boards, lists, cards, and checklists for your team. You can also use boards just for brain dumping your creative ideas and keeping lists of personal tasks to accomplish!
David Alexander, Mazepress
As a web developer and digital marketer working with a team of freelancers and clients around the globe, it’s vital for us to use collaboration tools to ensure our work can be done as efficiently as possible.
Our tool of choice is Asana, because of its user-friendly user interface and how easy that makes it for onboarding new colleagues and clients.
Asana provides all of the essential functionality required such as task management, calendars, checklists we can reuse and progress reporting but is also extendable so we can customize the workflow to include custom fields, task dependencies and other features that are also often required for us to work to the best of our abilities.
The number of companies I come into contact with that still rely on internal emails as their main means of communicating as a team is astounding and something I’m constantly pointing out as a fundamental inefficiency that should be rectified.
The answer? To use project management and collaboration tools to allow a more granular conversation about specific details rather than long-winded emails where the details often get lost.
There are lots of great tools out there but for us, Asana ticks all of the boxes but we also use integrations like Google Drive, Evernote and other external services which can work in cahoots with Asana.
Greg Dorban, Ledger Bennett
Ledger Bennett is an award-winning, multi-national B2B marketing agency serving global enterprise and scale-up businesses. We’ve built a remote working and collaborative culture to help us provide better service for your clients. With four locations (2 UK and 2 US), along with working from client offices, remote locations and working from home, we’ll regularly have 50% of employees in individual locations on a given day.
One of the greatest challenges we’ve had is fuelling collaboration, specialist input at the right time and visibility for all stakeholders on a project. Being a service business and not standard products, this is compounded by different locations being across an 8-hour time difference.
We use a bunch of tools to help us do this. Internally we use Asana for task assignment and Synergist for capacity planning. We also use a combination of Slack, WhatsApp and Skype (whatever our client uses) to improve collaboration, not just internally, but externally with clients.
But, by far the most vital part is our policy on mandatory video cameras on all calls. We’re constantly in Skype groups and on video calls, even leaving video voicemails are brief’s. This face-to-face visibility isn’t just important to build our culture as one company team regardless of location but helps communicate more effectively the nuances of what we’re trying to achieve.
The overall upside is being able to turn work round quicker with effectively double working days giving close to 24-hour coverage and a broader melting pot of experience and knowledge than achievable in one location.
Natalie Athanasiadis, Ormi Media
Our favorite tool is everything that falls under the G suite umbrella. We have experts collaborating on projects in multiple time zones so staying organized is the key to our efficiency.
We use Google sheets for project and campaign management, tasks to allocate activities to the team, we use Hangouts to collaborate and catch up. It is by far the best tool we use, and because its all under the one umbrella we don’t have 100 different tabs and tools open. We can do everything from our email tab and any specific campaign spreadsheets.
Crisantos Hajibrahim, Prodoscore
Prodoscore is an entirely ‘virtual’ company, with employees spanning across the United States. As you might imagine, collaboration tools are very important for us to stay connected and up to speed on all relevant matters.
We chose Google’s G-Suite as our collaboration suite, which has worked out very well. It is affordable, professional and easy to use – scaling as we need to meet all our communications requirements. The best attribute is we never have to worry about losing documents or finding them quickly, even if someone else was the author.
Ollie Smith, ExpertSure
As a wholly remote company with our team spread halfway across the world, we need some great online collaboration tools to enable us to function as an effective team. My standout has to be the Slack application. This fantastic tool assists us by:
- Encouraging collaboration – it eliminates many of the barriers that traditionally have been obstacles to transparency and collaboration. As the founder and CEO, it gives me an insight into what my team thinks, whilst not interfering with their respective roles.
- It has cut web traffic in half – Slack eliminates the most of the back and forth that used to fill my email inbox.
- It has allowed me to simplify the one-to-one process – it enables me to easily set-up one-to-one meetings and acts as a historical record of any conversation with any team member.
Amber Hinds, Road Warrior Creative
The #1 tool that allows our team to collaborate efficiently is, hands down, Basecamp. I shudder to think about the days before we introduced the project management tool into our processes, and would dread having to go back to them.
Basecamp is the centralized hub for all our communications both internally, and with clients, and keeps everything documented and calendared out – it keeps us on schedule and organized, and is so useful that my partner and I even share a Basecamp project to manage our personal life!
Two other tools that are useful are for our remote team include G Suite, which allows for easy document collaboration in realtime, and Zoom, which is how we hold face-to-face team and client meetings.
Besides those tools, we also built and are continually adding to an internal knowledge base/employee operations manual, built as a password-protected WordPress site. Documenting processes and standards has been vital to our success and minimizing ramp-up time when a new employee comes on board.
Because we don’t have the luxury of allowing new employees to shadow their co-workers in their first days, having well-documented processes is vital to bringing on new team members smoothly. Many people might not realize that WordPress can be used for intranets or other non-public facing websites, but it’s a great tool for all kinds of uses and was perfect for our needs as we built out our operations manual.
Hamna Amjad, Ridester
Being a remote team, we use a number of collaboration tools to ensure that all our team members are on the same page and everything is aligned according to our company’s agenda. Our most widely used tools are Google Docs for documentation, Slack for communication and Google Drive for file sharing. But recently, we have started using Trello and we are loving how it has helped to manage our workflow, improve our collaboration and enhance our productivity.
We use Trello’s boards, lists, and cards to organize and prioritize our projects. You can set up to-do lists, delegate tasks and give your feedback to others. It has helped us in eliminating a lot of back-to-forth emails, saving our time to focus on more important things. We can easily see on the board, which project someone is working on and his/her progress on it. This helps us to stay on top of things and work more efficiently. Furthermore, Trello can be integrated with our other favorite tools such as Google Drive, Slack, and Evernote which is a huge plus.
Siddhartha Gupta, Mercer-Mettl
With the help of Workplace by Facebook, you are just separated from your team members by the distance and not productivity and engagement. Often the remote workers miss out on some fun activities, but with seamless AI-enabled features and processes, everything looks super easy. Workplace is fun to use way as it’s as exciting as any social media platform.
You get continuous updates on your news feed portal, can start a live video anytime, conduct video meetings, and leverage instant messaging- everything on all devices- be it a mobile, laptop, or tablet. As an add-on, you can also fix other tools like Office 365 and trace various issues on the go.
Often ignored of its status as one of the professional saviors, is WhatsApp. It’s underrated but its ubiquity and availability makes it one of the most loved and depended on tools across the globe- you can create workgroups for different projects, send messages to people about the work progress, share images and videos, and also have video meetings. It’s the simplest tool which helps people a lot in their professional endeavors and engagements.
If your professional life is highly dependent on the team-based work- reporting to a manager or you have people reporting to you- and you need continuous updates from them while working remotely- Asana is just the right tool for you. It has multifarious uses for your professional endeavors as you can easily check what’s happening, how many projects have been completed, who is still pending on their part to submit the work, and even attach and check various attachments like documents, graphics, and videos- all in one go.
William Lipovsky, First Quarter Finance
At First Quarter Finance, our favorite online collaboration tool is Slack. Our fully-remote team of researchers, writers, and editors uses Slack constantly for both collaboration and communication. Editors can share information and swap ideas with each other and with our writers while sending a draft through several rounds of editing. As a team, we can discuss things like style guide or policy changes with everyone afforded equal opportunity to share their input — something that may not be possible through a heavily-populated video conference or voice call.
As a tool of communication, Slack is an integral part of our daily workflow, and the benefits of Slack for a remote organization are obvious. When a team is spread across the world, we can’t pop into each other’s offices or gather in a conference room to share information. Slack allows us to address any issues or questions quickly and efficiently, either one-on-one or as a group. There is no quicker way to ensure that our staff is up to speed on new policies or projects than to send a Slack message to everyone who needs to be notified.
There you go—the most favorite online collaboration tools shared by remote companies we interviewed. What online collaboration tools do you use to run your business? Let us know in the comments below!