"Secure, easy to use tools that connect us."
Many of our clients have reached out to ask advice on how to prepare their teams for remote work. A balance between workplace psychology, communication channels and technology - every business can work remotely in one way or another. For teams restricted from entering their workplace completely, or companies just taking advantage of freelancers collaborating with permanent staff - these work from home solutions are pretty effective and powerful.
Going Remote in 3, 2, 1...
First thing to consider is team mental health - and choosing a suite of solutions that motivate, support and connect. Nobody wants to have to check 3 different platforms and input data over and over and over again (sorry most sales and data entry teams!). There is something for everyone, there are ways to tailor solutions for each team and each department and each person and somehow connect them all. Anything is possible, it just takes a person within your organisation to make it happen - or you can work with BrandSpace Studio and we'll hook you up.
Slack is the communication tool that brings remote teams together. The platform organises conversations into channels, which team members can join and leave, as needed, so nobody receives messages or notifications irrelevant to them. Conversations can also be had in threads, which keep messages outside of the main channel so chats don’t get in the way of main topics and projects.
- Instant messaging: Live communication between every team member for seamless collaboration.
- Statuses: Users can set availability statuses to focus on individual tasks as needed.
- File sharing: Drag-and-drop file sharing for PDFs, images, videos and other common files types.
- Voice & video calls: Voice and video calls directly from within Slack.
- Screen sharing: Allows team members to show their work to others in real-time for stronger collaboration.
There are tonnes of productivity tools on the market and many of the offer more ambitious sets of features than Slack. However, Slack combines the basic communication essentials into a single, easy-to-use platform in a way no software has really managed to match since it was first released in 2013.
The most customisable project management tool, period. Drive faster decisions and accelerate projects with automation, real-time visibility, customisable dashboards, and reports. Eliminate silos, adapt to change, and ensure your entire organisation meets business goals together. Build the perfect plan — be it Agile or waterfall. Keep your teams accountable by centralising projects on one platform.
Toggl is a time tracking app that runs in the background while users work on tasks. Essentially, it’s designed to accurately track how long it takes to complete tasks and this was originally intended for freelancers to make sure they were invoicing accurately and getting paid fairly. Now, Toggl is a productivity app designed for teams and individual members to maximise productivity. Above all, its data visualisations help you compare profits against time spent on tasks and labour costs so you can see which projects and clients are most profitable.
- Time tracking: See how much time you (or others) are taking to get things done.
- Boost profits: Check you’re charging enough for the time it takes to complete projects.
- Reports: See how productive you’re being and how profitable your time with Toggl reports.
- Cross-platform: Toggl’s wonderfully designed apps work across just about every operating system and online so you can access it wherever you need, whenever you need it.
You can also see how much time team members are spending on individual tasks to monitor productivity and see if anyone’s taking on too much/too little work.
On the face of things, Toggl is about a simple as it gets in terms of productivity software but it can be an invaluable tool for making sure tasks are being completed quickly enough and that projects are generating enough revenue for the time (and other resources) being spent on them.
Again, there are plenty of project management tools designed for digital teams these days but monday offers a more advanced set of features than some of the better-known alternatives like Trello. A lot of project management tools essentially redesign the to-do list concept or create “Kanban” boards but the likes of monday and Asana have built fully-featured management platforms design for team leaders and members alike.
- Project management: monday is an advanced project management that helps large teams and individual team members hit more ambitious targets.
- Task management: Extensive task management tools that treat each task as building blocks to project goals.
- Views: Multiple views allow you to check project overviews, timelines, individual workflows, checklists and reports.
- Track progress: Track tasks, update statuses, receive notifications when deadlines are looming and reassign/prioritise tasks with ease.
- Weekly task loads: Team members can work on multiple projects without getting lost by using monday’s weekly overview.
- File sharing: Upload and share files so everyone has access to the resources they need via the same dashboard.
Tasks can be created and assigned to team members, which start off with a default status of “Not started”. Team members can update statuses to “Working on it,” “Stuck” and “Done” as they progress their way through tasks, which all members and managers can see. Team managers can assign tasks to members based on their workload, location, experience, native language and the rating of previous tasks completed. I’ve used monday on a lot of projects with different clients and I can tell you these capabilities are useful on a daily basis for distributed remote workers and team managers who need to make sure everyone is working in sync.
5. Google Drive
I probably don’t need to say a great deal about Google Drive; it’s that cloud alternative to Microsoft Office that simply works much better for remote and collaborative teams than the MS alternative suite of tools.
- Documents: Word documents, spreadsheets, presentations and all of the essential docs we take for granted these days – for free.
- Cloud storage: The cloud element of Google Drive is what makes it so useful for remote teams, allowing them to create, upload, share and collaborate on files.
- Collaboration: Real-time collaboration on Google Docs files works without any real lag getting in the way and this is where it really outshines Microsoft Drive.
Sure, Microsoft Office’s suite of looks like Word and Excel are somewhat better in terms of features but Google Drive is far more capable as a cloud storage and collaboration tool. I constantly have problems with Drive crashing, Word freezing (on Mac) and lag getting in the way of real-time collaboration within files. I’ve experienced none of these problems with Google Drive and I consider these deal-breakers as part of a distributed remote team.
Spark is an intelligent email client that stops inboxes from being a productivity killer. Better yet, it turns them into an asset for distributed remote teams. Spark’s Smart Inbox automatically categorises your emails from every account and allows you to prioritise the emails that matter most while filtering out the ones that don’t.
- Smart inbox: Clean up your inbox, find any email with “Smart Search” and snooze emails that don’t need your attention right now.
- Smart notifications: Only receive notifications for the emails that really matter.
- Assign emails: Assign emails to team members so the right person is always managing tasks.
- Team email: Private team comments, shared drafts, template replies and instant chat for collaborative teams.
- Send emails later: Schedule emails to send them when people are most likely to read them.
- Reminders: Get reminders to follow up on important emails at the right time.
You can also snooze emails for later, assign emails to team members, chat with team members, share drafts, set reminders for follow-ups and schedule emails to send them later. With Spark, remote team members can also work on the same email at the same time. Much like Google Drive, text is created and edited in real-time while members can communicate via instant messaging to perfect important emails. This means there are no more emails to clients, saying “I’ve CC’d James and he’ll explain that technical issue we talked about earlier”. All the key details can be included in emails by the right person without any confusion or inaccuracy.
Zoom is a suite of video conferencing and communication tools designed for remote teams, virtual businesses conferences, webinars and other corporate purposes. We use Zoom for our virtual meetings, which we can use to run video and voice calls, but it’s capable of much more than this.
- Video meetings: Remote teams can run video meetings and one-to-one video calls.
- Voice calls: You can also run group or one-to-one voice calls when face-to-face meetings aren’t necessary.
- Webinars: You can also use Zoom to host webinars.
- Messaging: Team members can send messages using Zoom.
- File sharing: Share files during and outside of video/voice chats for collaboration between members.
Zoom is a feature-rich communication tool for remote teams and its pricing is very reasonable. For group calls, you’ll need to pay for one of its plans, which start from £11.99/mo but this fee is paid per host rather than per user. A host is someone who invites people team members to join meetings but up to 100 participants can join before a host needs to upgrade to a more expensive plan.