Due to circumstances none of us could have foreseen, the world is in the midst of a major shift to favor more remote work environments. If you look at remote work statistics, you’ll see that this is a trend that has been emerging for some time—but the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has pushed many fence sitters over the edge, reinforced the decisions of managers who already made the switch, and forced long-reluctant traditionalists to reconsider their stances on remote work.
There are many advantages to working remotely. Employees get more autonomy, more flexibility, higher job satisfaction, and of course, less time and money spent commuting. Employers get higher productivity from their employees, and lower office costs. But these benefits are contingent upon your ability to work remotely effectively—which isn’t a guarantee.
When working remotely, you’ll need to design and enforce new approaches to communication, collaboration, employee management, and tracking. Fortunately, there are dozens of fantastic tools for remote teams available to make remote work as viable as in-office work – if not even better.
Work From Home Tools for Communication
These tools for remote teams are mostly focused on improving communication in remote environments:
Slack has been one of the most popular remote team communication tools for professional teams for many years now. It attempts to streamline communication by consolidating multiple separate apps in a single view; with it, you can send private messages, chat in groups, and even video chat. Its unique “channels” feature allows you to keep in contact with regard to current projects, without distracting people to whom it’s not relevant.
Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity in the wake of the pandemic, as businesses discover they need an innovative video conferencing solution for their remote teams. Zoom is super flexible and easy to set up, and with it, you can chat as a full team or break into smaller groups to have important discussions.
Nextiva is a telecom app with options for both small businesses and major enterprises. With it, you’ll get a full suite of tools for remote teams that are designed to help your team communicate more efficiently, including VoIP, video conferencing, message-based collaboration, and even analytics. You can also integrate it with several other tools.
4. Cisco Webex
Cisco Webex is a video conferencing and online meeting app that attempts to make it easier to share your screen and talk to your teammates. It also features a number of separate apps and tools, including collaboration tools, online event management, and analytics for remote team performance.
Skype is a long-lived remote work tool that’s been a mainstay for free conference calling and video chatting for years. It’s debatable that Skype has been outclassed by other video conferencing apps, but it’s still one of the best and most widely used communication solutions for remote teams.
Remote Team Collaboration Tools
If you’re used to working together in person, in meeting rooms and over the lunch table, working remotely can be an adjustment. The following tools for remote teams make it much easier to collaborate together. For a much more comprehensive list, be sure to see our big, dedicated post on online collaboration tools.
6. G Suite
It’s kind of cheating to list G Suite as only a single entry, since it actually has several individual tools within it, designed to help teams collaborate. Every account comes with a Gmail account, and has access to collaboration software like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. There are also a number of communication and analytics tools available, including Google Hangouts and Forms for in-team surveys. You can open an account for free, but if you want more advanced features for your business, you’ll need to pay a monthly rate for each member of your team.
7. Office 365
Microsoft’s analogous software package is Office 365. Again, you’ll have access to a wide range of collaborative tools, including a Microsoft Outlook account, and access to both desktop and cloud-based versions of apps like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Office 365 and G Suite are highly similar, so you’ll likely only need one. If you’re not sure which one to choose, check out our guide on G Suite vs. Office 365.
Basecamp is a project management tool that allows you to create projects, tasks, and subtasks important to your team, and assign those items to individual team members. You can also use the platform to talk about the project, provide each other updates, and work together toward solutions to mutual problems. There are dozens of project management platforms available, and many of them function similarly, so we won’t be exhaustive in our listings here.
Another project management platform worth mentioning is Asana. Asana makes it easy for individual team members to manage their respective task lists. You can also break projects down by category and assign different user permissions, so you can easily segment your projects by department and still stay organized.
If your team finds itself frequently sharing and exchanging files, Dropbox is an important remote team collaboration tool to invest in. Its primary feature is cloud storage, allowing you to back up all your files and make them accessible in the cloud. However, it also makes it incredibly easy to manage different versions of collaborative files and share your work with others.
Evernote has been around for years, and it’s still one of the best note-taking apps available. With it, you can take notes, create task lists, and share content with others, using any device with an internet connection. You can even use it to save web content, and your team members can use it to organize their own files and tasks.
Lucidchart is an online collaboration tool that specializes in making use of visuals. With it, you can create diagrams, work together on a shared whiteboard, and produce graphs and charts to visualize data. If you’re brainstorming together, it has the power to make you feel like you’re truly in the same room together—even when you’re miles apart.
Tools for Remote Team Management
If you’re responsible for managing employees in a remote team, you’ll need better tools to track them and manage their productivity. Most project management platforms have some team management features baked in, but these remote work tools are even better for keeping track of workers.
We have to pitch our own app, EmailAnalytics, here, since we built it specifically for monitoring and managing teams of remote employees. You can use EmailAnalytics to track how many emails your employees are sending and receiving every day, the average length of email threads, average email response times, and much more. With that information, you can improve your team’s communicative efficiency, balance workloads among your team members, and learn more about the effectiveness of your workflows.
14. Time Doctor
Working remotely naturally makes it harder to keep tabs on other people, but Time Doctor tries to restore some of those insights. At its core, it’s a time tracking tool that allows employees to keep track of how much time they’re spending and how they’re spending it. It also has built-in analytics tools to help you analyze project costs and team efficiency. Be sure to check out our complete list of the best time tracking apps.
Toggl is a similar time tracking tool that attempts to make things easier on your employees and managers. It includes several tools designed to improve employee management for teams working from home, and features automated reporting so you can stay on top of your employees’ progress.
16. Chimp or Champ
Employee morale can be an issue when going remote for the first time, but with Chimp or Champ, you can easily get a feel for how your employees are doing while working from home. Basically, it’s an employee happiness meter that asks employees to check in with their progress, feedback, and overall sentiments. It allows you to make changes to your remote work setup adaptively, so you can keep productivity at its peak.
Kickidler is employee monitoring software that allows you to track time, monitor employee screens, and get automatic notifications in response to certain events—like extended periods of idle time. One of the advantages of working remotely is giving your team more autonomy, so this tool may or may not fit with your vision for remote work.
If you’re in the habit of celebrating wins and rewarding your employees for their successes, try WooBoard. Once instated, you can use WooBoard to enable peer to peer recognition, set up gamified rewards for employees, and distribute rewards to your top performers. It’s great for keeping morale high and giving team members more chances to engage with each other.
Remote Team Tools for Productivity and Work-Life Balance
As an added bonus, here are a few remote work tools I’ve found effective for helping employees improve their productivity while working from home—and possibly achieve a better work-life balance.
19. Focus Booster
Focus Booster is an interactive timer that makes use of the Pomodoro technique—a productivity hack that improves your performance by splitting your time between active work and breaks. It’s a simple tool, but if you’re the type of person who has trouble focusing in a home environment, or if you just want something to motivate you to get started every day, it’s incredibly valuable.
Did you know the right music can make you more productive? The emphasis here is on “right.” Music that’s too loud, too soft, too lyrical, or too aggressive can make it harder for you to focus. Brain.fm plays music designed to make you more productive, giving you the perfect background noise for a day of working at home.
Headspace is a mindfulness app, which has enormous benefits if you use it consistently. Mindfulness meditation, if practiced regularly, can give you more emotional control, help you reduce stress, and improve your ability to focus. It can also help you sleep more peacefully and consistently, keeping you mentally and physically healthier. If you have trouble forming and keeping good habits while working from home, it’s a must-try.
Working from home as a team for the first time is a major adjustment, even if you’ve dabbled in remote work in the past. But with these tools for remote teams, you’ll find it much easier to communicate, collaborate, and monitor your team.
If you’re interested in learning more about your employees’ email habits and overall productivity, why not give EmailAnalytics a try? It’s an all-in-one analytics tool for Gmail and G Suite that can tell you almost everything about your employees’ day-to-day email activity. Sign up for a free trial today, and take control over your new remote work environment!
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.