The traditional workplace has rapidly changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and people have had to work from home in roles that have never been done this way before. Some employees – and even some offices – are changing the way they work for good, and research predicts that by 2025 the majority of businesses will be primarily remote.
The great thing about this new way of working is that technology has made it easier than ever. There are a huge number of remote work tools out there to make communication, project management, and collaborative working a breeze. Take a look at some of the common remote work hurdles you may face, and the best remote work tools out there to help you overcome them.
Being able to communicate effectively online when you’re based remotely is a skill in itself. Meetings can feel different when they’re online, and getting your head around the fact that you’re explaining thoughts and ideas in writing rather than just catching up at the water cooler can take a little getting used to.
Everyone has different communication styles, some of which are better adapted to remote working than others. It’s worth identifying employee communication styles and strengths with a written communication skills test to optimize the skills you use. Then, you can decide which of the following tools best suits your employees’ communication needs.
Lots of businesses use Slack to communicate and collaborate. With Slack, you can chat with colleagues directly or in a group channel. You can also share files directly, and there are many apps that you can add to enhance the experience, such as GIPHY or Donut. It puts all of this in one place and offers apps for iOS, Android and desktop so you can keep up to date on the go. Individuals can also set their availability, which is great to maintain a work-life balance and helps if you have teams based across different time zones.
This remote work tool is easy to use and offers instant messaging, audio and video calls, and file sharing. You can create unlimited groups too so you can make sure your messages are seen by the people who need to see them. It can also integrate with file-sharing tools like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Soapbox allows collaboration on meetings, engagements, and priorities, and offers conversation starters, goal examples, and analytics to help you understand how your teams are engaging with the communication tools on offer. You can also get real-time feedback to track meetings. It integrates with a range of other file sharing, project management, and communication apps for seamless continuity throughout.
Project management and collaborative working are two of the most important skills for teams working remotely. They can be two of the most challenging to get right as they require lots of different moving parts. You can make it far easier with a project management tool that allows for better communication, and task and deadline assignments.
Asana allows teams to collaborate, organize, plan, execute their work effectively, and collaborate on specific tasks. It is a web-based task management and collaboration software that brings tasks, files, and deadlines together on boards to get the job done successfully.
Great for managing workflow and collaboration, especially with teammates and clients. Trello has a really easy-to-use layout, based on the traditional Kanban board, and gives the ability to group tasks and projects. It’s a really easy way to manage progress, tasks, and project goals. Trello also has automation features that can take a while to set up, but really help to boost productivity once they are in place.
Basecamp is simple to use and offers project management and collaborative working solutions across different tasks. You can use it to communicate with others outside of the team too so that they can help you manage projects and leave their input on tasks.
If you can’t share through your usual communication channels (for example if you have a huge file or complicated file structure) or don’t have a shared network space, then the ability to easily and efficiently share files with others is really important. Compatibility and integration with existing tools are also really important. Here are some of the easiest-to-use file-sharing tools.
Part of Google Workspace, Google Drive offers a storage platform for lots of different types of documents including presentations, spreadsheets, reports, and communications. It can be synchronized across devices and accessed from anywhere, making it a great tool to use remotely. It’s also really simple to share documents and to invite others to collaborate.
Dropbox allows you to share large files or folders and makes it easy to synchronize, share, and collaborate on documentation. It’s really easy to share files and suggest changes or updates, with version control already built in.
There may be occasions where you need to send large files or a folder with lots of smaller files inside. This is where WeTransfer comes in handy! While it doesn’t have collaborative or storage features, it makes transferring files from A to B far easier. You can send up to 2GB for free, and all you need is the recipient’s email so it’s great for sending files outside of your team too.
Keeping motivated is different when you work remotely. There could be distractions going on at home, or the lack of in-person management could impact team productivity. Thankfully, there are some tools that employees can use to keep their productivity up.
The ultimate tool for anyone who lives their life by lists. Create tasks, subtasks, projects, notes, and files. You can also set reminders, flags, and productivity charts to help keep on track with your priorities.
Be Focused uses the Pomodoro Technique – basically breaking your day up into 25-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks – to get things done. You can customize your work intervals, track progress and goals throughout the day or week and manage your tasks using the app. It’s perfect if you find it easy to get distracted during the working day!
Time tracking app Toggl helps you to work out how much time you’re spending on different tasks. This can help with awareness, planning, and scheduling as it offers reporting as well as timing and scheduling to help you optimize your time.
Taking notes is part and parcel of attending meetings, and can be the key to remembering what your meeting actions and deadlines are. If a notebook or hastily-typed document is no longer cutting it, take your note-taking to the next level with a note-taking tool.
Ideal for taking notes remotely, Evernote allows you to take notes, reference, create lists, set reminders, and organize your notes effectively. It keeps them all in one place and backs them up too, meaning no more lost notes due to files or notebooks going missing.
Google Keep is an easy-to-use note-taking and list-making tool that sits right in Google Workspace. You can set reminders, highlight and pin notes, and even add audio and images to your notes, making it an easy way to capture all the information you need on the go.
Simplenote is quick and easy to use for taking notes and sharing them across devices. You can tag and share notes easily, making it simple to rediscover what you were looking for at a later date. Backups, sharing, and syncing are all included in Simplenote’s functionality.
Scheduling can be more complex with a remote team, especially if you’re dealing with customers or team members based in different time zones. Make it simple with a scheduling tool that allows you to manage availability and book appointments quickly and easily.
Timezone allows you to track and coordinate activities across different time zones so that you can help to manage work-life balance and ensure that schedules are compatible in every time zone. This minimizes confusion and scheduling conflicts and helps limit 7 am meetings.
Skip the back-and-forth emails to schedule a convenient meeting time, and instead put your availability out there so that people can book their own times with you. Calendly allows the person you’re meeting with to see your availability at a glance and book a meeting accordingly.
Doodle offers an easy way to see availability, collaborate, juggle time zones and choose meeting times without having to send 30 emails or open up your calendar to everyone. It’s easy to use and makes light work of complex availability.
The future of remote work
This is a make-or-break time for remote working as many employers (and employees) decide on whether they want to stay remote post-pandemic. With the right communication, tools, and strategies in place, a remote or hybrid way of working can benefit business, improve work-life balance, and boost productivity as well as reduce business costs and open up your hiring pool to a whole new field of candidates.