Tips, Tools, and Tricks to Improve Remote Work

There are so many reasons that remote work is wonderful, but sometimes, that distance makes it more difficult to communicate, to collaborate and to work together as a team. When you can’t just hop over to the next desk and ask someone a question, look over their shoulders at their screen, or move one of their stickie notes on their scrum board, things are just a little more difficult. We’ve talked to over a hundred remote teams and here’s a list of apps, websites, and ideas that can help facilitate remote work:

Document sharing and concurrent editing: G-suite, Evernote, Dropbox

Messaging: Slack, Telegram, Saferoom. Slack is amazing and by far the most frequently cited by the teams we’ve interviewed. Telegram is great for team members who might have consistent internet (messages get through much faster and easier), and Saferoom is a new program where all messages are double-encrypted and secured.

Project Management/To-Do list: Asana, Trello, Wunderlist, Todoist, Google Keep. Each is wonderful in their own way, it just depends on what works best for your team.

All of the above: Basecamp. Basecamp is a document sharing, messaging and project management app that is perfect for small- to medium-sized businesses. Basecamp is built by a remote team and works great for remote teams.

Slack integrations: Almost all of the remote teams that we talked to used Slack as their team communication tool. Slack has some great bots and integrations to help your remote team do their best work and have fun. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Donut: pairs team members together for an in-person or virtual “getting to know you” meeting
  • Hey Taco: a fun way to show gratitude for teammates who went above and beyond. Give them a virtual taco
  • Kyber: create tasks, announcements, polls and meetings on slack easily

Video-conference: Zoom, Google Hangouts. There’s plenty of other video-conferencing apps, but we prefer these two and the majority of remote teams rely on Zoom.

Virtual office: Sococo. If you miss the hustle and bustle of an office environment, try Sococo.

Asynchronous Video messaging: Marco Polo. Marco Polo allows you to record video messages to one person or to a group. Those who receive the message can watch it in real time or at their convenience. We like this app since it has the time delay of a messaging app with the video body language cues from a video-conference.

Design Collaboration app: InVision

Collaborative Zooming Whiteboard: Mural, RealTime Board, Conceptboard

Sticky Notes: Canvanizer: Canvanizer is a great sticky notes site that teams can work on together. They have canvas templates such as Business Model Canvas, SWOT analysis, HR Innovation Canvas, and Pitch Planner Canvas, or you can create your own.

Software development: Jira, GitHub

Automation: Zapier, IFTTT

Time Converter: World Time Buddy

Meeting Scheduler: Doodle, When2Meet

Celebrations and acknowledgments: When your team is distributed across the world, celebrations and acknowledgments are vital to creating a great team culture. Our friends at Smack Happy Design have a great way to celebrate and acknowledge staff members. They have a box with an MVP trophy, a medal and a crown that last month’s MVP sends to next month’s MVP. Then during their all-hands meeting, the last month’s MVP lists the reasons and acknowledges what the new MVP has done and how everyone appreciates them. What a fun way to show appreciation and create a culture of gratitude.

Co-working time: We’ve found that the best remote workers have some (2-4 hours) overlap with their team, where everyone is expected to respond rapidly to questions or comments, and some time to work alone, undisrupted by meetings and messages. That way, any problems are resolved without having to wait a whole workday, but team members also have time to be productive. Some teams even virtually co-work together by having an open video-conference where anyone can join and work.

Retreats: Many of the remote teams that we’ve talked with gather their staff members together for an annual or bi-annual team retreat. This retreat is great as a team-bonding and team-building experience, and typically mixes work (co-working, an industry-specific conference, or strategic planning) with fun (board games, cooking together, and team-building activities such as scavenger hunts and ropes courses).

Team-building for remote teams: We’ve created a team-building game for remote teams that is based on the neuroscience of human connections. Our remote team-building game is a mixed-reality game, played on video-conference, designed for teams to communicate, collaborate and develop rapport. Players must solve a mystery by discovering clues, piecing together puzzles and working as a team. To learn more about our remote team-building game, click here.

What are some of yours? Tell us some of the tools, tips, and tricks that you use to make your remote team run well and have fun.

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