Working remotely requires skills like self-motivation, excellent communication, and the capability to work independently. Whereas some people are naturally talented at all of these, most employees do need a little help. The best solution is to use software for remote teams.
One of the biggest differences between working remotely and working in an office is communication. With the right software for remote teams, there’s no reason for communication to suffer at all.
There’s a reason why Slack is widely considered among the best technology for working remotely: it’s highly effective. Slack provides all your employees with a place to converse that’s free from distractions. They can have one-on-one conversations, talk in groups, or use designated channels to discuss a certain topic (including non-work related topics). The software is also great for sharing files, notes, and ideas.
To gain even greater value from Slack, you can install additional apps that provide you with reports or notifications about business activity. For instance, Slack allows integration with Google Docs and Trello.
Of course, even such a popular tool as Slack is far from perfect. A common issue (especially for employees at large companies) is finding yourself in too many channels, which makes it difficult to keep up with all your messages. This can risk something important escaping your notice.
Price: Free for limited features, $6.67 per user per month for Standard (small to midsize businesses), $12.50 per user per month for Plus (large businesses)
Maximum users: Unlimited
You’ve probably heard that Skype has competition: the new favorite video conferencing software for remote teams is Zoom. The software is ideal for checking in with an employee or coworker, holding formal meetings, and for company-wide hangouts to socialize.
The reason Zoom is so much better than Skype (and other classic video conferencing apps, for that matter) is that it’s solved many of the bugs that plagued software of the past. You’ll rarely (if ever) experience freezes or a lack of sound. Plus, the interface is simple enough that anyone can use the software without needing training. For instance, you can easily share screens without the app crashing — another issue Skype suffers from.
Despite all these benefits, Zoom is far from perfect. Users report that the quality of the picture can sometimes drop to very low. In addition, if you’re using the free version, you’ll be limited to 40 minutes for video meetings with more than three people. Zoom’s biggest failing, however, has to be its security. As it’s non-encrypted, hacks are always a possibility.
Price: Free for Basic (personal use), $14.99 per month for Pro (small teams), starting at $199.90 per month for Business (small and midsize businesses), starting at $1,999 per month for Enterprise (large businesses)
Maximum users: Up to 100 for free and Pro, up to 300 for Business, up to 500 for Enterprise, and up to 1,000 for Enterprise Plus
Project Management Apps
Even if you only have a small team, managing projects over emails is a recipe for disaster. Just emailing files and links to Google Docs back and forth can easily lead to confusion. Assigning tasks and collaborating on projects is even more complicated. Project management remote collaboration software is a must.
If your team is visually-minded, Trello is a good choice for a project management tool. You organize projects by boards and can split projects further into individual tasks. You can also tag users, leave comments, and use color-coded labels. Trello gives you more freedom than you have with some other project management apps — you can even find add-ons to better meet your team’s needs.
The downside is that Trello can be overly simplistic. You can only write a simple description about boards, meaning you may need to include a more detailed document elsewhere. Plus, whereas the color-coded labels are useful, you only have a limited number. Finally, as there are few keyboard shortcuts, completing some tasks on Trello can be time consuming.
Price: Free for limited features, $9.99 per month for Business Class, from $5.92 per user (for 5,000 users) and $20.83 per user (for 20 users) for Enterprise
Maximum users: Up to 5,000; for more, you need to contact Trello
Another choice for remote collaboration software is Asana. This workflow management tool is another that displays projects visually. It’s great for keeping track of progress and making sure your team is meeting deadlines.
Once you get the hang of using Asana, you’ll likely find it extremely useful, but there is a learning curve. You may find that you need to provide employees with training before they can use the software. One reason for this is the numerous features: these can be a blessing or they may cause confusion, depending on your team.
Asana has tried to prevent confusion in other areas — with mixed results. For instance, you can only assign a task to a single person. Whereas this may be beneficial for some teams, it can be problematic for others.
Price: Free for basic (individuals and new teams), $10.99 per month for Premium (established teams), $24.99 per month for Business (companies); you’ll need to message Asana for Enterprise pricing
Maximum users: Up to 15 for free and Premium; you can also pay more for additional users
One more option for remote workforce management software is ProofHub. This app is ideal for coordinating larger teams and teams of all sizes that have demanding management needs.
ProofHub provides you with all the project management capabilities you need in one place, including report generation, time tracking, a calendar, and the chance to assign custom roles. It’s also multilingual, which is useful for working with an international team.
Unfortunately, integration with ProofHub is limited. If you’re already using other software for remote teams, you may find that you’re unable to pair some of the apps with ProofHub. Another downside is the numerous notifications. Being unable to customize what notifications you receive can become overwhelming.
Price: $45 per month for Essential, $89 per month for Ultimate Control
Maximum users: Unlimited
Time Tracking Tools
Some of the best technology for working remotely is the most simple. Time tracking tools fall into this category. Time tracking tools let you know how many hours employees are spending on work and how projects are progressing. This is especially useful when your team is just starting out with remote work.
Available as desktop software as well as a web tool and mobile app, Hubstaff allows employees to track when they’re working. Users simply click a button to start and stop time tracking. There’s also an idle time feature to remind employees if they forget to stop the timer.
The team manager receives all the data about work performance on a dashboard. As well as recording how many hours team members have worked, the tool shows the rate of using the mouse and keyboard. It also uses app and URL tracking for accountability and you can turn on screenshots to track progress more closely.
If you only want time tracking, Hubstaff may be a good option. The software doesn’t have any project management, expense, or invoicing tools. This can be beneficial if time tracking is your only concern and you want in-depth reports. However, if you only need a basic idea of what your employees are doing and do want remote collaboration tools, project management software with a simple time tracker could be a better option.
Price: Free for Solo Lite (one user), $7 per user per month for Basic, $10 per user per month for Premium, $20 per user per month for Enterprise
Maximum users: Up to 350
Another possibility for time tracking is Toggl. The software uses an online timer with a timesheet calculator. Team members can specify what they are working on at any moment, which enables management to see, at a glance, what everyone on the team is doing at different times of the day or week.
Unlike some other time tracking apps to manage remote teams, Toggl doesn’t allow users to take screenshots at a particular moment to show what they are working on. It is also impossible for users to see their history without generating a report — and you cannot customize these reports much.
Price: Free for basic, $9 per user per month for Starter, $18 per user per month for Premium, custom pricing for Enterprise
Maximum users: Up to five for free, unlimited for paid
It’s important to avoid going overboard when using apps to manage teams. Software for remote teams is the most effective when you only use what you truly need. In fact, asking your team to onboard too many tools could even hinder productivity. Pick just the best technology for your needs — you can almost always try software for free before you commit to a subscription.