The future of work is here…and it’s setting up shop at a cafe, couch, or co-working space near you.
The amount of employees working remotely – and the companies making it possible – are continually growing.
In May, International Workplace Group found that 70 percent of professionals telecommute at least once a week. The Swiss business group believes that at least 50 percent of the global workforce will be completely remote by 2020.
The IWG survey found that flexible working enhances productivity, creativity, staff retention, and job satisfaction. This is all in addition to the financial and strategic advantages that telecommuting and freelancing allow.
The ability to work remotely and the emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes regarding where and how people work, as well as challenging traditional nine-to-five working hours.
If you’re familiar with Testlio, chances are you already know that we work with over 10,000 remote testers. These verified testers have 4,500 unique devices in hand and cover more than 60 countries.
Beyond lowering overhead, remote working offers a plethora of benefits including finding a balance between work and life.
“Employees who feel in control of their own lives, have a better relationship with management. They’re able to leave professional issues at work and personal issues at home.” – Kristel Kruustük, Testlio CEO and Founder
Furthermore, organizations known for encouraging work-life balance have become very attractive to employees. This helps draw a valuable pool of candidates for any job vacancies.
But managing a distributed team with members living everywhere from New York to Timbuktu can be daunting. Beyond hiring self-motivated and experienced employees with strong communication skills and who are comfortable working independently, it’s important to recruit tech-savvy team members who understand the importance of collaboration.
While there’s no manual, there are many, many tools in order to keep everyone in the team on track and communicating.
Thanks to the availability of a lot of great tools, communication within a remote team is much easier than in the past, from simply staying in touch or building the company culture.
The undisputed champion of team communication that lets you create different channels for various topics or purposes, such as marketing, design, social media mentions (#social-mentions), or for new employees (#get-to-know).
It’s simple to share files and access archives. While transparency is always encouraged, people may also send direct messages or create small groups for department communications.
With a growing number of apps and integrations, Slack can be customized according to your own workflows, connect with many other tools on this list, and lets you set up automated notifications.
An oldie but goodie, Skype is a classic video calling app.
Free to use both locally and globally, the platform also includes instant message, video call, voice call, and group call all from the Skype desktop or mobile app.
“Remote work is about communication. I use Skype because I can keep track of conversations I’ve had and I can also jump on a call without switching to a different system.” – Eric Ebert, Zenkit Marketing Manager
Rocket.Chat is a communications platform built by a community of developers with their own needs in mind.
Aimed directly at development teams, Rocket.Chat is more than a messaging platform. Whether you want to talk or video chat with colleagues, Rocket.Chat has you covered.
Additionally, Rocket.Chat is open-source meaning it’s easy to build on and customize with a ton of other tools. With its file upload and sharing, the program is a solid rival of/addition to Slack.
“Rocket.Chat allows us to communicate with our testers at all times. Push notifications are the key for urgent messages. Besides being a well-structured communication tool, it allows us to keep the community engaged. We needed a platform that allows us to create an environment where you can easily switch between fun chit-chat and project-related discussions. With Rocket.Chat this is possible.”– Kaspar Kikerpill, Testlio Community Growth Manager
Sometimes you want to do more than send a quick message. But past experiences with unreliable video conferencing tools and frustrating technical issues keep you from doing so. This is where Zoom shines.
For companies still rolling on the free versions of other platforms, Zoom allows up to 100 participants in its free plan.
The simple to set up video conferencing tool was rated the most stable and reliable by Gartner. With a Slack integration, team members can receive an instant meeting link by typing “/zoom”.
“Video calling and screen sharing are an integral part of managing a remote team, and while there are lots of options available Zoom’s Video Conferencing platform delivers simplicity and useful features, whether you’re a paying customer or not.” – Ben Woods, Owner and Media Strategist
People are social creatures and need to feel connected…especially when far away from other colleagues. Consider this when looking for your company’s perfect communication platforms.
And don’t limit exchanges to strictly business. A casual greeting or sharing a funny video every now and then can help boost morale.
Development and Design Collaboration
Design is usually a team sport. From whiteboarding to critiques, distributed design teams must be able to collaborate in real-time.
Establish a workflow that will work for everyone in your department while considering you may not always have face-to-face interaction with the rest of your team. Thankfully, technology can make it feel like you’re close even when you’re not.
InVision allows teams to create interactive prototypes, for both mobile and web applications.
One of the most comprehensive design software suites, InVision keeps telecommuters in sync throughout the entire design process.
The programs facilitates design discussions asynchronously, tracks feedback from everyone, and demonstrates interactions easily and efficiently allowing you to wireframe, plan, and design all-in-one. It’s one of the best rapid prototyping tool in the market.
“Feedback is so much better when your clients have a better context for what they’re looking at. InVision mimics an actual web browsing experience. This means that you have control over how others see your designs, which is a great thing.” – Jeremy Wells, Wells Innovative Creative Strategist
Github is the most popular source-code hosting platform by all standards.
It’s suitable for a plethora of projects and is the go-to for most open-source software.
In fact, it’s one of the most popular software product development tools teams – both remote and in-house – prefer.
By supporting a multi-level access system, GitHub creates a secure development environment worldwide. It easily integrates with other services.
When collaborating online, always offer detailed and clear information about what you’re asking or saying. Send images, code examples, and source files to supplement your messages. Remember, too much info is better than not enough.
While onboarding team members into core collaboration tools is time-consuming, if anyone on the team doesn’t understand, they will shy away from participating. Make sure you explain all the necessary tools being used.
Project Management and Workflow
Without being in the same room, managing the team’s productivity gets to be a little more complicated. Choosing the right project management software can make or break a distributed company.
A staple for the Testlio team, Atlassian Jira helps Agile teams plan and track projects and issues. The cross-platform Agile software development and team collaboration tool allows members to deliver software fast and efficiently.
From marketing to design to DevOps, Jira is built with every department in mind. Everyone can easily be on the same page…and project.
Workflow automation is a must for every modern company. This is especially important when it comes to distributed teams.
Global teams rely on Zapier’s up-to-date documentation to ensure each member is on the same page and no work is being laterally produced.
By linking your company’s organizational apps together, Zapier’s automatic updates help facilitate a strong remote work culture.
“Zapier is the extra team member at our agency, linking our systems together and managing the push and pull of data.” – Alex Minchin, Zest Digital Managing Partner
A Kanban-style project management tool, Trello can be used for pretty much anything. From product development to editorial, from managing freelancers to daily PR tasks.
A visual to-do list greatly helps every project go according to plan. You can create boards and cards to manage your entire project.
Its drag-and-drop features allow you to easily attach files and images onto cards. You can assign due dates, labels, team members, and comments to both plan a strategy and track its progress.
One of the original supporters of telecommunicating, the founders of Basecamp created transparency, structure, and accountability for teams across various time zones.
Basecamp lets you easily create projects and assign to-dos and deadlines to members. With its calendar feature, you can quickly spot when a team member has missed a milestone.
Establishing a workflow frees you up to focus on core tasks and avoid micromanaging.
Not everyone will agree with your ideas of how work should be accomplished. Instead of focusing specifically on how the work is done, rather pay more attention to the work itself. Set clear objectives, when these tasks should be accomplished, and the specific person responsible for meeting each objective.
Digital file management is essential for the smooth operation of any business.
It’s often more important because geographically dispersed employees access files during times when their colleagues can’t be reached or you need to be able to pass your files along to another department for their input.
Cloud storage is easy to take for granted, but it’s a must when you’re working remotely.
Google Drive is an essential part of any team – from one to one thousand. Whether it’s work documents, presentations, or spreadsheets, Google Drive is free, fast, and accessible from any in a single place. You can even turn on and off features, enable sharing, change access rights, and track changes.
With Docs, Slides, Sheets, and more as part of the Google suite, you can easily open, edit, and share files on the go. Don’t have internet access? Set your Drive to work offline and you can still edit documents and spreadsheets.
“Google suite is a time saver with its native collaboration features. Multiple author revisions, in-document conversations via comments, and edit and suggest modes allow me to conveniently edit documents and track all changes.” – Josepha Miltony, Executive Administrative Manager, Testlio
Sending large files over email is a hassle, and impossible when the file is too large. A team Dropbox account can be a great way to ensure that you are sharing all of the files that you need to within your team and that they are easily accessible.
It’s simple to use, with the ability to download a desktop app for easy drag-and-drop file sharing.
Huddle is cloud-based with the ability to sync all files across all devices.
The software integrates with Salesforce, Microsoft Office, and Google – to name a few. This makes task management effective and efficient.
The combination of communication, file sharing, and task management features makes this application an efficient project management tool.
We all know we need a strong, unique password for each of our online accounts…we just don’t want to have to remember each one.
Password managers fix this by generating and storing complex passwords. The password manager lives in your browser and acts a digital gatekeeper, filling in your login info when you need to get on a certain site. You just have to remember a single password for the manager itself, and everything else is taken care of for you.
1Password includes features such as the ability to attach a document or picture to a login aiding in extra security.
The platform allows you to easily onboard new team members with an overview of permissions. It also automatically monitors all accounts for breaches.
“Remote team collaboration often requires sharing access to the same tools. It’s no longer safe to manually store your passwords in a spreadsheet on your computer, which is where password managers like 1Password come in.” – Kristen Kivimaa, IT Administrator, Testlio
As one of the strongest names in password management, LastPass strikes an excellent balance of providing many features without overwhelming the user with options. The software is intuitive and fast across numerous supported platforms.
LastPass free users also get unlimited passwords, a password generator, secure note storage, one-to-one sharing, and a “challenge” to test their own security situations.
Dashlane not only keeps your passwords safe it also makes it easier for team members to log into essential tools.
The platform enables you to instantly change passwords on multiple login sites integrated with Dashlane. It also captures receipts, which is convenient.
However, the free version won’t sync your passwords to your mobile.
Enable two-factor authentication on all mission-critical accounts that support it. Even for small startups, a phone-based 2FA should be required for high-value accounts.
Passwords should never be shared or transferred via email or text. Control logins and ensure they remain safe and protected – especially if logging in on behalf of clients.
Time Management Tools
One of the biggest issues many remote teams face is accurately tracking time worked. Since remote workers can live around the world, managers often have several people collaborating on projects in different time zones.
Time management tools track your team’s progress and daily activity.
Want to make sure your remote workers are focused on actual work? TimeCamp is a time and productivity tracker that follows a user’s activity.
The online time tracking software allows you to manage projects by tasks, people, or budget. TimeCamp seamlessly assigns time entries to the right project, monitors employees’ internet usage, and generates detailed reports.
Additionally, with the distinction between productive and unproductive activities, you know how employees spend their working hours.
When I Work
When I Work makes it easy to schedule work for employees and track their work or billable time. This is especially useful for hourly remote workers. Employees login and digitally “clock in” with a convenient interface.
See a weekly overview of your entire team’s schedule and minimize scheduling conflicts with drag-and-drop schedule features.
Harvest tracks your team’s progress and daily activity. Run reports for individual team members, tasks, or clients.
The platform integrates with dozens of your favorite tools – including Slack, Trello, and Basecamp – to save you time and streamline your workflow.
It’s easy to just hop online throughout the day and do a little bit of work. But it’s important to set your work hours so that you give yourself plenty of time to focus on tasks without eating into your downtime.
From Facebook to YouTube to online shopping – figure out your time wasters and then avoid them during your set work hours. Instead, make sure you’re taking regular breaks so your mind is refreshed and set aside time to devote to these activities outside of the workday.
Time Converter Tools
The Time Buddy app visually converts multiple time zones. You can simply add locations of your teammates in order to find a convenient time to meet.
The free version allows you to coordinate between four locations.
Sometimes your remote team will span over different time zones. Be sure you’re communicating with your colleagues during times you should expect them to be working.
It doesn’t matter whether employees work on-site or remotely, they all need to be engaged and motivated. Unfortunately, without the opportunities for a spontaneous “bravo!” many managers are at a loss when it comes to recognizing remote employees.
Celebrate your team’s accomplishments with WooBoard.
This gamification app provides companies with a platform that recognizes and appreciates their employees.
Employees earn rewards with a transparent point system and then redeem them for gift cards.
Establish criteria for what performance or contribution constitutes rewards. By telling your team the behavior that you want to see, you set them up for success and accomplishment.
Picking the Right Tool for You
When it comes to using cloud-based tools to manage a team, make sure everyone is on the same page.
Choose the right software, get your people on board, and you’ll be well on your way to building a more productive remote team to help grow your business.