What are the best Remote Working Tools?

Freya Scammells

Whether it’s sat on a balcony with a large cup of coffee or sunk into a comically oversized bean bag in the corner of your living room, the distant dream of remote working has become a reality. 

The remote working revolution has been building for some time. Xennials and Millennials have long clamoured for the flexibility to work remotely in order to balance their work and home lives. 

This is partly born of necessity as most households require two incomes, but there has been a general attitudinal shift too. Increasingly the attitude is work to live, not live to work. 

When you consider that research suggests remote workers are more productive than their office-based counterparts, it’s hard to argue against it. 

The two main factors that stop employees from working remotely are technology and trust. 

Trust is a difficult hurdle to overcome and comes down to your mindset. 

If you’ve been burned in the past it’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Especially when those people keep the business afloat.  

However, remote working is the perfect opportunity to start everyone with a clear slate. It will become very apparent very quickly who is worthy of your trust.  

Fortunately technology exists that makes it easier (and cheaper) for teams to work remotely.And with the right processes you can monitor output while you’re at it. 

One of the most important things to get right when building a remote team is a collaboration tool. It needs to be user friendly, transparent and intuitive. 

If it’s annoying to use then it will quickly fall by the wayside and visibility of the team’s productivity will stop. 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams 

Microsoft Teams is a free piece of software to any business or organisation, including schools and charities. 

Once set up, Teams provides you with the functionality to chat one-to-one or as part of a ‘team’ or group. Groups can be set to different levels of access and within each team you can share work much like a shared drive in the old days. 

This allows you to store work centrally but prevent others from accessing it without needing to involve IT. 

Teams also has various plugins including Planner which allows for quick and easy project management. And Wiki so you can create an online resource for the entire company to access. 

Microsoft Teams also allows for voice and video calls within the organisation as standard. Again, this is all free of charge. The only thing you have to pay for is if you want Teams Telephony, which essentially replaces your traditional phone system. 

If your teams make a lot of sales calls then this feature is invaluable as it’s all VOIP. All your employees need is a decent internet connection. There’s no need for clunky third party software or any hardware beyond laptops and headsets. 

Slack

Slack

Slack shares a few features with Teams, which is little wonder considering Teams was designed to be a market beater. 

Slack is a freemium product. The free version allows for chat between team members and one-to-one video calling. Similarly to Teams you can create channels for different groups or different topics and throttle access. 

One of the major drawbacks of the free version is that it doesn’t keep a full history or your messages. So after a while things start to just disappear. 

In most cases this won’t be a problem but inevitably there will be that occasion when you’ll need to scour the message history for something important and it won’t be there. 

Upgrading to the standard service is only a few dollars per user, per month. For you investment you’ll get the full context of your organisation's message history, unlimited integrations, face-to-face communication with group voice and video calls of up to 15 teammates and secure collaboration with outside organisations or guests. 

Slack can integrate with other software including Office 365 to help make planning and similar smoother. 

Should we eliminate offices

Should we eliminate offices entirely? 

Not necessarily. 

While office space big enough to accommodate the entire workforce is arguably excessive, having some office space has its advantages.  

A physical office gives teams the opportunity to meet face to face once a month or one a quarter and bond.  

It also allows for training days, all hands meetings, parties (space permitting) and the ability to host clients. 

However, if you want to keep costs to a minimum there are two low cost options available. Co-working spaces and meeting rooms on demand. 

The former approach is nothing new. A shared space with other businesses, where your teams can use desks and meeting rooms. 

It’s a low cost option for the budget conscious. And quite often you end up with nicer offices than any you could afford when you’re just starting out. 

Of course the downside is sharing your workspace with other businesses. This can be problematic if they hog the meeting rooms. Or one of them turns out to be a competitor. 

But generally it’s an agreeable solution that helps startups from all industries get off the ground. 

Meeting rooms on demand is an even simpler premise. You hire meeting rooms as you need them. No office space required, no lease needed. You simply call in with the date, time, number of people and any requirements - such as refreshments - and you’re good to go. 

Trello

Trello

Is one of the most widely used list making tools in the world. It allows you to assign and track assignments, projects and other tasks by using a simple drag and drop interface.  

You can create lists flexibly so you can make it work for almost any project or workload.  

It allows you to create multiple boards (up to 10 team boards in the free version) with the option of adding deadlines, attachments and notes.  

The free version gives you quite a lot of functionality but if you want all the fancy features - such as automation and scheduled commands, the subscription starts at $9.99 per user. 

Where Trello arguably falls down compared to other solutions is that it is purely a work management tool. 

However it is one of the most comprehensive tools of its type anywhere. And it’s relatively cheap compared to some software out there.  

If your team does a lot of planning and/or has a lot of different projects on the go then Trello is hard to beat. 

Basecamp

Basecamp 

Basecamp has evolved a lot over the last few years, going from something similar to Trello to an ‘all-in-one’ collaboration tool. 

Offering users message boards, group chat (called campfires), calendar, to-do lists and file sharing, it’s comparable to Microsoft Teams in a lot of ways. 

The basic license allows you to create 3 projects at a time, allows for 20 users and gives you 20GB of storage. After that it’s $99 a month flat, regardless of business size. 

Long term this makes it one of the more affordable options as the cost of licenses won’t grow with the business, saving considerable time. 

The dashboard set up is also nicer than most other platforms as you can see at glance what’s going on, rather than having to click through tabs. 

It has a host of nice features like setting notifications to office hours only. Or hill charts so people can see at glance how projects are progressing. 

It’s a very powerful tool and ideal if you work on a lot of projects and/or require collaboration from across the organisation. 

It’s only drawback is that it can’t make video and voice calls. Considering tools like Teams can do most of what Basecamp has to offer - and is free - it’s hard to compete. 

G Suite

G Suite 

A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with Google’s paid for business suite. 

It’s an understandable bug bear as it offers everything that Microsoft can...only not quite as well. 

It’s software packages (Google Docs, Google Sheets etc) are...adequate. But for the money (just a few dollars per user per month) it’s not a bad deal. Especially when taking into account the business account provides users with unlimited Google Drive storage. 

Google Drive is one of the services main advantages. Aside from the huge amount of storage, it has the same search functionality as a Google search. So finding documents is a doddle. 

Gmail - aside from being a robust and user friendly email platform - also includes Google Hangouts. 

This is a chat and video calling application that allows for conference calls much in the same way as Teams and dedicated video conferencing platforms like Zoom. 

While GSuite lacks the collaborative tools like Planner or to-do lists, it does have some useful functions like Jamboard. Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard that allows teams to brainstorm ideas digitally and then share the images with the entire team. 

Zoom

Zoom 

Zoom has become one of the go to video conferencing tools since the company’s founding in 2011. 

It’s easy to understand why. It’s easy to setup and easy to use. Up to 100 people can talk for up to 40 minutes for free. 

And subscriptions are reasonable when you want to do more.  

However, Zoom has been dogged by controversy regarding its security issues. Zoom bombing (where hackers break into calls and leave abusive content) is still a problem. 

They have only recently started offering end to end encryption - much to their chagrin. Zoom haven’t helped themselves by repeatedly going on the offensive whenever issues were raised. Only to later admit that a problem had been identified and fixed. 

Zoom will most likely end up as one of the most reliable and secure video calling solutions on the market. It just might be a rocky road to get there. 

GanttPro

GanttPro 

If your organisation is built almost entirely around project work then GanttPro may well be the solution you’ve been looking for.  

It allows users to build highly detailed Gantt charts including time management, budgets, team/resource management and more. 

You can easily create and structure projects, as well as automate online project scheduling all whilst benefiting from drag and drop simplicity. 

The collaboration features allow attachments, comments and other useful information to be attached to the project. This gives your team complete transparency, backed up by real-time data synchronisation. So you’ll never get caught out working on an old version of your project. 

While remote working is uncharted territory for many, the technology exists to make it as effective - if not more - as working in an office. 

Structure and processes have to underpin the technology, but the right solutions will help, rather than hinder, that approach. 

If you’re looking to build a remote team, we can help. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements with a member of the team. 

Freya Scammells

About the Author

Freya has extensive experience in business development in the tech talent space with over 10 years of experience within the Technology and AI recruitment agency space.

Freya also has extensive international technology talent attraction experience through her time living and working in the USA and Canada as well as over 9 years partnering with Technology companies from startups to global organisations.