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Remote Work Essentials: The Best Collaboration Tools Right Now

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Remote work has opened the doors to collaboration around the world. What seemed like an improbability before 2020 is today’s reality. According to Forbes, over 12.7% of full-time employees work in a fully remote setting while 28.2% employees work in a hybrid model, showcasing how normal remote working has become.

There are multiple benefits of remote working such as:

  • Higher employee retention
  • Reduced absenteeism and sick leave
  • Saving the time and money spent on commuting
  • Flexible hours, and
  • Higher productivity.

As the demand for remote work continues to increase, organizations are looking to equip themselves with the best collaboration tools that empower remote teams to communicate and collaborate for a seamless workflow. But what does that entail?

Must-Have Remote Collaboration Tools

Remote collaboration is an integral part of teams working from different geographical locations. Being able to collaborate and communicate in a remote environment helps the members of an organization to perform their tasks efficiently, even when they aren’t physically together.

To facilitate the successful completion of tasks and projects in a remote environment, certain remote collaboration tools are essential. Some examples include videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or Google Meet, project management software like Asana or Trello, group messaging apps like Spike and Slack, and note-taking apps like EverNote and Notion.

Top 5 Remote Collaboration Tools

While there are hundreds of remote collaboration tools, here are five that, to me, stand out.

Top Videoconferencing – Zoom

The most important remote collaboration tool, perhaps, is the one that helps you see and hear your teammates as you interact with them.

While essentially known as a cloud-based videoconferencing platform, Zoom also offers features like audio conferencing, webinar hosting and real-time chat, making it a go-to collaboration tool for over 200,000 companies worldwide.

Not only is the platform easy to use, but it’s also scalable — i.e., you can upgrade your current version of Zoom as your business grows. However, if you’re a small business, you might not need the paid version of the software, at least not yet.

Even though there are certain limitations to the free version, such as a 40-minute meeting limit, it’s great for small businesses with under 10 employees.

Pros:

  • Zoom’s ability to host a large number of audience members makes it a great option for large teams.
  • Collaboration options for different businesses that hold meetings or webinars together.
  • Flexible video conferencing tool with features such as real-time screen sharing, virtual backgrounds and video recording.
  • High scope of scalability and integrates well with third-party apps like Google Calendar and Outlook.

Cons:

  • Zoom has been bashed in the past over security and privacy concerns.
  • Tends to face more technical issues compared to other platforms in terms of connectivity, video and audio lag and other technical glitches.
  • Doesn’t offer an offline option, making it highly reliable on good internet connectivity and prone to failing in limited coverage areas.

Top Group Messaging App – Slack

The most prominent feature of the communication application Slack is the ability to offer multiple functionalities. The best part is that the collaboration tool makes up for the features that it lacks with its long list of integrations with multiple business applications.

Along with its ease of use, Slack also makes communication between team members concise and clear with its one-on-one chats, huddles and separate project channels, offering consistent collaboration opportunities.

While the platform is scalable for all types of businesses, it does have a forever free plan that has all the core features of the plan. However, its biggest drawback is that the message history disappears after 90 days.

Pros:

  • All-in-one solution for communication, collaboration, file sharing and connectivity in real time.
  • Separate groups for different conversations and projects, making them easier to access.
  • Slack covers a lot of communication options, and the ones that it doesn’t are offered by its integration with multiple third-party apps.
  • Information is searchable making it easy to find and follow.
  • Customization options for every feature, creating a seamless experience and workflow.

Cons:

  • The cost of paid subscriptions adds up quickly as teams expand, making it an expensive option for big teams.
  • The real-time communication can be distracting and cut into productive hours if the notifications aren’t managed effectively.
  • Data security and breaches can be a big problem if sensitive data is shared on the platform.

You can also explore other free alternatives to Slack, such as Pumble.

Related: Best SMS forwarding app.

Top Time Tracking Software – Toggl Track

Toggl is powerful time tracking software specially designed for remote and hybrid teams. Proper time management is an essential feature of a remote work environment with fruitful collaboration. If you’re looking for a collaboration tool that lets you manage your remote employees, time and workload, Toggl is for you.

It allows you to avoid overwork by spreading your tasks across your working hours and setting realistic deadlines regarding the projects and tasks that you’re working on.

Not only does it come with a detailed reporting and dedicated analytics dashboard, it also boasts the ability to connect with more than 100 integration platforms from project management to accounting.

Pros:

  • The ability to track time on all systems – desktop, mobile devices and the web.
  • Advanced reporting features that help provide insights into how and where time is being spent.
  • Innumerable integrations for easier time management with project management tasks and calendars.
  • The interface is user-friendly and has an easy learning curve for new users.

Cons:

  • Advanced features can only be accessed through a paid subscription, which means free subscription users can miss out on some important features.
  • Syncing data is not possible while working in offline mode, creating limitations in managing tasks and tracking in real time.
  • There are possible privacy concerns emerging as Toggl collects data that can be further stored and used.

While the platform is a great collaboration tool for streamlining business processes, if you’re a small business and don’t want to spend a ton of money on time tracking software, you can opt for free tools like Clockify.

Top Project Management Platform – Asana

A remote working environment demands efficient project management platforms for smooth functioning and effective collaboration of the team members. That’s where the demand of a centralized project management tool like Asana arises.

With its exceptional user experience, high security, intuitive design, enhanced collaboration and productivity enhancing features, it’s one of the best project management tools and collaboration platforms available for remote workers.

With its dedicated analytics dashboard, it makes management of larger projects, as well as daily tasks, much easier. And if you’re a small business with less than 15 employees, you can use its free subscription, which lasts forever, to meet your business needs.

However, if you’re already a big business or are looking to scale your project management needs, you may want to consider a paid version of the application.

Pros:

  • The real-time collaboration features of Asana make it a great option for team members to update, assign and share task-related information.
  • Great tool for organizing tasks and tracking project deadlines, progress, milestones, keeping track of team performance and task completion.
  • Integration feature streamlines workflows and enhances productivity of team members.
  • Its endless customization options help to create a tailor-made experience for all teams, meeting specific needs of all those involved in the project.

Cons:

  • Asana is a multifaceted tool, making it tough for new users to grasp its functionality and complicating the processes. The overall learning curve is steep.
  • Paid versions are cost aversive and can be availed by larger teams for more advanced functionality.
  • A tendency to report glitches and slow loading lead to communication breakdowns.

Top Productivity Hub for All Your Needs – Google Workspace

Remote working definitely requires more than one tool for seamless workflow. But what if you could have everything in one tool? If you’re looking for a comprehensive communication and collaboration solution, you may need nothing more than Google Workspace.

Extending beyond the essential features of remote working, such as emails, chats, collaboration documents, calendars and file storage, it also offers ease of use and convenience to its users.

There’s a free version for personal use, but there are also features for integrating every type of tool that you can think of. From email marketing to CRM platforms, it covers everything and more.

While the business starter plan is relatively cheaper, it does get pricey as you upgrade your subscription plan.

Pros:

  • Collaboration options are endless, comparatively higher than any other tool.
  • Communication between teams is highly integrated and efficient with options like Gmail, Chat and Google Meet available.
  • Cloud-based file sharing helps to access files from various devices, making it a great option for on-the-go.
  • High level of integration and organization helps keep teams productive and on-track to complete their tasks on time.
  • The platform comes equipped with high security measures and privacy for robust data protection.

Cons:

  • No offline access creates a high level of dependency on the internet, causing breakdowns in collaboration when connectivity is low.
  • With so many features, users may require some time to understand the ins and outs of the platform.
  • The subscription cost is an ongoing expense.
  • Lack of customization options when it comes to features and personalization.

No matter which plan you choose, every plan comes equipped with essential tools like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Meet, Slides, Docs, Sites, Forms and so much more.

Remote Collaboration Tool Factors to Consider

Before you pick out remote collaboration tools for your organization, it’s essential to take certain factors into account to get the most out of your remote collaboration experience. Let’s look at a few of the most common ones:

  • Strength of the team: Before you choose any collaboration tool, think about the number of people that will be using it. For a large number of people, you may need to pick a paid version of the tools that can handle the workload of your team.
  • Budget size: For a larger company, spending a few thousand dollars on a collaborative tool might make sense. But if you’re a startup with fewer employees and multiple budget constraints, picking out a cheaper or free collaboration tool will be better.
  • Security obligations: If you’re seeking higher security in your remote work environment, then you must opt for collaboration tools with high encryption and stricter adherence to compliance. Alternatively, if your priority isn’t state-of-the-art security, then you can pick cloud-based or open collaboration platforms instead.
  • Evaluate features: What are the features that your organization values the most? Is project management highly essential, or is conducting regular webinars the need of the hour? Are regular meetings a part of your culture, or do you prefer communicating via business messaging apps? Once you’ve defined your business requirements and what you need in your remote collaboration tools, picking the ones that are right for you will be a cakewalk.
  • Trial period: After you’ve chosen the collaboration tools for your business, take a free or demo trial. Many of the features of the collaboration tool are present in the trial period. Take a look at how comfortable you and your team are with using the tools. Also, check in with your team members regarding their preferences and how easy they’re finding the tool to use.

Final Thoughts

As the world embraces remote work environments, it’s become important to keep up with the latest technology that offers a seamless remote experience. To collaborate and communicate with your colleagues around the world, it’s essential to have at least a few of the tools mentioned above at your disposal.

However, always take a look at your business needs and requirements before you pick any remote collaboration tool. By picking the best remote collaboration tools, you’ll enhance your remote working experience.

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