Remote work is fundamentally different from in-office work. While colleagues can sit just a few steps away in the office, distributed teams often work in different cities, states, and time zones. Without the right tools, remote employees can struggle to deliver the same efficiency and productivity as their in-office counterparts.
Fortunately, there are many digital tools available designed to set remote employees up for success and drive better business outcomes. From communication apps to project management platforms, here are several key tools every organization should provide their remote employees:
1. Cloud collaboration
In a physical office space, employees can simply walk to a colleague’s desk or book a meeting room to collaborate on a project. Cloud collaboration tools help remote teams replicate this experience online. These virtual spaces enable remote employees to brainstorm together, edit and comment on each other’s work, and even contribute to the same document simultaneously.
Products like Google Drive and Microsoft 365 are particularly useful cloud collaboration tools for remote teams. Both platforms allow users to store, share, and collaborate on files and folders from any mobile device, tablet, or computer.
2. Team messaging
Remote employees need an effective way to communicate with colleagues, and team messaging fills that role. Team messaging apps allow employees to send messages, share files, indicate availability, and communicate from both their work PCs and mobile devices.
Under a unified communications solution like the RingCentral app, team messaging is combined with video conferencing and cloud calling into a single application, allowing employees to switch between different modes of communication with a single click.
3. Video conferencing
For more in-depth collaborations, there’s no better alternative than video conferencing. Nonverbal cues make up 93% of communication, so relying on team messaging and emails often makes expressing and receiving ideas more difficult. At the same time, long periods of remote work can leave employees feeling isolated, which can lead to a 21% drop in performance.
Video conferencing allows colleagues to see and be seen, enabling remote employees to discuss projects in more depth and develop better relationships with colleagues. Like your team messaging tool, video conferencing should also, ideally, be part of your unified communications solution. Employees could start video meetings with a single click, and easily find contextual information without having to switch back and forth between apps.
4. Project management
Although remote workers can be more productive than their office-based peers, like any employee, they’re still susceptible to distractions. Plus, if an organization has remote team members working at different hours or in different time zones, it can be tough to get everybody on the same page.
Project management tools like Asana, Wrike, and Trello keep remote teams on track by allowing users to assign tasks, set deadlines, create status updates, and quickly review a project’s progress—all in one, simple-to-use application. Many project management tools also give users the option to look at their tasks and projects in multiple formats, such as in a calendar, to-do list, or kanban board, so they can customize the app to meet both their individual preferences and the needs of their team.
5. Data storage
Remote employees need to find and access important work files as quickly and easily as possible. Remote employers also need to ensure that their organization’s files are shared and stored safely to prevent data breaches or hacks.
Online data storage tools like Dropbox and Google Drive ensure remote employees have access to organizational files. Most allow users to access files offline and from mobile devices and set sharing permissions for every document, folder, or user so files are available to all the right people.
It can be tough for remote team managers to see how much, or how little, their team works when they’re not in the same space together. Plus, organizations that employ hourly workers or track hours for client projects need an efficient and scalable way to create accurate timesheets and project reports.
Time management tools like Toggl, Clockify, and Todoist give employers an in-depth view of their employees’ workweek. They can see exactly where their employees’ time goes and use these insights to identify time-drains and boost productivity.
7. Employee engagement
Without regular face-time and opportunities to bond with their colleagues, remote employees can start to feel disconnected from their work and their teams. While initiatives like virtual happy hours and all-staff meetings can help strengthen company culture and create alignment on priorities and values, a variety of digital tools can help employers engage their remote employees on a daily basis.
Platforms like Kudos, WooBoard, and Kazoo help remote employees feel more appreciated and connected by enabling users to publicly celebrate individual and team wins, share announcements, and show appreciation for their colleagues.
The right tools make all the difference
Transitioning an organization to a remote work set-up can take some time to get right, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Thanks to modern technology, remote teams can replicate much of the in-person office experience online and still reap all of the rewards that come with a flexible work arrangement.
At the heart of remote work is the organization’s communication and collaboration system. Remote employees should have access to team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone to stay connected with colleagues at all times. A unified communications solution allows employees to reduce the number of technology they have to manage and focus on productivity and driving business results.
Originally published May 19, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023