In the spring of 2020, most businesses sent their employees home, and teams around the world started to experiment with different tools to keep the wheels turning. But as remote work shifted from a Band-Aid to the new norm, collaborative tech went from nice-to-have to must-have, and innovative companies implemented new, smarter ways to work. It’s not just about bringing globally dispersed colleagues into a shared digital space. The right virtual tools give everyone instant access to ideas, projects and each other, making asynchronous and offline work more efficient for everyone.
The growing trend of remote work
The pandemic turbocharged an already growing trend toward remote work. A Pew Research survey of a cross-section of U.S. workers found that more than half (54%) of those working from home want to continue that way after the pandemic clears. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a BBC survey reveals that 43 of the U.K.’s top 50 businesses plan to make hybrid working a permanent solution.
But there are catches. Management consultancy heavyweight McKinsey notes that virtual work can disrupt “the organizational norms … that help create a common culture, generate social cohesion and build shared trust.” An MIT Sloan survey of 441 global HR leaders found that their top three concerns were keeping remote workers engaged (17%), productive (7%) and connected (5%).
Even in person, these are major issues. To rise to such challenges remotely, you need tools that enhance everyone’s workflow and promote your company culture, regardless of where your teams are based.
Top four collaboration tools for remote teams
Let’s take a look at the four best collaborative software tools for remote work productivity and culture.
There’s no question that Zoom has been the most prominent face of conference calling. But there’s another way.
Around is a sleek, minimal alternative that’s ideal for teams using multiple apps during meetings. The interface is designed to replicate a hive of workspaces versus the lone conference table. Users attend pre-scheduled meetings or set up breakout “rooms” to join others while they work.
Around’s AI-based camera framing removes empty space, auto-zooming in on your face and shoulders and cropping most of the background. Rather than a wall of videos, you see each other in “bubbles” that float over your other windows so you can maintain eye contact even as you switch between apps on your computer.
Around integrates with Slack, so you can start meetings with one click no matter what you’re working on. You can also send meeting notes automatically so everyone can catch up without digging through email.
Disclaimer: Prepare to lose a few minutes as the team tries out all the cool camera filters (you can tell a lot about your colleagues by whether they opt for Radioactive, Game Boy Pink or Mai Tai).
Trello is a project management tool that replaces your office whiteboard and all those unwieldy Excel spreadsheets. The system is based on the Japanese concept of Kanban, invented in a Toyota factory in the 1940s. Now a widely used project management style, Kanban breaks tasks down into categories of “To Do,” “Doing” and “Done.”
Trello transforms this method into a set of digital prompt cards. Each card might represent a single project. You can fill it with related sub-projects or deliverables, checklists and ongoing dialogue. You can also send assignments and automate tasks and reminders. Trello integrates with other collaborative tools like Slack and Google Drive, so you always know what you should tackle next and where your colleagues are in each project.
Have you ever heard that long-running TV shows have a “bible”? These physical reference guides cover the show’s history and creative protocols, and are usually worn-down and grubby with the fingerprints of collaborators old and new.
Notion is your digital company bible that operates as a secure online wiki. For remote teams, it replaces the collective understanding that comes from sharing a physical space. It’s a place to record and refer to protocol, workflow, standards and branding, literally keeping everyone on the same page.
Since information is constantly added, updated and altered, wikis can get unwieldy when you’re not careful. Luckily, Notion has a Slack integration that sends your team a notification when someone makes a noteworthy change.
Yes, you can chat and ping ideas, files and emoji back and forth in Slack. But you can also use it to share screens, run polls and send requests.
While doing all this when you’re working together in real time is practical and fun, Slack excels asynchronously too. Status updates, notification preferences and rich profiles re-create the office environment so you know when others are offline, in a meeting, too busy for an immediate response, or having a snack while waiting for an update. It eliminates the wasted time chasing down people and answers.
Plus, Slack plays nicely with many other remote team apps. It might even be where you discuss which other collaboration apps the team should use.
How to make remote team collaboration work
Conquering challenges together is part of what makes teamwork rewarding, but remote collaboration doesn’t have to be one of them. Successful teams use tools that remove obstacles and streamline redundant and time-consuming tasks so you can focus on solving creative problems. The right tools make individual contributors better teammates, more efficient workers and more engaged communicators.
Remote work hasn’t taken off just because of the pandemic. Collaboration software has made it possible to work effectively from anywhere. First-rate tools are critical to plan, share and communicate as a functioning unit, and Slack has the power to bring them all together.