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When To Use Which Tools For Remote Work Success

remote work tools

Technology has changed (read: it's gotten a lot better!). As a result of streamlined technology, remote work is now not just feasible but often preferable and in some cases, necessary. Remote employees often agree that a determining factor of success comes from leveraging the right tools—and no, the microwave does not count.

With the rise in mobile use, remote jobs, and technology-heavy projects, tools and apps have grown in tandem to support this way of working. Putting the right tools in place for remote team members has a lot to do with the context of the communication. With hundreds of software options to choose from, navigating through them all while also settling into your new home office can be overwhelming. 

For well-seasoned remote teams and newbie remote workers alike, the key is that you have each of the following tools in your toolbox:

  • Reliable video conferencing software
  • A chat app
  • A video app
  • Cloud collaboration and documentation tools
  • Project management software

The Tools You And Your Team Need While Working Remotely

Remote workers who are new to the game are quickly realizing that adapting to working outside of a traditional office setting is not as simple as plopping down on your couch with your laptop. You need clear processes, constant communication, and a strong digital stack to do your best work. 

Here are the tools you and your team need for remote work success:

Google Docs For Getting Feedback

When: You’ve written a brilliant project plan and are ready for comments from the team.

Why: Within Google Docs, teams can communicate back and forth in real-time with as many people as needed. Google Docs offers stylish templates, smart editing, and collaborative features to make creating, editing, and finalizing documents simple. They even offer mobile access—so users can edit on the go (even when there’s no connection!). 

Confluence For Organizing Your Digital Workspace 

When: Your remote team needs a source of truth and an organized digital workspace.

Why: Confluence is a one-stop-shop for knowledge management and document organization. From actionable meeting notes to inspiring project plans, remote teams can kickstart participation within a flexible workspace. Confluence also serves as a great space to share company-wide announcements, updates, and strengthen company culture—a key part of a remote team’s success.

Slack For Quick Communication

When: You have a quick update, a one-off question, or maybe an urge to share that adorable baby hippo meme that surfaced on your Instagram feed.

Why: Slack’s chat feed is an ephemeral experience. With the option of creating various channels, your remote team can keep conversations separated by project name, department, or work-related topic. Your teammates can answer whenever they get a chance to check it, and it’s less disruptive than a video call and easier to surface than an email. 

With many remote teams being distributed across different time zones, it’s important to respect the working hours of each team member. Slack’s Team Time Zone extension (for PRO plans) is a valuable tool for remote teams, creating easy visuals and updates of who’s probably deep in REM sleep and who’s within prime working hours. Nobody wants a work notification at 3am—that’s what true nightmares are made of.

wake up from nightmare

Zoom For Deeper Discussion

When: You need to hash out a process, a problem, or a brainstorm through a video chat or do some screen sharing in real-time.

Why: Face-to-face conversations (even on video) are a better way to understand someone’s tone, explanations, and reactions to more complex ideas. Many remote teams miss the in-person connections that offices create but Zoom provides a space for team members to catch up on their weekend plans, collaborate on in-depth projects, and feel more connected even from hundreds or thousands of miles away. 

Dropbox For Secure Sharing

When: You need to send files and presentations to co-workers in a secure way. 

Why: Say goodbye to sharing USB sticks. Dropbox makes it easy to securely send files to anyone, and collaborate easily on the files you share. Dropbox is the one place your team can go to organize all its files, content, and web shortcuts so you can spend less time searching for the latest version of that project document and more time focused on actually executing the project. 

How will you set up your remote tool stack? tiny_twitter_bird.pngTweet this list to save it for later or share with your team. 

InVision For Visual Collaboration

When: You need feedback on a design spec, screenshot, or new product flow. 

Why: InVision makes nailing details easy. Its collaborative nature helps remote design teams work together to create true masterpieces. Comments can be written on the prototype itself, allowing for seamless feedback in real-time. Some fun features include multiple views of the same project, real-time feedback and commenting, digital whiteboard for brainstorming, syncing, presenting, and screen sharing. 

Trello For Connecting Apps Together

When: Different teams are working on the same project in different apps, and crave a project management tool to keep track of it all.

Why: Keeping complex projects up-to-date requires a lot of moving parts. Trello steps in to consolidate, organize, integrate, and collaborate all of the people and parts of your most important projects. Remote teams love using Trello because they can keep communication in one place, removing complex, and let's be honest—annoying email chains out of the equation.

Magical integrations called Power-Ups provide users with powerful capabilities like calendar views, custom fields, and connect apps (like the ones on this list) such as Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, Invision, and Zapier. 

Zapier For Automating Processes

When: You find yourself doing a lot of ‘digital maintenance’ of menial tasks. 

Why: Remote workers especially, need to be extra vigilant with their time management, and we can all agree that manually updating recurring tasks is not a good use of time. Zapier connects your favorite apps and automates workflows, leaving you more time to concentrate on deep work. Zapier eliminates human error and plain old forgetfulness. 

finding nemo meme

Headspace For When You Need To Step Away

When: You’re feeling overwhelmed.

Why: If your workspace is right in your living room, it may feel difficult to completely disconnect after a long day of deadlines and meetings. Headspace is a meditation and healthy living app that aims to reduce stress, improve mindfulness, and save remote workers from burn-out. It’s important to step away, especially if you work from home. 

Trello Infographic about Remote Work Tools

Add These Apps To Your Remote Work Toolbox

When navigating the remote work world, it's important to remember that just because your team isn't in the same place, doesn't mean you can't be on the same page. Use these tools to help manage yourself, your team, and your projects, and pray that you might get to say goodbye to clunky tools and that dusty office cubicle forever. 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2017 but we've added a whole heap of new ideas and nuggets of information to it.


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