5 essential tools for remote teams

Working remotely
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The Office of National Statistics estimates that half of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020.

You might assume that working remotely with a team would deliver a number of disadvantages over working in the same office. However there are some surprising benefits with some managers claiming that working with a remote team is more effective than working remotely.

Advantages of working remotely

No commute time – in 2015, the ONS estimated the average UK commute time to be 57.1 minutes. As well as reducing stress, working remotely frees up a lot of time that can be put towards other things.

No distractions – office banter aside, offices are notorious for creating an environment that makes it difficult to focus on a single task. Working remotely can help you remain focussed on what’s really important.

More efficient use of meeting times – In an online call, when everyone is focused on the screen with only 1 person able to talk at a time, it’s much easier to stay on topic and deliver on the purpose of the meeting within the time slot.

Single point of focus – shouting across the office or jotting things down in your notebook does not deliver the same benefits as a single shared document that the team can collaborate on and use as the basis for daily efforts. Although this could be achieved in an office environment, it’s much easier when working remotely as it becomes the easiest way to communicate and share the plan.

There are of course also some disadvantages to working remotely, for example no more water cooler chat which can be essential for team bonding. You should be looking to get your team together in a social context now and again to facilitate the team dynamic.

So how do you manage a team remotely?

Here are our 5 essential tools:

1. Zoom for video or voice calls. Zoom enables you to connect any number of people by simply sharing a link. It’s simple for anyone to share their screen so everyone can focus on the same thing. Perfect for one-to-one catch-ups or large team meetings. Free for calls up to 45 min then around £11.99p/m.

2. Slack for messaging. Send messages, discuss and collaborate openly and share links to documents and resources. You can message individuals directly or create “channels” for particular subjects. For instance you may have a channel for operations and another for marketing, think of it like a bunch of WhatsApp groups, each containing a different set of stakeholders. You can easily tag people in conversations so they get an alert when you want to flag a message to them. If you’re using slack, there’s little need for internal emails. 😮

3. Trello for task assignment and tracking. Create a ‘Trello board” which you can use to assign tasks and track progress across your team. Each task becomes a card on your Trello board which you can assign to individuals, log relevant information, set deadlines, create checklists and much more. There is little more satisfying than seeing your tasks moving from an “in progress” to “completed” column. Like most of these tools, Trello lives online so anyone in your team can access it and view current status.

4. Google Docs – Draft and share documents with people inside or outside your organisation. Spreadsheets with Google sheets. Word documents with Google Docs, presentations with Google Slides. Very similar to Microsoft Office except free and easy to share/collaborate on documents. Google Docs also work fantastically well on mobile.

5. Webcam and noise cancelling headphones – If you conduct a lot of meetings, it’s worth investing in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. They will greatly enhance the quality of your call experience and make you feel like you’re in the same room as the people you are speaking with. Similarly either a built in or external webcam, making sure you don’t have a distracting background when making calls.

As you would hope, all of these apps work as well on mobile as they do in desktop.

With your whole team is using these tools together, you can work pretty much anywhere in the world as long as you have a device and internet connection. Sadly there isn’t yet a tool that will eliminate time-zone issues!

Faisal Mian - Entrepreneur - Freelancer

Written by Jonathan Hedger

Jonathan Hedger is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM/FCIM) with over 15 years experience in B2B marketing & ecommerce having held senior positions for a number of market leading brands as well as VC backed startups.

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