I’ve worked “from home” full-time for the last four years, and perhaps one of the most popular questions I get asked is, “How do you and your team keep tabs on each other? Isn’t it hard to know what everybody is doing and stay on task?”
The answer is a simple “no.” In fact, with the way technology is today, I find I am way more in tune with my responsibilities as well as what others have on their plate by working remotely than I ever was in an office environment.
Additionally, when I first started working remotely, I thought I’d for sure get a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out) from not being around coworkers all day, every day, but with video conferencing capabilities, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on any human interaction whatsoever. (Plus it’s much easier to “close my door” when I need to get work done. And I’m pretty sure I’ve lost 10 lbs from not eating delicious snacks that people always seemed to be leaving in the office kitchen.)
So, what are a few of these collaborative tools that making work from home so efficient? I’m glad you asked.
Here are a few of our favorites here at Don’t Panic (we’re a 100% distributed, remote team) that we use internally as well as with our clients.
The Best Collaboration Tools for Communication
“Where work happens”
Slack is my favorite communication tool that I use throughout the day. I use it for real-time, organized communication that I can take on the go. (They have a pretty slick mobile app.) It is clear this company truly believes in the power of the virtual workforce and have built a tool that allows teams to communicate effectively, no matter what they do, wherever and whenever they want.
“#1 video conferencing and web conferencing service”
Zoom was made to be a video conferencing solution, but it can also be used for webinars and training. I’ve used a few different video conferencing tools in the past, and I have to say, this one is by far the most reliable and user-friendly.
“Work remotely, side-by-side”
As mentioned, when I first began working remotely, I honestly thought I was going to miss office life. I thought, “If only there was a tool that could replicate that feeling of comradery and accountability without actually going into the office.”
Lo and behold, Sococo has a way of making you feel like you’re right back in there, even if you’re working on your laptop on a beach in paradise (I mean that in a good way).
Sococo allows you to set up a virtual office space and assign spaces to each of your team members, making it easy to see who’s online and who isn’t. This is especially helpful if your team is distributed across various time zones. You can see who’s in meetings, who’s at lunch, who’s available and who’s not, and so on.
Full disclosure: If you want to have a video conferencing call in Sococo with somebody who doesn’t have the service, you certainly can (there are guest features), but we’ve found it can be glitchy from time to time.
The set up of Sococo is a little hard to explain—our Chief People Officer calls it “Sims for work.” I’ve included a screenshot below of the layout for reference. I’m writing this off hours which is why nobody else is in the online! It’s not always a ghost town.
“The ultra-flexible communication tool with endless use cases”
Loom. is. the. best.
Bottom line? It provides an easy way to record a quick video. I find it extremely helpful for tutorials and how-tos. Not only can you record yourself talking, but you can simultaneously do a screencast as well, providing an extremely valuable end result. Plus, it’s totally free if the video is less than 10 minutes long. It becomes unlimited if you refer somebody to the free service.
The Best Collaboration Tools for Scheduling
“Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails”
Calendly hooks up to your calendar and gives you a unique link to share with friends and colleagues so they can plug themselves into your calendar by time slots. Guests who have your personal scheduling link are only able to see calendar times that aren’t already booked, so there’s no risk in double booking or choosing a time you aren’t available, and because they are looking at time slots rather than your literal calendar, the in’s and out’s of your day remain private. It’s a super convenient way to get things scheduled quickly and efficiently.
“The simple way to decide on dates, place & more”
Have you ever had a long email chain going back and forth with people trying to solidify a time slot to meet that works for everybody? The thread is 15+ emails long, and just when you think you’ve finally landed on a time and place, someone throws a wrench into the plan. It is the worst!
With Doodle, you can avoid this completely. Select a set of dates and times that work for you and send a poll to other participants to select which of the proposed times work for them. You then simply look at poll results to see which dates and times work best for everybody and put the time on the calendar. It is such a time saver!
“World Time Buddy (WTB) is a convenient world clock, a time zone converter, and an online meeting scheduler”
Scheduling meetings across time zones can be tough, especially if you work with people internationally. World Time Buddy is a handy tool to compare other time zones to yours so that you don’t mess up scheduling. It has saved many of my meetings in the past.
The Best Collaboration Tool for Project and Task Management
“Move work forward”
I’m a little type A and am one of those people who likes deadlines and crossing things off a list, so Asana is one of my absolute favorite tools. It’s a super intuitive project and task management platform that ensures you and your team stay on task at all times through teams, projects, and to-do lists. Plus, it sends you reminder emails when something is due. How helpful is that?
It also integrates with a lot of other tools, such as Harvest for time tracking, which makes it a convenient, comprehensive solution.
The Best Collaboration Tools for File Sharing and Storage
“The secure file sharing and storage solution that employees and IT admins trust”
I’m guessing you’ve heard of this one before. This is a popular tool for businesses of all sizes. It is great for organizing and offers a variety of pricing plans to match you with the necessary storage you and your team need.
And then your stuff lives in the cloud! Cool!
“A safe place for all your files”
For a free tool, I personally think Google Drive can’t be beat for file storage and sharing. The collaborative nature and easy navigation make it a great tool for teams distributed across the map. And if your company’s email domain is hosted through Google Apps, even better.
The Best Collaboration Tools for Password Sharing
“LastPass remembers all your passwords, so you don’t have to”
Many businesses share login details to frequently used sites and platforms that the team needs access to in order to get their work done. But in today’s cyber world, sharing this information can be unsettling. It’s risky to have passwords floating around over email.
LastPass allows you to share passwords and other private information securely with others. Once a site is shared with a colleague through LastPass, the password will auto-populate in the login screen of that site while still remaining hidden, so they’ll never even know your password. (You can choose to show the password, but that’s up to you and not always necessary.) It also keeps track of the strength of your various passwords and helps you replace anything weak or repetitive with something randomized and secure.
Go On With Ya Remote Self
So there you have it! Over the years, Don’t Panic has put dozens of online tools and apps to the test, both for our internal purposes and for our clients. And those are my top picks for tools for collaboration.
What tools would you add to this list? Sound off in the comments. We’re always interested in trying new things that help us GSD!