7+ Tools for A Great Remote Team
Stripe just announced that their fifth engineering hub will be remote. Fast-growing up-and-coming companies like InVision and Buffer are fully remote. Fast-growing companies are realizing that they have to go where the talent is. I’m currently working from home, sitting outside, in a t-shirt and sweatpants while writing this. So, the appeal is abundant for both companies and employees :). However, without meticulous planning, communication, and action, managing a remote team is difficult.
As a 100% remote company, we’ve tried tons of tools to help improve our own workflows. With over 4.3 million members of the workforce currently working from home (Global Workplace Analytics), and that number only set to grow, we’re here to share our learnings. The good news is that with existing platforms, it is possible to be as productive (if not more so, watercooler distractions notwithstanding) as a remote team. Here’s our remote work “stack”:
About: In January of this year, Slack reached 10 million daily active users, and if you’ve tried their product you know exactly why their growth has been exponential.
At this point, there are likely fewer people who haven’t heard of Slack than those who have. For many small to mid-sized teams, Slack is the “messaging bus”. It is where teams spend their working hours. Why? Its various integrations, customization, and automation. The Slack team has made integrating with collaboration and development platforms incredibly easy. Gone are the days of having to fiddle with Google Document shareability — Slack will let you know that the other person doesn’t have permissions to view it. Gone are the days of having to update teams on product changes — Slack can alert your team to GitHub requests and changes. Slack is a powerful tool that succeeds where its rivals couldn’t, balancing personal and professional communication within a clean and simple UI framework.
How We Use It: At RemoteHQ we use Slack as our primary means of sharing quick updates with one another. It’s a powerful way to share your content with your team, and ensure everyone is always on the same page.
- Channels & Direct Messages — Slack makes it easy to create your team in one place, but teams, groups, and specific conversations can all live together within the application.
- Third Party Apps — As mentioned before, Slack makes it incredibly easy to integrate with other applications your company may use like Drift, Google Drive, Zendesk, Github, and many more…
- Searchability — Slack archives and makes all of your message history (across channels, messages, threads, etc.) convenient and searchable.
About: Notion is striving to be the ultimate note-taking and collaboration application for all teams, but interestingly, they also don’t clearly define the ‘best’ use case for their product. While Slack pushes messaging, Notion’s core competency is that they do a lot — and it’s up to you to make the best use of those features for either personal or professional use.
On a personal level, Notion is a great way to organize your day-to-day tasks, keep track of events, jot down quick thoughts or blog posts, etc. On a personal level, I’d equate notes to a powerful hybrid between Apple’s Note applications, a traditional Wikia page, and a reminders application. It’s pretty fantastic once you learn all of the ins-and-outs.
For work, Notion is a great task and project managing tool, with the ease-of-use that Slack offers your team and the flexibility that a Wikia would offer you in regard to building out a clear hierarchical framework. Notion takes its power a step further by offering a ton of customizability (brand-ability for your company), and a great companion application for you to use on the go. Where a lot of applications already struggle, Notion has taken the initiative to build out features teams and professionals will truly enjoy.
How We Use It: I use Notion for personal notes, project management, and idea tracking. It’s by far the best platform I’ve seen thus far for those aforementioned tasks. This is all content I can then share out with my team, or have them join to collaborate with me on. The Notion team has made it incredibly easy to share rich content, in a confined workspace, but also to build a hierarchy within that same workspace.
- Lists — Incredible simple-to-use but incredibly useful, Notion’s task management system makes sure you always stay on top of both projects and quick checklists
- Wikias — Similar to any web-wikia, you can create custom page layouts and reuse them throughout your workspace to record long-form information.
- Embeds — Notion doesn’t exist in a bubble either! You can easily pull information from Google Drive, Twitter, Github, Invision, and tons of other places to display within your content blocks.
About: It’s no surprise we eat our own dog food. Our flexible layout makes it easy for everyone to configure their own layout as each sees fit. In our daily standups, we make a lot of decisions on a daily basis. In order to have a lightweight way to keep track of these minutes, we use our own Notes and Audio Transcription apps.
These are automatically saved to our RemoteHQ cloud, which you can easily access in the future if you needed to. All data, including the content generated by your apps, is stored in our secure cloud and available on demand.
How We Use It: We use RemoteHQ as a tool to facilitate daily standups. While Slack is a great tool for quickly updating your peers, nothing will ever replace a true standup. On top of being able to facilitate standups, we use RemoteHQ as a tool to facilitate meeting users, potential users, and others — while still maintaining our remote-work environment.
- Ease of Use — Using RemoteHQ you no longer have to worry about downloading bloatware to your devices, the one-click access to collaborative rooms makes things incredibly easy.
- Flexible Layout — Each user can configure their own layout as appropriate via drag & drop and resizing of each “tile”
- Apps — Within each room you can access an ever-expanding app library which currently includes Audio Transcription, Notes, Reactions, and Audio Recording. These applications boost team productivity and ensure all meeting content is recorded and reviewable.
- Archived History — After each call is complete, you also have the ability to review all previous call sessions and the applications used within each call. This makes it incredibly easy to review specific meetings and be sure tasks relevant to each meeting are being completed.
About: Most tried & true teams understand the value of universal storage and collaboration on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
The value in Google Suite (and by Google Drive) stems from the fact that as a team you can easily collaborate — in real time — on any type of Drive document. Not only is it an easy hub to share content and make changes, but being able to grant privileges to specific documents at varying degrees (edit, view, comment) allows for you to both share and control your content.
Most teams also make the choice to purchase GSuite for their business, meaning that Drive’s functionalities are supercharged with even more storage.
How We Use It: As a team, we use Drive to keep running lists, share drafted content, and keep track of potential strategies.
- Live Collaboration — Teams can easily collaborate on documentation at the same time with no lag at all. This helps to ensure all data is up to date, and everyone always has a say in what’s going on.
- Google Forms — One of the most overlooked features of the Google Suite is that fact that you can collaborate on surveys & forms as well. These forms can then be shared via a link, or even embedded directly onto your website for easy use.
- Revision History — What makes Google Drive’s functionality all the more powerful is the fact that you can always review, and share content from previous iterations of the document you’re working in.
About: At its core, GitHub is a web-based service for version control powered by Git. On top of the standard version control functionality, GitHub has powerful features for project management, task management, feature requests, and more. While most developers are likely familiar with Github, the GitHub team is constantly adding new features to the product and the open source community continues to grow and add benefit from it.
How We Use It: As a team, we utilize GitHub for its version control and project management capabilities. As a remote team, one of our favorite capabilities is the asynchronous nature of pull requests. Engineers can get work done, create a pull request and get feedback from another developer regardless of location. We also utilize projects, issues, and milestones for managing our work. In our opinion, GitHub has done an excellent job at making version control and project management a seamless experience.
About: Trello is the ultimate project and task management organizer for any non-developer team members. Not only do Trello’s boards make prioritization a breeze, but their customization and team collaboration tools make sure your team is always informed and your projects are always on brand.
Trello’s extensive list of features ranges from simple labels to help you keep things organized all the way to reminders that ensure your tasks are accomplished.
When your team is working remotely from different locations at different times of the day it’s difficult to ensure projects are staying organized and tasks, large & small, are getting done. Trello is a simple solution that allows your team to create comprehensive to-do lists that integrate with tons of other commonly used office applications.
The simplicity and functionality Trello offers have culminated in it becoming one of the most-used tools for team, project, and product management. The best part is, you can use Trello regardless of the size of your organization.
How We Use It: Trello’s draggable blocks make it an incredibly robust tool for tracking. They allow for quick adjustments within project/task management windows, and because of that our Customer Support team utilizes Trello as a bug tracker. Anytime a user runs into a bug and reports it to a CS team member, it’s tracked within Trello and dragged up or down the list according to priority. Where GitHub succeeds as a great task manager for team developers, Trello succeeds for non-dev. teams like Customer Success & Support.
- Comments — All Trello cards have the ability to contain unique comment threads. This is a great way to keep track of the progress on certain tasks or projects, as well as to stay on top of who is managing each assignment.
- Power-Ups — Similar to other collaborative platforms, Trello utilizes integrations, which they call Power-Ups, to expedite your workflow. Integrating with Google Drive is a quick way to access document previews, and Slack is a great way to share Trello content quickly.
- On-The-Go Updates — Using your boards' unique email, you can actually create cards via email. This feature is excellent for anything you might think of while on-the-go; you simply email the card content to your board and a card will be created that you can review later on.
About: Airtable serves as an interesting hybrid between a traditional database, and a spreadsheet. While many might initially be hesitant to add another spreadsheet software to the ever-expanding repertoire (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.), Airtable’s features make it a stand out product; eliminating the need for other spreadsheet programs entirely.
Not only does Airtable take the traditional notion of spreadsheet software and flip it upside-down, but it’s also incredibly useful from a database standpoint as well. Any remote team sees value in tools that allow you to collaborate, and in a similar approach to Google Drive, Airtable allows for you to share entire documents or simply specific assets. This degree of control of your hybrid database-spreadsheet is something users have found incredibly useful and many see the software as the future of both team collaboration and spreadsheets in general.
How We Use It: Airtable has done a great job replacing the traditional spreadsheet and because of that, we utilize it as it was intended. We’re able to easily leverage hybrid functionality traditionally offered by both a database and a spreadsheet as a means of tracking, and monitoring both data and content.
Sketch — Sketch is a powerful design tool that’s relatively cheap in comparison to others. What makes Sketch even better is that it’s easy to learn, and sharing content from Sketch with your team is incredibly easy.
Shift — Shift is an excellent all-in-one solution that helps you manage multiple workflows and channels (Slack, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc.) within one task management window. While it doesn’t specifically increase your [remote] teams workflow, it serves as an easy way to increase the speed and efficiency of your personal workflow.
Calendly — Setting Calendar appointments with customers or leads has never been this easy. Calendly makes it incredibly easy for your leads to schedule time with you by simply clicking a link. Better yet, it syncs with your existing calendars as well.
Tuple — Fans of Screenhero rejoice! A team of engineers has built a ‘new iteration’ of Screenhero to allow programmers to pair on the same machine regardless of location. While it hasn’t officially launched, Tuple is a program to keep your eye out for.