COVID-19 may have put most of the world on lockdown and brought many areas of the global economy to a grinding halt. But it has also given rise to certain opportunities – in remote working, for example.
Years before COVID-19 gripped the world, remote work was on a slow but steady climb. In early 2020, before the coronavirus took over, there were already 7 million people working remotely in the United States. Today, 88% of companies have their employees working from home.
Working remotely, definitely has its perks. It allows for more flexibility to our daily schedule, eliminates commutes, reduces overhead costs, and provides a more easily achievable work-life balance.
With hundreds of online software, programs, and apps – you can collaborate with your team, work together across time zones, and get the job done no matter where you work. But which of the many online collaboration tools are efficient, easy to use, and cost-effective?
Our digital nomads – who are, by definition, remote workers – know all about the best online tools. We believe any type of online collaboration should satisfy three key components:
- Everything should be easy to understand and intuitive to use.
- The software should reduce misunderstanding and increase communication.
- Every employee should have equal access.
We’ll tell you which ones we recommend, and a few competitive alternatives worth checking out. Here’s our pick of the best online collaboration tools currently available:
For Communication: Slack
There is one clear winner in the communication category. What Zoom and Google Drive do well individually, Slack does perfectly in one convenient place. With millions of users around the globe, Slack dominates online communication.
Why we love it:
- Slack provides chat rooms, private groups, both direct and indirect messaging, group calls, and shareable files.
- The entire interface is searchable.
- Slack integrates seamlessly with some of our other tools for virtual teams including Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, GitHub, Zendesk, and Zapier.
- Their free plan is plenty for most start-up companies, and their paid plans start at less than $10/month.
- Available on a desktop, tablet, or mobile app interface.
Clearly, Slack is the place to start. Any virtual team can begin to use the simple tools Slack provides and discover the endless possibilities the more you use it. Truth be told, the list could end here and Slack may actually be the only tool you need.
For Video Conferencing: Zoom
Video conferencing is essential to remote working. A lot of communication between people happens on a non-verbal level, and interacting face to face adds a level of communication that you can’t get solely through voice calls. Therefore, video conferencing is an important factor in virtual team communication.
Why we love it:
- Little to no technical glitches in our experience.
- Simple and easy to use for both the host and participants
- Allows for group collaboration or presentation mode.
- Screen share capabilities are easy and intuitive.
- Gallery view, allows you to view everyone on the chat at once and makes it feel, for a moment, like our team is close together.
Everyone from kindergarteners to global empires have discovered and embraced Zoom for video conferencing. It is simple and straightforward to use. Whether you need to talk to one individual or have a board meeting with 65 people around the world, Zoom is one of the tools we use the most.
For Project Management: Trello
You can reach the next level in team collaboration tools with Trello. This software allows you to organize projects into boards and lists telling you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.
Why we love it:
- Visually, Trello is simple and appealing, which makes it easy and intuitive to use.
- Trello doesn’t require too much information, which is often a time suck on other project management programs.
- Available on the web and with mobile apps.
- The platform allows you to organize by teams and tasks and delegate amongst colleagues.
- Integrations with commonly used apps like Evernote, GitHub, Google Drive, and Slack.
- Trello offers a free version with unlimited boards, lists, and cards, as well as file attachments of 10MB.
Trello is ideal for fast-paced companies that are focused on getting the job done. The simple interface makes it extremely flexible and unique to each team that uses it.
For File Management: Google Drive
Emailing a document back and forth with edits and revisions is archaic in the world of online collaboration. Ideally, there should be only a single version of one file that everyone can edit, read, and see changes in real-time. That is exactly what you get from Google Drive.
Why we love it:
- Cloud storage, file synchronization, and client software are all included.
- All of the files are accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
- Offers multiple programs (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides) where you can upload your own work and share them instantly.
- Automatic save to avoid losing a document you just spent the last five days working on.
- Google Drive supports all file types including .JPEG, PDF, and video files.
Digital file management is essential for the smooth operation of any business, especially for those working remotely. Google Drive integrates seamlessly with other apps and the entire G Suite.
Other online tools you should probably be using:
If you’re constantly being asked, “what’s the password for ___________” You need Dashlane. Working online often requires multiple users to use the same login information on numerous portals or websites. This is the best password manager that keeps your passwords safe, but also available for team members to use.
Zapier is perfect when you need an extra pair of hands, but you’re short-staffed. By connecting your most-used apps and automating small tasks, Zapier allows you to work smarter, not harder. Zapier can take leads from Facebook and automatically add them to your email software. Or move customers from one workflow to another seamlessly and automatically. Workflow automation eliminates hours of tedious labor in just a few clicks.
- World Time Buddy
If you have a global team, this little tool makes it easy to schedule meetings and phone calls at a time that works for everyone. Simply add the locations of your teammates and then drag and drop the slider to find a good time to meet.
Experts predict that remote work is here to stay. Sure, some may return to the office full-time, but COVID has shown us a new way to do business. Individuals and companies as a whole have seen how remote working can actually be significantly more productive (and significant cost savings). Give up the old punch-in/punch-out system and embrace these online tools to create the most collaborative team you’ve ever had.