8 Team tools for remote workBy Michelle Nickolaisen
10,000ft is a project management tool that provides a big picture view.
Whether you call it remote work, telecommuting, or having a distributed workforce, it’s on the rise. It’s been popularized by companies like 37signals, which tout productivity benefits, the increasing worker thirst for independence, and concern about the ecological effects of commuting. Another factor is that it’s now easier than ever to meet and discuss with a team scattered across the globe, due to communication tools like Highfive, Slack, and others.
There are many advantages to having employees work from home, but while you’re saving time and money, there are some unique difficulties to overcome too. Whether that’s keeping a team accountable or sharing instructions when you can’t just point at someone’s screen over their shoulder, there’s a growing marketplace of apps that can help you navigate those challenges. Here are eight of our favorite apps to help your employees work remotely:
1. Evernote Work Chat: Get feedback on ideas and notes
Evernote’s new Work Chat feature (unveiled last month) aims to give your team a context for discussions even when they’re not sitting next to each other. You can share any notebook or note in the Work Chat and discuss it with your team, whether on mobile or desktop. Your team can edit the note, or just view and discuss it. If you already use Evernote to store your ideas and notes, Work Chat means you’ll have a seamless way to find and revisit feedback on those ideas and notes—no more time wasted searching through your inbox.
If you already have another chat tool (like the aforementioned Slack) neatly fitted into your team workflow, then you won’t need Work Chat. But if your team already uses Evernote to store ideas, notes, and documents, then Work Chat could be an easy way to discuss those notes and ideas without adding another app everyone has to download and learn.
2. 10,000ft: Keep your team on the same page (and looking at the same big picture)
Trying to operate a remote team without a dedicated project management tool is like trying to herd cats with vocal commands. It doesn’t work. There are a lot of options for such a tool, but many of them share the same shortfall: they keep your team focused entirely on the day-to-day minutiae, without giving context for the tasks. Even teams that work in the same office can have trouble with this, so being in separate physical locations can only compound it.
10,000ft aims to address this issue, giving both you and your team a big picture view of who’s working on what and how those tasks play into the larger project at hand. Its visual interface (similar to a glossier version of a Gantt chart) makes it easy to see what’s going on at a glance. And it has built in time-tracking and reporting options, giving you detailed analytics on the profitability of workers and projects.
3. iDoneThis: Accountability and reporting
On the other hand, while team leaders need to keep an eye on the big picture, they also need to know what’s getting done on a daily basis. iDoneThis makes accountability simple: Every day, each team member takes a few minutes to reply to an email, reporting what they finished. The next day, each team member gets a digest, noting what everyone did the previous day, and giving them the ability to comment on the previous day’s tasks.
It’s simple, but it’s useful. For one, it eliminates the need for daily check-in meetings—which can be hard to coordinate with team members scattered across time zones, and can zap time and productivity. And instead of face time, you can actually track the metrics that matter.
When words fail, create quick screencasts with Jing.
Skitch lets teams easily capture and annotate screenshots.
4. & 5. Jing and Skitch: Communicate with remote employees visually and quickly
Skitch (another Evernote product) lets you easily capture and annotate screenshots, that you can then sync to an Evernote notebook if need be. If you’re giving feedback on a mockup, or creating a step-by-step how-to document, Skitch makes the process much easier.
Jing is based on a similar idea, but with screencasts instead of images. The lightweight app lets you record a screencast of up to five minutes, then automatically uploads (and hosts) it, giving you a shareable link. Creating a screencast is often much less time consuming than creating a how-to document, so it’s a great way to delegate quickly while still giving clear instructions.
The best part? Both are free!
Collaborate with coworkers on writing projects using Penflip.
Available on both Android and iOS devices, Quip is an ideal tool for teams on-the-go.
6 & 7. Penflip and Quip: Discuss and collaborate with every remote team on documents, lists, and more
Penflip bills itself as Github for writing projects. You can write in its minimalist Markdown editor, then share with your team. Each collaborator works on their own version, making changes, adding comments, and discussing ideas, which the document owner can then accept or reject as they wish. As a writer, I can certainly attest that there are issues with having a whole team editing a Google Doc at once. Penflip neatly addresses them.
Quip addresses a slightly different need. It’s focused on giving teams a way to collaborate and discuss documents, spreadsheets, and task lists—from any device. Google Docs still lacks the ability to leave comments or accept/reject revisions from the mobile app, and if your team is constantly on the go, that’s a big shortfall. With offline/online sync options and availability for both Android and iOS phones and tablets, Quip is the best way to address that shortcoming.
8. Shyp: Takes the logistics out of shipping
Does your company have a satellite office or remote workers in San Francisco, New York City, or Miami? If so, Shyp could be your way out of hiring an assistant to manage the shipping process. The process is simple: Use their app to snap a photo of the item to be shipped and enter its destination, and someone from Shyp picks up the item, then packs and sends it using the lowest cost, most reliable option available. No more standing in line, packing, or navigating rolls of bubble wrap stored in your closet.
We’re just past the annual present-giving season, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have opportunities soon to gift clients, coworkers, or partners. Shyp will make that easier. (Los Angeles support is coming soon.)
Learn more about how to increase efficiencies and create a connected culture for employees working from home in 5 Tips for Remote Work Success.
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