Remote Working Tools for Collaborative Teams

By
Sarah Leung
March 10, 2015

One of the biggest operational challenges many brands face is coordination across employees in different locations. Whether it’s based on preference or necessity, today’s businesses are operating in a national and global context that requires certain tools and strategies for effective collaboration. In our conversations with wholesale brands around the world, we’ve found that collaboration across distances is a huge obstacle for many growing companies. One company in particular shared that they’re constantly working to improve how their team communicates across three different locations (and time zones). As a rapidly growing home accessories brand, they’re actively looking for ways to communicate and share information more efficiently. The good news is, we live in a time when long-distance communication is more accessible than ever. With little more than an Internet connection, you can conduct conference calls, share files, and collaborate on new projects with ease. Here, we list some of the best remote working tools and technologies available to help you work remotely--and work smarter.

Remote Working Tools for Collaborative Teams

Communication

Hipchat $0-$2/month per user

Hipchat is a team chat application built for businesses. We use it at the Handshake offices, and it’s useful for everything from quick project discussions and team announcements to afternoon comic relief in the form of company-wide meme and gif sharing. For remote working, it’s the best way to get in touch with someone when you want a quicker response than you’d get via email. Hipchat is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, and as a web app, so it’s not a problem if your team is all working off of different devices. You can create separate group chat rooms for different teams or chat privately. File sharing is as easy as dragging and dropping, and you can even search for past chat history by keyword (a really useful feature if you want to recall what you discussed with a particular colleague). Zoom.us$0-$54.99/month per host

If you’re having trouble with Skype, Zoom.us is a great option for web and video conferencing. With Zoom.us, you can conduct group video conferences with a large number of participants and still maintain quality video and audio. Another really great feature is the ability to screen share not just from a computer, but also from an iPad or iPhone. This is especially valuable for those who conduct much of their business day on a mobile device. Zoom.us is available on iOS and Android (though mobile screen sharing is only available on iOS), as well as Mac and PC. The application also includes a chat feature. Notably, however, it doesn’t allow for file sharing. For free accounts, there’s also a time limit of 40 minutes on each group call.

Task Management

AsanaPrice varies according to number of users.

Another Handshake staple, Asana is a task management app that allows your entire team (wherever they may be) to track and complete tasks and projects. Rather than sending emails back and forth among team members to update each other on your tasks, Asana allows you to set deadlines, send each other messages or updates about individual tasks or projects, and collaborate more effectively. Asana is available on iOS, Android, and as a web app. It can also be integrated with many other applications, like Dropbox and Google Drive (two other tools that made this list). Bonus: when you check off a task as ‘finished,’ a unicorn will fly across your screen to mark the achievement. Totally optional, of course, but a surprisingly effective motivator. Trello $0 for a standard account. Prices vary for premium accounts.

Trello is another project management and collaboration application that’s a bit more visual (and playful) than Asana. Projects and checklists are organized into “cards” that can be moved and manipulated through drag and drop. Like Asana, you can add deadlines, upload files, and post comments. The best thing about Trello is probably how user-friendly it is--your team will get the hang of it in no time. Trello is available on the web and on iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Kindle Fire.

File Sharing

Dropbox $0-$15/month per user

Pretty much the default file sharing platform for both business and personal use, Dropbox allows you to share files and sync them across any device. You can save files to your Dropbox folder on your computer and then access them later from your phone or tablet. For remote collaboration, it’s awesome. If multiple teammates are accessing a shared file in the Dropbox folder, all the changes are synced in real time. It’s also a great way to share large files with people who don’t necessarily use Dropbox. All you need to do is send a download link. Dropbox is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Kindle Fire. Box$0-$15/month per user for Personal, Starter, and Business accounts. Enterprise account pricing varies.

Box’s user interface is a bit more complicated than Dropbox, but if data security is your biggest concern, then it’s the better choice. More often used by larger companies, Box allows you to set permissions for access, editing, download, and sharing. Like Dropbox, you can share content with download links, but you also have the option to password protect those links. You can also track when and how often certain files have been opened. Box is available for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

Miscellaneous

1PasswordPrice varies based on device and number of users.

If you and your colleagues are having trouble remembering passwords for shared accounts, or you’ve simplified your passwords to the point of uselessness, then 1Password might just be the most important tool on this list. 1Password securely stores your passwords and allows you to log into websites without having to remember anything (or call your colleagues 3000 miles away for a reminder). 1Password is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. The price varies based on the number of users and which device(s) you plan to use, but the good news is, there’s a “Help Me Choose” page on their website that lets you know which plan is best for you. Every Time ZoneFree

For teams working across multiple time zones, Every Time Zone is a lifesaver. If you’re tired of having to mentally calculate when to set up a meeting or conference call, this site makes it easy to quickly compare multiple time zones. You can use their sliding line marker to see how your local time compares to everyone else’s. The best part is? The site is completely free to use. Google Apps for Work$5-$10/month per user, or $50-120/year per user

This one seems kind of obvious, but we had to put it in here because if you haven’t considered it, Google Apps for Work (including Gmail) is a great all-around platform to communicate and collaborate on. It encompasses most of the categories we've covered here, including file sharing and communication. You can set up professional email, manage calendars, store, share and collaborate on documents in real time, and hold video conferences with Google Hangouts. In short, you can keep all of your business communication and documents in the cloud, and access it anywhere. There’s our list of tools for remotely operated businesses! Questions about any of the applications we’ve featured here? Let us know in the comments.