Top Tools for Remote Teams in 2021

By  //  July 23, 2021

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When you have your entire team working in the office, it’s much easier to communicate with your employees, answer their questions, and set new tasks. With the transition to remote work and digital communication, this format has become unavailable.

Communication has worsened, managers can’t see or understand what the team is up to at the moment. All this is complicated by the difference in time zones and the difficulty of tracking progress and prioritizing tasks. 

Yes, there’s Zoom, Slack, and Asana. However, office life isn’t just about scheduled meetings and assigned tasks. It’s having lunch together, random coffee breaks, focused colleagues making notes, and even getting your remote employees paid It’s an environment that motivates you to stay busy, a sudden brainstorm, and a bunch of stickers on the wall that remind you of your common goal.

Offline office life is a lot of unnoticed processes, which seem to be transferable to online and we can see after moving WFH, a lot of local businesses and WordPress users have joined managed WordPress hosting that offers speed and peace of mind.

That’s what we’re going to discuss today. Namely, we’ll share some useful tools that remote teams and managers can use to stay focused and connected. In the new working environment, businesses need these tools which are in addition to the tools they’ve already been using for decades to streamline business processes.

Small business entities, in particular, use several DIY tools to cut down their operational expenses, and logo creator, signature generator, business card maker are some of those popular tools that they’ve been using.

With that said, let’s get started!

P.S. You won’t find any “obvious” tools for remote teams in this article. At least, most of them are not like that… and that’s done on purpose.

Also, there is a pro tip for you. To increase customer engagement and to save operational hours, the best solution is to opt for a chatbot.

Best Tools for Remote Teams in 2021 

What follows next is a brief Q&A section with handy software tools you can use to work more cohesively and effectively with your remote team in 2021.

Q: How do you replace the atmosphere of a real office? 

A: Use TandemChat. It’s a virtual office, where you can quickly interact with your colleagues, make spontaneous calls, and work together on the same platforms (e.g. Trello, Notion, Google Docs, etc.).

Alternatives: RemoteHQ, Teemly, Pragli, Makespace [not yet launched], WFHLAND [not yet launched].

Q: How do you replace a meeting or corporate party? 

A: High Fidelity comes to the rescue! The app offers virtual spaces that mimic real people gatherings.

Alternatives: Connect.club, Airmeet.

Q: How do you replace small talk before a meeting? 

A: Brightful is an app to help you with this. This is where you can find short games/quizzes to get people in a friendly mood.

Q: How do you replace the “pro & con” board in a meeting? 

A: Use Ment, a visual platform that simplifies the decision-making process for remote teams.

Q: How do you replace a retrospective with stickers on a board? 

A: Parabol comes to the rescue! Many users call it the best software for online retrospectives.

Q: How do you replace coffee breaks? 

A: Use Hallway, a Slack bot that automatically schedules time for collaborative coffee breaks.

Q: How do you replace working together on bugs (and more)? 

A: GitDuck can become your perfect online platform for tech team collaboration.

Q: How to stop procrastinating and replace the embarrassment of slacking in front of your colleagues? 

A: Use Focusmate, a virtual coworking app – find an accountability partner (or a conditional “colleague,”) choose the time, launch a video session, and monitor each other’s concentration and productivity.

Q: How do you replace a meeting moderator? 

A: Try Macro, an add-on to video call services like Zoom or Meet, which helps make online meetings more efficient.

Q: How do you replace synchronous stand-ups in the office (or anywhere else)? 

A: Standups offers short videos & voice clips in the Instagram Stories style. Asynchronous stand-ups will unite your team members via regular face-to-face meetings.

Alternatives: ScreenRec

Q: How do you replace an assistant who prepares the meeting agenda and documents the results?

A: Hugo is an app that makes it easy to create, store, and collaborate on centralized, actionable notes after the meeting. You can also integrate it with your other work apps as well. 

Q: How do you replace emotions during a meeting? 

A: Nod is an extension for Google Chrome that allows you to share emotions during Google Meet calls.

Q: How do you replace an assistant that takes time out of your schedule to focus on your work? 

A: Clockwise is an app that works with G-Suite + Chrome, optimizing your calendar and freeing up time slots for focused work.

Q: How do you replace meetings (yes, all meetings in general, even virtual ones)?

A: SlashTalk (not launched yet) is a promising app that comes from the makers of Meerkat and Houseparty. It’s not entirely clear yet, but the app is aimed at completely decentralizing communication within teams. 

Q: How do you provide a secure and accessible IT infrastructure to your remote teams?

A:  V2 Cloud is a cloud desktop provider that deploys cloud desktops pre-installed with your business applications in a few clicks—available from your desktop, browser & smartphone.

Additional Tools

World Time Buddy can help you determine the time difference with any place in the world. This app is super easy – you only need to add your city and one (or more) cities of your colleague(s). The app will then display a timeline with working hours for each of them. They will overlap each other so it’s easy to choose the right time when it’s not yet night or early morning for everyone.

Avoma can help you get the most out of your online meetings such as Zoom, Google Meet conversations. It is a conversation intelligence software that helps you in your entire meeting lifecycle including before, during and after your meetings. Avoma records, transcribes, takes summarized notes of your entire conversation and offers detailed conversational insights as to what’s working for you, what’s not, how you can get better at objection handling and a lot  more.

Toggl is an easy-to-use task management tool. Everyone always talks about Trello, Asana, or even Jira, which humanitarians don’t really get. And for some reason, most users ignore Toggl. Well, they shouldn’t. Originally, it’s a time tracker that allows you to reserve time for different tasks. Then the app visualizes the timeline of what took more or less time. Some people also use it as a planner to see their overall workload and roughly understand the structure of the day at a glance.

Krisp helps remove background noise in online conferences. We think that over the last couple of months of constant Zoom calls, many people have realized how distracting background noises can be. Screaming kids, neighbors that enjoy using a hammer drill, taking advantage of the isolation time, sirens howling outside the window, etc. When you have 3-5 people online, each with their own background noises, it can get really annoying fast. Krisp removes background noise in Zoom, Skype, and other similar apps. As a result, any online call goes much more efficiently.

Chimp or Champ helps you anonymously collect employee feedback. Typically, collecting feedback within a team (let alone company) is a mug’s game. If the feedback is not anonymous, you will not get useful data. In turn, anonymous feedback collected one time or once in a long period does not really tell you anything, either.

Chimp or Champ is a system that once a week sends out an anonymous survey to employees where they can share their work impressions, point out any issues, etc. Team managers also get their report once a week, with the overall employee satisfaction score and their comments/wishes. 

Sendx is an intuitive, affordable and feature-rich Email Marketing Software for marketers & business owners. SendX prides itself on enabling marketers with one of the simplest UIs in the industry. SendX provides unlimited email sends with every plan, powerful automation capabilities, best of breed email deliverability. 3000+ companies worldwide trust SendX for their Email Marketing. It helps remote sales teams to engage with their customers.

NuovoTeam is an all-in-one productivity tool and communication suite that helps enterprises to virtually monitor, connect, collaborate, and swiftly communicate with their non-desk workers, front-line workers, and remote workforce rapidly. NuovoTeam app is widely adopted by organizations owing to its single-platform structure, offering a diverse set of features to engage your field workers and distributed workforce easily.

With NuovoTeam, organizations can establish a quick and ultrafast Push-to-Talk (PTT) communication with their field workers to give or take updates, inform about protocol change, offer help in cases of emergencies, and more.

Your Action Plan

Don’t assume that remote working is comfortable and productive for everyone. When you make the sudden transition from a fully office-based team to working from home, your results can get worse. Your employees need a calm and confident leader and a specific plan of action.

You can do this in the following ways:

90% of calls are video calls. For a distributed team that meets offline once every six months to a year, seeing each other’s faces is invaluable. And if you’ve worked with these people for months (or years) side-by-side in the office, a daily meeting, even a 15-minute call, is extra support and an island of stability.

Correspond with your team using presentations. Presentations are great for collaborating with your team from a remote workspace. In addition to getting everyone on the same page, they also showcase your data visually making for an effective mode of remote team communication. Using tools like engaging themes for PowerPoint can help to create impactful and comprehensive remote presentations whilst saving the time spent on making them from scratch.

Weekly planning. Weekly sprint planning (working in one-week iterations) helps maintain a work rhythm and understand each other’s workloads. It’s also a way to socialize and team up (yes, all with video).

Weekly scorecards. So that your planning decisions are not empty words, you can track your weekly progress on indicators that are important to you. For example, if a salesperson needs to sell $40,000 in a month, he/she needs to make $10,000 in sales per week. Each person on the team has responsibility areas for which he/she is accountable.

Daily stand-ups. The standard practice that works great for remote teams as well – a quick report (limit participants to 2 minutes) on what was done yesterday and what is planned for today.

Chats. Yes, the number of chats, compared to the office, will grow many times over. You don’t have to split your communication within the team to “work’ and “random chat” only. Create your own chats for each project in all the necessary areas – development, marketing, general issues, etc. The team realizes that everyone may work at different times and write in chats even in the middle of the night, so ensuring quietness is a personal task for everyone.

Loom & screencasts. A screencast is a video recording or transmission of the data displayed on your desktop. With this video, you can give instructions to your colleague in a minute or two, record feedback about your work, share some information, etc. Videos are always convenient to store and watch at any time. Plus, you can make it at night – and the recipient will see it when he/she is ready to work. You can use Loom to record screencasts – it both records videos and automatically uploads them to a server.

Recorded simple instructions/checklists. For all repetitive, regular tasks, prepare instructions that even an absolute novice can understand. That way you’ll always have a predictably high-quality product.

Auto-assign meetings. Create public Google calendars that are open to your team, where any of your colleagues can access and schedule a time for a call. That call will automatically be added to your schedule. That way you can discuss urgent issues and have coaching sessions, or, say, cooperate on content together.

Doodle. A simple tool for scheduling meetings involving multiple people. You enter potentially appropriate time slots there, each participant marks convenient ones, and by popular vote, you choose the time of the call.

Open calendar/out of office. Some executives keep their calendars public so the entire team can see when they’re busy or why they do not respond. However, it’s definitely not suitable for everyone.

Secrets of Managing a Remote Team

Make a habit for yourself and your employees of using a task tracker.

This way, you will organize your tasks and always know what your team is busy with at the moment. Moreover, in the event of a new task, you’ll be able to understand who’s busy and shouldn’t be distracted and vice versa.

It’s crucial to agree to keep the task space up to date, move cards around in time, set deadlines, and attach work files to cards. This will save you and your employees a tremendous amount of time.

You won’t have to ask about tasks in chats or during calls. If you need information on materials, deadlines, task statuses, employees in charge, you just open your task tracker.

Keep all projects in one place.

Maintain all work tasks in a single workspace, accessible to all team members. A supervisor can manage one workspace for different projects of the same remote team. Tasks will be synchronized between teams and the supervisor, and documents will be stored in one place. Tasks can be grouped by urgency, e.g. you can place a row with urgent tasks at the top and scheduled tasks at the bottom.

Measure your team’s productivity.

Keep time records by the task to see how many hours, days, or weeks it takes for a certain type of work. This way your deadline estimates will be based on your team’s performance specifically, which means more tasks will get done on time.

There are 2 ways to do this:

■ Set a timer when a colleague starts a task;

■ Record the amount of time spent on each task on the card.

Try Kaiten. This tool has functionality for both the first and second ways. In the app, the reason for blocking is highlighted in red on the task front.

Make schedules employee-friendly

When working remotely, there is a tendency for office work to bleed into after-hours time. To avoid that kind of burnout, use a follow the sun routing model to route customer calls to other teams or locations during specific hours. 

During these hours, you can send calls to shift workers, employees in different time zones, or to your business voicemail inbox. This way, you can avoid employees feeling overburdened and help them maintain that work-life balance we all love.

Teach your employees to report problems

If there’s a problem with a task and it can’t be completed on time, teach your employees how to use blocking. This way, both the employee and the supervisor will be aware of the problem. This information won’t be lost in email correspondence, chat, or in your notebook.

Use data to understand how your team is doing

A cumulative flow chart helps you assess how effectively your employees are handling their tasks. From it, you can see that, say, there are typically five cards completed in a week. If you then notice fewer cards in the following week, that’s a signal to take a closer look at the board and check if there’s a problem. If the chart is not going up, then the cards are not moving toward completion.