For many, working remotely is both a dream come true and an exercise in isolation. We love the freedom and flexibility but crave the connection that comes with working alongside other people toward a common goal. And if we’re honest, email and text messages aren’t quite enough to fill that gap.
So today, I’m rounding up my favorite collaboration tools for remote teams. Whether your team is just you and a virtual assistant or business partner, or it’s a collection of individual teams spread globally, these tools will help bring you to get things done apart but together.
As a bonus, most of the tools shared here are accessible to small businesses at free or relatively low cost.
Loom is possibly the most straightforward tool on the entire list, but I consider it to have the most significant impact. For many of my clients, adopting a screen share video tool into their workflow drastically improved their team’s communication and collaboration.
While there are other options out there, I find myself partial to Loom for its ease of use and the fact that it beautifully integrates with nearly every other tool I recommend. Loom has an application for almost every operating system, and it embeds beautifully in many of the platforms we’re already using. It’s as easy to create and share the videos as it is to watch and give feedback.
And to be honest, there are many times that text alone, or even a static screenshot, just won’t do. Recording a quick video can help us close communication gaps and overcome barriers more efficiently.
Whether we’re showing a teammate how to do something or describing a glitch we encountered to our tech support, a 30-second video can save us many back and forth messages.
Quick videos can also have a considerable impact on customer service, and I cannot recommend using them there enough!
Who should use this tool? Loom is for anyone who needs to communicate with other people, inside or outside of the company, and can benefit from a more visual communication method than email alone.
Slack is possibly the most well-known team communication tool. It’s a marvel for keeping well-organized conversations going and is often a central hub for remote teams of all sizes.
Perhaps one of its most underrated uses is as a central notification hub. You can tie in numerous platforms and receive all of your notifications in a single space, making it easier to get through them and keep things from falling through the cracks. The ability to tie in your task manager (Trello, Asana, Todoist, ClickUp, etc.), document hubs (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, etc.), and calendars (Google, Outlook) gives you a command center that helps you feel less scattered.
Another bonus of Slack is the ability to connect with your virtual meeting platform of choice and quickly launch team meetings or 1-on-1 conversations. Sometimes there’s no replacement for a face-to-face meeting, even if it’s virtual. The ability to talk things out in real-time can save a lot of frustration for remote teams. And if you can’t quite find a time that matches up, it’s effortless to drop a Loom video into a Slack conversation and cut down on the back and forth by communicating visually.
Who should use this tool? Slack is for teams who need a central communication hub but aren’t using another tool that meets that need.
Google recently stepped up its collection of tools for remote teams with their updates to what was formerly known as G-Suite.
While I’ve always loved Google Docs and Spreadsheets for collaborating, it’s now even easier to do it in real-time by launching a video chat inside the document you’re working on.
Google Workspace adds real-time communication tools to the apps we already use and love like Gmail, Drive, and Calendar.
Who should use this tool? Google Workspace is for teams who need to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It’s also for teams who need organized email and calendaring solutions that work well on various operating systems.
While marketed as a customer support platform, Help Scout is a fantastic tool for managing any sort of shared inbox.
Help Scout allows you to manage multiple shared inboxes by delegating messages to team members, allowing you to see message history for that customer, and facilitating team member discussions about particular emails. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic way to keep a shared inbox organized without worrying about any messages going unanswered or multiple responses being sent simultaneously.
Who should use this tool? Help Scout is for teams that need an organized shared inbox, customer help center, or customer-facing knowledge bases.
If you don’t need a full help desk solution, Hiver is a more scaled-down option that lives right in your Gmail account. Or, if your team is all Mac users, Spark Mail is a great email app that features robust team collaboration tools. (Spark Mail is currently working on an application for Windows and will be amazing once it’s available cross-platform.)
ClickUp is the ultimate project management tool. Having been around the block and used everything else from Basecamp to Trello and Asana to Todoist, nothing quite matches the power of ClickUp.
Whether you’re looking for a basic shared to-do list or need more involved features to create a company-wide productivity headquarters, ClickUp is up for the challenge.
Perhaps my favorite feature of Clickup is its ability to house various forms of information in a very organized way. It’s ridiculously easy to connect Google Docs and Spreadsheets or record and embed a screen share video.
ClickUp can quickly become your all-in-one business hub that works wonderfully for teams of all sizes, especially large, complicated ones.
Who should use this tool? While ClickUp can work for any size team, I find it works best for teams of 5+ who want the capability of advanced features like dependencies and detailed time tracking and are looking for an all-in-one solution. Smaller teams may find ClickUp can be a bit of overkill for their needs.
I saved the best for last. Notion is a favorite of mine, both on a personal level and a professional one.
If you have a smaller team or need something less linear than ClickUp, I highly recommend Notion. While it offers some of the same features, like the ability to play nicely with Google Docs and embedded media, you aren’t stuck with the rigid list structure of a project management tool like ClickUp.
Notion is best described as like building with Lego. It’s a blank slate, and you can create exactly what you need to suit your business and work style using their various “blocks.” It can be a little intimidating to get started with, but it’s always worth it.
I use Notion both personally and professionally. It’s as well suited to managing the minute details of nomad life (grocery shopping, reservations, and remembering regular tasks around the rig) as it is to planning complicated project plans for my business.
Notion is particularly well suited to people who identify as neuro-diverse as it’s less rigid than most available apps. It combines structured databases and templates with the ability to build, change, and grow as our plans do.
Notion works particularly well for building a company wiki and housing references for company systems and processes. I also find that it’s fantastic for sharing only specific things with clients and outside contractors.
Who should use this tool? Notion can work for teams small and large that want a more flexible platform to build to fit their needs. I do not recommend Notion for larger teams who rely heavily on automations or built-in time tracking.
Team collaboration tools are as varied as the teams who use them. Some tools are well suited for teams of 2-10, while others work better for larger teams. But many tools can be configured to work no matter your team size.
The key to finding the tools that work for you is understanding how you use them and what purpose they are serving. As the popularity of remote work grows, the ability to utilize real-time collaboration alongside the asynchronous features we’re used to increases importance.
Choosing tools that support your work style and your team’s natural communication tendencies will reduce frustration for everyone involved.
My biggest advice for choosing collaboration tools is to go with as few as possible and make sure that your team understands which tools are to be used for what.
Once you’ve chosen your tools, it’s worth spending the time to properly set up your platforms and train your team on how to use them. The learning curve and struggles that teams have with new systems and processes are almost always reduced by taking the time to do it right and communicate it well.
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Dani is a Business Systems Strategist. She helps entrepreneurs who want to ditch overwhelm to create a sustainable, dreamy business through establishing boundaries and systems that work for them. After 7 years in entrepreneurship, she knows that it doesn’t have to be all about the hustle and grind. It’s the systems and processes that we build that allow us to build empires and live dreamy lives all at the same time.
When she’s not nerding out over workflows, spreadsheets, and statistics, you can find Dani traveling with her husband and five kids, taking in a baseball game, or getting a little bit of peace and quiet on her yoga mat. Get all of Dani’s best tips, tricks, and tutorials at https://simplifiedbusinesssystems.com.