Emails, phone calls, impromptu meetings at someone's desk — these are all tools used daily in the office, and it works reasonably well. But when you step outside of the office to work remotely or add a remote member to your team, these tools cause chaos, and some are useless altogether. Emails pile up, phone calls are nearly impossible to fit into everyone's schedule, and impromptu meetings can't be quite so impromptu. I've run into this as a Virtual Assistant at Trusty Oak, and I'm here to share my favorite tools for improving remote collaboration.
Trello: The Organizational Tool You've Been Waiting For
Trello has to be my all time favorite, most used tool (and I use the free version). I use it to organize work, school, and volunteer projects. Essentially, it replaces email for my clients and me.
You can organize various categories of tasks using boards, create cards within those boards, and even add steps to those cards. You can then assign people to each task, add due dates, and keep conversations all in one place. This has practically eliminated the need for email with my clients, meaning I don't have to search "email marketing newsletter" in my email inbox every time I need information — there's an entire board for that! I'd really encourage you to check out this tour and try Trello for yourself, even if you don't have a remote worker.
Loom: Meetings, Demos, Done
Have you ever been trying to explain something in an email and wished you could just call the person real fast? In the office, this is when you would probably walk over to your coworker's desk to make things easier. Loom eliminates that need and even keeps the visual aid. For example, I made the following video in 1 minute:
If I were trying to explain how Trello works for a client, I might have spent 15 minutes, but this simple video gets across my point much more easily and precisely than an email. I also use Loom for:
- progress updates
- approving projects with multiple moving parts
The best thing about Loom is that it doesn't require the other person's live time. You can create a training video without scheduling a training, send a progress update without a weekly meeting, and explain a project without needing the decision maker on the line. It saves everyone time and makes communication much clearer.
Zoom: Because Meetings Still Matter
I know my last point was how nice it is not to have to schedule meetings, but the reality is that they are still invaluable, especially in remote work. Zoom is a simple, free tool that enriches meetings by offering options for video conferencing, screen sharing by either party, Webinars, and more. Let's say you're creating a newsletter template for a client (or you're the entrepreneur having this template made) and it's time to make edits. By jumping on a Zoom video call, either party can share their screen and explain what they want, what can be done, and clarify those changes in 30 minutes. Without Zoom, these edits would often consist of emails back and forth with clarifications and gaps between each person's availability.
G Suite: Share, Comment, Collaborate
If you aren't taking advantage of G Suite yet, it's time. Instead of emailing PDFs and Word documents that have to be downloaded, edited, perhaps riddled with highlighted notes, re-attached and emailed, and then re-downloaded by you (whew, let me catch my breath), you can collaborate using shared Google Drive folders and even tag and assign tasks to each other in comments. All of your files are accessible from any computer and in one place, and all you have to do is hit share to add another user. You can change permissions from "view" or "edit," not to mention using a great calendar feature.
Slack: For Quick Communication and Remote Teams
Slack is an excellent tool where you can instant message your team members, create individual channels for specific projects, and @-mention specific people to ensure they got your message. It integrates with tools like Trello and Hubspot, conversations are searchable, and the desktop and mobile apps are equally functional.
Working remotely has proven to be a great option for contractors, entrepreneurs and employees alike, and thanks to these tools, it's becoming a lot easier. I hope you enjoyed these suggestions — try out the tools, I promise it will improve your remote relationships, productivity, and organization!