The most essential tools you need for remote work

Posted on

A good crafter never blames their tools. But they won’t get far if they don’t have the right tools for the job in the first place.

Same with your development team. You can hire the best of the best, but if you aren’t making it easy to communicate, stay organized and track progress, you aren’t making good use of your time (or theirs).

Email is a start, but it’s often not enough to power that productivity. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Several, actually.

Before you kick off your project, here are the must-have tools you need in your arsenal:


For many remote teams, chat apps are the heart and soul of communication. They replace the discussions you might be used to having in-office among your team and keep them all in one place. That includes everything from progress reports to water-cooler banter.

If you’re not already using chat, it’s a big change to move to text-based communication, but it has some notable benefits:

  • You can create dedicated channels for individual teams, projects and tasks
  • Everything you share is documented and searchable
  • Many apps offer full integration with other productivity tools
  • It’s not 100% text – you can share files, images, videos, emojis and gifs as well

We love using Slack, not only because it’s best-in-class (it has over 6 million daily users including companies like IBM, Shopify, Airbnb and even NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) but because it is easy to use, helps us collaborate effectively and is highly customizable.

Project management

How do you manage timelines, tasks and to-dos on your team? Enter the project management service, designed to track your deliverables and deadlines in one collaborative workspace.

You may already have something in place to manage your workflow, but if you don’t, make it a priority for your next project. It’s a game changer when working with a remote team since it helps you:

  • Keep track of every detail of your project from the big picture to the nitty-gritty
  • Identify where roadblocks are so you can focus on removing them
  • Make sure everyone is up to date on what’s been done and what’s coming next
  • Manage all of your resources, from people and materials to time and budget

We use Asana and JIRA in-house, but you’ll find good alternatives in Trello, Basecamp, AirTable and more. Much like test driving a car, the one that’s right for you is up to your own preference, so try a few and see what clicks.

Video conferencing

Video calling is standard for remote work because it’s a simple way to connect people in real-time, with visuals, no matter where they are. At the very least, you’ll want something that will let you share screens and hold one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-one calls.

Being face-to-face (even digitally) has its benefits, too. It helps:

  • Communicate non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions
  • Keep discussions on track and participants engaged
  • Show what’s going on visually (rather than trying to describe it in words)
  • Build stronger relationships with remote team members

Like project management apps, there are lots of options available should you need to find a service. If you use Google’s G Suite, you’re probably already familiar with Hangouts. If you’ve got Microsoft apps, Skype is probably your go-to. Zoom is another popular option worth checking out.

Document sharing

Although you can share documents via email and chat, nothing beats dedicated collaboration software that lets you write, read, edit, comment and save from any device. Especially when you won’t be relying on your internal company drives.

Ideally, your sharing platform would allow you to manage all of your content in an easy way. You’ll also want to consider:

  • Offline access to create and edit documents while you’re away from a connection
  • Support for file types from documents and spreadsheets to presentations and multimedia
  • Robust revision tools that manage synchronous changes between multiple people
  • Tracking capability in the history of a file

Google Docs and Google Drive are the most commonly cited tools that offer these services, but Dropbox and Microsoft Office 365 are making progress toward becoming full-service collaborative solutions.

What’s the right setup for you?

A good development team can work with whatever you have on your end, but it never hurts to ask what tools they like using, too.

Just don’t go overboard. There’s such a thing as app overload, and after a certain point, it becomes more time-consuming to manage all the tools you’re using than it’s worth. Stick to the basics at first, and hone your tech stack from there.

Got your team and tools in place? Awesome. It’s time to get the best work out of them!