1. Supporting a distributed workforce means having the best software for working remotely.
2. Choosing the right video-conferencing software ensures that your remote team can connect with each other virtually, as seamlessly as possible.
3. With the right messaging apps, you have everything in place to ensure that your business can thrive, whether synchronously or asynchronously.
4. Good project management practice means software that can keep track of workflows, and ensure that any timing issues are dealt with promptly.
5. Keeping necessary records and insuring against data loss means having the right document storage software in place for your specific business needs.
It is, of course, becoming increasingly common to have team members widely dispersed in the wake of COVID-19 — often referred to as the distributed workforce. In many cases, this is a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, but for other businesses, this has long been a feature of the workplace: hot-desking in office environments and international expansion both mean a wide dispersion of the workforce.
We can expect to see this trend taken a step further in future with the rise of the metaverse — a full virtual reality environment for the workplace.
In this article, we look at the best remote work tech tools, software, and apps for coordinating the work of a remote team. We have previously looked at some of the IT infrastructure issues you need to be aware of in a virtual office set up, as well as software platforms for managing your HR: Our focus here, however, is on the best solutions which operate as collaborative remote work tech tools.
Choosing the right tech stack can be an important way of mitigating some of the challenges of managing remote employees such as proximity bias. It can also facilitate greater collaboration and team spirit with a remote workforce as a medium for virtual team-building games.
Note, we receive no payment from, nor are we in any way affiliated with the providers of the services and products discussed in this article. We simply describe our own experiences, and those of our clients, with a range of commonly used tech tools.
Best Technology for Working Remotely 1: Video-Conferencing
Taking video calls with your team is the closest you can come to a physical meeting. This makes video-conferencing software perhaps the most important of all the remote work tech tools. While there are specialist video-conferencing tools available, we only consider two of the more popular general options here.
Zoom has seen a surge in popularity as a video-conferencing tool in recent months. Its benefits include user-friendliness, the capacity for huge video-conferences (up to 1,000 participants), and perhaps most importantly for remote teams, reliability: Zoom doesn’t seem to carry the same amount of lag, or lose connection as easily, as some other platforms.
It should be noted, however, that the free version does contain a time limit on sessions (40 minutes) as well as a participant limit. Note also that Zoom has been responding to some critiques of its privacy and security features in recent months.
Skype offers similar features to Zoom, and through its paid business option which is now part of Microsoft Teams, it is fully integrated with other Microsoft products to allow for easy collaboration through Microsoft products.
Best Technology for Working Remotely 2: Messaging Apps
You don’t always need to place a call – often it is much more efficient to simply message your teammates. For these purposes, Slack has become one of the most popular remote work tech tools. Through Slack, all communication is arranged according to ‘channels’ which allow for discussion and posting documents relating to certain projects or clients. It rates highly on ease-of-use measures, and has extensive app integration.
Some have complained that Slack makes it difficult to track down messages over multiple channels. There are also significant limitations to the free version (such as access to prior messages after a certain point).
Microsoft Teams is Slack’s chief competitor as a messaging tool. It is contained as part of the Office 365 package, so it is often a cost-effective solution for enterprises already using Office products. It also has full video-conferencing capabilities (Slack only allows voice calls). Note also that while Slack’s paid plan only allows up to 15 people to join a conference call, Microsoft Teams can go up to 250.
Still, those who use Microsoft Teams report that it can be more difficult to use than Slack, has a less intuitive interface, and can be harder to set up and administer.
Google Chat (previously known as ‘Google Hangouts Chat’) is a newer option from Google that is fully integrated with its range of business products (G-Suite).
For those teams that have embraced asynchronous work, Loom and Yac are popular video and audio messaging platforms. These might be particularly useful for companies who have globally distributed teams or allow for international working vacations.
All of these messaging platforms are good options, and it can be worth experimenting until you find the one that is right for your business.
Best Technology for Working Remotely 3: Project Management
While you can communicate about projects via messages or voice calls, you need some systematic method for keeping track of business projects as they progress. This is where project management tools come in.
One popular tool is Asana. Through Asana, you can assign tasks to team members, relate them to other tasks, and set deadlines. By clicking on the ‘task’, more detail is provided. The interface also allows for the creation of sub-tasks. The home page orders tasks, highlighting their due date.
Monday has similar ease-of-use to Asana, however, it does not allow the creation of sub-tasks. It also has limited storage capacity compared to Asana. Having said that, many view Monday as the more comprehensive project management platform: It allows for an advanced level of customization, alongside an extensive range of chart views (to track your projects in different ways). It also permits significant third-party app integration.
It is worth mentioning that many also ‘swear by’ the intuitive and customer-friendly user interface of Trello (now a Microsoft product): Trello allows for the easy movement of tasks from different lists according to their status.
Best Technology for Working Remotely 4: Storage Tools
Dropbox and Google Drive are both user-friendly and popular document storage solutions, allowing you to seamlessly upload from your desktop or device to the cloud. Both have relatively stringent security standards, allow easy collaboration between team members, and offer a certain amount of free storage (though Google offers a lot more).
Microsoft OneDrive for Business may be a good solution for any enterprise that is already operating with the Office 365 suite for its seamless integration with other programs such as Word and Teams. One potential downside is that it can’t be integrated with third-party apps such as calendar and messaging apps.
'Big Tech' on the Best Software for Working Remotely
The big tech companies themselves, like Apple and Facebook, are busy with technological solutions for dealing with their own remote work challenges.
See the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of this issue, and the general challenges of creating innovative products remote, below.
Horizons Helps With the Best Technology for Remote Working
A range of tools and apps may be appropriate for your remote team, depending on the needs of your business. If expanding internationally, or setting up a remote team for the first time, we recommend experimenting with a range of videoconferencing, messaging, project management and document storage tools to work out which fits best for your enterprise. Some of the key considerations you should take into account when using and assessing these tools are:
- Ease-of-use. Will an international workforce be able to get quickly up-to-speed with the platform?
- Integration. Will the tool integrate seamlessly with the other products and services you use?
- Cost. What will be the added cost of an individual tool? Note that if you are already using products from one provider (e.g., Microsoft or Google) it may be cheap or even free to use one of their tools.
Horizons are international hiring specialists. We support businesses when moving their operations into a new country, to ensure cost-effective and compliant overseas business operations. We can help ensure you have the best remote work tech tools in place for your global expansion. We also support our partners with cutting-edge HR and payroll software.
Frequently asked questions
All remote workers will need a stable and fast home internet connection, preferably with backup (e.g., mobile) connectivity.
Hardware specs will depend on the job in question: Work with high processing needs (such as software development or video editing) will need more powerful equipment. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the employer to provide equipment or a remote work allowance to pay for it.
Every business will need to have some version of the following remote work tech tools in place: Video, messaging, project management and document storage tools.
The precise software or app depends on the needs of the specific business and their budget.
Every business with a remote workforce should consider having a remote work policy in place, setting out how remote work is to occur.