Telecommuting makes life far less hectic and more productive for employees and employers. While there are benefits all around, such as cost savings, flexibility and increased happiness on the job, the real proof of telecommuting success is in the quality and quantity of work remote teams produce.
Luckily, remote teams, including telecommuters from Virtual Vocations, have access to plenty of powerful communication, collaboration, and productivity tools to aid in their success.
“Virtual Vocations is a 100% telecommuting team, and we rely on online software productivity tools to help our employees communicate. We use Slack as a primary means of communication, but we also use Live Chat and other tools with our clients. They help us succeed and excel in a virtual world.”
—Laura Spawn, CEO
14 Free and Low-Cost Software Tools for Remote Teams
If you’re ready to explore tools for improving your own communication and productivity, and that of your remote teams, take a look at some of the more popular free and low-cost software programs currently on the market.
For Enhancing Communication
It’s easy to experience misunderstandings in a team setting or any setting if you’re not communicating face-to-face or as a group. Communication can become trickier and important details can be left out when trying to relay information to another person or a group of people. It’s especially important in a remote setting to communicate with your team quickly and effectively, minimizing miscommunications. There are some great programs out there to make group communication less of a hassle.
Slack is a messaging program where you can organize teams, projects, and conversations using open channels. Remote teams also have the option to create private channels to host sensitive or secure information. You can video call, send direct messages, and easily share files by dragging and dropping them into channels and message windows.
This program syncs with other software such as Dropbox and Google Drive. It is available for iOS and Android apps, as well as desktop apps. Slack is free for most members, but additional features can be accessed through paid plans.
Zoom is an online conferencing service that facilitates remote teams to be able to hold meetings via video or share ideas using the business instant messaging or IM feature. Video conferences and webinars are held in your own personalized online conference room.
This program is available on iOS and Android mobile apps, as well as extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Zoom is free for users who only need to host up to 100 participants, but if you have a team with more members, take a look at their pricing and plans offered here.
Uber Conference lets you make conference calls without a meeting PIN number, which is great for remote team members with busy schedules, who jump from one meeting to another during the day. With Uber Conference you can screen share so your whole team can see the big picture and lead successful meetings.
You have the option to call in to a conference in the traditional manner, or you can schedule your calls ahead of time and allow Uber to do the work for you. The program can even call guests in the middle of a conference to allow them to join. You can always see who is talking, and easily visit their profiles.
Uber Conference is available on Android and iOS mobile apps. They offer a 100% free plan for remote teams with up to 10 conference participants, as well as a paid plan for larger teams with up to 100 participants.
For Improved Collaboration
When working remotely, the tools you use can make or break you. Collaboration is easy on-site, but when team members are scattered in different locations and possibly different time zones, it can be difficult to communicate and keep everyone involved. It’s important to find tools and programs that fit everyone’s needs, just remember to give all team members time and training to adjust to using any new programs.
One free group collaboration program to consider is Google Hangouts. This program offers group video calls and voice calls in addition to messaging. Google Hangouts is available for iOS and Android mobile apps, as well as desktop apps, making it simple to collaborate and communicate anywhere you go. Google hangouts is completely free to use. You can call almost any number in the United States and Canada for free, but additional rates may apply to international voice calls.
Another collaboration tool from Google is Google Drive, which allows remote teams to make slideshows, documents, forms, and other various types of projects using Google proprietary software (Sheets is an equivalent program to Excel, for instance, and Docs is similar to Microsoft Word).
With Google Drive you can easily make your documents open to the public, or keep them private and select who you’d like to share them with. You can also select who you would like to be able to edit your documents, making remote collaboration easier. Google Drive offers an iOS and Android mobile apps, as well as desktop apps. Right now, Google Drive offers 15GB for free, but for extra gigabytes of storage, pricing is quite reasonable. Browse the pricing guide to see your options.
Dropbox makes it easy to save and share large files and edit files together, instead of having to send each step of the edits back and forth via email. Anything you upload will show up on your computer, phone, and the Dropbox website, so you can easily access it wherever you are. A big benefit of using Cloud-based software like Dropbox is that if there is an accident with your work computer or your phone, your files won’t be damaged or lost. Dropbox offers iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows Tablet mobile apps, as well as desktop apps. A Dropbox basic account is 100% free, and includes 2GB of space. If you’re looking for more storage, click here to see what plans are available to you.
Taskworld is a great choice for team project planning, with intuitive charts to show progress and help you see potential problems before they come up. With its advanced chat program, you can even eliminate external email applications and chat programs, or Taskworld can also work with your email. Either way, you can chat one-on-one or as a team right from the program. For the most recent pricing details, check out this page.
For More Streamlined Project Management
It’s essential to monitor your remote employees’ productivity. Having a visual dashboard helps to capture the big picture and bring attention to details. With the right software, you will be able to avoid projects and details from falling through the cracks and more easily manage your team’s resources.
Hubstaff lets you track team members’ activity levels and current tasks with in-depth reports, screenshots, and internet and app monitoring. It’s easy to choose the right team member for a job by looking at productivity levels and seeing who is already completing the most tasks. The remote team dashboard lets you see your whole team on one screen, so you can easily see who is online, when someone last worked, the total time worked that week, and general activity levels. Hubstaff offers iOS and Android mobile apps, and many different browser apps. Hubstaff offers a free plan, and their other plans are based on a sliding scale of how many team members there are. To slide to see the different pricing plans, visit this page.
Trello is a tool that organizes projects into boards which show what is being worked on, who is working, and where a project is in the process. You can invite as many people as you want to your board, and easily assign tasks by dragging and dropping cards that you set up. All changes that are made instantly update on everyone else’s boards, ensuring that nobody on the team misses a step, which is critical for successful project management. Trello offers iOS and Android apps, as well as an app that connects to Slack. There are no desktop apps, but you can work from the website. Trello offers a free forever plan, but for other plan options, click here.
Asana allows you to track your team’s progress without having to call a meeting. It works great to more clearly communicate shifting priorities to the entire team. You can easily see the number of tasks remaining versus the number of tasks completed, and easily customize tasks by assigning them an importance level. Every team member will be able to easily identify what tasks they should be doing, or need to switch to, and why they should be doing them. The easy platform makes collaboration easier, and may yield more work output and greater results. Asana offers iOS and Android mobile apps, a Chrome extension, and many options to sync separate apps such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Asana offers a basic version for free, but for other plan options and pricing visit this page.
Harvest is a great program for keeping track of time, as well as expenses. The simple interface makes it easy to get you and your team on the same page. The program gives users real-time access to make sure that everyone stays on track and gets the latest updates as soon as they’ve been made. This works great when you have a central program manager who needs to communicate time-sensitive info to a large team. You can start and stop timers as you complete the tasks on your list, ensuring that distractions won’t get the best of you. Harvest offers iOS and Android mobile apps, as well as desktop apps. The program offers a free plan, as well as paid plans with alternate features. To compare pricing and plan options, check out this page.
For Better Scheduling and Productivity
Scheduling software makes it possible to set up meetings with a few simple clicks. With scheduling programs, you don’t have to go out of your way and send dozens of emails to make it onto someone’s calendar. This saves everyone a lot of time and reduces communication errors in meeting times and locations.
One popular scheduling tool to check out is Calendly. You simply put your availability preferences in, and Calendly will do the rest. You can easily share your event links with people, who will then pick a time slot which is automatically added to your calendar. Calendly works together with any iCloud, Outlook, Google, and Office 365 calendars you may have, to ensure that you don’t get double booked. Calendly has a built in timezone detector, which makes sure that everyone is on the same page and there are no scheduling mishaps.
You also have the option to prevent people from scheduling last minute meetings, and set aside time between meetings that cannot be booked, which is very helpful for people who often go from one meeting to another all day. Calendly offers a free membership, as well as a couple of paid ones. To read about your plan options and pricing, click here.
Todoist is a program that lets you organize and manage your tasks easily. You can access your tasks everywhere you are through the Cloud, and share tasks with others to collaborate. They offer iOS and Android mobile apps, and a variety of desktop apps. Todoist offers a free plan, but to look at their paid plans or compare plan options, visit this page.
iDoneThis gives you daily status updates from all your team members, letting you know what has been completed and what still needs to be completed. The program gives you detailed, high level reports of your team’s progress and productivity levels, making it not only a great productivity tool but a great management tool as well. If your team needs help staying in sync and getting things done, check out their reviews online. Get the latest pricing plans and see which one would be best for your team when you visit their pricing page.
Do you use any of these tools within your remote teams? Which ones work best for you, and why? Share your answers when you connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Our family-owned company is committed to helping you find quality job leads. We strive to help make your work-at-home job search faster, easier and safer by bringing you scam-free jobs that offer some form of telecommuting or virtual work.
Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background.