Collaborative Tools for a Remote Workforce

Hybrid collaboration blog post

If a pandemic as severe as COVID-19 had struck before the advent of remote working technologies, there is little doubt the economic impact would be far greater than it is. Remote working technology and software allows workers to safely log into a network, communicate with team members, and manage projects on and off the shop floor. It helps individuals and teams to work productively and cohesively, no matter where they are located.

In this short post, we explore some of the best tools for remote workers and their managers. Whether you are experienced with these tools or a first-time user, our picks are chosen for their intuitive design, so that you never miss a beat, even if you do miss your office.

Communication and teleconferencing apps

Zoom - Popularized by social and business use during the pandemic, this remote work tool for teleconferencing offers real-time chat, video recording, screen sharing, calendar integrations, and even virtual background and “touch-ups.”

  • Host online meetings and webinars
  • Use in place of enterprise phone system
  • Build collaboration-enabled virtual conference rooms

Nextiva® - This software is a cloud-based phone system that works for small and large teams. It offers a mobile app so that employees can handle phone calls on smartphones and a desktop/laptop app that works with desk phones. Of course, it can do more than a traditional office phone setup, offering call groups, website live chat, and call forwarding.

  • Calling from mobile and desk phones
  • Website live chat and call groups
  • Call forwarding and voicemail

Online office suites

Microsoft® Office® Online - No one needs an introduction to the long-time leader in office software suites. Products in the solution include Word, Excel®, PowerPoint®, Outlook®, and Forms. Robust functionality for all your office needs includes:

  • OneDrive® cloud based storage allows files and photos to be accessed from any device, anywhere.
  • Sway® allows user to share interactive reports, presentations and more.
  • Skype® keeps everyone connected by providing video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices and more over the internet.

Google G Suite™ productivity and collaboration tools - Google’s answer to Microsoft Office Online is gaining in popularity, due to its integration with widely dispersed software like Google Drive™ online storage service, Gmail™ email service, and Google Meet™, a free video conferencing tool. G Suite’s strengths lie in its real- time collaboration, appointment and meeting setting capabilities, and productivity tools like Sheets, Docs, Forms and Slides. It also includes security features, chat, and phone support for subscribers.

  • Reach colleagues immediately, wherever they are
  • Store files and find what you need instantly, from anywhere
  • Create and manage work with productivity tools

Workflow and project management software

Asana®- Ideal for team workflow management, Asana enables your team to track projects and assign tasks and subtasks. The program offers flexibility in that it can be configured in a variety of ways, as a task assignment tool, a project map and management tool, or an ongoing log of assignments and activities. Team members can specify deadlines and communicate directly in Asana tasks.

  • Remote workers can focus on projects and tasks
  • An ongoing log of assignments and activities is shown
  • Flexible software that can be configured many ways

Basecamp® - Long-established and still popular, this project management solution offers a wide range of tools for communicating, sharing ideas and files, organizing conversations, and keeping each contributor working toward the same goals. It’s a lean piece of software without the ability to archive topics or create subtasksor a team hierarchy, but the tradeoff is worthwhile for groups that want simple functionality and intuitive ease of use.

  • See where projects are in process
  • Know what each contributor is working on
  • Access on any internet-enabled device

Team collaboration

Microsoft® Teams® - When you’re collaborating on a proposal or outlining a project together with a team, this app is highly effective. It enables you to invite company personnel and outside contributors, and it organizes channels under teams so that everyone involved gains access to all necessary resources without the need for using file-sharing or email software. Microsoft Teams also makes a new chat room for every team meeting so that workers can jump on video calls, share screens, and save discussions. Unlike most other software in this category, this also enables you to host web conferences and live events.

  • Invite everyone to chat, meet, call, and collaborate in one place
  • Access, share, and edit Microsoft Office files
  • Host web conferences and live events

Slack® collaboration software - This widely used software offers video calling, chat, file sharing, and integrations with many other remote working tools. It organizes all team communications in one place so that workers can follow along with everything related to individual topics, projects, or teams in their dedicated channels.

  • Organize all work communication in one place
  • Easily find what you’re looking for
  • Share a channel to keep clients, vendors, and partners in the loop

File sharing/cloud storage

Google Drive™ online storage service - This software, integrated into the Google suite of products, is already installed on most computers. It offers the ability to store, share, and collaborate on files and folders from any mobile device, tablet, or computer. Drive also integrates seamlessly with Docs, Sheets, and Slides, cloud-native apps that enable your team to collaborate effectively in real-time.

  • Access files from any device, online or offline
  • Arrange files by project and priority
  • Set different access levels and sharing permissions

Dropbox® - This software enables your team to bring traditional files, cloud content, and web links together in one place. Use it to access word documents, edit them, and share them online with your team. It’s also an online backup service, so you can use it to copy files to the cloud and access them later from a different device. A basic 2GB account is free, so it’s easy to try out.

  • Perfect for on-the-go users who need to access files from anywhere
  • Ideal backup solution
  • Space saving solution for local hard drives

Whether your team is forced to transition to remote work because of the COVID-19 pandemic or chooses to for efficiency, cost savings, and the ability to attract dispersed talent, starting with one of these software packages in each category can help you hit the ground running with little ramp-up time required.

Remote desktop access

These applications securely connect you to an office server or computer at another location, via the internet or an internal network, so that you can log in and access files. This type of software also enables IT personnel to work on your computer as if they were sitting right in front of it.

TeamViewer® - This software enables workers to remotely and securely access and control the desktop of their computers or servers from home on a variety of devices, from laptops to smartphones. The platform enables easy remote IT support, and even enables remote IoT device support.

  • Supports mobile devices
  • Access machines, IoT devices, and servers
  • Deliver remote support to employees and customers

ConnectWise Control® - This is a versatile and secure remote support, access, and meeting solution. It enables employees to connect to the network where they can access on-demand helpdesk, remote support, or unattended repair for hardware and software issues.

  • Accesses remote computers and servers
  • Provides full remote control capabilities
  • Facilitates help desk, break/fix services

Cloud-based business management

One of the most important tools your business can have in its arsenal is a cloud-based business management solution that enables everyone to see the progress of projects from quote to invoice. Maintaining a single source of truth, whether on the shop floor or working from home, a cloud-based solution with built-in security and backup capabilities eliminates redundancies, offers visibility at every stage, and keeps data secure and accessible.

ECI Staff Contributors

About the Author

ECI Staff Contributors love to share their insights and expertise on a variety of topics including sales, marketing, cloud, ERP, and SMB development as well as on product specific education. With offices throughout the United States, Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, more than 40 employees contribute to blog on a regular basis.