Remote Work Tools: Hidden Software Gems for remote teams

Background – Most famous ≠ the best

Among startups “remote work” is a commonly used strategy to acquire the best talent available all across the world. Now, amid a global pandemic, more and more companies ask themselves which software to use to enable truly efficient remote work for their employees.
The answer might sound surprising, but the best remote work tools are not the ones you can commonly read about in blog articles. The best remote software is mostly unknown and just about ready to take over the world.
As we, at onetool (the app store for business software) see dozens of productivity tools every day, we aim to present the hidden gems of remote work software in this article. In fact, we do not only write about these tools, but we also use them every single day to make our work-life more efficient.

Remote tools you really need

Let’s be honest. Normally, when you google remote work software, just find a bunch of articles presenting 25+ tools for remote work you should give a try. We commonly refer to this as “the SaaS chaos”. Do you really want to use 25+ tools or do you want to use as few tools as possible to make sure you don’t overload your employees with software?
In our experience, there are very few must-have software categories you need to have when working remotely:
 
  1. Task- & Project Management
  2. Scheduling and Video Conferencing
  3. Verbal, asynchronous Communication (Screen Recordings)
  4. Document Sharing & Storage
  5. Chat & Email
  6. Tool Administration
 Besides, remote teams often seek to streamline their operations with additional productivity tools: Document Signing, Surveys, HR & Recruiting, CRM, Customer Support, etc. These tools you can explore on onetool but they will not be covered in this article.
Let’s start going through the categories:

Remote Work Software Basics

Task- & Project Management

It is important to understand that employees often tend to be overloaded with multiple apps for to-do-lists, project management & task management. Our customer data at onetool shows, that remote employees often only use a fraction of the tools provided to them. Therefore, we do not recommend having separate notes-, to-do-list-, task-management- and project management software. The more you can consolidate in one software the fewer data silos you create and the happier your remote employees.
The most basic rule to select your remote task- and project management software is “simplicity“. Since you can’t interact personally with your remote staff daily the tools you select must be “plug & play” which means that your remote teams instantly understand how to use them.
Two really good tools for remote task and project management are ClickUp and Nifty.

Alternative 1: ClickUp

Clickup task and project management software
Calling ClickUp just a task management tool is an understatement. ClickUp can be the pillar of all your remote work by putting much-needed functionality into a simple and sleek design (in fact, I wrote this article with ClickUp): task management with many different views, time tracking, tech development & sprint planning, project management, document editing, note-taking, and task chats.
With this functionality, ClickUp should build the foundation of your remote work. Make it very clear for your remote team, that every task, every project should be present in ClickUp and you will have easy times tracking your work and efficiency increase.

Alternative 2: Nifty

Nifty project - management software

Nifty can also be the pillar tool of all your remote work software. It does project management, task management, chats, wikis, notes, and time tracking; all in one place. Compared to ClickUp, Nifty focuses more on written communication between teammates rather than strict task- or project-based communication. Thus, you could direct-message a team member instead of direct messaging her via a task. Nifty is incredibly easy to understand but can even handle complex project plans.

Scheduling & Video Conferencing

Working remotely automatically means having many remote meetings. We often get asked what the “best video conferencing software” out there is. The truth is, video conferencing is a commodity and has not changed much in 15 years. Zoom being hyped over Skype is pure marketing. Both, Zoom and Skype, missed out on new features that make remote work truly more efficient.
Have you ever thought about how much time you are loosing scheduling your video calls and then setting up the meetings with the right video meeting links?
Vectera and MeetFox both enable you to have awesome video meetings without the hustle of having to find the right time and setting up meeting invites.

Alternative 1: Vectera

Vectera is the next evolution of video conferencing. It enables your meeting participants to automatically schedule video conferences with you. Vectera then automatically creates the invite for all parties and makes sure you can always go back to the same invite link again, in case you have a second or third meeting. If you want to add an additional layer of professionalism, you can fully white-label your video conferencing experience. Thus, a meeting invite link could look like this:
Once in the meeting, you instantly realize where Zoom missed out on recent trends: no software to download, whiteboard inside the meeting where you can upload all kinds of documents to mark and make comments, easy screen control capabilities, and recordings.
Overall, Vectera is perfect for small team meetings to collaborate and for sales meetings to make comments together in the same documents.

Alternative 2: MeetFox

MeetFox is another Zoom challenger out there. Whereas Vectera is more focused on video conferencing, MeetFox is a little more advanced when it comes to the scheduling feature. As a MeetFox user, you get a beautifully designed booking page where your clients and team can automatically choose available time slots. MeetFox then automatically sends out meeting invites with the right meeting links.
Their video conferencing is simple and easy to understand. You can share your screen and easily communicate with your team and clients.
If you have client meetings where clients pay per meeting MeetFox is the way to go. You can add a pay-wall to any meeting and make sure your clients pay you when they book a meeting with you.

Verbal, Asynchronous Communication
(Screen Recordings)

The third category of the basic tools for remote work is asynchronous communication.
As we said above, we highly recommend keeping all written communication close to their tasks in your task management program. For longer scheduled meetings and to discuss things or strategize you’d use Vectera or Meetfox, but what if you want to clarify things really quickly without having to set up a meeting?
Using the threads in your task management system might be sufficient, but pictures tell more than 1000 words.

StoryExpress - video & screen recording software
StoryXPress enables you to record your screen and your webcam video simultaneously. While recording you can mark, type, and show areas on your screen to put the focus on the important. After you finished your recording, the video will automatically get uploaded and attached to a link that you can share with your remote team.
It is the easiest way to express feelings, mood, and tone with detailed, hands-on visuals.
In their highest pricing tier, StoryXPress even allows you to fully white-label your videos so that you get a nicely designed and branded video player and video website.

Standups

Standups - remote teams software

If your team is spread across multiple time-zones Standups could be your solution for everyone’s daily morning update. You can organize your remote employees into teams and make sure the first thing they do every morning is to hear (and see) the update of their remote-co-workers.
For everyone not working across time-zones it still makes you more efficient not having to wait for every meeting participant every single morning.

Document Sharing & Storage

This should be a no-brainer today but we’re adding it here to have a complete overview. All documents should be stored in the cloud to make remote collaboration work. We haven’t seen many hidden gems in these fields. The market leaders GSuite, Dropbox, and Box are the way to go. Office 365 is lagging behind and often synchronizes slowly.
When sharing documents, please make sure to never upload files to your remote tools but to always insert the files’ links into the threads. This makes sure you keep your documents in sync and that you are working on the same document versions.

Chat & Email

Chat Software

While chat software such as Slack is probably the most commonly used software out there, we don’t recommend using chat software with your remote teams. The reason is that ideally, you want to have all your communication related to projects or tasks stored in one place, especially with remote teams. Too often, chat and email software make it convenient to send over a few lines of important text to a co-worker and to never find it again; leading to scattered information and many “task silos”. Therefore, at onetool, we keep all communication related to tasks, to-dos, or projects in our project management app (see above).

Email Software

We all feel it but rarely act on it. Email is broken. When working with your remote team, try to not use any email internally at all. Make sure to establish this culture so that the sole purpose of an email is external communication.

Tool Administration

(Disclaimer: this is what onetool does)
Again, less is more. When selecting your remote work tools you should make sure that your team understands your guidelines and that you don’t choose too many tools. However, you will end up using, on average, 8 tools per employee. To make sure you can control everything in one dashboard, can one-click on-board and off-board your staff with their software, see usage statistics, provide them with a single-sign-on and make sure you can easily discover new tools, sign up to onetool to make sure you keep control of software being used.

Conclusion

The best tools for remote work can only be the best tools if you have a clear strategy on how to interact with your software. Don’t overload your employees with 25+ tools for every use-case (like most blogs suggest) but make sure to have just the core use-cases well covered.

  1. Everything written and project-/task-related should happen within one single project management software such as ClickUp or Nifty
  2. For video meetings, you should choose a software that does both, scheduling and video meetings such as Vectera or MeetFox
  3. Rather than using chat and email, use the thread functionality of your project management tool and asynchronous remote work tools like StoryXPress and Standups to express emotions, tone, and gestures.
  4. Don’t get into the habit of creating a subscription chaos. Discover, sign up to, and manage all your remote work software with onetool – the app store for business software.