New tools to improve performance
Maham S. Chappal
on October 1, 2020 (last modified on February 11, 2022) • 25 minute read
More than 4.3 million people in the USA work remotely, which is 3.2% of the entire workforce. And post COVID, these numbers are only set to rise as several companies have announced flexible work-from-home policies.
This means remote work tools are becoming very popular, very fast. But with a plethora of remote work tools available in the digital sphere, which ones should you invest in?
We asked 49 marketing managers and business owners their ride-or-die remote tools and here’s what they said.
As the name suggests, remote work tools are tools used for remote work. These tools can be related to project management, time management, team communication, team meetings and presentations, and similar. In order to work remotely successfully (or manage a remote team successfully), you need to identify the best technology that will help you tackle any challenge that comes along the way.
Working remotely is definitely not easy, but as you can see from the graph below, more than 25% of the marketing experts and business owners we have surveyed have successfully managed their remote teams for quite a while (5+ years). In contrast, more than 30% have just recently started with this endeavor and work remotely for less than a year. Check out the tools they recommend.
“Video conferencing has had the biggest positive impact because it allows us to have “face-to-face” interactions with one another. Seeing each other when we’re having meetings and important conversations have been crucial.” Explains Valerie Cox of Franchise Direct
Malte Scholz of Airfocus says, “Although Discord was originally used by gamers, it turned out to be the best free conferencing tool for remote teams as well. It does have a complex interface but it is very intuitive and offers a lot of possibilities for organizing teams and meetings.
I can assign roles to specific people and select who gets notified. It is both a video conferencing tool and a live chat which is really useful. The connection quality is amazing and my favorite option is simultaneous screen sharing during one call. This way, I can watch people’s streams and understand better what they are doing and what their challenges are.”
Google chat is a favorite of many businesses because of it’s clean and simple interface and no learning curve.
Brian Hart of Tug believes that Google Chat has been very helpful for communicating with colleagues about different clients.
Hart says, “As we work with a multitude of clients, having a different chat room for each client has made it the perfect tool to discuss, review, and update changes to their websites and campaigns. It is also a good way to keep everything separated and organized on multiple levels for SEO and PPC.”
Another great option for easily communicating with your team.
As Bruce Harpham of SaaS Marketing Services says, “I recommend Google Meet as a remote tool for a few reasons. The tool is robust and highly stable. Further, I like that I can call into the meeting by telephone if needed (or when bandwidth makes video problematic). Finally, clients tell me that they love the option to record video calls for review when creating content marketing campaigns.”
“Video conferencing tools like Zoom and chat solutions like Slack are essential in any remote environment, but I find that Loom is an underappreciated, game-changing tool when it comes to remote teams.
From an onboarding perspective, pre-recorded company introduction videos and role-specific “how-tos” can help streamline your new-hire process tremendously.
As a manager, you can use Loom to walk through step-by-step tasks for a direct report that may be tasked with an assignment that they are unfamiliar with.
Lastly, Loom is an excellent tool for troubleshooting problems. Can’t hop on a Zoom call with someone? No problem. Record the issue you are facing and send over the Loom link.
Loom is intuitive, easy to use, and can help get your remote team on the same page in a clear, personal way when video conferencing isn’t an option.” Explains Datis Mohsenipour of HeyOrca.
Pearl Lemon’s Deepak Shukla is also a huge fan of Loom. Shukla explains, “Whenever a topic needs explaining, creating a quick Loom video helps to visualize the issue instead of written explanations, which can sometimes be misunderstood. I highly recommend it!”
Shaye Smith of The Center for Sales Strategy + LeadG2 says, “As a fully-remote company (for close to 10 years now), we rely heavily on digital communication. Teams allows our team (located across the country and a few outside US borders) to communicate effectively, be responsive despite the distance, and it pairs nicely with other Microsoft tools we use like Outlook.
Setting up a call with a coworker is a simple Teams chat convo, a calendar invite in Outlook with a one-click button to add the Teams meeting room in the invite, then simple access to the meeting in the calendar invite. Teams is user-friendly on both mobile and desktop and can be used within our organization or outside of it.
I also like how the chat conversation from the call is saved in the Chat tab to access links or documents from the meeting that were sent.”
Slack is one of the most widely used tools by remote teams for communication. As Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers explains, “Good communication and collaboration are essential when working remotely. Slack is a simple and intuitive tool to communicate with your team members, talk about projects, clients, and more. If you have ever used Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp at a personal level, Slack is similar but made for remote teams and it’s full of helpful features.”
Dr. Sharon Jones of The Dot Consulting says, “It has been an efficient way to communicate with my whole team and individuals without clogging up text and email. And the channel feature allows us to organize our conversations and tasks.”
Phil Strazzulla of Select Software Reviews is of the same opinion and believes communication is key when working remotely.
“We can’t simply walk down the aisle and talk to someone when we have a question. It’s especially difficult to coordinate complicated endeavors like deployments and process updates.
This is where Slack shines. More than a simple chat tool, Slack features integrations with 3rd party systems like GitHub, Datadog, and Jenkins so that Slack can even act as a communication tool for the other tools we use. It’s become the only communication tool we need.” Explains Strazzulla.
Referral Rock’s Katrina Dalao loves Slack for easy communication. “Quick questions and thoughts are always popping up throughout the workday. Slack allows you to send those out in a very natural way (that won’t get buried in someone’s inbox). Plus, even it’s free version has so much functionality!” Says Dalao.
Ramey Miller of Text Request is a big Slack user and says, “We have always used slack in the office, but now we (especially me) use it ALL the time. It’s nice because I can have 1-on-1 conversations or put things in a group chat. It just really helps everyone stay on the same page. And sending and receiving files is very easy too. Love it!”
The best part is that Slack’s recently revamped mobile app is extremely easy to use.
Alice Ray of Know Your Chickens loves that she can easily stay connected to her team via Slack’s mobile app and solve business problems instantaneously. “Slack easily enables an entire to stay connected, especially with the mobile app. You can quickly send a direct message, contact your entire team, and upload or download documents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handled a difficult business scenario ALL on Slack and ALL on the go.” Says Ray.
Mike Greenberg of MythologySource has had a great experience with Slack and says, “As a very small marketing team, we’ve recently got into using Slack to communicate with each other. Instead of the previous in-person / Skype chats.
Project management is all about juggling: resources, expectations, people, data, and much more. And as a project manager, you not only have to know where your projects are at any given moment, but you also have to be aware of where they’re going and where they need to be in the future. To do that using a project management system, you need an actionable dashboard that allows you to monitor metrics like:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our project managers, who have put together great plug-and-play Databox templates showing the most important KPIs for tracking your team’s performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in management reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your project management tool with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Slack seems to encourage much more natural conversation, and I just love the way everything is organized. It isn’t an awkward group text anymore – we have channels for everything! Not only work-related channels but also accountability, motivation, book/movie recommendations, everything.
Working with Slack has helped us by providing a balance between work and play, which keeps everyone in one place, together. It’s been the online equivalent of both meeting rooms and water cooler chats – a lifesaver in our adjustment to remote working.”
A lot of businesses found that their businesses couldn’t have survived COVID without Slack.
Fetchify’s Tracy Davis says, “Slack has been the heart of our company through the enforced working from home due to Covid. We are a small-knit company usually with a very sociable and chatty office environment.
Slack has given us the next best thing to replace that. We use the 1-2-1 messaging for conveying those instances where a quick shout across the office would have been used, we use various subject channels for both work and those water-cooler and kitchen chats about everything from last night’s TV to showing off our latest tech (and sometimes shoes!) purchases, and we use the video and call function for everything in between. We’ve onboard a number of new colleagues during this period and we could not have done it in quite as inclusive a way without Slack.”
Dai Baker of Dai Bake Creative Group LLC explains, “Slack allows my team to communicate in real-time without having to go back and forth through emails. We even have created a channel to discuss our latest binge watches and pop culture gossip to avoid overcrowding our main channel. Since incorporating Slack into our business the team has become closer and more connected. We can quickly ask questions while working on a project and brainstorm together.”
Katherine Pomeroy 45/RPM has been using and enjoying Slack well before COVID enforced working from home.
Pomeroy says, “We utilized Slack before working remotely because our small company is in 2 locations already and enjoyed its speed and directness.
Now that we all work from home, it is great for all of us to stay connected and instant communication. Our team likes that Slack has instant messaging and also calling. We’ve found that hopping on a quick call that isn’t always scheduled has been helpful for efficiency when working through a task. A call on slack for us now replicates how our in-person work environment used to work and reminds us of what it’s like to have creative brainstorms in real-time.”
Zoom has been a lifesaver for businesses in the e-learning space.
As Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging says, “I’m a teacher. I teach all my lessons on Zoom. I am able to mute the students upon entry and unmute them for discussions. The chat enables us to help each other as well as verbal discussions when they have permission to unmute themselves. I was able to record my Zoom presentation for Back to School Night. I am also able to use Zoom to touch up my appearance! Zoom gives me a written transcript of the meeting so I can record participation.”
Beekeeper’s Alexandra Zamolo has been using Zoom for a long time and is well acquainted with the many benefits this tool offers.
“Many companies just started using Zoom during the pandemic. However, we’ve been using Zoom for a long time, either for company conversations or meetings with clients. It literally offers the ability to have a meeting anytime, anywhere, and with whoever you want to include.” Explains Zamolo.
Ari Haas of Dijy found Zoom to be even more user-friendly than Slack.
“While many aren’t even aware it exists, we moved from Slack to Zoom chat as it offers a simpler, less distracting environment with some additional features like the ability to send voice notes and their growing marketplace of integrations.” Explains Haas.
“We are BIG Zoom and Slack fans here at Arcane. We were prepared by design to work remotely before COVID changed the work landscape, but these tools have become even more important to us as we’ve gone from 3 offices to ~50.” Says Qyn Bayley-Hay of Arcane Digital.
“It’s easier to convince a prospect about my services when I’m talking to them via video or in-person than via chat.
Calendly helps me schedule zoom meetings and ensure I don’t double-book myself. It’s a great way to stay organized and on-top while working from home.” Chima Mmeje of Zenith SEO Copywriting Service explains.
Regular video conferences can be boring and a little taxing for mental health, so adding virtual backgrounds is a great way to add some fun to your virtual calls.
As Jake Fisher of Bridges Strategies says, “Anyvoo makes a compact and portable background that looks amazing. Mine looks like an attractive wood wall with my company’s logo. Paired with some lights, a quality mic, and webcam just above my eyes, it makes my Zoom calls pop!”
Zoom background also offers a plethora of fun backgrounds to use and amp up your meetings.
Tamas Torok of Coding Sans says, “Working remotely requires an increased number of meetings. Not just because work needs to be coordinated but also for the team’s mental health. But these meetings should be boring check-in calls. Why not have some fun while syncing with your team? When I use Zoom, I always add a virtual background. For finding cool background images I’m browsing Zoombackground.io, which is a free background directory where images are organized into different categories so it’s easy to find the appropriate background for every call.”
Alicja Olko of CandyBar has been using Airtable for project management and team collaboration for quite some time now, and loves how easy it is to use.
“Our outreach team works on multiple projects and Airtable comes in as a handy tool to manage various collaborations. I especially like the option to comment and tag partners, and different drop-down menus. It makes managing partnerships a more enjoyable process.” Explains Olko.
Asana is a web and mobile application designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work. And it’s a widely popular tool used by businesses to manage their remote teams.
Taylor Wilson of Movers Chicago says, “The Asana project and task management software has been a key part of our company’s growth the last 6 months. This cloud-based software allows us to organize various projects and the tasks that make up those projects. At any given time we can see where we are with a project, who it is assigned to, and their status. Our staff likes it because it is easy to use and they can access it on their cell phones or laptops. The cost is also very affordable for our team.”
Majo Daly of DeltaV Digital uses Asana regularly and says, “Asana has helped me track my progress and achievements on my various projects. Both I and my team utilize the “status update” feature frequently to keep updated with the projects’ changes, progress, discussions, or feedback. I believe this feature has helped tremendously when working remotely. Overall, I recommend to any team, working in the office or remotely, to give Asana a try.”
Why is Asana a must for all businesses?
As Dr. Colette Widrin of Balance Blends explains, “Staying organized is imperative, which is why Asana is a MUST when you need to keep track of your projects, assign tasks and look at your entire week or month at a glance. Additionally, you can share documents, have discussions, and keep up with your to-dos with individual tasks.”
Breadnbeyond’s Andre Oentoro explains why their favorite remote work tool is Asana. “It helps us organize our teams and tracks our progress. Overall it keeps us in check when it comes to tasks and we are able to assign tasks to others with ease. The sense of accomplishment after we finish a task is rewarded with cute stickers and small animations, so that’s something we enjoy as well.” Says Oentoro.
Ryan Abrams of Strattic is a big fan of this work management tool and says, “Asana used to be just a task list for us, but since we closed our office and transitioned to remote, the ability to centralized our comments, discussions and tracking around each specific task/initiative has been a game-changer.”
Daniel Reeves of Dandy Marketing is of the same opinion and says, “Asana allows us to stay on top of all our client work. We’ve been using this since day one for our remotely operating digital marketing agency.
Asana allows us to have everything in one place, and it’s very easy to use with new recruits picking it up and running with it easily.
One of my favorite things is the ability to create custom fields, we’ve set these up to highlight the priority of tasks, the progress of tasks, and completion rate so we can easily keep an eye on how things are progressing for the month and if we need to move things around.
Honestly, I would not be able to do what we do without Asana!”
If you’re part of the online business world or have been forced to become part of it because of COVID, then chances are you’ve probably heard of Basecamp.
As Software Advice explains, “Basecamp is a real-time communication tool that helps teams stay on the same page; it’s less for traditional project management tasks (e.g., resource planning and long-term scheduling). With to-do-lists, calendaring, due dates, and file-sharing, Basecamp provides a way for teams to keep track of priorities and actionable items.”
“We use Basecamp for EVERYTHING. It holds our client files, our project-related emails, internal conversations by project, and the files needed to share and complete projects. It also helps keep our team on schedule and allows management to get daily reviews of activity across the tool, preventing wasted time in asking for updates.” Explains Sanju Ganglani of gang&lani media.
Denny Putsh of Hitting the Golf Ball says, “We’ve been a fully remote company for a couple of years now and we’ve tried several project management software. However, only once we found ClickUp were we able to retire our umpteen spreadsheets in just as many different locations. This has been a game-changer for accountability and clarity of communication.”
Mayank Gulati of ContentNinja loves this project management tool and says, “We’ve always had around 30-40% of our team working remotely. Over the pandemic, our business (surprisingly) grew like crazy – the right processes paired with this tool made a ridiculously large impact on our project management and reporting.”
Founded in the early 2000s, Confluence is a popular remote-friendly team workspace tool.
As Cassandra Damascus Clipboard Health says, “Confluence is a web-based company wiki. Employees can post and describe the projects they’re working on and the results of said project. Department processes are stored in Confluence for easy reference, as well as logins to various platforms we use. Other times it is used to reflect on the company’s mission and progress. It is truly the holy grail for Clipboard Health.
As a 100% remote company, it’s important to have a “home base” and source of truth. Plus, it’s easy to use, search, and integrates with Jira.”
Mimi Banks is a big fan of Monday.
“Amazing tool where we can create ‘boards’ by project, assign roles, tasks, share links, and track progress. It has become an essential part of how we work. This way, we do not have to follow up and ask if something is done because we can check on Monday and then add a comment to a thread if we need to and/or add/modify or comment on a task. We manage multiple projects and multiple clients.
This tool helps us manage deadlines and have a central location for all related tasks, comments. Everyone on the team can add to each task, clarify and comment – adding to productivity!” Explains Banks.
“Zoho CRM is an amazing remote work tool that has been incredibly helpful for my team (especially during a pandemic) and me for scheduling meetings, file and screen sharing, project management, emailing, and audio-video calling.
Zoho CRM is easily customizable, flexible, and above all, easy to use for everyone. Zoho CRM is the best platform to manage business remotely, and it provides advanced functionalities to the user to easily solve business problems. Zoho has an incredible amount of features, from tagging contact to social media integration and email capabilities.” Explains InVivo Biosystems Shawn Lockery.
As Akash Makwana of Photocopier Compare explains, “Trello is one of the best remote tools we’ve used as a team. We started using it with our developers first then applied the same framework to every function across the business. It’s easy to use, visually appealing and their mobile apps are fantastic.”
Egor Matveev of inSegment prefers Trello over all other remote collaboration tools.
“It helps us organize tasks, visualize priorities, and have every internal document available in a very easy fashion, in a single click most of the time. However, success in remote work is ALWAYS more than just one tool, it’s a combination of solutions almost 101% of the time. It comes down to streamlining your business processes with the tools that are right for you and upset as few people as possible.” Explains Matveev.
“Hubstaff is a time-tracking application that is installed to track activity levels and take screenshots. Employees can name a certain project while Hubstaff tracks time and activity every other minute. Eventually, all screenshots and activities will be uploaded in the application, giving you a more accurate report of how much time each task takes and how efficient a person is.
At the same time, there would be a time-check for employees and a better report for each pay period. With a time tracking tool, you have a realistic picture of how long certain projects take, giving you the benefit of knowing the best timeline for certain tasks and what particular task does this person enjoys the most.” Explains Daisy Jing of Banish.
Franco Colomba of Rankable is a big fan of Hubstaff app too and says, “I’m able to track and pay independent contractors but the best part, unlike many of the other software online to track time, Hubstaff monitors each contractor work, and this way I can minimize slacking off and payroll thieves and instead have high impact work done for what I’m paying each contractor hourly wage.”
Jack Paxton at VYPER loves that Hubstaff is an all-in-one productivity monitoring solution. “Hubstaff is an online tool that offers multiple services like recruitment, staff management, and project management. It is an all-in-one solution that allows me to recruit, train, manage, and pay new remote staff. There’s also the option to track time and make payments directly from Hubstaff.
I previously used Trello for all my project management needs. Hubstaff has a similar service called Hubstaff Tasks built into its impressive feature set. I can create and assign projects and tasks to remote staff. Templates and checklists are great for ensuring every task is completed within a project. I also include tutorials within my templates, which makes it easy for newbies to get started with a project.” Explains Paxton.
“Yaware is a simple employee time-tracking tool without unwanted details. In the Lasting Trend, we allow remote workers to use the Pomodoro technique that increases their performance. Yaware is one of the few time-trackers that use pause and hour-counting math that perfectly fits with such a technique. Evaluating time-tracking into the motivation gainer tool is a great deal for all companies.” Explains Illia Yakymchuk of Lasting Trend
Google Docs is hands down one of the best remote tools for editing, writing, and document collaboration.
As Tihana Drumev of Best Response Media says, “Google Docs & Sheets are really basic and simple in terms of remote collaboration. And that’s why I love them. Everyone can see what you’re working on, leave comments, and edit if necessary. You can share it with the client as well by just sending a link.
We connected it with Slack so a notification pops up every time someone leaves a comment so I don’t even have to open it from my email.”
“Even though it’s almost a classic, nothing beats Google Drive when it comes to storing documents, images, or anything else you can imagine. Plus, the handy app you can download to your smartphone means that it’s even within reach when you’re on the go.” Angela Hope of UpFlip explains.
Nikola Roza is also a big fan of Google Drive and says, “My team uses Google Drive and it has helped us tremendously. Because Google Drive is an easy-to-use tool that helps in work coordination and getting things done.
So, I currently have 3 people working with me, and we’re all in different countries. But thanks to our shared Google Drive, each person has access to their assignments and can also make edits, suggestions, and so on.
Google Drive is especially powerful when combined with Asana. We use Asana to schedule work, and Google Drive to complete the allotted tasks.”
“Remembering a password can be a real pain and distracting a coworker with the infamous question “what’s the password for…” is even worse.
Since implementing Lastpass we haven’t had these questions anymore. Whenever any account is opened, the details are put straight into Lastpass for future reference.
This simple addition has centralized our passwords and eliminated those unnecessary distractions.” Explains Alex Cannon of Accordably
As Muhammad Mateen Khan of PureVPN explains, “Hardly a week goes by these days without news of yet another security breach involving stolen passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive data.
Hackers are getting more advanced, we all have too many passwords to remember, and most of us would rather clean the toilet than change our passwords again.
That’s where a password manager comes in. It reduces one of the biggest security risks—using the same password on multiple sites—by storing all your (unique) passwords in an encrypted database secured by the only password you have to remember. Just make that master password as long and complex as possible.
At PureVPN, we use 1Password because the app doesn’t require you to store the password database on someone else’s server.”
Working from home and managing remote teams is not all fun and games. There’s a lot that can go wrong, so investing in effective management tools is a great way to overcome challenges that come with remote work.
Which one of these tools would you like to invest in right away?
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