Easy-to-use Productivity Tools for Remote Teams
Recent lockdowns, community quarantine, and travel restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) underscore the need for entrepreneurs and organizations across the world to quickly adapt to rapidly changing times. Thanks to the abundance of new digital technology and innovations, work can be easier for everyone regardless of geographical boundaries and time zones. Below are just some of the easy-to-use tools to help your team better adapt and collaborate through a remote work setup.
Collaboration and Brainstorming
What is it: TeamRetro is a brainstorming tool specifically designed for retrospective meetings where teams look back at a recent project to evaluate what went well, what went wrong, areas for improvement, and further actions to be taken by the team among others.
What is it best used for: Members collaborate in one board where ideas can be color-coded by topic or person, and items are easily grouped through a drag-and-drop function. There are also auto-suggestions for possible categorization of each encoded item. This saves time for organizing information so the team can have more time to discuss important matters.
Why it’s awesome: One key feature of TeamRetro encourages transparency and greater participation among team members as it allows feedback and votes to be sent anonymously. This way, the team can remain objective in decision-making and evaluation.
The session summary and individual tasks can be sent via e-mail or integrated with other existing workflows like the use of project management tools Trello or Slack.
How can you get it: There are 4 TeamRetro subscription plans to cater to organizations of different sizes. It’s most basic plan is limited to 1 team. The Small Org plan can accommodate 3 teams, while the Large Org can accommodate up to 6 teams. Custom pricing is available for larger enterprises. Learn more about TeamRetro plans here.
Collaboration and Project Management
What is it: Trello is a project management tool that has a simple user interface, making it perfect and easy to use for people who are not so tech savvy, and just starting with remote work.
What is it best used for: Trello can be used in multiple ways like tracking your team’s assignments or managing several aspects of a project. In one Trello board, you can have multiple lists or categories, and under each list, you can have several items called “cards.” You can expand each card to input more details, descriptions, comments, checklists, and even assign tasks to specific members of your team. You can also set a due date for each task, and have Trello automatically send deadline reminders to team members via e-mail.
Why it’s awesome: Trello is a simple yet versatile tool that allows you to visually map the progress of a project. Unlike some tools, Trello works perfectly well on both mobile and desktop devices so you can still use the app whenever you’re on the go. The Trello mobile application also automatically syncs your offline data once you go back online.
How can you get it: Anyone can start with a free Trello for an unlimited period. The free subscription has up to 10 team boards, and each file attachment is limited to 10 MB. Business class and an Enterprise account allow you to have unlimited boards, and enable you to connect more productivity tools. Learn more about Trello plans here.
What is it: Toggl is one of the time tracking tools for monitoring the time you spend for each task, project, or client.
What is it best used for: Toggl starts tracking time from when the user clicks the “start” button until the “stop” button when a task is finished. You can also prompt the timer using keyboard commands or other action triggers. Data reports generated by this tool allow users and team leaders to see where time is invested per project and user, and identify possible bottlenecks.
Why it’s awesome: Toggl is also used by team managers to track members’ tasks and billable hours without having to constantly check in on everyone.
How can you get it: The free plan can accommodate teams with up to 5 members, while paid plans are billed for each added user. Larger enterprises can also avail of custom pricing and additional services. Learn more about Toggl pricing here.
What is it: Slack is a business messaging tool that has managed to merge instant messaging, and a suite of business tools available for integration. This has made slack an ideal messaging platform for remote teams as it allows you to share files, and easily access other business tools.
What is it best used for: Instead of exchanging multiple emails on different topics, teams using slack can organize conversations, and easily collaborate by funneling exchanges through conversation channels. Users can create channels for each topic or team. This also makes it easier to search for information and specific messages. You also have controls over notifications for each channel or message topic, and even set time for when you wish to receive alerts.
Why it’s awesome: Although slack is commonly used in professional team settings, its user interface is simple, light, and vibrant, with several customization tools and fun reaction emojis, bringing more life into your chat experience.
How can you get it: The free plan has a limited integration and only lets you access 10,000 most recent messages. Upgrading to paid plans expands your storage space to up to 10 GB per person. It can also host unlimited voice and video calls with up to 15 participants on paid service, plus a screen sharing function. See Slack pricing here.
What is it: Zoom is a video conferencing tool that sets out to make online conferences, such as team meetings, training sessions and webinars, run smoothly.
What is it best used for: Aside from a chat window, multiple participants can also simultaneously share their screens with the group which makes for a more collaborative and interactive conference. Another helpful feature is the ability to record your sessions. There’s also a transcript ready right after the call.
Why it’s awesome: As a company with a vision to accomplish more, Zoom offers an affordable way to help teams stay engaged, thanks to its unlimited number of meetings, and relatively smooth video conferencing service. The platform also allows the host to split the meeting into breakout rooms for smaller discussions.
How can you get it: Zoom’s free subscription plan allows you to host up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes per session. Upper tier plans— Pro, Business, and Enterprise, have more features, and can accommodate up to 1,000 participants at a time. Learn more about Zoom pricing here.
Focus and Impact
What is it: Stay focused and be present. That’s Forest app’s tagline but not only does it help you stay focused on the task at hand, it also gives you a way to help the environment by planting real trees.
What is it best used for: To stay productive, set the number of minutes you intend to stay focused through the app. A seed will be planted when the countdown starts. If you succeed in not using your phone until the time lapsed, your tree will grow in your virtual forest. Each grown tree also earns you virtual coins which you can use for in-app purchases such as tree species and background music for when you are planting. On the other hand, leaving the app halfway through your timer will cause your tree to wither and die.
Why it’s awesome: Reaching 2,500 virtual coins allows you to plant a tree through a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future. The Forest app donates to the organization through tree planting orders. To date, over 700,000 trees have already been planted since the partnership began. So far, each user can plant up to 5 real trees.
More than a motivational rewards game, the Forest app can help you finish more tasks, be present to focus on more important things in life, and even make a positive impact on the planet.
How can you get it: Forest app is available on Google Play and Apple App Store. It can also be added as a chrome extension here.
How about you? What other productivity tools is your team using?
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