It’s no secret that more companies are exploring the benefits of offsite employees than ever before. The popularity of the remote office has exploded. It improves productivity, it encourages personal creativity, and it cuts way down on costs (for both employer and employee).

Of course, there’s something to be said for the ability to simply walk over to a coworker and ask him or her a question, or ask for immediate feedback. If you’re thinking of making a switch to a remote office environment, the first thing you need to consider is: how will my team members be able to talk to each other?

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of remote worker collaboration tools out there to help your staff stay in constant communication. Below are some of the top ones we’ve used or researched.

Slack

Slack is, without a doubt, our most-used communication device. I frankly don’t know how we’d get on without it. On top of the obvious feature of immediate communication, it also allows us to organize our conversations by topic, create private chatrooms, and download a full history of everything said. Every client has their own chatroom, or “channel,” so conversations stay on-topic and can be more easily referenced. We can search chat history, upload code snippets and images, and integrate it with other tools we use, like Hangouts and Asana. It’s even got a very slick mobile app for Android and iPhone.

Slack

Image courtesy of Software.com

What’s more, Slack is our virtual water cooler. We “clock in” by greeting the team each morning, and we “clock out” by saying goodnight. We run a #general channel too where anything goes: we chat about vacation plans, we complain about the heat of the San Diego summer, and we share pictures and videos of our kids and pets. In other words, we talk enough to feel like a real, bona fide team – even though many of us haven’t even met each other! Effective remote worker collaboration tools enable and facilitate relationships, and for that, Slack is one of the best.

Skype

Skype is the old stand-by for remote communication. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s still a top contender. While we utilize Slack as our day-to-day team base of communication, Skype has its benefits as well, the most obvious and widely used of which is the ability to hold conference video calls during which you can share your screen if you choose.

Skype

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Skype boasts many of the same features as other chat tools: private chats, group chats, away messages, file and image sharing, searchable history, and so on. That said, a lot of the more finite customization options available in tools like Slack are missing from Skype, and initiating a phone call is only free if you’re calling another Skype user directly. The software also isn’t at all shy about shoving advertisements at you – some even with sound! However, its popularity alone is enough for us to keep it in our daily rotation.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is our favorite tool for web conferencing. It’s more convenient for us internally than it is to use as a sharing tool for clients, but it’s so quick and easy that it’s become our favorite for video chats. Hangouts integrates directly and seamlessly with Slack, meaning we can start a group video chat simply by typing a few words into any channel in Slack and hitting “Enter.” It’s extremely convenient when we need to discuss something that’s easier explained “in person” than via chatroom.

Google Hangouts

Image courtesy of Makeuseof.com

Hangouts has most of the same video features as Skype, like screen sharing, with some other nice features Skype doesn’t have, one being remote assistance – an incredibly useful tool when working with a client. What’s more, Hangouts allows you to make free phone calls to anyone in the US or Canada, with heavily discounted calling rates to anyone international. This tool is invaluable; it means I can call anyone on my team for free, right from my computer. I don’t even have to have my phone nearby – just my computer’s microphone.

join.me

join.me is the single easiest way to create a spontaneous video conference outside your network. If an impromptu meeting springs up with a client with whom we want to share visuals, we’ll head right to join.me and start a conference. It takes only a few seconds and a small cross-platform download; within a single minute, we’re set up and rolling, every time.

JoinMe

Image courtesy of join.me

join.me allows you to share screens and remotely control others’ desktops. The service offers several pricing tiers, but the first thirty minutes of any conference are free – a terrific value for teams like ours that pride themselves on keeping meetings short, succinct, and infrequent.

What Remote Worker Collaboration Tools Work Best?

Despite the brilliance of the remote worker collaboration tools discussed above, what works best for our team is not necessarily what will work best for yours! Ours is definitely not a one-size-fits-all industry. The wonderful result of that is a plethora of tools often tailor-made to your unique situation.

What tools does your remote team use to talk to one another in real time? What makes those tools awesome for you? We want to hear about it! And if you’ve been seeking solutions for your remote team members, look no further. The ones listed above will serve you well!