Communication Tools for Effective Remote Work

This is my first post on the blog and I would like to show you which tools we use at the remoters.net team to work remotely. We have mentioned in the past that Aleyda lives in Madrid although she travels a couple of times per month in average, Christian also lives in Madrid but it’s complicated for him to go to meetings and I live in the north of Spain although I go at least once per month to Madrid. During this time is when we try to have a time to meet and make the most to advance with pending tasks for the project.

Nonetheless, since we believe in remote work, we have been capable to launch the project and work at an ongoing basis on it while being a remotely distributed team. In fact, I have to confess that since we talked the 3 about this project (on April 28 & 29 2015) until today we have seen each other physically 9 times (9 in Madrid and 1 in Berlin when we went to DNX Global) and we have also done 5 remote meetings (each one of us at a different place). We will share with you soon what we do in these meetings, what type of tasks we focus on when we meet physically vs. the ones when we are remote.

As you can see we are capable to work remotely because of the Internet and a few communication tools that I would like to share with you today, as well as how we use them and how they have helped or challenged our journey.

Communication tools for effective work

 

Gmail

The truth is that Gmail was the first tool that we started to use for communication purposes. When we talked about this project and started to share our visions around it we exclusively used Gmail and I have to say that although it serves well to communicate it’s hard to be productive with it. We lost ourselves in millions of emails, many threads, answers, links. A chaos! Besides being impossible to identify in little time what we knew we had already talked about before. With the goal of organize better the information we started then to use Google Drive. 

Google Drive

We still use Google Docs as well as Sheets, both in Google Drive. These apps are fundamental to easily maintain shared documents, add comments in them or fill them at any time. Although is true that we lose productivity when organizing these documents, it fulfills well its collaborative functionality and it might be that the lack of productivity with it is in our own organization that in the tool itself, since when we have better defined tasks and documents we make the most out of it.

Besides using Drive for internal communication since the beginning we use it to easily gather information from others. We have used Docs to get the answers of the interviews we publish on the site. And with Sheets, we have created two collaborative documents that can be filled by anyone who knows any company hiring remotely.

For the interviews, we have moved at the end of January to Typeform, since it’s more usable for people answering the questions (we will certainly talk about this tool in the future).

Dropbox

Besides Drive, we use Dropbox to archive documents, such as images, documentation we get from third parties or Web templates. We know that Drive also offers this type of functionality, but I have a paid Dropbox account so there’s none space limitation and is the one I prefer.

In Remoters.net we work with two shared directories: One exclusive for the Remoters team and another one for documents that are shared with partners, such as the designer or front-end developer, etc. It also allows to save space on Emails as we always include a link to Dropbox instead of attaching the files directly. Like this we won’t need to erase any email, which is fundamental to search for anything we have sent in the past.

Skype

As I’ve told before, with certain frequency we do work focused conference calls. Here you can see the first one on May 10 2015:
Remoter Meeting 1

We use Skype for these conference calls and it fulfills 100% with its objective: It allows us to talk, see and chat at the same time. We use it exclusively to meet with a specified time and date, and then use the chat to share links of sites or resources we’re talking about. Sometimes we also share our screens to be more productive, as we don’t need to browse the 3 of us at the same time, but that one of us shows it to the rest.

For me this is *the* tool that allows me to connect with someone immediately and in fact, outside remoters it has been the tool I’ve used daily when working remotely with another team.

In remoters we don’t chat and I think we have never done it through Skype. We understand that at the moment we have also other projects and this tool can be a bit intrusive sometimes if you don’t use it well, or if a team member uses it without taking the other into consideration. Timezones are also a factor in this case.

Besides Skype, when we have suffered from connection issues we have also used Google Hangout for these same purposes.

Slack

The real change in the way we communicate with each other came with our star tool: Slack. This tool is designed for team communication: it allows you to create group or private conversations, and besides real time communication it allows you to save documents or images as well as to search rather easily with a powerful search functionality.

Slack has change our lives as a team, since it is the only channel of communication that we use on a daily basis between us. We created the Remoters team, to which the 3 of us belong, and we have opened Channels around each of the areas of the Web or topic where we are working at. In each channel we write ideas, things that we see or questions we have around them, and we have each conversation in the relevant channel. Like this it’s easy to search for what we have shared in the past about a specific topic. For example:

Slack de Remoters

Trello

Along Slack we also use Trello. Despite not being a communication tools, but a task management one, we use it as a perfect complement to execute the activities we talk about in Slack. Inside Trello we also clarify anything more specific needed around a task.

Gitlab

Our developer is very clear about it: He doesn’t like to use email for work related communication and avoids it as much as possible. He prefers to coordinate any issue by using Gitlab. Although this tool has many more functionalities, for us it has been a platform to communicate and coordinate development tasks with him. It offers an amazingly organized way to coordinate the development of tasks we have identified and to leave it all saved to be able to check it out whenever we want.

Gitlab

With these tools we are able to communicate ourselves and effectively develop Remoters … while working remotely! It’s important to note that:

  • All the tools have a free version. We haven’t really spent any money until today on communications tools.
  • We have our project related information, from ideas, notes, decisions; documented at one or many of these tools.
  • Our favorite one is without doubt Slack. 

We have also reviewed some of the tools that we share in this post in the Remoters tool section, check them out:

If you use a communication related tool for remote teams that we haven’t mentioned, we would love to hear about it to check it out and test it. We care about work productivity and organization; and believe it should be one of the priorities for remote teams and digital nomads, to be effective in their work.

Comments (3)

  1. We use basecamp.com, to.do list, archives, timeline, groups.. good to add to.the list 🙂

    Miguelo
    16 February, 2016 Reply
    • Thanks for proposal a new tool, Miguelo! Yes, we have to make a review about Basecamp because we use it with some clients. You will see the review soon! 🙂

      Remoters.net
      18 February, 2016 Reply
  2. Great list! I use many of them myself on a daily basis. As an alternative for Skype, check out appear.in. I love the interface and gives you great performance for video chat, without having to install software.

    Martijn
    22 February, 2016 Reply

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