At Standups.io we are a fully distributed team, spread across different time zones. And for us it's clear that distributed and remote work is here to stay, and that it is the future of work. The benefits of remote work are many:
- Bigger talent pool
- Work flexibility
- Better health, both physical and mental (less stress, flexibility for hobbies)
- Deep work with increased productivity by doing asynchronous communication
- Less commuting
- Lower costs
- …and many more
In order to leverage its benefits you will need to pick the right set of tools to use within your team. Here’s the list of our favorite tools for doing remote work at our company:
1. Team Chat
Since the early days of open-source, chat has been a great way —along with email— to communicate and work. Most developers from OSS projects used to discuss about work in IRC channels. Slack is now the de-facto work chat tool, as they knew how to take IRC and make it better with an integrations ecosystem. It is a great tool and they have raised 1.2 billion in venture capital.
To be the most popular work chat tool out there does not mean it is the best tool for remote teams: to do remote work right, you have to instill an asynchronous —non real-time— culture when communicating. It's about forgetting to write in the micromanagement style of “Hey John, are you there?”. It means no meaningless interruptions, and less notifications on your day. This will help your team to achieve deep work which is essential for a distributed culture. Here’s where Twist comes into play. Twist solves one of the main issues from Slack: thread organization and interruptions. A special focus in less notifications encourages deep work by default.
2. Daily Catch-up
Working from different locations has helped us a lot to shape our product for distributed teams. We use it daily to update each other with short video messages, no matter where we're currently located in the world. With the mobile app I can update my team before catching a flight, or from a coffee shop, and the rest of the team gets to see my update as their day goes by around the globe.
Extra tip: If you want to get a better grasp of where your remote team members are, with their current time and location, then check out the the members list popup. It’s great for getting an overview of your team around the world. You even get to see a night background 🌙 if it's already late night at their locations.
3. Project Management
I have been using Asana since 2012, and I liked it since the beginning. The product has evolved in many areas in the last years. We have tried tools such as Pivotal Tracker & ProductBoard but we prefer Asana’s design. They have native mobile apps that perform well and allow you to review things on the go. Asana covers different use cases, not only software projects. You can try it as well for other processes and teams within your distributed company. All in all it's been great for managing the development at Standups.io and we’re happy to include it in this list.
4. Internal Documentation
Notion is definitely the best tool we’ve found for writing our internal documentation. To build our knowledge base we used /pages/ with links for to navigate the documentation in an easy way. Notion is very powerful: you can use it for many more things than docs:
- it has boards, which you can use to track progress in projects
- databases, in the Airtable style
- …and many other features and use cases.
Take a look a Notion Pages by Ben Lang to get inspired and find other useful ways to use it within your remote team.
5. Live Calls
There are many tools for doing video and audio calls. We have tried a lot of them with mixed results, but so far Zoom is the most stable tool we’ve found for doing our calls. Zoom has features like:
- recording: great for keeping important meetings for revisiting later in time
- and it also has native apps for macOS and iOS, which is what we use here at Standups.io.
Google Hangouts is good but calls usually break a bit which is usually associated to the use of WebRTC. The quality of WebRTC is very limited for doing live video. Zoom's algorithm for video transmission is just better, they somehow leverage UDP in a better way than WebRTC does. We need stability for our video calls, so that’s why we stick to Zoom.
6. Team Building
We use Bonusly, as it is a great tool for team building and for improving our company culture. It helps us show appreciation in our team and helps build a feeling of common purpose. It is important to recognize employees in public, and more when you are a distributed company. Your employees will appreciate to get bonuses that add up to bigger rewards.
We could use Microsoft Office —which is great— but we already use Google Apps. The features available on Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are enough for our team. The collaboration features work well for us and it’s been around for a long time. Google Docs is perfect for writing and reviewing documents in the team.
8. File Storage
There are many great tools for data storage out there, like Box or Dropbox, but we love using Google Drive. It is great to be able to edit a document using Google Docs, straight from their web list view. As we mentioned before, we use Google Apps and for us it makes sense to use what’s available within our paying plan. Their mobile apps are great too, very well crafted, they work great on the iPad.
9. Managing Passwords
Keeping passwords safe within your teams is crucial for your company’s security. 1Password help to generate safe passwords and stores them in a secure way. We trust 1Password and use it every day.
10. Time Tracking
I know the founder at Tyme in person, and it’s great to see how they've grown the app until today. Their UI is great, and it has support for full teams. They have great iOS and watchOS apps and we love using them.
Tyme is at the moment available only on Apple devices, so in case you want to try a multi-platform app, we can recommend another great tool we’ve used in the past: Toggl.
We enjoy using these tools, as they really help us to run our distributed team. Remote work is not yet the standard but many companies are starting to grasp the benefits from it. There are not enough tools embracing distributed and remote work in the right way and this is key for us at Standups: to be distributed first.
It’s going to be exciting to see the next generation of tools that will come to help distributed and remote companies in whole new different ways.