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Collaboration Tools Driving Today’s Remote Workforce

on June 17, 2015

There are many benefits of remote-working and a vast array of tools available to facilitate the process. Which tools should you use?

The rapid evolution of technology has reduced the need for teams working on computer-based and virtual projects to physically be working in the same location. And this is a trend that is only going to increase, as a survey of executives from the Global Leadership Summit strongly suggests. Thirty-four percent of respondents believe more than half of their company’s full-time employees will be working remotely by 2020. This says a lot for the case for remote workers, who are reported to work nine and a half percent longer and be 13 percent more productive than their office-based counterparts. This also bodes well for the continued acceptance of the technology which has made it possible to communicate with remote workers, as well as manage projects effectively.

So with clear evidence of the benefits of remote-working and a vast array of tools available to facilitate the process, there is only one question left to answer—tools are the best? Here are some that help facilitate three of the most important elements of effective remote working: Communication; File Sharing; and Project Management.

Communication

Skype is the most well-known consumer video tool and is often underexploited. As well as being a service the majority of your team will likely already use in their personal life, Skype boasts a range of features including video, voice and text chat, to keep you connected completely for free. Unfortunately Skype is not known for having the best quality or having enterprise features knowledge workers need to collaborate with their teams. This has changed with the release of Skype for Business. Microsoft’s update to Lync 2013 and rebrand brings those tools sets even closer together with enterprise voice, higher quality video, IM, presence and file sharing options integrated with corporate standards. Polycom video, voice and content solutions integrate natively with Skype for Business.   If your business is looking for HD quality and fantastic features outside of Lync or Skype for Business, we recommend solutions from Lifesize and Vidyo for smaller organizations. For larger operations Cisco offers complete solutions with the highest quality available.

File Sharing

When it comes to sharing documents and you’re not already using OneDrive with Office 365, look no further than Dropbox. With an online interface that allows synchronization with desktop applications for offline access, along with its integration with a multitude of other online project management services, nothing comes close to Dropbox for accessibility and ease of use. The tool is available for free if you require less than 2.5mb of space, or if you need more—opt for a business account at a cost of $795 a year for a 5-user team. You will soon recoup your costs in hours of saved time and effort. 

Project Management & Team Collaboration

There is no shortage of project and task management tools out there, and Trello is in many areas a cut above the rest. Through its visual and intuitive interface or “boards,” you can collaborate, organize, and plan projects with a team of individuals. There are even public facing boards you can share with clients. And, perhaps best of all—it’s completely free to sign-up. If you do require Trello’s additional features, upgrade to business class at their annual rate of $45 per user.

For enterprise features including security, group messaging and team based collaboration, Cisco’s Spark offers online workspaces that integrate content, messaging, video and meeting spaces that bring remote teams and knowledge workers together. Like Trello, Spark is free to get started, enterprise features come at an additional price.

The world is connected, no matter what the location. Companies that fail to recognize and embrace this notion will be quick to fall behind. Try operating a virtual office today with these tools, and you’ll soon see what the reduction in operating costs and improvement in employee productivity can do for your business.