32234428_sAllowing remote working can have big benefits for your company, whether you’re an employer or an employee. The key to getting the best collaboration is to choose tools that make it simple and seamless to stay in communication. When the remote employee feels like they’re part of the office, it will lead to a much more productive relationship.

Here are some of the critical tools you’ll need to consider.

A Reliable Internet Connection

It all starts here. Almost all remote work and collaboration will take place online. If you can’t rely on your Internet connection then you’ll be missing out on being part of the team. Even if you have a generally rock-solid connection, have some backup plans in place in case of the unexpected. For instance, use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, or visit a local coffee shop if your primary connection goes down. Be sure to test your backup connection occasionally; you don’t want to be scrambling to figure out how it works if you need it.

Communication/Chat Software

Being able to quickly ask your co-workers questions, no matter where they’re located, is essential for a productive business. While email can do the job, we prefer a team chat so our employees can carry on both individual and team conversations. Be sure to also configure some group, team, or company-wide rooms, so that all employees are kept up-to-date and included on what’s happening. Some team chat tools we like are HipChat and Slack.

Meeting Software

Being able to meet with your co-workers as if you’re in the room is important. The telephone can work in a pinch, but consider video chat instead; it adds your presence to meetings in a much more obvious way. Most meeting tools allow video and screen sharing features, and some we’ve had success with are:

No matter which software you use, make sure to always incorporate it into your meetings so your remote workers feel they are a consistent part of the team.

Collaboration Software

Working on group documents doesn’t need to be a challenge with remote workers. All of the software listed above allows presenters to share their screens, so if all participants just need to follow along those can be a good option. However, if you want a more collaborative solution, some good options are:

  • Google AppsGoogle offers a powerful email and office collaboration suite that allows employees to easily share, edit, and view documents. Their Google Drive also allows you to store files on a cloud network share that can be accessed by all employees.
  • Microsoft Office/Office 365: Microsoft Office is perhaps the most prevalent office suite in use today. With a OneDrive account, users can save, share, and collaborate on Office documents amongst your team.

Get started and then stay consistent.

Most of these tools have a free trial, so you can try them out to see how well they work for your team before committing. Once you’ve made a decision on a tool, make sure that all employees, even ones in the office, are consistently using it. With a strong suite of tools in place that all employees use, eventually you may start to forget which employees are local and which are remote.