What can be done to promote effective communication in virtual teams? Have you ever posed such a question to yourself? If yes, then this article is right on time for you. If not, well, my response would still be the same, because if to rely on industry best practices, the overwhelming majority of businesses today see the value in managing teams remotely. Thus, you should be aware of potential problems it entails in order to safeguard yourself against project mismanagement in the long run.

Having read this blog post, you will infer that knowing effective solutions to tackling the challenge of remote team communication will give you the upper hand. This time we are going to discuss some common challenges of working with remote teams and take a look at the top 12 virtual productivity tools. Here we go!

Say that your team works in California and you have to frequently travel for work around the world, or that your company manages several outsourced projects, or perhaps some of your team members work remotely from different countries.

Challenges of working with remote teams

To keep things simple, let us define key obstacles that companies face today while working with remote teams:

  • Lack of communication

Granted, this is a major problem many teams are struggling with, since miscommunication leads directly to mismanagement, project delays and low employee morale.

  • Different time zones

When the time difference consists of a few hours, it is manageable; but when your workday doesn’t overlap with your coworkers’ at all, it can cause a real difficulty because communication in real-time is then rarely achieved. Collaborating on the project and monitoring the work becomes even more complicated.

  • Separating work time from personal time

To draw this line becomes more painful when you are working directly from home as the number of distractions is higher. Yes, you may have your Slack open so that your teammates see you online, but it doesn’t presuppose that you are indeed working.

  • Getting rapid feedback

Feedback is critical for growth. To give and receive feedback is more challenging when your employees don’t share the same physical space. There are certain tools you can use to optimize this process, and we will discuss them further on.

  • Building strong relationships

To nurture relationships in virtual teams is a difficult task to do. Team-building lunches, coffee breaks and after-work drinks are barely possible. But still, you can connect emotionally with your teammates with the help of versatile GIFs and emojis. It would help make your team more cohesive and tight-knit.

The 12 best tools for effective communication in virtual teams

We won’t rehash too much here because you are probably already familiar with some of the solutions and are even implementing them in your company. But let me wow you and present to your attention a set of trendy tools grouped into several categories for your smooth understanding, so that you don’t need to look any further than this comprehensive list.

However, to make virtual teamwork work this well, you’ll need to move your team to a new set of behaviours, not just to a new generation of technology, with human engagement as the first priority.Keith Ferrazzi

Founder and Chairman, Ferrazzi Greenlight

Documentation storage tools:

  • Google Drive is one the most popular storage places among small and middle-sized companies. There are other similar cloud storage options such as Box and Dropbox. It doesn’t matter what exactly you will choose. What is important is to settle on one specific tool. When some people are storing files in Drive while others in Dropbox, it leads to documents being forever lost if someone is out sick or leaves the company.
  • Confluence is more than just a storage place for your documents; it is a team collaboration software developed by Atlassian that allows you to manage the whole lifecycle of your documentation. This encompasses creating, drafting, reviewing, publishing and storing of the documents. To put it simply, the software is aimed to accumulate and take care of your company’s knowledge.

Project management tools:

  • Trello is a powerful tool for managing remote projects, and it’s free. You may create several backlogs and organize your tasks into boards that can be divided into several categories: ‘In planning’, ‘In progress’ and ‘Done’. It is a great tool for those teams that are practicing the Scrum Agile development methodology.
  • JIRA is another commercial Atlassian product which perfectly suits large enterprises that are managing extensive IT projects which include multiple and detailed tasks. It is an issue and project tracking system that lets you keep your team productive.

Video conferencing tools:

  • Zoom Video Communications has developed an easy-to-use platform for cloud video conferencing and simple online meetings. Its basic version for personal meetings is available for free. If you want to use Zoom for regular team meetings, you need to purchase a license for the more advanced version.
  • GoToMeeting is a paid service akin to Zoom that provides online meetings, desktop sharing and video conferencing. If you compare these two products, Zoom has more third-party integrations and offers 1GB of cloud storage in comparison to GoToMeeting.

Chat tools:

  • HipChat is another great Atlassian tool designed for group chat, file sharing, video chat and screen sharing. It has a free basic version, but the advanced option (HipChat Plus) costs only $2 – not a big deal for those who want to ensure effective communication in virtual teams.
  • Slack is one of the best instant messaging and collaboration platforms for businesses. You don’t need to jump between applications anymore because, with Slack, you can bring the tools you use every day into collaboration with your teammates. Its basic version for small teams is available for free. However, for those who want to make the most of the solution, they set reasonable prices for advanced versions.

Other must-have tools:

  • LastPass is the best free plugin for managing your passwords for all online applications and stores. This tool creates strong passwords for you, remembers them and gives you secure access from every computer and mobile device. With LastPass, you only need to remember one master password in order to log in to your account to have access to your password information.
  • SwiftKey is a free keyboard application available for Android and iOS devices. It provides various colourful themes and a wide range of emojis. It can even predict which emoji you need next and change those suggestions as you keep typing.
  • Gif Camis is a great free tool that allows you to film videos to create GIFs or, alternatively, import existing videos, photos, GIFs and even live photos from your camera roll. The application also has face-tracking accessories, stickers and some pretty cool effects that you can apply.

Final words

It’s true, nothing can outshine natural communication. Having employees on-site is a big luxury nowadays. In the corporate world, however, where time is money, working with remote teams provides access to solid expertise from around the world, which is a huge benefit. In order to ensure effective communication in virtual teams, make use of the tools we listed above and elevate your business to the next level. Learn more about the best time-saving tools that can optimize daily routine tasks.

StepShot may also come in handy as a great virtual productivity tool that can tackle for you the problem of developing training materials by creating engaging screenshot-based step-by-step guides. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].