Working in a remote team shouldn't have to be more painful than working in an office.
And with the right remote team communication tools, it doesn't have to be.
What Are Remote Communication Tools?
Remote communication tools range from basic corporate messaging functionality (like say Skype or Facebook Messenger in your personal life but with higher levels of security built-in) to software products that help to manage complex projects.
Most remote teams will incorporate more than one such tool in order to make remote work communication easier depending on the exact needs of the team at any given time.
Zoom is a great tool that many remote workers found themselves becoming familiar with during the course of the pandemic.
It's a great collaboration tool that lets team members get the best face-to-face virtual meeting experiences.
You can try Zoom for free and it's reasonably priced (up to $19.99 a month) to use long-term.
In addition to video conferencing, you can use Zoom as a screen-sharing tool and also for call recording.
The entire team will benefit from zoom and it's one of the top remote work tools for a good reason.
However, we should note that it's prone to glitching out at times, particularly when you record or playback and even on calls, sometimes the video and audio aren't the best.
Microsoft Teams: Collaborative Communication
Teams is a bit of an upgrade from Zoom and it acts in a similar fashion to Slack.
It's designed to allow you to chat and create channels that allow for day-to-day communication and instant messaging is easy.
You can track conversations happening across the entire company when needed or connect with an individual team member and stay connected with them easily.
We love that it's fully integrated with Microsoft's other tools too. If your remote team tools need MS support, there's no better option for a remote team collaboration tool than Teams.
You can use it for voice and audio calling and, assuming you use Outlook, it works brilliantly for meeting scheduling too.
The downside, however, is that you're using Google Docs, Google Drive, or other non-Microsoft software, Teams is very limited in functionality.
Google Hangouts: Messaging And Video Calls
If you need a team chat app and your remote team works with G Suite, Google Docs, or Google Drive then Google Hangouts is going to be a great choice.
It has very little learning curve and video calls and messaging can be easily handled with just a few clicks.
It offers excellent Google applications integration and, in fact, Hangouts “hangs out” in your Gmail Inbox.
It's easy to separate the personal from the private in Hangouts and keeping conversations with other team members separate from those with friends won't be a problem.
However, it's not really up to conference calls and heavy levels of remote communication, it's best for instant messaging and informal video chats.
Slack: Fully Featured Team Communication Software
Many remote teams would simply cease to function without Slack, it's the best known of the remote communication tools and it ensures everyone in your distributed teams stays on the same page as they work.
You can make voice calls on slack, send messages from any member of the virtual team to any other, and it's fantastic for file sharing especially when working remotely.
One of the best things about Slack is the ability to use it as a light project management tool and you can add apps and integrations galore to the setup, this goes a long way beyond the functionality of say, Microsoft Teams.
It's free to get started and the cost of Slack scales with your usage.
One thing we would note though is that sometimes Slack can become too much of a “virtual office”, if people become overly reliant on this or other remote work software for all their communication then remote employees end up with “communication fatigue” and they start to miss out on the overall context of things.
GoToMeeting: Video Conference Specialists
The ultimate virtual space for a video conference is GoToMeeting.
You get plenty of on-screen drawing tools that allow remote meetings to feel like meetings and it's much easier to organize than a bunch of endless audio and video calls between team members.
Once everyone's virtually in the “same room” the audio and visual quality of calls in GoToMeeting is outstanding.
We really love that it generates an automated transcript of the meeting which can be shared after the call, we found that had a real benefit to a team's productivity and made it easier to focus on contributing rather than note-taking.
If you've ever worked remotely then you'll know just how challenging remote collaboration can be for larger remote teams, this is an absolutely invaluable way to go about it.
It's reasonably priced too.
However, as with many remote working tools, it's not completely without issues and Mac compatibility isn't perfect.
Basecamp 3: Remote Team Project Management Tool
There is, perhaps, no better project management software than Basecamp which is now in Version 3.
If you want to manage projects with large teams over multiple time zones and with plenty of cloud storage for file sharing and task management, this is your go-to option.
It's really easy to organize tasks, create projects and manage ongoing projects with Basecamp.
It has strong documentation management functionality which is essential for remote work and the cloud storage platform which underpins it is excellent.
If you're a project manager looking for collaboration tools in a medium-large office space, then Basecamp 3 is great.
However, we would note that this application sometimes makes it hard to transfer and update documentation.
We'd like to think fixing that is on Basecamp's to-do list for the next version.
Other Project Managing Options:
This is a complex area and there are other software packages that handle projects well that go beyond the scope of this article including Asana, Slab, Clubhouse, etc.
Dialpad (Was Uber Conference): Simple Screen Sharing And Video Conferencing
Tools for remote work don't need to be complicated and Dialpad is one of the simplest and easiest to use remote team packages that we tested.
If you want to share screens, do a bit of conference calling, record and playback what's been said, and have mobile device access and where a remote worker doesn't need to memorize a PIN to take part in the team's remote calling, Dialpad is more than enough.
It's great for organizations of all sizes and it's intuitive to fit it into any kind of remote work process.
However, there can be problems with connecting at times and for some reason, you have to use the Chrome browser if you want to share your screen.
FreeConference: Minimalist Web Conferencing
If you need to get started in a hurry, we don't think there's a much simpler conferencing tool to learn to use than FreeConference.
And that makes it ideal for remote work uses when the team has a lot on their plate and no bandwidth to spend on picking up new skills.
However, as you might expect – it's not packed with features. It is free, though, which is awesome.
Join.me: Browser-Based Conferencing
One of the nice things about Join.me is that you don't need to install anything on the user's machine for it to work, you just navigate to their site, log in and it's ready to go.
There's not much to it, however, and it's fine for some basic sharing of screens or conference/video calling.
It's the ideal platform for collating instant feedback when rolling out something new with your marketing team, for example.
The downside is that it's not really suited for remote team management and we had really problems with getting clear video and audio in our tests.
You'll find it's hard to get it working in conjunction with Google Calendar too.
Gather: Browser-Based Video Chatting
There's a lot to like about Gather, a video chatting platform that runs in the browser.
It's super easy to customize and it has built-in games for team building.
We like how fast it is to set up meetings too. However… the audio quality isn't always the best.
There are other options for these kinds of tools too, you could also look at Fleep, Workplace by Facebook, ClickUp, Todoist, G Suite, Krisp, Loom, CamStudio, Camtasia Studio, Tandem, Tuple, Prezi, Twist, Flock and Zapier.
How Can You Improve Communication Between Remote Teams?
The best way to improve the levels of communication in remote work is to talk to your team and try to figure out what they need to make the workflow easier between them.
It's easy to rush out and buy, say, Microsoft Teams, and then find it's not really solving the particular issues your people are facing.
Software should solve problems, not create them.
You have plenty of options when it comes to making communication in remote working environments easy and we'd recommend that you take a trial of a package and test it before you commit to it.
That way you can get valuable feedback from your team on how it's impacting their job performance in a positive light.