Collaboration tools for remote teams

The ultimate guide from a successful distributed team

In 2020 the world of work shifted beyond recognition. Ever since, face-to-face communication has become more the outlier and less the norm.

With an estimated 27% of the U.S. workforce now working remotely––and 58% offered the opportunity to work from home at least one day per week––we’ve all started relying more heavily on collaboration tools to make things happen. But, do you know which tools will work best for your team?

Here at mmhmm.app, we work in a distributed team. One that's overcome the communications hiccups and project management hurdles you’re currently grappling with. Trying to get multiple team members working effectively, on the same page, and to the same goals when they’re spread across time zones is tricky––we get it!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share firsthand experiences and insights to help you navigate the vast array of collaboration tools available.

Ready to get your team streamlined, up to speed, and working at their best?

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that remote, distributed teams work well, and U.S. workers want more.

Why collaboration tools are essential for remote teams

We’ve seen it. Without collaboration tools, communication between remote teams breaks down and project management spirals out of control.

Coordinating meetings across different time zones, for example, becomes arduous and can hinder real-time collaboration. Take away a centralized platform, and project-related information is dispersed, causing version control issues and project delays.

The lack of visibility into ongoing projects also makes it challenging to identify bottlenecks and allocate resources efficiently.

But, collaboration tools go beyond simply easing these workflow challenges. They foster team cohesion and communication. Casual interactions—previously your chats around the water cooler or quick catch-ups at the coffee machine—and team-building activities are often overlooked in the virtual workplace. Collaboration tools bridge the geographical and social gap, enhancing efficiency, productivity, and morale.

Types of collaboration tools for remote teams

Communication tools

Communication tools are the anchors that tether teams across digital distances. Whether you want instant messaging or video conferencing, these tools adapt to diverse communication styles, providing a versatile platform for quick chats, in-depth discussions, and team-wide announcements.

As a remote team, we’d be pretty adrift without them. They nurture a sense of team connectivity and camaraderie in the virtual workspace. When we communicate effectively we’re a lot more productive—and a heck of a lot happier. Look out for apps like mmhmm, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Webex.

Project management tools

Now, let's talk about project management tools. These guide our remote team through day-to-day projects, keep us on the same page, and help us navigate tasks in priority order to ensure we never miss a deadline. They’re our virtual whiteboards—that to-do list we had when we were all in the office. Everyone is looking at the same workflow, and everyone knows what’s happening.

Asana and Trello lead the pack, offering a digital canvas where tasks align, and priorities are easily coordinated. Alongside these, commonly used tools like Monday.com, Jira, ClickUp, and Wrike ensure that the virtual workspace stays organized and efficient.

Top 10 collaboration tools for remote teams

From mmhmm's dynamic video presentations to Asana's project management prowess, and Trello's visual organization, these tools redefine how distributed teams connect and collaborate. Use them to foster camaraderie, orchestrate virtual meetings, or streamline project workflows—these tools are indispensable to remote teams. Here are some of our favorites.

Tool 1: mmhmm

mmhmm is where video communication takes center stage, but this tool isn't your average video conferencing platform. With features like dynamic backgrounds and slide-sharing, mmhmm transforms remote meetings into engaging presentations. Real distributed teams swear by its effectiveness in enhancing communication, making virtual interactions more dynamic and visually appealing.

Teambuilding.com scaled its host participation by 6x with the integration of mmhmm. They have used the tool to revolutionize their virtual training events, creating a unique and immersive experience for their clients. With mmhmm’s platform-agnostic capabilities, Teambuilder.com can meet its clients where they are––on Zoom, Meet, Teams, or wherever they prefer.


Tool 2: Asana

A powerhouse of project management, Asana is the command center for tasks and projects. Asana streamlines project workflows, keeps deadlines in check, and fosters collaboration seamlessly. It’s become one of the go-tos for distributed teams, ensuring projects stay organized and on track.

Overstock.com uses Asana to stay agile—which can be difficult when you’re a big organization. The company uses Asana to loop in groups of people onto a project, share tasks, and seamlessly track what each team is working on.


Tool 3: Slack

This messaging platform is the hub where teams connect, share ideas, and collaborate in real-time. Think of it as the virtual water cooler; Slack features channels for organized discussions and integrations that bring all your tools into one space. Distributed teams like ours praise its role in fostering a sense of camaraderie and boosting overall team morale.

Kin + Carta, a digital transformation consultancy, uses Slack to bring together its global team and present a united front to clients. The firm collaborates with its clients using the messaging platform, giving them access to globally-based strategists and creatives in one place. The result? The consultancy can utilize the best team for each client's needs, rather than the most conveniently located.


Tool 4: Microsoft Teams

Seamlessly integrated with the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams combines chat, video calls, and document collaboration in a single space. It's not just about work; it's about creating a digital office where remote teams collaborate effortlessly.

Microsoft Teams is Accenture’s leading communications and collaboration platform. By leveraging the platform’s abilities to integrate personal apps, extensions to individual meetings, and shortcuts to take action on IMs, Accenture saves its staff time and streamlines the working process. Via Teams, its staff can access common business applications, get tech help, and even access well being apps.


Tool 5: Zoom

Known for its reliable and high-quality video calls, Zoom has become a household name for virtual meetings and conferences. Features like breakout rooms and webinar hosting mean it caters to the diverse communication needs of remote teams, making virtual interactions feel as close as possible to face-to-face meetings.

Since switching to Zoom, marketing and sales giant, Acosta, has streamlined its global communications and reduced its spend on IT support. It makes use of the platform's screenshare functions and its ability to seamlessly host town-hall-style events and company announcements with up to 5,000 attendees.


Tool 6: Trello

It might be the veteran in the field, but Trello remains a steadfast choice for teams looking to organize tasks in a visually intuitive way. Its user-friendly boards and cards make remote project management and team collaboration simple.

Small business founder Lawrence Hanley credits streamlining his workflows through Trello with a 30% uptick in orders per hour. Originally running his online houseplant startup, Desk Plants, on handwritten notes and whiteboards, he needed a solution that would centralize business knowledge and ongoing work.

Separate Trello boards for Events, Sales, Marketing, Nursery Operations, and Customer Service now keep his team in the loop, projects prioritized, and allow space for the business to thrive.


Tool 7: Google Workspace

Formerly called G Suite, Google Workspace is a comprehensive suite of productivity tools that seamlessly facilitates messaging, video calls, and collaborative document editing. Its straightforward platform is simple and efficient, and a shared calendar and chat function makes this a valuable tool for effective communication between fully remote teams.

Travel company Buffalo Tours estimates that since adopting Google Workspace as their preferred collaboration tool, they’ve seen 10-15% in productivity gains and 17% in year-on-year cost savings. They report the switch to Google has reduced their email loss rate from 5% to almost zero.

Tool 8: Monday.com

This tool brings a fresh and intuitive approach to project management, providing a visual and collaborative space for teams. Its biggest strengths lie in its versatility, offering a dynamic platform where projects come to life, tasks are managed effortlessly, and deadlines are met with precision.

For Flight Centre Travel Group, having the entire Corporate Technology Team collaborating on one platform via Monday.com saves the business 517 monthly working hours—the equivalent of over $17,000.

The main gains come from being able to track, analyze, and report on data in one place—rather than logging into several different systems to perform the same task, and teams working across several different initiatives now have access to the same live data.


Tool 9: Jira

Tailored for software development teams, Jira streamlines project tracking and issue management in an Agile environment, ensuring seamless collaboration and efficient delivery of software projects.

Telestream uses Jira to connect its development team with the rest of its business. It gives its customer-facing teams an insight into what the engineers are doing, reduces response times for QA, and increases the quality of the products it creates.

Tool 10: ClickUp

ClickUp is an all-in-one project management tool. It goes beyond traditional task management, offering features like time tracking, document collaboration, and goal setting—acting as a centralized productivity platform for all project management and collaboration needs.

Personal and professional development specialist, The People Piece uses ClickUp to provide a central platform to bring together the entire team’s work in one place—giving an easy way for the team to report on the status of each project at any time and ensuring delivery deadlines are never missed.

Choosing the right collaboration tools for your remote team

Selecting the right tools for your remote team is very personal—yet pivotal for seamless workflow and communication. Here are five essential tips to guide you through the decision-making process:

  • Understand your team dynamics: You’ll need to assess the size and structure of your remote team and understand how they prefer to communicate—by messaging app or by video chat. Think about whether you’ll need to make announcements to your whole organization or if separate teams require separate channels through which to work.

  • The nature of your projects matters: Are they task-based and creative, or long-term initiatives? Do you work in Agile? Tailor your collaboration tools to match the specific requirements of your projects.

  • Budget wisely: Collaboration tools come with a range of pricing structures. Evaluate your budget constraints and choose tools that offer the best value for your investment. Keep an eye out for free or trial versions to test the waters before committing.

  • Scalability is key: Opt for tools that can grow with your team. Scalability is crucial for accommodating expansion or changes in project complexity without causing any disruption.

  • Choose a user-friendly interface: Opt for tools with intuitive designs that require minimal training or investment in other tech. This ensures a smoother onboarding process for your team, maximizing efficiency from the get-go. Trial versions are a great idea here—get feedback from your team on ease of use before committing to your chosen platform.

Case study: How mmhmm.app uses collaboration tools

Born from a desire to make online meetings less boring, at mmhmm.app we’re on a mission to redefine the dynamics of standard meeting formats.

Inspired by the gaming metaverse and with seamless integration with Zoom, Teams, Meet, and other popular communication tools, we’re offering a departure from ordinary video chats. Instead, you’ll find gaming-style meeting rooms—our Out of Office rooms—that act as innovative ways to keep your team’s attention and break the ice.

The OOO floating copter room puts the faces of everyone on the call on floating platforms that move up and down the screen depending on how much you’ve contributed to the conversation. Talk too little and you’ll sink. Too much and you’ll float off the top and be muted.

More whimsical is the OOOsteroids room, where participants waiting to join a call are turned into spaceships that can blast asteroids with repeated hits of the space bar. We want to take the awkwardness away from the start of online meetings and recreate that sense of camaraderie you get outside an in-person team event.

The future of remote collaboration tools

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that remote, distributed teams work well, and U.S. workers want more.

When surveyed by FlexJobs, 98% of employees said they’d welcome the opportunity to work remotely for at least part of the week, and an Upwork report suggests we could be looking at 32.6m Americans working from home by 2025.

When the tools are in place to help streamline workflows and communication, there’s business power in harnessing talent from anywhere.

Given the rapid development of many of these collaboration tools, we’re pretty excited about what the future holds. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation stand out as transformative forces, and we think they’ll start to really shape the fabric of who we work remotely‌ with. AI, with its ability to analyze vast datasets and predict patterns, is set to enhance collaboration by providing insights into team dynamics, optimizing workflows, and even automating routine tasks. This shift towards intelligent collaboration tools promises increased efficiency and a more intuitive and personalized remote work experience.

Imagine a virtual assistant seamlessly organizing schedules, flagging potential issues, and suggesting improvements. We’ll start to see more of that as AI and automation become integral to collaboration tools.

The future holds the promise of technology that not only supports but anticipates the needs of remote teams—something that we think is super exciting, especially for businesses looking to scale their operations rapidly.

Common mistakes when implementing collaboration tools

Even the best collaboration tools will fail if they’re not the best fit for your projects or your team isn’t prepared for their use. From inadequate training and poor user experience, to ignoring future scalability, here are five of the biggest mistakes we’ve made when setting up remote collaboration tools, and what you can do to avoid them.

  • Inadequate training: Rushing the onboarding process or assuming users will naturally adapt can lead to a disengaged and frustrated team. Invest time in comprehensive training sessions to ensure that all team members are proficient in utilizing the chosen tools effectively.

  • Mismatched solutions: Adopting collaboration tools without aligning them with your team's specific needs can result in inefficiency and disorganization. Before implementation, assess your team's workflows, communication styles, and project management requirements to ensure that the chosen tools complement rather than disrupt your established processes.

  • Overlooking user experience: Neglecting the user interface and experience can lead to low adoption rates and hinder the tools' effectiveness. Prioritize tools with intuitive designs and functionalities and ask about your team’s preferences before you commit, ensuring a positive and productive user experience.

  • Ignoring scalability: Failing to consider the future growth and evolution of your team can result in tools that quickly become obsolete. Select collaboration tools with scalability in mind, allowing for seamless integration as your team expands or undergoes changes in project complexity.

  • Insufficient communication: A lack of clear communication about the implementation process and expectations can create confusion and resistance within the team. Share the reasons behind adopting new tools, the expected benefits, and the support available during the transition.

Acosta’s staff were so bought-into a move to Zoom that they registered a 90-100% attendance at training sessions.

FAQs about collaboration tools for remote teams

What are the best free collaboration tools?

But this all costs money––we hear you cry. Not necessarily. For smaller teams or businesses on a tight budget, many of the big players like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Trello, and Google Workspace offer free versions. While the capabilities of the basic plans may be limited, depending on your business needs, they could still fit your requirements. Read on for some of the best:

  • Slack (free plan): While the free version has limitations on message history and storage, it's an excellent starting point for teams seeking efficient communication.

  • Trello (free plan): Trello comes with a free plan that provides core features like boards, lists, and cards. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a go-to choice for teams looking to enhance task management without spending a penny.

  • Google Workspace (basic plan): Google Workspace’s basic plan includes Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Meet for video conferencing—a good basic set up for collaborative document editing, file sharing, and communication.

  • Microsoft Teams (free version): The free version of Teams includes chat, video conferencing, and file sharing, making it quite a comprehensive, if basic solution for remote teams.

  • Asana (basic plan): Asana’s free basic plan is suitable for small teams. It provides features like task tracking, project timelines, and team collaboration. The free version serves as a solid foundation for teams looking to enhance project organization.

How do collaboration tools improve remote team productivity?

Simply, collaboration tools replace that real-time communication you’d get if you were all in an office together. Platforms like Skype, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, bridge geographical gaps, ensuring swift and efficient exchanges of information.

Project management tools such as Asana and Trello act as centralized hubs, streamlining task coordination and offering a unified space for project updates. Think of them as your virtual office—a cloud-based repository of your staff’s knowledge, tasks, deadlines, and project lifecycles. Integration capabilities minimize context-switching, and video conferencing tools like Zoom and mmhmm facilitate meaningful face-to-face interactions, nurturing team cohesion.

In essence, these tools create a digital world where communication is streamlined, tasks are organized, and team morale is high.

Conclusion

Let’s face it, remote work is going nowhere. Hybrid or fully remote teams are part and parcel of the modern business world. But, that distance can cause dysfunction. Without the luxury of face-to-face meetings, collaboration tools for communication and project management are essential to keep teams cohesive, on the same page, and working efficiently.

Looking ahead, the future promises even more intuitive and personalized remote work experiences. Whether you're a seasoned remote team or just beginning, these collaboration tools offer a bridge to streamlined communication, organized tasks, and elevated team morale. Ready to unlock the full potential of your remote team? The journey starts with embracing the right collaboration tools for a future of seamless and efficient remote work.

Additional resources

Want to learn more? Try mmhmm’s blog for more insights into remote collaboration tools. Or,

About mmhmm.app

Designed to enhance video presentations and meetings, mmhmm transforms the way individuals engage in online interactions. With features like dynamic backgrounds and slide-sharing, it goes beyond traditional video conferencing, making virtual meetings more engaging and visually compelling.  mmhmm empowers users to deliver dynamic and impactful presentations, fostering effective digital communication. This app has become a favorite among distributed teams, adding a layer of creativity and excitement to remote collaborations.

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