10 Essential Tools for Remote Teams
Last update: 23 March 2020
At Float, we are a fully remote company with nearly 20 team members located across four continents (North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe), who work across 8 different time zones! We’re proud of the diversity in our team and believe that hiring the best talent shouldn’t be limited by borders.
Float is the first fully remote company that I’ve worked for, and I found working remotely to be quite an adjustment when I joined the team in early 2019. On the practical side, I quickly learned just how much impact your digital operations have on company culture and work productivity, especially when your digital systems are pretty much your “virtual office”. Personally, I took a keen interest in the creative challenge of finding non-traditional ways to connect with colleagues, boost morale, and create an energetic and inclusive team culture. I also love to hear about nifty software tools that help us work a little smarter or make our days a little brighter.
With that in mind (and in no particular order), here are the top 10 remote work tools we use regularly at Float to keep our days efficient and our work lives more enjoyable!
1. Float - Our shared calendar to see everyone's availablity, where we're working from and schedule time off
Juggling variable work hours, public holidays, and time off can be tricky for remote teams, especially when trying to coordinate multiple time zones across calendars. We use Float to give us one shared view of everyone’s schedule and availability—with any and all changes saved in real time!
At a glance, our team can see that I’m working in Australia at the moment, Marc has part-time availability, and Amer is on leave to spend time with his newest family member 👶🏻.
At previous companies, I used to receive calendar invites to my team’s vacation days, knowing that I was never actually invited to attend their beach holiday! This live view of our team’s work schedule in Float is a much easier way to keep track of our team’s work schedule and availability.
2. Slack - Our virtual office for daily stand-ups, topic chats, general communication and meeting rooms
Since I started working remotely, my perception of what it means to "turn up to work" has changed. At Float, I view Slack like our own virtual office. It's the first tool I open when I'm starting my work day, and it's the place where I check in with my teammates.
Whereas in a past working life I used to start my day sifting through email chains and trying to upkeep multiple email folders (which I never mastered, FYI), it’s so much easier and more enjoyable to simply catch up on relevant channel updates where all the sorting is done for me. If I want to acknowledge that I’ve read something, I don’t need to clog other people’s inboxes with a reply all of “Ok”, I can just add a 👍 or 👌 reaction in Slack!
At Float, we have set up our Slack channels based on team functions, e.g., #customer-success and #product, as well as specific topics or projects, e.g., #marketing-site and #analytics.
We use our #float team channel for anything broadly business-related, and #general is where we share non-work related chats and banter, like Amer’s Laker fanboy updates!
3. Geekbot - Runs our daily stand-ups and team check-ins
Geekbot is a stand-up integration built for Slack that we’ve customized to ask everyone what they accomplished yesterday, what they’re working on today, and how they are feeling in general. It’s important in a remote work environment that everyone feels accountable and engaged, and these quick status updates are an effective way to communicate to each other what we’re all working on.
The “How do you feel today” question has been a nice addition to our daily stand-ups, as it gives us a little window into each other's day and lets the team know when we’re feeling 💪 and ready to conquer the world or like 💩 and you’d better save that favor request for tomorrow. It's also great for milestone moments like Sameet's son's first day of school 🎓!
4. Zoom - Integrated with Slack so we can video conference team meetings directly from the relevant channel or via DM
Our Zoom calls integrate with Slack which makes kicking off and keeping track of all of our video meetings seamless and easy.
The video recording feature eliminates the need to keep meeting minutes for anybody absent and creates an automated filing system within each relevant channel.
5. Notion - Our team Wikipedia
Onboarding in any new role always feels a bit daunting, whether it's on-site or remote. As you’re trying to learn who's who, figure out where important files are kept, read up on the company’s policies, and develop a workflow, it can be hard to keep up with where to find what! Enter Notion; an awesome tool that acts like a workplace Wikipedia.
At Float, we use Notion as a knowledge base for our team that provides an overview of the company, what we stand for, what our roles and responsibilities are, and anything else that we feel is relevant information for everyone to know about (e.g., our brand guidelines or info on this year's team meetup). It’s super simple to use and makes it easy for everyone to contribute and collaborate. It’s also cool that as our team at Float grows, our Notion page is expanding as well!
6. Calendly - A smart, self-service way to book meetings based on your calendar availability
The back and forth emails that accompany most meeting requests can be time taxing, especially when you’re trying to coordinate different time zones as well. We love that Calendly automates all of this for us. It provides you with a personalized, shareable link to book meetings through, and syncs with your nominated calendar to ensure this is always based on your live availability. The sync is two-way, so any meetings booked will be added to your calendar as well, and you can set preferences such as time in between meetings, advance notice to book, add a custom Zoom meeting link, and more!
Pro-tip: With Zapier, you can connect and sync your favorite services to automate workflows. It's like the prized blank letter in Scrabble, as it makes nearly any integration (word) possible! Check out our Float App on Zapier that connects your team schedule to 2,000+ apps, including Calendly.
7. CloudApp - Take screenshots or video recordings and share them instantly with a unique shortlink
CloudApp is seriously the quickest and easiest way to take screenshots and share them with your team. With a desktop app for Mac and Windows, and a Google Chrome extension, CloudApp is super handy to have in your toolbox. Capture screenshots, screen recordings or gifs and annotate comments, then share them instantly with a unique shortlink. It even automatically copies the link to your keyboard, so you literally only have to press "Ctrl+V" to paste the link wherever you choose! Here’s a surprise example for you 🐶, https://share.getcloudapp.com/d5u0JQDk
8. Milanote - Visual storyboarding and collaborating on projects
Described as the Evernote for creatives, Milanote is the tool we use to organize all of our scattered ideas, notes, and sources of inspiration into one visual, readable board. It’s like a mood board with superpowers that let’s you drag and drop all your notes, screenshots, links, and comments literally anywhere, while still making everything look pretty and organized (a big plus for creatives).
9. Loom - Screen and video recording
Loom is our all-in-one tool for recording Float tutorial videos and responding to customer questions quickly and efficiently. After trying a few different services to record our new features and support videos, what we loved about Loom is how easy we could simultaneously record our screen and webcam (in HD too), the quick editing tools available, and the ability to share videos with an inline link instead of downloading and reuploading them.
10. FIO App - Set your Chrome homepage to show preset local times around the world
The Figure it Out (FIO) App Chrome Extension is a game-changer if you’re working with teammates across time zones. It sets my Google Chrome homepage to be a snapshot of select local times around the world, so I can easily see what the real time is for my team, and in my case, also for my family. The heat map color design based on hours apart from you is also pretty cool.
We're always looking for new ways to improve our efficiency and productivity at Float and connect with other teams with similar experiences. Got a remote tool that we've missed? Drop us a note on Twitter!
We understand a lot of our customers are transitioning to remote for the first time and we're here to support you. Please read this message from Float CEO Glenn Rogers for more details.