In this digital age, where workspaces are dominated by Millennials and their wanderlust mindset, the term “collaboration” takes on new meanings.
You are probably aware that freelancing and remote working is a rising trend among Millennials. While it’s great to be able to work together from remote (even exotic) locations spread across the globe by collaborating over the internet, albeit if not done right, productivity can take a toll.
In these days of Six Sigma and Kanban, managers (and employers at large) take productivity very seriously. And why shouldn’t they? The competition among businesses and companies in every industry today is ridiculous. Furthermore, nowadays, both the employers and the employees tend to give “work-life balance” a very high priority. So, employers would certainly want to get the most out of their employees and optimize their productivity to the absolute fullest.
Productivity in traditional workplaces has been a function of many variegated factors, such as:
- Desk design: The employee’s desk is their core working space and should be designed carefully, in a way that facilitates communication as well as allows some privacy. The trick is to strike the right balance between the two.
- Office environment: The general design of the office also plays a major role in the employee’s productivity. It affects more than just simple ergonomics and can have a profound impact on the employee’s overall health and wellbeing. So, having adequate lighting, ventilation, and air-conditioning is as important as having well-designed conference rooms, hallways, and lounges.
- Personalization: It is believed that personalizing your space can increase your emotional connection to your work. Small, non-cluttering personal items such as desk toys, photo frames, etc. may help make the employee feel more at home and improve concentration, thus boosting productivity.
- Work culture: Creating a positive company culture is directly linked with the level of productivity of the workers. This is quite simply an undeniable fact but is still often overlooked by large corporates. A positive work culture is one which fosters a sense of belonging among employees, encourages them to take frequent breaks to recharge, and promotes open collaboration across different teams.
- Software tools: The quality of software tools (and resources in general) available to the workers is a critical factor affecting their level of productivity and output.
These are just some of the many factors that affect the productivity of employees working in a regular corporate office.
However, when we talk about a remote workspace, such as a home office or a beach house in the Bahamas, it’s the employee who’s the boss of their desk design and work environment. The workspace would be then (by default) personalized and optimized according to their liking, and so, these no longer remain the controllable factors affecting their productivity. As a matter of fact, a 2017 study by the University of Minnesota suggests that ‘creative geniuses’ prefer a cluttered, busy workspace.
Of course, there are always tips and tactics to help design an ideal home office which is comfortable yet serious.
But what still remains the same is the software being used by the workers to perform the actual tasks. Typically, the software tools are standardized across the company and so the employer still plays an important role in influencing the productivity of employees in this regard.
Simply put, increasing productivity in a highly collaborative, virtual workspace of telecommuters comes down to the company’s choice of software. And for the tech-savvy Millennials, however, software is more than just a mere tool to complete a task. Just as a lot of thought process goes into designing a highly productive physical workspace – architecture, interior design, structural design, etc. – the same is true for a virtual workspace.
It takes a good deal of creativity and design thinking to produce software that gives a great User Experience (UX), and in turn, increases productivity. Moreover, software with a gorgeous User Interface (UI) motivates the workers to do more.
So, let us take a quick look at some remote collaboration tools that truly stand out from the crowd when it comes to boosting productivity with a stellar UI/UX. As a bonus, the listed tools will be pocket-friendly but not compromising on quality.
Remote Collaboration Tools
Tools for Swift and Crisp Communication
While back-and-forth emailing serves the purpose of communication, there are countless tools and apps (free and paid) that offer all-in-one communication services: voice calling, video calling, screen sharing, and instant messaging, over the internet. But only a handful of them are noteworthy and actually boost productivity instead of increasing the hassle.
As you may have already guessed, Slack rules the charts here. With competitive pricing and a compelling free plan boasting all the features you could possibly need, it’s no wonder Slack is the global benchmark of instant messengers.
Popular quality alternatives include Google Hangouts and Skype which possess all the features but feel slightly inferior to Slack in terms of the interface and intuitiveness.
Tools for Collaborative Task Management
Being on the same page can be challenging, especially when you and your colleagues are thousands of miles away. Thankfully, there are apps that help streamline work, track progress, and promote productivity and accountability across the team.
Asana is one of the notable ones because it doesn’t overwhelm you with a barrage of advanced features and just offers all the basics – creating calendars, assigning tasks, and setting priorities – in a neatly designed package. Trello is a great alternative which takes a Kanban approach to project management, with intuitive boards and drag-and-drop cards.
Both are very budget-friendly and Trello’s free plan is more than enough for startups and small businesses.
Tools for Collaborative Documentation
No business or company exists without documentation. Although documentation can be tedious, a good user interface can help make things interesting and speed things up.
Google Drive unarguably deserves the top spot when it comes to creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms – you name it, in a collaborative environment. It is fast, free, user-friendly, and the ease of collaboration (real-time too) is unbeatable.
When you think of PDFs, you think of Adobe. It has all the features to get the job done. However, it’s a little pricey and the interface is bland. And a poor user interface won’t do any good to your overall productivity.
Fortunately, there are free alternatives to Adobe such as the Icecream PDF Editor which has a minimalistic and clean design and is completely free – including PDF text editing. It allows you to annotate (add comments and notes) which is very useful when collaborating remotely.
The advent of the internet has allowed us to work together from anywhere in the world. Ensuring maximum efficiency while working in the comfort of our desired location boils down to the software we use. This post elaborates on some freemium tools and apps that have just the right features and a beautiful interface to collaborate effectively and improve productivity when telecommuting.
I’ve never really liked Slack. I feel it’s the open office floorplan of collaboration tools; noisy, disjointed and distracting.
Excellent write-up, Pratik! Thanks for the useful tips and list of tools necessary for a smooth remote work collaboration. If you are looking for a cost efficient, cost effective, and simple tool that will help you track the time and the work completed by you and/or your remote employees, Worksnaps is worth checking out!
The design can have an impact on the way people work so be sure to consider that.