Inside labs has been a “remote first” company for almost three years now. When we gave up our office in summer 2017, we soon realized, that a large part of effective remote work would be leveraging the right tools. After years of working from coffee shops, co-working spaces and home offices, here are six collaboration tools for brainstorming, design, project management and communication we could not work without today.
One thing we actually miss from our old “real” office are the big walls covered in blackboard paint. They were the place of birth for many of our team’s craziest ideas; ideas such as gamifying the Swiss ski resort of LAAX, introducing a Christmas tree delivery as a service, or implementing a Uber like shuttle experience in mountain resorts. Our team always loved to sketch its ideas on a blackboard and color it with post it notes.
With Miro we have found the virtual counterpart to a blackboard. The visual collaboration software allows us to keep our agile practices such as design thinking processes, OKR sessions or simple brainstormings going.
Imagine always having a perfect white/blackboard with you, no matter where you go. Including all the tools you need such as different pens, endless post its and a tool box of over 50 toolkits and frameworks for you to kickstart your work.
It exists — a live collaboration design tool. After discovering Figma, we consolidated our design tool stack, put a design system in place and changed the way we collaborate with our creatives.
With Figma we found an incredibly powerful tool for our remote design process. The included design features cover about 95% of our needs, meaning, we barely need other design software in our creative process. It has empowered us to prototype with speed, design beautiful user interfaces and architecture user experience flows — all in one place. First of all, this saves us time because we don’t need to constantly switch across apps. Second, this saves us money as it allows to remove redundant tools from our workflow.
Figma is a significant improvement to our workflow because it lets us having color, typography and styling unified, all at one place, across the company.
— Daniel Medina, CTO and Head of Design at inside labs
While in the past it was a nightmare to maintain consistency across local design libraries and keep up with the latest changes of your creative colleagues, we can now design at scale with a design team of three to five people.
Finally, the design process becomes faster as giving feedback and inputs on proposed designs is unbelievably easy. A little detail that makes it the perfect design tool for a remote team is the ability to follow your co-worker’s cursor when both of you are in the same document. This means your colleague can walk you through the document and you will always see exactly what your co-worker is seeing, without having to share your screen and sacrifice your bandwidth. Another important thing, it is not overpriced and is worth every penny!
One thing we realized soon was, that having no office would actually require more structure and more internal organization. While using very simple project management tools like Trello before giving up our office, (Trello: a great tool for less complex product development — also worth checking it out if you fall into this category) we now had to find a tool with more functionality allowing for detailed project management and requirements streamlining.
With Clubhouse we found a project management platform for software development that balances simplicity and structure exactly the way we need it. Which makes it easy for teams to manage their tasks and workflow, and allows us to apply our unique style of product development. As a project manager and strategist, it provides me with an overview of where the team is, what they are working on now and what’s next. For the developers it is the tool in which the requirements get structured and information needed to develop the feature is collected. After using the tool for a couple of years now, we have created workflows backed by third party integrations that perfectly support our adapted versions of Sprints.
Slack has steadily increased in popularity and has slowly moved from a chat tool for tech companies to a powerful communication tool for SMEs and corporates. Direct messaging, custom group chats, and channels dedicated to specific projects or subjects let you communicate efficiently no matter what your company’s structure or project set up is.
For us it has fostered communication and thus, collaboration across teams and functions. The integrations provided to Clubhouse, Google Drive and more makes our workflows highly efficient. It has become our tool of choice for fast communication.
Google Hangouts brings our team together, even if we are miles apart from each other. The simple to set up video call software allows us to hold meetings with our globally spread team mates and our clients. And the great thing is, that when you create a calendar invite it automatically adds a Google Hangouts link. Already before the times of CoVid-19 we pushed a lot of meetings with our clients to Google Hangouts. While we absolutely appreciate face-to-face meetings, we figured that certain types of meetings are just more efficient when holding them virtually.
But what has really had impact on our culture and team spirit are ritual meetings such as our Monday Morning check in. A 20–30 minutes hangouts session in which our team gets together to reflect on the previous week, talk about how we are all feeling and plan the week ahead. Try it out!
Another Google tool we couldn’t be without is Google Drive. As our team really doesn’t like 15 clicks deep folder structures, we see the true blessing being Google’s strength in search algorithms. Another exceptionally useful feature about the Google Drive Suite, such as Google Docs or Slides, is the live collaboration. The ability to work simultaneously on one and the same document, without having to worry you could overwrite your colleagues work is a big win. For us, Google Drive has been a real game changer for remote working. Thank you Google!
Sitting in home office all day can be lonely. Make sure you’re in a good mood. The endless playlists on Spotify keeps you going. Try to create a shared playlist with your team members and discover the music identity of your company!
Last but not least, Medium is a powerful source of inspiration. Beautifully designed and unifying amazing ideas from thousands of great minds you find your morning reads on this platform.
I hope this article will boost your remote team’s productivity and make working remote a lot of fun for you and your co-workers.
If you have any questions or just want to say hi, feel free to shoot me a message at email@example.com.