Last updated Mar 2020
The ultimate guide to remote work
Anna Savina,
Content Marketing Manager at Miro
Anna has written about experience design, product development, and workshop facilitation. She has been working in distributed teams for three years, and is passionate about helping them succeed.

The Best Remote Work Tools and Software to Have

A lot of what makes remote work manageable is empathy, good communication, and striving for (virtual) human connection. However, it’s hard to understand your teammates or feel like you’re having a productive conversation if you’re struggling with audio quality, or if your video conference keeps freezing.

Technology is essential for any distributed or remote team. As a company with workers scattered across the globe, we’ve tested a lot of software to make remote work easier. (And of course, we’re developing a remote collaboration tool ourselves.) That’s why this chapter of our extensive remote work guide is chock-full of tried and tested tools that’ll make working from home seamless.

Essential tools for remote collaboration

Start by defining the categories of tools that should be available to everyone in the company. After many years of operating as a remote-friendly company, we figured out that the tech stack that covers the majority of our needs looks like this:

  • Online collaboration

  • Video conferencing

  • Messaging

  • Project management tools

  • Online word processing

  • File sharing

  • Specialized tools

Let’s dive in and see how we use each of these categories of software, and which specific tools we recommend.

A digital whiteboard built for online collaboration

Part of why we started Miro was because we realized an online whiteboard was missing from the remote work tech stack. So many rituals in the modern office revolve around a whiteboard, and so many teams miss this visual component when they go remote. Before we get into the rest of the tools you’ll need to enable remote work, we wanted to add this quick note about using it for online collaboration.

Multiple teams across any organization can benefit from Miro. It can be used for brainstorming, as a centralized hub for strategy, planning, and execution, or as a place to organize insights and collect feedback in real time. Even schools and teachers use it to create online educational resources.

Give it a try for free!

Many of the tools we recommend below have Miro integrations. Check out all our integrations.

Video conferencing

Video conferencing tools help us with live communication. We use video software as the backbone for a variety of meetings, like team huddles, one-on-ones, workshops, and even company socializing. Here are some tools you can choose from when you are evaluating video conferencing software:

  1. Zoom: A tool for enterprise communications with a reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars. We use this at Miro and think it has superior performance. We’ve also really enjoyed its features, like virtual backgrounds and breakout meeting rooms.

  2. GoToMeeting: An online meeting, desktop sharing, and video conferencing software package. Like Zoom, Go To Meeting provides very reliable performance, but lacks some of that competitor’s super advanced screen sharing capabilities. On the flip side, GoToMeeting offers unlimited cloud recording and storage and more flexible calling options.

  3. WebEx: Another enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen share, and webinars, powered by Cisco.

  4. Google Hangouts: A G-Suite service for video meetings with people inside or outside your organization. It can get a little buggy when you have a lot of attendees. We recommend this for smaller companies or consultants.

  5. Whereby: This one offers free video conferences with up to four people without logins or downloads.

To learn more about hosting effective meetings and remote meeting etiquette, read our complete guide to remote team meetings.

Messaging

We don’t use emails internally, so messengers help us with all written communication. We use it mostly for real-time chats, especially when we need to get a quick, succinct answer.

Chats are also good for asynchronous communication – we work in different time zones, so we don’t expect our colleagues from other locations to respond to messages immediately. To align on team initiatives, we also use channels where we can exchange ideas with a group of people instead of 1:1 conversations.

  1. Slack: A messenger that was created to kill work emails. Instead of a single inbox, conversations in Slack happen in dedicated spaces called channels. At Miro, we use the app for all our internal communication and we like its integrations with all the major productivity tools (Zoom, Google Calendar, Lattice, Miro and many more), its apps (like PTO Ninja) and an intuitive interface.

  2. Microsoft Teams: Microsoft-powered tool that combines instant messaging, video conferencing, and calling. The tool’s main benefit is its integration with the Office suite that can be used during video conferencing or when you are messaging with the team.

  3. Facebook Workplace: Messaging, groups, chat, video calls and broadcasts — Facebook is applying some of its well-known features to the work environment. For example, instead of Slack’s private and public channels, Facebook Workplace has private chats and Groups with varying degrees of privacy (open, closed, or secret). It can be a good tool for teams who suddenly went remote and haven’t used instant messaging before.

Project management tools

Project management and ask tracking tools allow us to have transparency around productivity and the status of various design and development projects. Some of our teams prefer using Miro kanban boards instead, but these trackers are still useful because they give everyone an ability to see how the Development and Design team is working together to deliver new features and design assets.

  1. JIRA: A software tool specifically created for Agile teams. It works best for development teams because it has a lot of customization features. It’s also useful for tracking bugs and doing customer support.

  2. Trello: A lightweight and flexible kanban-style task tracker that can be used in a team as well as individually. We like Trello template library – it has a lot of good examples for tracking personal productivity, product and project management.

  3. Asana: Another popular task-tracking tool that allows you to plan and structure work, set priorities and deadlines, share details and assign tasks.

  4. Basecamp: A remote collaboration hub that has to-dos, schedules, automatic check-in questions and many other team features. The company is famous for its work methods that create an alternative to Agile, so their product is a reflection of this set of beliefs.

  5. Wrike: A very robust tool for prioritizing, scheduling, assigning tasks, visualizing dependencies, and identifying conflicts. Wrike also has dependency management and subtasks – features that may be useful for bigger/more complicated projects. The tool also allows you to have several views for each project – calendar, stream, spreadsheet, a Gantt chart.

  6. Airtable: Part spreadsheet, part database that can be tailored to your specific project and process. You can use Miro to ideate together, discuss designs visually, organize agile planning and retros and easily transform or reflect it in the Airtable base without leaving a tab. A good tool for anyone who likes spreadsheets but wants a bit more flexibility from them.

  7. Monday: A lightweight tool that allows you to view all projects and deadlines on one timeline, assign tasks & track progress, set due dates and never miss a deadline, and build reports. Doesn’t have dependency management or more advanced features but it is definitely a user-friendly tool.

Online word processors

This is pretty straightforward – each team needs a good cloud-based document app to write copy, messaging, blog articles, etc.

  1. Google Docs: An online service that lets you create and format documents and spreadsheets and work with other people. Probably the most popular cloud tool that we really enjoy using at Miro — it’s fast, versatile, and is great for both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration on documents.

  2. Dropbox Paper: A collaborative workspace that helps teams create and share early ideas and work with videos, images, code, and sound. It comes free with Dropbox. The interface is cleaner and more modern compared to Google Docs, but the latter offers more advanced sharing features. One big plus of Dropbox is flexibility in working with multimedia formats — it can be useful when you are creating brand books, design guidelines, etc.

  3. Quip: Salesforce-owned tool for documents, spreadsheets, and slides. Has a lot of built-in templates for sales professionals (account plan, live deal plan, meeting notes, etc.). One of the main differentiators for Quip is a chat feature that allows the team to discuss a doc, spreadsheet, or task.

File sharing

Having a user-friendly file system with a clear internal structure allows us to store, categorize, and access visuals, documents, etc. It’s super useful to reduce dependencies in a remote team: for example, if you need a promotional asset, a logo, or maybe even a template to create something yourself for one of your initiatives, you don’t need to wait for the design team to respond and can get the asset yourself. Here are the tools that we enjoy using at Miro:

  1. Dropbox: A leading file sharing service that lets you back up photos and videos, and access files stored on any of your computers or mobile devices. We use Dropbox for storing all our design assets. If you use Dropbox and Miro together, after you’ve uploaded a document, image, GIF, or video to the board, it will always stay up to date (no matter how minor your changes are).

  2. Google Drive: A file storage and synchronization service developed by Google. It allows users to store files on their servers, synchronize files across devices, and share files. If you integrate

  3. Box: A cloud content management and file sharing service for businesses. Official clients and apps are available for Windows, macOS, and several mobile platforms. Compared to other tools in this section, Box is 100% enterprise-focused and from the ground-up, it invested a lot of efforts in its security and deeper administrative control.

  4. WeTransfer: A file sharing service that allows you to transfer 2GB of files for free, or log in to WeTransfer Pro to send up to 20GB at a time. At Miro, we sometimes use this for sharing files with collaborators and freelancers outside the company.

Specialized remote work tools

In addition to more general remote collaboration tools, different teams and individuals may need solutions for their specific needs. Here are some of the other remote-friendly tools different teams at Miro find useful:

Scheduling across time zones

If you work across different time zones like us, scheduling can get painful. We understand that real-time communication is critical when you are building a product. Try these apps to streamline the process for you.

  1. Google Calendar: A convenient tool with a lot of time zone management features that’s integrated with the whole universe of other G-Suite tools.

  2. Lucid Meetings: Lucid describes their product as a tool that “helps you schedule times, send calendar reminders, agree on an agenda, log action items, gather user feedback, and use or create your own meeting templates.”

  3. World Time Buddy: A convenient world clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler. A handy tool for teams distributed across different time zones.

  4. Calendly: A meeting scheduling software and Chrome extension that helps you find the perfect meeting time. At Miro, we usually use it for scheduling meetings with external collaborators and partners. While Google Calendar allows us to find slots to meet with our teammates, Calendly is useful when you need to show your availability to those who are outside the company.

Internal knowledge bases

Transparency is the hallmark of a successful remote team, so it’s important to have a tool that allows everyone to share knowledge and document work. Knowledge bases, a.k.a. your internal company wiki, make it easier to find the right information, be more effective, and make decisions faster.

  1. Notion: An intuitive tool with a modern interface combining a rich text editor with the ability to organize pages inside pages.

  2. Confluence: Atlassian-powered wiki software for document creation and management, as well as project collaboration.

  3. Slab: A WYSIWYG wiki editor with an ability of real-time collaboration, so the users won’t overwrite work – even if two people click "Save" at the same time.

Product design tools

When you are designing a digital service, an app, a website or something else, a cloud-based collaborative design tool is a must. Here are the tools that our product and design team tried and approved:

  1. Figma: A cloud-based design tool that enables collaboration. We recommend trying Figmiro: A plugin that enables exporting and synchronizing frames from Figma to Miro will allow you to quickly update layouts and deliver new versions.

  2. InVision: A digital product design platform that provides design tools and educational resources for teams to navigate every stage of the product design process, from ideation to development.

  3. Zeplin: A connected space for designers, developers, and product managers where they can share designs, generate specs, assets and code snippets.

  4. Whimsical: A lightweight collaborative visual tool to build concepts, wireframes, flowcharts, and mind maps.

  5. Marvel: A tool for creating realistic prototypes and transforming your design mockups into interactive web or app prototypes without writing code.

  6. Abstract: The version controlling ecosystem for designers that integrates with Sketch and Adobe XD.

Want to learn more about what you need to manage a remote team? Read the rest of our comprehensive remote work guide.

Looking to read more about remote collaboration? Start at Chapter 1 of our guide!

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