If you are managing a remote team, whether of 5 or 55, you know the challenges – physical and emotional - communications, collaboration, tasking, camaraderie and morale. It’s not like you can sit around a table or go out for happy hour every once in a while. You have to settle for video conferencing, chats, collaborative apps and software, and somewhere along the line hope that you are maintaining morale and enthusiasm.

via kotaku

As everyone get better at this, because remote workstations are only going to become more common, there have been some great tools developed that can go a long way in managing a team, and the following highlights a large number of them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does represent those tools that successful remote team managers recommend.

Time Zones

Especially if your team is spread out globally, you will need to see at a glance what time it is anywhere you have a team member.

1. World Clock

This is a great Mac tool in which you can enter your cities or time zones and get a map that lights up each spot, giving you the times in “real time. This really helps when you have to schedule meetings

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2. Figure it Out

If you are not using Mac hardware, this is a Chrome extension that will show zones in real time as well.

Communication/Collaboration

There are just so many tools now in this management sphere. But here are those that remote team managers who have several years “in” recommend as the best.

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1. Slack

No more emails or IM’s unless you need to speak privately with a single team member. You can just drop messages into a “room” for everyone – they are date/time stamped. You can share documents for review and discussion when everyone is in the room or leave them for when members do come in. Plans start at $5/month for unlimited integrations.

2. HipChat

Made for iOS, Android, Mac, Linux and PC, HipChat works a lot like Slack, although it is a bit older (2010 launch), but there have been plenty of upgrades since that time and, if it works for you, it is only $2/month.

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3. Speak (former Sqwiggle)

Everyone seems to love this tool once they get used to it. Sqwiggle takes a snapshot at specific intervals on each team member’s web cam, so that everyone can see if other members are at their stations or not. The program can be paused at any time or during off hours. And, if you need to speak to a team member live, just click on that person’s snap and the video chat feature will open.$9/month/per person.

4. BambooHR HRIS

This is a web-based HR management system for virtually everything, from holding important personal information, automating vacation and personal leave requests and confirmations, generating HR reports, applicant tracking, performance reviews, and even e-signature software. It is all held in the cloud so is never on your system. Of course you can always have a backup on an external hard drive, but there is no way anyone from the team could possibly gain access to it. This is important for everyone.

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5. 15Five

Morale is important, and part of that is letting your team members know that you care about their challenges, issues, and feelings. This app allows you to set 5 questions that are posed to team members at the end of each week. It should take them less than 15 minutes to answer these, but it will make them feel good and will give you clues about morale. Such questions might be, “Is there anything you need help with?” “How did you feel about this week?” “What is going well?” “What would make your job easier right now?” The app automatically sends these out and returns them to you the next morning.

6. Evernote

This app has been around forever, and it is hard to imagine anyone not seeing the value of all team members being able to contribute meeting notes, suggestions and such. Now, it has a work chat feature too, which just moves it way up on the list of “need to have” tools. The current price is $13//month/user.

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7. Go To Meeting

This is a well-known and highly used app, and its benefits are pretty clear. It may be a bit clunky to use, but the audio and video is just not equaled anywhere else. It is definitely the right tool if your team is comprised of 10+ members.

Tasking/Management

Being able to assign and track everyone’s tasks and allowing all team members to give an receive help on each other’s tasks as well as to know exactly where every team member is in process, is obviously not optional. This is critical when a department is all physically in one place, but remote team members add new challenges. Tools in this area have to be efficient, reliable, and really user-friendly. Here are what the “veterans” recommend.

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1. Trello

You have a project with specific tasks. With Trello, you create a type of a deck of cards and assign these cards to team members. You can detail the tasks and give a time/date deadline. And if a card has multiple tasks to be completed by various members, you can divvy up those tasks. All progress is kept track of on the card until the task is completed. An app for virtually device and super easy to use. Everyone on your team will love it. $5/month/user.

2. Duet

When you have multiple projects going on at the same time, it is sometimes a good thing to get an overall view of what they are, what progress has occurred to day and what still needs to be done. Duet allows you to put them all in one place so everyone can see. It is possible, then, for a team member who is not currently working on one project may have a great idea with regards to that project. This really fosters camaraderie and a sense that everyone is “in this” together. $49 one-time fee.

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3. Cloud9

If you have developers on your team, this is a must-have. As the name suggests, this app is cloud-based and it allows for your developers to code and collaborate on coding, working anywhere and on any device.

4. Draft

If you have to create a lot of written communication (to clients, to publish on your blog, etc.), any team member can create a draft that is shared automatically with others. It can be discussed and edited in real time before the final piece is sent or published.

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5. I Done This

Simple, simple, simple and automatic. At the end of each day, everyone gets an email asking them what they got done that day. They reply and everyone’s response it all put together and emailed out the next morning. This is a great way for people to feel good about what they have done and to send a congrats to another team member for his/her achievements.

6. Meldium

No more issues with passwords. You simply set up who has access to what without ever having to give out passwords. If anyone should leave, you do not have to change any passwords and send them out to remaining team members. You simply lock that person out. This works with iOS, IE, Firefox, Chromes and Android. $24/month for up to 20 users.

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Miscellaneous

There are a couple of other apps that will make life easier for you.

HelloSign

If you don’t have Bamboo, then you need this e-signature program, so that all parties can sign without the hassle of printing, signing, scanning and emailing on to the next person.

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SalesForce

If you team is directly responsible for sales, and you have to keep track of and manage your customers, this is the best CRM tool available, hands down.

This is a lengthy list, of course, and certainly you will not need every one of these apps. Nonetheless, if you can find tools that really make your job and the jobs of all of your team members flow well; if you can improve morale by valuable collaboration and sharing; if you can streamline tasks and projects; if you can quickly learn whether a new team member is going to be a fit, you need to utilize the tools that will let you do that best.

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What are you go-to tools?