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For the past number of years, the number of remote workers has sharply risen, whether it’s traditional companies offering telecommuting benefits, or online startup companies. According to statistics from Owl Labs, before the pandemic 52% of employees around the world worked remotely at least once per week, and 68% worked remotely at least once per month.

Image: OWLLabs

While these statistics mainly represent traditional brick and mortar businesses, new online-based businesses are being launched all the time, whether it’s e-commerce, service agencies (website developers, SEO and marketing agencies, writing and translation teams, etc), or any other type of business that fits online.

Running an online business that involves a virtual team has its own hurdles, but these are easily overcome. There are so many tools for easing the workflow process, keeping the entire team in communication, and making sure everyone stays on task. In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the most important tools and methods virtual teams can implement to make sure the ship sails smoothly.

Here’s the list of some of the best tools available to virtual teams.

Cloud-Based File Sharing

If your team needs to share a lot of files back and forth, sending attachments via email simply does not cut it. Even direct messaging files can be burdensome. A virtual team needs to have a proper cloud storage space, with files and folders nicely labelled and organized.

You’ll also need a reliable place to store internal documents, training procedures, HR guidelines, and other important company files. 

For example, Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage solutions for online companies, and they offer beefy security encryption such as 256-bit AES encryption. However, strong encryption doesn’t prevent human mistakes from happening, which are the main causes of data breaches. A good practice here is to offer training materials to the employees. Online cybersecurity courses can teach you the best security practices when it comes to protecting sensitive company data.

Google Drive offers many useful essential storage options for virtual teams, but if your team needs something more advanced, consider one of the premium cloud storage options. Cloud storage services like Egnyte, Dropbox, and Zoho are all highly recommended.

Proper Communication Software

A virtual team needs real-time communication, and for that purpose, business email simply doesn’t cut it. Email should be used primarily for business correspondence, such as generating leads or following up with clients. For virtual team communication, a real-time chat software is absolutely crucial.

Smaller teams can get away with creating groups in instant messengers, such as WhatsApp or Facebook. But when the virtual team expands and more roles are created, you may need something that allows different rooms to be created for each department, allows better filtering of private and public messages, pinning of important documents to different rooms, etc. For this reason, many virtual teams use chat software like Slack, Rocket Chat, or even Google Hangouts.

Image: Pexels

Furthermore, video conference software like GoToWebinar is a great way to host virtual conferences, presentations, and team meetings. GoToWebinar can host up to 3,000 participants on it’s $399/mo Enterprise plan, whereas Zoom costs $9,900 annually for the same amount of participants.

Unlike Zoom, webinar attendees can view the conference via web browser without needing to download the desktop application. This is very useful when you only need to webcast a number of company speakers, and not host an interactive video team conference, for example.

That isn’t to say Zoom doesn’t have its purposes. Zoom and GoToWebinar are very similar products, but GoToWebinar is perhaps better for webcast presentations, whereas Zoom is more suitable for interactive meetings. Other great virtual team video software include Google Meetings, Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx, and BlueJeans. So overall, there’s a video conference solution for all types and sizes of online virtual teams.

Task Management Apps

One downside of virtual teams is that it can be easy for individual workers to become distracted. Just “quickly checking” Facebook messages can lead into scrolling the newsfeed, surfing Reddit, and watching YouTube videos. Really, there are a lot of virtual distractions that face a virtual team.

For this reason, it helps immensely to set up task management tools, where tasks can be assigned to team members and their progress tracked. Think of these like virtual sticky notes, but they can be more complex than that. Some of the most popular task management apps are Wunderlist, Trello, Jira, Todoist, Wrike, and Asana, though that’s by no means an exhaustive list.

Even better, many of the task management tools can be integrated with your communication tools, including email or chat software like Slack. So for example, if you receive a request from a client, you can automatically add that email to a to-do list and assign it to the appropriate worker, as well as automatically notify them via Slack chat that a to-do item has been created for them.

Time Tracking Tools

For virtual team members who are paid based on time, or you just want to get an idea of how long team members spend on certain tasks, time tracking tools are immensely valuable. They can be simple clock in/clock out timers, or they can provide periodic screenshots of the worker’s screen (very useful if a particular team member is easily distracted by Facebook).

Written by Erika Rykun from Udemy. She is a content strategist and producer who believes in the power of networking and quality writing. She’s an avid reader, writer, and runner.