Staying in touch with your team is a crucial component to any successful business, but when you’re miles (or states) apart, communication and collaboration can be a challenge.
I started my career as a virtual assistant (VA), and now I have a virtual team helping me. My team members represent multiple states and several different time zones across the country. It can be quite a task keeping everyone on the same page. Fortunately, we have plenty of tools at our disposal that allow us to stay connected and coordinated. Here are my personal favorites.
1. Zoom: Zoom is a web and video conferencing tool that allows far-flung employees, assistants, or independent contractors to virtually “sit in” on important meetings. The free plan accommodates unlimited meetings up to 40 minutes in duration with as many as 50 separate attendees. Need more time or have more people? Paid plans start as low as $14.99 per month.
2. GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting is a simple solution to an often complicated problem. Handle your business over the phone (you can choose between toll-based or VoIP), or via HD video conferencing. You can launch meetings from just about anywhere, share screens, and even record meetings for those who can’t be present at the time. GoToMeeting does charge for its services; however, a free 30-day free trial is available.
3. Skype: Skype allows you and your team to communicate over the phone (via VoIP) or through video chat. You can also send instant messages and share files and screens wherever you are, no matter what device you’re using. This is a great option for smaller teams, as the free plan accommodates 25 people per audio call and 10 people per video chat.
4. Freeconferencing.com: The name says it all. Freeconferencing.com really is free and is useful for teleconferencing with your team both far and near. It offers screen sharing, call recording, and the ability to mute a call straight from your computer screen. Sign-up is simple: just enter your name and email address, and you’re good to go.
5. Teamwork: Teamwork offers three components (Projects, Desk, and Chat), which may be purchased together or separately. Collaborate, communicate, and get help when needed with this practical, easy-to-use platform that can actually help reduce your need for formal meetings. Better yet, it integrates with your email so you don’t have to log in to the system to reply to task requests directly. You can do it right from your inbox.
6. Dropbox: Dropbox is a cloud-based file-sharing site that allows your entire team to access shared documents. Easily send, receive, and edit files, including photos and video, and then synch it back into the cloud so your team has the most up-to-date version.
7. OneDrive: OneDrive is an excellent way to keep your entire team up to date on files, photos, videos, and more. Featuring real-time notifications, the ability to annotate PDF files, and a host of other powerful collaboration and editing tools, OneDrive is a must-have for any virtual team.
8. Google Docs: Another file-sharing site, Google Docs starts you out with 15 GB of free storage. Utilize powerful tools to share, edit, and send documents back and forth in real-time; add links and images, and access a vast library of templates. Google Docs integrates seamlessly with Word, and all of your files can be accessed from any connected device.
9. Evernote: Evernote is a handy little productivity app that lets you jot down notes, clip from the web, and access your materials from any connected device. While a free version is available, paid plans allow you to create group notebooks to share with your team, turn your notes into presentations, annotate attached PDFs, and more.
10. OneNote: Create, share, and edit notebooks; clip directly from the web; send emails that are automatically added to the conversation, and snap photos of documents or presentations. With a ton of add-on features and the ability to easily integrate with just about any program, OneNote is an invaluable (and free!) resource.
Whether you’re a VA looking to communicate more effectively with your executive and team, a remote worker trying to stay in the loop, or a manager who needs a better system to stay in touch with your widespread employees, these 10 tools can help make your team more efficient and better connected. Give them a try – I think you’ll love them as much as we do!
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.