How do you collaborate if you’ve switched to a remote setup without the face-to-face interaction you were used to in your office? Fortunately, there are plenty of online collaboration tools that make remote work far more manageable for all small businesses.
Whether you need project management software, a tool to help your online meetings run smoother or a product to facilitate secure file sharing, check out these software suggestions along with pros and cons of popular products currently on the market. You’ll also find tips for getting the most out these tools.
Best collaboration tools for document sharing
Here’s how to avoid long, complicated email threads. These tools let you make comments or edits to a shared spreadsheet or document.
You may already be using Google Workspace tools like Google Docs and Google Sheets for this. If this is working for you, keep at it. If you’re looking for an upgrade, many small businesses prefer Microsoft 365, a user-friendly program that offers a wide range of functionality.
Coworkers can easily and securely share files. They can then access shared documents and leave comments, edits and messages on those docs, as well as easily share screens and workflows with team members. It also doubles as a secure online storage platform, including the ability to add more security or privacy controls.
Plus, since it’s cloud-hosted, users don’t have to be Microsoft users to access the platform. They can utilize the tools from Mac, Android and iOS operating systems as well.
Best collaboration tools for remote meetings
You’ve likely hopped on a Zoom as you work from home. Relatively affordable and now ubiquitous, it may be the right option for you, especially if you’re often getting on calls with customers or clients who might not want to have to download a different platform.
But if you’re looking for something more secure and professional, you can hop on a video call via your Microsoft 365 subscription. You get the ability to host an unlimited number of meetings, can easily share screens and can switch between devices if you’re on the go.
One of the coolest features on Microsoft’s service is whiteboards. If you’ve been missing out on in-person meetings where you can brainstorm and visualize project flow on large whiteboards, Microsoft is giving you the next best thing with a digital version. Authorized meeting-goers can all work on the digital whiteboards in real time, making it easier to feel (almost) like you’re back in the same room collaborating together.
Best collaboration tools for project management
If your group works simultaneously on several different projects and on different teams, take a look at Trello. Colorful, inviting and super user-friendly, Trello’s dashboard makes it easy for employees to visualize their to-do lists, as well as share workflows and calendars across teams. Overall, the tool makes for efficient and seamless collaboration.
Asana is another great option, especially if you like a superclean look. It offers users tons of freedom when creating tasks and workflows. Like Trello, it’s also easy to integrate with common collaborative tools like Gmail and Slack.
Want your project management tool to look less like an app and more like a spreadsheet? Check out Airtable. You have far more collaboration options than you would with a regular spreadsheet, but with more traditional visuals like sheets, bar graphs and surveys.
Best collaboration tools for messaging
Slack has become one of the more recognizable names in this space and is a solid choice.
Also check out Basecamp, which offers similar messaging features but gives you more capabilities for collaboration, sharing schedules and maintaining to-do lists. You can also easily store info on Basecamp’s dashboard, which is helpful if your team is frequently referencing big docs, spreadsheets and more.
Maximizing small business collaboration tools
No matter the tool you choose, it’s always helpful to get proper training to learn the features and use them comfortably. Collaboration won’t be made easier if you and your team can’t successfully and effectively navigate the various features and get the most out of them.
Most collaboration tools offer small businesses either a free trial period or a free starter version of the product. If you’re unsure about what tools would be best for your business, run a few trials and feel out what works well and feels right—and what doesn’t.
Set measurable goals for what you’d like to achieve with the tools you’ve chosen, so that as you settle into using them, you can gauge how well each is working for you. Maybe you want to cut down on unnecessary emails with a better messaging program, improve remote meeting collaboration or provide team leaders a better way to improve workflow. Have regular check-ins with your teams, and ask for their insight on utilizing a given tool for everyone’s benefit. You might be amazed at some of the features people have discovered to make the tool more useful.
Make sure your internet connection is ready for collaboration
If you start noticing that your video call connections are choppy, your connection lags when several devices are linked to your network or uploading files crashes your software, you may need to upgrade to a faster, more reliable internet package. A stronger connection paired with the right tools will make all the difference and help your small business thrive.
Product features may have changed and are subject to change.