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PRODUCTIVITY

7 Effective Work-From-Home Tools for Remote Teams

Here's a list of tools that will enable your team to work together, no matter how far apart you are.

There's no question that the right tools can make all the difference in managing a remote team.

Here's a roundup of a few that can help to strengthen not only your team's effectiveness, but its bond as well. 

1. Trello

Trello, a web-based app, uses Post-it note-like visualization to help organize projects that your employees are working on. You can use it to log your own personal to-dos or assign new tasks to others. "I love Trello because I can zoom in to as granular a detail as I want and zoom out just as much to get the bird’s eye view," Google Insights Lead Gautam Ramdurai recently wrote in a post on Medium. The free iOS and web app comes from Joel Spolsky, a prolific software developer who also helped to create programmer Q&A site Stack Exchange and software project management tool FogBugz.

2. Mural.ly 

The aptly named Mural.ly software enables you and your team to create murals for remote brainstorming and idea mapping. A working mural looks like a digital collage of sticky notes, YouTube videos, images and Microsoft Office docs. Mural.ly was designed with creative teams in mind, but its founders -- game developers from Buenos Aires -- indicate it's for anyone who values interdisciplinary thinking. The company has raised $920,000 from Intel Capital, Alta Ventures, 500 Startups, according to CrunchBase.

3. Dashcube 

Designed to mimic the way you use a browser, the web-based app, Dashcube, allows you to open projects and team conversations in tabs. The big idea behind the tool is to archive as much communication as possible in the system, cutting down on the amount of email coming at you from your remote team. Perhaps the coolest feature of Dashcube is "replay." If you're ever away from your computer for a long time -- whether for a business trip or vacation -- you can hit "replay" to chronologically view the progress that took place on projects while you were gone.

4. Daily Update 

You can use Daily Update, an email service, to automate your check-in with your team each day. It eliminates the hassle of trying to get in sync with multiple employees, especially if they're spread across several time zones. Daily Update sends your employees an email at 4 pm local time, asking them to briefly summarize what they got done that day. The information is aggregated, and the summary lands in your inbox every morning. Pricing is $4 per user per month.

5. TINYpulse

Rather than gauge employee satisfaction with a survey once a year, TINYpulse--also an email service--regularly monitors company morale through anonymous questionnaires. Every one to two weeks, employees receive an email that asks something like, "How valued do you feel at work?" The results give managers get a near real-time feel for employee morale, and employees can view the data as well.

The tool comes from entrepreneur David Niu, who spent time abroad asking small business owners about the number one thing he could help them with, according to GeekWire. After learning it was employee retention, Niu's answer to them was TINYpulse.

6. PivotalTracker

PivotalTracker project management software is an old developer favorite from web and mobile development consultancy Pivotal Labs. PivotalTracker helps your team of engineers to prioritize and focus on "stories." Stories are short descriptions of some functionality you're trying implement in your software. Pivotal Labs built PivotalTracker in 2006 for its own developers, and since its 2008 public release it has been used by more than 500,000 people, Pivotal says.

7. Pushpin Planner 

Pushpin Planner software gives you a bird's eye-view of how your team is spending their time. Your team can report what they're working on and for how long. Then you can see who's available for extra projects so that you can make new assignments. The tool comes from Project Ricochet, a firm that specializes in Drupal development.

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IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 27, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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