The best tools for distributed and hybrid teams

Published: March 8th, 2023

More companies have gone hybrid than ever before. A recent report revealed that 74% of U.S. businesses have either implemented or plan to adopt a permanent hybrid work model.  

It’s no surprise—the popular arrangement comes with many perks: an expanded talent pool, higher employee retention through better work-life balance, and improved productivity, just to name a few. But hybrid work also comes with its fair share of challenges. Uniting distributed teams isn’t easy, and new approaches are required to support employees who are in the office one day and working from home the next. 

Fortunately, advancements in workplace tools and technology have kept pace with the evolving landscape. Below, you’ll find must-have tools to connect colleagues, boost productivity, and ensure your business is making the most of hybrid work. 

Asynchronous collaboration 

Help distributed employees collaborate across time zones with cloud-based tools designed for asynchronous teamwork. Microsoft and Google cloud workspaces both offer an essential suite of collaboration tools, including email and chat, calendar apps, file sharing, and storage, and are already commonplace in many businesses. These platforms are foundational, so look for additional collaboration tools that integrate with your cloud workspace of choice. 

Additional collaboration apps include storage and file hosting apps like Dropbox or Box, which ensure that employees can access and share files from anywhere at any time. Apps like Adobe Creative Cloud, Canva, and Figma allow teams to create and collaborate on visual assets such as wireframes, design mock-ups, and motion graphics. 

A smart panel like the ActivPanel 9 Pro lets you record meetings and send them to teammates in different time zones who might not be able to attend a session. There’s also Loom, which enables asynchronous video sessions, so that team members can provide efficient feedback in video form for asynchronous face time.  

Streamlining workflows

When your employees are both in-office and across the country, it can become difficult to manage big projects and make sure all tasks are completed. Particularly in a hybrid work environment, project management tools are indispensable.  

Some tools that help your company stay organized and on the same page are Asana and Do you love working with spreadsheets for projects? Airtable functions like a large spreadsheet, but offers a simpler user interface for team collaboration. 

These platforms help assign roles, break down heavy projects, categorize tasks, and track your team’s progress as they go, making project planning and execution run smoothly. They also allow for open communication with employees at each step of the process, clarifying expectations, goals, and duties.   

E-book your meetings through SUMO Scheduler or automate campaigns using HubSpot so that you can reduce the load of work on your employees’ plates. These are just a few options that will free up time and leave room for everyone to focus on getting the job done. 

Tools to increase focus

In any work arrangement, even the most well-intentioned employee can get sidetracked. With hybrid employees coming into the office only a few days a week, the temptation to socialize during work hours is high. And whether your remote employees are tackling their to-do lists from the local cafe or triaging tasks from a home office, remote work environments each come with their own unique set of distractions. Focus tools ensure that they’re not relying on willpower alone. 

Whether employees are working from the office or elsewhere, to-do list apps like Todoist help keep the task at hand front and center. When it’s time to go heads down, email management tools like Boomerang can keep the inbox chatter at bay while social media blockers like Keepmeout remove the urge to check feeds. Employees can even limit internet access through tools like Freedom and Cold Turkey

Consider encouraging teams to use the Pomodoro technique, which breaks work into 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between for uninterrupted work intervals. Other time management tools include Toggle, Rize, and Serene, which all help you put time back into your schedule by increasing productivity. 

Tip: Did you know that the ActivPanel 9 Pro comes with an easy-to-use Timer app? Simply set the timer and kickstart a time-bound group brainstorming or focused working session for in-office collaboration.  

Gamification can also be a powerful tool for driving focus. With the Forest app,  teams can plant a virtual forest together based on the collective time they stay off of their phones. There’s also Habitica, a video game to help you improve real-life habits by turning your tasks into little monsters you must conquer.  

Consider compiling recommended focus tools into a company-wide resource document or holding a focus tools lunch-and-learn session the next time everyone is in the office together. 

Creating a positive company culture 

Employers are exploring new ways to bring distributed teams together and help all employees feel valued no matter where they are. HR platforms and services can help hybrid workforces bond and establish a culture and a sense of belonging in employees.  

 Start off by implementing the right communication channels for your hybrid teams. To connect in-office employees with those working elsewhere, make video calls smoother with the ActivPanel 9 Pro, which provides high-quality video, audio, and screen sharing. Then secure a preferred messaging app. Some teams might prefer Slack for its user interface or Teams because it synchronizes well with other Microsoft apps. You can start group chats on these channels, such as “Book and Movie Recommendations” or “Quotes of the Day” to develop a sense of community. 

Plan your next team offsite with services like Boompop, Offsyte, or Marco Experiences, which have programs designed to bring together hybrid and remote teams in the best ways possible. You can remember birthdays and craft customizable gifts to hand out in the office or send to employees by mail through corporate gifting platforms like Caroo

Maximizing in-office collaboration

In a hybrid work environment, it’s important to make the most of in-person office time. Implement tools that upgrade your office like Robin, a room reservation system that optimizes your space and encourages team meetings.  

Start by modernizing your workplace with an all-around solution like the ActivPanel 9 Pro. It offers collaborative capabilities like high-quality video and audio for calling during meetings that get everyone participating in the conversation. The interactive panel also offers the ability to annotate and record sessions for everyone to look back on, as well as screen share so that everyone knows what’s going on.  

Advanced technology like the smart panel will help give your employees a reason to come into the office and also create a more equitable experience for those unable to attend meetings in person. 

With interactive technologies like the ActivPanel, businesses can facilitate a more seamless and productive hybrid work experience for employees. 

Book a demo to find out how the all-new ActivPanel 9 Pro helps hybrid teams thrive. 

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