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The Lesson: How Our 100% Remote Team Works Seamlessly And Creatively From Four Countries
Our top digital tools and tips and how to get the most out of them when working remotely.
Our small team of four is spread out across the region with one each in Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Our clients come from all over too; from Sri Lanka to Sydney and even further afield. As such, we’ve had to put a lot of effort into finding the right tools, workflow and habits to enable seamless, creative collaboration whilst avoid burnout and screen fatigue - especially me as the Project Manager! If you’d like to save yourself time on all the trials and errors we had to go through, read on for all our top tools and tips below.
For Team Communications & Collaboration: Google Workspace
Google Workspace is our, less frustrating, version of Microsoft Teams/365. It has all the versatility but with a more intuitive interface that is more mobile friendly too. We use it for emails, of course, but also collaborating on documents, spreadsheets and presentation decks using Google’s equivalent of all the most popular Microsoft apps - but fear not, all Microsoft files can be opened and edited inside Google too so we’re not missing out on anything except the hefty user fees Microsoft charges. It also comes with Google Meet, their version of Zoom, which saves us another subscription and is automatically inserted into every calendar invite - handy!
For Visual Content Creation & Collaboration: Canva
With its friendly drag-and-drop interface, brand management capabilities, comprehensive collection of social media templates, new video capabilities and over 75 million royalty free images built in Canva is a must-have and saves us a fortune on fees for simple design work we can do ourselves.
A Canva premium account accommodates up to five team members who can collaborate on designs and share them externally at no extra charge so clients and collaborators can easily review and comment too.
For Project Management & Progress Tracking: Asana
Asana is our trusted task and project management tool. It helps us simplify our work processes, boost collaboration, and stay organized. This tool makes it easy to see who’s doing what, when it’s due, and how far along we are.
Our work week kicks off with a team chat led by Asana so we can agree our priorities and expected outputs for the week. Plus, we peek at everyone's workload in Asana to see if the work is spread evenly or if we need to lighten someone’s load or lend them a hand.
For Note-taking & Transcription: Otter.ai
If you want to ensure that you don’t miss out on any critical details and discussions during virtual meetings, Otter.ai is the perfect tool. It is an AI-powered audio recording and note-taking app that automatically transcribes the spoken word into text and integrates with just about any meeting platform.
As the person designated to take minutes for meetings, I feel reassured with Otter.ai as I can easily go to the transcribed notes or voice recordings for reference.
How about the quality of the transcriptions? Overall, accuracy is pretty solid, even with accents, though there's one little caveat – you might want to double-check proper names and specialized terms. Other than that, Otter.ai is our essential side-kick at every meeting.
For Video Hosting, Management and Collaboration: Vimeo
Vimeo used to be known as the ‘indie YouTube’ but it’s evolved into so much more than that. It’s really a central video management platform for hosting, sharing, collaboration, customisation, publishing and even measurement. It has an in-platform editor for making amends, templates for turning videos into social media content, a screen recorder and complete online studio for creating content from your webcam. It’s has automated transcription and subtitles and, well, the list goes on….
In essence, Vimeo serves as a video hub tailor-made for both casual and professional video producers and I personally appreciate how it empowers noobie video creators, like me, to craft content with a professional touch - see the demo below for an example (and see all our highly professional videos at https://vimeo.com/mooreslore).
For Suggesting & Summarising: ChatGPT
ChatGPT has the potential to assist with a range of tasks, from handling routine inquiries to generating content concepts or summaries but, following it’s initial hype, it’s not actually the ‘accomplish anything’ tool it was touted as.
How has it helped us? Well, I’ve had good experiences using it for proofreading and rephrasing text, suggesting headlines, condensing lengthy content into summaries or minutes of the meeting, crafting survey questions, and generating article layouts.
However, exercise caution when using it for crafting entirely original content, performing language translations, finding news, facts or quotes, establishing sources, and handling more complex tasks as accuracy issues frequently arise (possible, partly, because its database only extends to September 2021). Experiment with it to understand its strengths and limitations and always fact check whatever it tells you.
Other noteworthy tools we've dabbled in on a limited basis but which have left a lasting impression are:
For Interactive Workshops: Mural.co
Mural.co, a digital workspace, stands out for its ability to facilitate interactive meetings, brainstorming sessions, and visual collaboration. It accomplishes this by providing teams with a virtual canvas for remote brainstorming, ideation, and collective work. The platform also offers a wide variety of templates, colors, and illustrations to spark creativity and collaboration.
Our team has leveraged Mural.co for interactive workshops and learning sessions spanning multiple countries in Asia. It provides participants with a creative space to visually contribute their ideas, resulting in a customized digital whiteboard that captured the essence of the collaboration and discussions during these virtual events.
We used features like timers, voting, sticky notes, and a laser pointer, to make our sessions more exciting and engaging. Plus, Mural.co's user-friendly interface made it accessible to even first-time users, ensuring that everyone can participate.
For Remote Interviews: Riverside
Riverside is a platform designed for conducting high-quality remote video interviews and podcast recordings because it records the video feeds locally, without any internet interference, then uploads the files into the cloud for the user to collect and edit.
It also boasts an impressive array of features, including automatic transcription for over 100 languages. But my favorite is its text-based editor, a remarkable tool that enables users to effortlessly edit the video by cutting words from the transcription - just like deleting words from a Word document! The best part is that these edits seamlessly sync across all tracks, not only saving you valuable time but also sparing you from potential headaches, see?
Making the Most of Your Digital Tools
In our remote work journey, we've learned that how you use these tools is just as important as have them. Here are some practical tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your digital companions:
Set Clear Usage Guidelines
It's crucial to establish guidelines for each tool's role in your workflow. For instance, define when to use Google Slides or Canva for creating a deck. Clear guidelines ensure that your team uses each tool with purpose and clarity.
Build a Digital Database
Create a centralized digital database where all essential files and information are neatly organized and hyperlinked. This database becomes your master summary, making it effortless to locate critical documents, project files, or meeting notes when you need them. Moreover, make sure that each file is saved in the folder location or folder, so you have everything related to a project or client in one place. Taking time to be organized avoids duplication of work and effort.
Regular Cleanup Sessions
Like spring cleaning for your digital workspace, schedule periodic cleanups. Removing unnecessary files and data not only keeps your workspace tidy but also boosts overall system performance. It's a simple yet effective way to maintain efficiency.
Learn from the Pros
Invest time in learning the nuances of each tool. YouTube videos and tutorials are treasure troves of insights into their features and capabilities. Ensuring your team members are well-versed in each tool helps you maximize them.
Stay Curious and Innovative
Technology is constantly evolving. Dedicate time to research and explore new tools and software that might enhance your workflow. An open-minded approach to innovation can lead to more streamlined processes and superior results.
I hope you'll find my recommendations useful and if you have any recommendations of your own, drop them in the comments below.