Top Tools for Remote / Distributed Teams (Working Remotely)

For most of my career, I’ve worked remotely with clients across the country. While my friends put on makeup, get dressed in business casual attire, and commute to the office, I sometimes work in pajamas (or sweaty athleisure after a morning workout).

As a co-founder of FlexTeam, I manage our team of 300+ executive-level consultants — all working remotely as independent consultants / 1099 workers. At FlexTeam (and at Liquid), we believe working in this way (building companies with a dynamic “liquid workforce” that can easily be scaled up or down) is the future of work.

To seamlessly communicate and work effectively with remote / distributed teams, whether traditional W-2 employees or part of the liquid workforce, you need the right technology and tools. I’ve tested out dozens of email, phone, video chat, and web-based collaboration tools so you don’t have to.

Here are the tools I’ve found most useful for working remotely / distributed teams.

Team Communication

When working with a remote team, communication is of the utmost importance. Slack gives remote teams the ability to communicate in a modern day work environment while allowing users to creatively express themselves through emojis, gifs, and status updates. One of my remote / distributed teams can’t get enough of the party parrots custom emojis.

You can communicate in private direct or group messages, or slack channels. Slack channels can be set to private or public and allow you to keep conversations organized, while reducing the number of emails your team sends and receives. Also, slack allows many apps and integrations within your slack team to increase your team productivity (and/or happiness, depending on the integration)! My favorite feature is the ability to mute channels and set “do not disturb” times — the ability to control notifications feels so satisfying.

I’ve tried other alternatives — Atlassian’s Stride and HipChat, which have been discontinued; Microsoft’s Yammer; and Ryver — but slack is still the gold standard. I use slack everyday with multiple different remote / distributed teams.

Collaborative Documents

I use Google Drive and G Suite (Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Keep, etc) on a daily basis. In fact, most of the tabs open on my browser are from one of Google’s many products. Sure, Google Drive (and Docs, Sheets, and Slides) has its flaws. But I haven’t found a better tools for real-time online collaboration on files. I’ve tried Microsoft’s Office 365, Zoho, Quip (recently acquired by Salesforce), Dropbox, Box, and others. Admittedly, I need to spend some time testing out Dropbox Paper. Still, I’m mostly satisfied with how Google Drive behaves.

My favorite feature is setting expiration dates for view or comment access to files. This allows me to share files without having to remember to go back and remove access.

I couldn’t work with my distributed / remote teams without Google Drive and G Suite.

Document Storage

Google Drive is hands down what I prefer for collaborative documents. But there are many more file types that can’t be edited directly in Google Drive. For those files, and for long-term storage and retrieval of documents, I use Dropbox. (Confession: until three months ago, I used a combination of Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive for various purposes before finally committing to Dropbox.)

Whether it’s logos and design files, or contracts and other PDFs, I like the ease of shared Dropbox folders. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but I’ve yet to find any tech solution that is. Dropbox makes sharing files easy and syncs to every device (web, mobile, pc, mac). And best of all, the syncing is seamless and doesn’t use up all the RAM on my laptop.

Plus, it’s free to start with 2GB! And if you upgrade to a paid plan, you get tons of additional features — features that you’ll be happy to have for managing your remote team. One of the most important ones, in my humble opinion, is version history. As of October 2019, Dropbox Basic or Plus accounts can recover any file deleted or changed in the last 30 days, while Dropbox Business accounts bumps that up to 120 days, and Dropbox Professional accounts gives you 180 days!

That way, if any member of your remote team (or a client) accidentally deletes a file (or worse, infects the file with malware), you can rewind and recover what you’ve lost!

Quick Video Chat

Working remotely, it’s easy to fall back on email, IM, or even slack instead of meeting in person or talking on the phone. Regular video conferences can help you reconnect with your remote team — allowing you to build a more effective working relationship.

I recommend (formerly — I’ve tried skype, Google Hangouts,, and many other video conferencing tools. They’ve all failed me on more than one occasion, usually cutting out video and/or audio part way through a meeting; sometimes they have failed to connect altogether. uses WebRTC (real time communication) and provides a beautiful, smooth, and polished alternative to everyone’s default video chat platform, Google Hangouts. It uses HTML5 only (no flash) and there are no sign-ups. No plugins needed, unless you want to screenshare.

Unfortunately, the free version limits you to 4 participants so you’ll need to pay up (or use another tool) if you need to talk to more than 3 other people at one time.

Side note: has a much better product than but unfortunately their free version limits you to 2 participants (so it only works for one-on-one video calls).

Conference Calls

I used to love for team or client conference calls. But I switched to UberConference (when T-mobile stopped supporting calls to phone numbers) and I’ve never looked back. It has all the features you might want, from custom hold music to free call recording, local dial-in numbers to mobile apps — it has everything. I love that it makes it easy to call in to conferences from the app. And now it also supports video conferencing (with screen sharing) for $15/month.

I use UberConference for conference calls with my remote / distributed teams as well as with clients.

Phone Calls and Voicemail

Google Voice began as a startup called GrandCentral, which Google purchased in 2007. I’ve been using this product since 2006, when GrandCentral was founded.

It’s a simple way to get an extra phone number to share with clients or your remote team — especially when you don’t want to share your personal cell phone number (or want to share a number with a local area code). You can use this separate phone number to answer calls, receive voicemails, and even send and receive text messages!

Full-featured Phone System / Team Phone Number.

When it comes to business communications (especially with clients or customers), phone calls are still king. Whether you’re resolving a client issue, making a sale, or fleshing out details, sometimes phone is still best. If you need a full-featured VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone system, I highly recommend Dialpad. It’s a big upgrade from your traditional PBX network, especially for remote / distributed teams.

Dialpad delivers crystal-clear phone calls to the devices you already use (computers and mobile devices). It’s easy to set-up new users and you can quickly see what calls have been made and when. Plus, it has great iOS and Android apps and integrates easily with UberConference (my preferred conference call tool)!

Project Management

If you’re like me, you’ve got a million projects going simultaneously. But whether you’re working on just a few projects or many, team communications need to be super clear when you work with remote / distributed teams. As the founders of Asana put it in a blog post “the bigger your team, and the bigger your mission, the bigger your coordination problem.”

In my humble opinion, Asana and Trello are the best tools for project management — whether you work in a remote / distributed team or a traditional work environment.

Asana enables teams to track and manage the progress of projects within a shared workspace. At a more granular level, tasks can be created to keep track of individual components of a larger project. Users can add tasks, assign them to team members, set due dates, comment, and share relevant documents. The result is a highly customizable platform for project management. I find that the free version is usually sufficient for most teams — it supports up to 15 team members, unlimited task projects and conversations, and access to limited dashboards and search functions.

Trello was originally a web-based list-making application, which has evolved into task management app based on the Kanban system (a system originally developed by Toyata for for lean manufacturing, but that has become widely adopted by tech startups and other companies). It allows you to have a visual overview of what your remote / distributed team is working on and who is working on it.

Think of it as a whiteboard that you can fill with post-it notes.

The free version of Trello gives you 10 team boards, but only allows you to use 1 power-up (additional features and integrations that make Trello much more useful).

Now, whether to use Trello or Asana? I recommend you try both to figure out which is best for your remote team’s needs. You might find you want to use both for different cases.

Webinars and Video Conferencing

If you’re putting on webinars, there’s nothing better than Zoom. Zoom has a great free version that allows you to host conference calls and video calls, and supports screen sharing, making recordings of video and screen shares, and more. The only problem is that it limits calls to 40 minutes (though you can easily just start up a new call immediately after your call ends).

But where Zoom shines is hosting webinars. Sure, Google Meet (or Hangouts) is okay, too. And I do like when talking to 3 or fewer participants. But if you are hosting multiple panelists with many viewers, Zoom is the tool to use.

Internal Wiki / Shared Truth

Notion is a relatively new tool (founded in 2016). The company describes the app as an all-in-one workspace for note-taking, project management, and task management. I find that it’s great for note-taking and collaboration with markdown support that also integrates tasks, databases, and wikis.

Notion is incredibly versatile and I can think of dozens of different use cases. I highly recommend playing around with it to figure out how to integrate it with your distributed / remote team.

Manage, on-board, and pay 1099 workers / freelancers

Oftentimes (but not always), remote / distributed teams are made up of 1099 workers / freelancers engaged in project-based work. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Liquid, a new all-in-one solution powering the liquid workforce (full disclosure, my project-based consulting firm FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid).

Liquid streamlines the way you onboard, manage, and pay your liquid workforce. It’s currently in limited free beta, with new features added every day. Let me know if you’d like an invite to our free limited beta!

Other tools worth exploring

Here are a few other tools that I don’t use, but have on my list to explore and evaluate.

Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) is a self-described “visual collaboration platform for teams who want to collaborate faster, more easily and deliver better results!” From what I can tell, this is a collaborative white board tool that also incorporates video, chat, presentation, and sharing. And it integrates into slack and other tools! My preferred collaborative white board tools had been Limnu — but because they nixed their free plan, I’m open to exploring other alternatives.

Confluence by Atlassian is another shared workspace platform. Originally created as a wiki and documentation tool for developers, it has potential applications for non-technical teams collaborating on content. To me, what’s intriguing about Confluence is the $10 one-time fee for a self-hosted solution.

Okay, that’s it for me.

To make cross-functional teamwork effortless, you have to use the right tools for collaboration. Whether you work out of a coworking space, at home in your pajamas, at your local coffee shop, or in your roaming RV, I hope you found this list helpful!

Let me know in the comments what tools I’ve missed for remote / distributed teams (or what I got wrong)!

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.