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Virtual collaboration tools: creating the perfect toolkit for hybrid teams

Published:

December 7, 2023

Updated:

December 28, 2023

Today, working with a colleague who is located in Japan while you are working from the office in Paris is no longer an issue. At least, it shouldn’t be if you have the correct virtual collaboration tools.

Online collaboration software ensures seamless coordination and communication in an asynchronous work environment. Videoconferencing platforms, project management software, hybrid scheduling apps, etc. These are all workplace technologies fundamental to enabling your employees to interact and work together regardless of location.

So, what is the basic toolkit every hybrid team should have? What are the best collaboration tools available, and how do you choose the right ones for your coworkers? Here is a complete guide to virtual collaboration and the must-have resources for any remote and modern workforce. From project progress tracking to real-time interactions and digital brainstorming solutions, you’ve got this!

Time to get equipped: what virtual collaboration tools should every flexible workforce be provided with?

Communication channels adapted to your team’s needs

If you’ve embraced flexible work, you know that working with a hybrid team requires the best communication channels to work effectively. Communication is a core pillar for any successful business, no matter its working model. Yet, diverse geographical locations and flexible schedules can lead to scheduling conflicts and harm collaboration if not managed with the right tools. 

Finding communication channels that enable seamless information exchange, ensure everyone is on the same page, and promote a sense of inclusion for all members is fundamental. Without suitable platforms, the benefits of a flexible workforce can be compromised. For instance, some remote team members might feel isolated or need more alignment about the company's goals. 

These tools help bridge the gap, ensuring that every team member can contribute fully and effectively to the collective efforts regardless of location.

woman in a virtual conference call

The best videoconferencing tool for online meetings

In remote and hybrid work environments, videoconferencing tools are pivotal for maintaining clear and effective communication among team members. They represent an essential tool to simulate in-person interaction, enabling employees to fetch non-verbal cues and foster stronger connections.

A high-quality videoconferencing tool minimizes technical disruptions, provides reliable security for sensitive exchanges, and ensures accessibility across different devices and platforms. Moreover, it allows for recording sessions, sharing screens, and real-time collaboration, which are essential for productive and engaging meetings. 

These platforms have become the cornerstone of harmonious communication strategies as they help hybrid workforces navigate the challenges of working in different locations.

An effective and user-friendly project management software

Project management software is probably the most crucial virtual collaboration tool to have as a flexible workforce. We cannot imagine how a hybrid team can perform and succeed without it.

The main goal of this tool is to centralize tasks, documents, and any resources pertinent to a project. Streamlining workflows, facilitating deadline tracking, and enabling efficient resource allocation are among the main perks of using a project management tool. It also helps mitigate the risk of information silos and ensures that all team members, regardless of their location, have real-time access to project updates, deadlines, and resources. 

Additionally, they foster accountability and enable team members and leaders to monitor progress. Using such software minimizes confusion among coworkers. It also enhances productivity by automating routine processes and offering features like task assignments, file sharing, and collaborative spaces. All this is essential to allow seamless operation and success of flexible teams.

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A seamless virtual whiteboard to brainstorm ideas

Do you feel lost without your old whiteboard from your office meeting room? We feel you! But the good news is that virtual whiteboards are entering the game of remote collaboration. They provide hybrid teams like you with a dynamic and visual platform to brainstorm and innovate as if everyone were in the same room. 

These digital boards remove location barriers, allowing team members to contribute ideas simultaneously, map out thought processes, and visualize concepts in real time. Not only do they boost creativity and innovation, but they also serve as an organizational tool for planning and executing projects. 

Virtual whiteboards play a key role in remote work communication as they contribute to triggering engagement. With the visual nature of the content, words are more impactful and easier to understand. This collaborative technology ensures that every voice can be heard and every idea can be seen, making teamwork more efficient and effective despite physical distances.

a woman working remotely using a whiteboard

A cloud-based document-sharing platform to centralize all your files

Another must-add virtual collaboration tool to your toolkit is a cloud-based document-sharing platform. 

This resource significantly enhances virtual collaboration in a hybrid work environment by providing a centralized repository for files, allowing team members to access, edit, and manage documents irrespective of their physical location. 

This fosters real-time collaboration, as updates are instantly visible to all, eliminating the barriers of time zones and geography. By streamlining communication and ensuring version control, the platform mitigates the risks of information silos and data discrepancies.

An integrated online scheduling system to keep track of colleagues’ working location

Before planning any virtual meeting or starting to work on a project with their colleagues, your staff needs to know who is working where. A hybrid scheduling system allows employees to plan and coordinate their work with full visibility into when and where colleagues are available, remotely or from the office. 

This transparency is crucial for scheduling meetings, assigning tasks, and managing project timelines. It also helps prevent delays and ensures that team members can connect at times suitable for everyone involved. 

This streamlines collaboration, as teams can effectively synchronize their efforts and maintain a cohesive workflow. Moreover, using a week planning system, like deskbird, allows for better time-zone differences management and greater optimization regarding productivity across the hybrid workforce.

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colleagues working together in a hybrid office

Time to compare: what differentiates the main virtual collaboration tools on the market?

5 common online communication tools compared

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
Slack - Real-time messaging and file sharing.
- Integration with various apps.
- Customizable channels and notifications.
- Can be overwhelming for large teams.
- Pricing can be high for advanced features.
Free version with limited features. - Free version with limited features.
- Paid plans: starting from $6.75 per month.
Flock - Short load time.
- Searchable feature.- Unlimited message visibility.
- Project management feature.
- Seamless file sharing.
- Personalized onboarding.
- Fewer integration possibilities.
- Does not support automated bots (yet).
30-day free trial. - Free for teams between 1 to 20 people.
- Paid plans:
starting from $4.50 per user per month.
Loom - Quick video recording.
- Easy sharing and embedding.
- Useful for asynchronous communication
- Limited to video messages.
- Not suitable for real-time conversations.
Free starter plan. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: $12.50.
WhatsApp - Simple to use.
- Wide user base.
- End-to-end encryption.
- Multimedia sharing.
- Limited collaboration features.
- Doesn’t answer all the needs for professional use.
Free. Free.
Troop Messenger - Secure messaging.
- one-to-one and group messaging.
- File sharing.
- Smaller user base compared to popular tools. 1-month free trial. - Paid plans:
starting from $5 per user per month.

5 well-known videoconferencing platforms described

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
Google Meet - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Third-party integrations.
- Scheduling.
- No reporting and statistics.- No activity dashboard. Free starter plan. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: $6 per user per month.
Microsoft Teams - Full integration across Office 365 apps.
- Large cloud storage per user.
- Easy to use.- Activity dashboard.- Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Reporting and statistics.- Third-party integrations.
- Interface can be complicated. Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: $4 per user per month.
Zoom - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Breakout rooms.
- Activity dashboard.
- Reporting and statistics.
- Third-party integrations.
Free plan. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $149.90 per yearly license.
Whereby - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Attendee management.
- No activity dashboard.
- No reporting and statistics.
Free trial and plan. - Free version for up to 100 participants.

- Paid plans: starting from $6.99 per host per month.
RingCentral - Easy to use from a smartphone.
- Host large training and conferences (up to 500 people).
- Activity dashboard.
- maybe too many features. Free trial available. Paid plans: starting from $20 per user per month (annual payment).

5 top project management software on the market

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
Google Meet - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Third-party integrations.
- Scheduling.
- No reporting and statistics.- No activity dashboard. Free starter plan. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: $6 per user per month.
Microsoft Teams - Full integration across Office 365 apps.
- Large cloud storage per user.
- Easy to use.- Activity dashboard.- Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Reporting and statistics.- Third-party integrations.
- Interface can be complicated. Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: $4 per user per month.
Zoom - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Breakout rooms.
- Activity dashboard.
- Reporting and statistics.
- Third-party integrations.
Free plan. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $149.90 per yearly license.
Whereby - Recording.
- Screen and file sharing.
- Attendee management.
- No activity dashboard.
- No reporting and statistics.
Free trial and plan. - Free version for up to 100 participants.

- Paid plans: starting from $6.99 per host per month.
RingCentral - Easy to use from a smartphone.
- Host large training and conferences (up to 500 people).
- Activity dashboard.
- maybe too many features. Free trial available. Paid plans: starting from $20 per user per month (annual payment).

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5 virtual whiteboards to check out for your flexible teams

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
Miro - Presentation streaming.- Project tracking/planning/scheduling.- Pre-made templates.- Infinite canvas.- Easy screen sharing and presentation features.
- Enterprise-grade security.
- Mobile version offers fewer features.- Offline access needs to be improved. Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $10 per user per month.
Mural - Build-in templates.- Many collaborative features.- Third-party integrations. - No video calls option. Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $9.99 per user per month.
Stormboard - Built-in templates.
- Infinite canvas.
- Third-party integrations.
- No calling or videoconferencing options.
- No support for charts or graphs.
a 30-day free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $8.33 per user per month.
Limnu - Very easy to use.
- Slack integration.
- No app for Androids (yet). 14-day free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $8.33 per user per month.
Confluence Whiteboard - Templates for agile events.
- Post-it cards, images, videos, and drawing tools.
- Usable with any processes such as Scrum, Kanban, Scrum@Scale, SAFE, Scaled Agile, LESS, etc.
- High price. Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $375 per year for up to 15 users.

5 great cloud-based file-sharing solutions

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
Google Drive - Seamless integrations into the Google ecosystem and third-party integrations.
- Works on iOS, Android, Mac, and PC.- Intuitive UI.
Fewer features than other file-sharing platforms. 15GB storage available for free. - Free starter plan up to 15 GB.

- Paid plans: starting from $6 per user per month.
Dropbox Business - 180 days of file recovery.
- Two-factor authentication.
- Document watermarking.
- File locking.
- Enterprise-grade security.
- Third-party integrations.
- Free version with less storage than competitors. 2GB storage available for free. - Paid plans: starting from $10 per user per month.
Microsoft OneDrive for Business. - Easy integration with the Microsoft Office Suite.
- Enterprise-grade security.
- Two-step authentication.
- Autolock after 20 minutes of inactivity.
- File restore up to 30 days.
- Speed issues when synchronizing files. 5GB storage available for free. - Paid plans: starting from $5 per user per month.
iCloud Drive - Build-in file sharing.- Easy synchronization across all devices. - Mostly suitable for personal use rather than business use. 5GB storage available for free. - Paid plans: starting from up to 50 GB for $0.99 per month.
MediaFire - Virus scanning.
- Upload from any website.- Customizable branding.
- Limited security. 10GB storage available for free. - Paid plans: starting from $3.75 per user per month.

5 online scheduling systems

Communication tool Pros Cons Trial conditions Price
deskbird - Social sharing.- Recurring schedules.
- Resources releases.
- Team overview.
- Third-party integrations.
- User-friendly features.- Employee-centric desk and room booking software.
30-day free trial available. - Paid plans: starting from $1.80 per user per month.
Calendly - Easy to use.
- Automated scheduling.
- Collaboration tools.
- Third-party integrations.
- No real-time updates.
- Limited functionalities.
Free trial available. - Free starter plan.

- Paid plans: starting from $10 per user per month.
Hub Planner - Time tracking.
- Resources scheduling functionalities.
- Available on multiple devices.
60-day free trial available. - Paid plans: starting from $7 per resource per month.
JustWorks - Easy to create and manage schedules.
- Real-time updates.
- Third-party integrations.
- High price.
- No free trial.
- Not available.
- Free demo available.
- Paid plans: starting from $39 per user per month (price varies according to number of users).
When I work - Shift template design.
- In-app messaging system.
- Limited third-party integrations. 14-day free trial available. - Paid plans: starting from $2.50 per user per month.

Time to choose: how do you pick the best virtual collaboration tools for your employees?

Find out your team members’ daily pain points

The initial step in finding the best virtual collaboration tools for hybrid teams is to identify remote employees' pain points while collaborating virtually. Direct input from team members is vital to understanding the limitations that hinder their productivity or communication. 

The best way to understand their needs is to discuss them. An online survey can be a scalable way to collect their feedback anonymously, allowing them to express concerns freely. Alternatively, team meetings or individual one-on-one sessions can offer more personal and detailed insights into specific issues they can face. 

These conversations are crucial to determine which features are missing or inadequate within current tools. It provides a great starting point for selecting the most effective and tailored collaboration platforms that match your employees’ unique requirements.

Make security a priority

When identifying the best virtual collaboration tools for hybrid teams, evaluating the security credentials of each option is a must. The rise in cybersecurity threats in the era of increased online collaboration highlights the importance of choosing tools that offer strong security measures. 

Therefore, the selected platforms must be equipped with end-to-end encryption, secure login processes, and compliance with relevant data protection regulations. Mitigating cybersecurity risks by vetting highly secured online resources is essential for safeguarding sensitive company information and protecting your staff’s privacy. 

If you find tools to resist potential breaches and ensure data security, you build trust within the team and across the organization. It guarantees that all virtual interactions and collaborations occur within a safe and controlled digital environment.

👋 Read more about cyber risk management and how to create a secure work environment!

Opt for an online collaboration tool with excellent customer support

The next step is to select virtual collaboration tools with the best customer support. When remote and on-site work blend, the impact of technical issues can be magnified, potentially disrupting productivity across different locations. Thus, immediate and practical assistance can be pivotal in maintaining business continuity in a flexible work environment.

Assessing the level of customer support a tool provides includes:

  • the availability of support personnel;
  • the responsiveness of their service;
  • the variety of support channels (live chat, phone support, email, or knowledge bases);
  • etc.

Access to prompt and knowledgeable customer support ensures that any challenges encountered with the tool can be swiftly addressed, minimizing downtime and frustration. Such backing empowers teams to leverage the tool’s capabilities fully, enhancing collaboration and productivity.

Look for seamless integrations

Systems integration is a must to promote smooth and effective workflows. Therefore, this aspect must be highly considered when choosing virtual collaboration tools. 

This synergy across platforms enables smooth data flow, prevents information silos, and reduces the need for toggling between different applications. It also helps save time and reduce the potential for errors. 

Tools with strong integration capabilities can plug into project management software, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, file storage services, and more. This creates a cohesive ecosystem that streamlines workflows and enhances productivity. 

Verifying that any prospective collaboration tool can connect with the specific systems already in use or can be easily adapted is essential as it ensures a unified and efficient work environment.

Choose virtual collaboration tools tailored to your employees’ needs

Choosing online collaboration tools tailored to employees’ needs is essential for optimizing hybrid team performance. A tool should be powerful and fit the team's specific workflows, technical needs, and requirements. Engaging with your colleagues to understand their daily tasks and issues enables you to choose tools that align with the nature of their work. 

Customization is equally essential. It allows your software to adapt as the team’s needs evolve. It’s beneficial to opt for platforms that offer modular features or customizable interfaces to ensure that the tool remains relevant and supportive of productivity. 

Remember, the right fit boosts adoption rates. Employees are more likely to embrace tools that feel intuitive and directly relevant to their roles. This is crucial as it usually results in smoother collaboration and better outcomes.

Start a free trial before subscribing to any virtual collaboration tool

Requesting a free trial of virtual collaboration tools before committing to a subscription is highly recommended. A trial period serves as a hands-on evaluation phase that allows your team to test the platform’s features in their daily activities rigorously. By using the tool, your team can gauge its compatibility with their workflows, user-friendliness, and overall contribution to productivity. 

Additionally, testing helps validate whether the tool addresses the specific needs and challenges identified. This firsthand experience is invaluable in making an informed decision, as it eliminates uncertainties. By ensuring the tool is a good fit for your team, you also avoid wasting money and creating disruptions when switching tools later.

This is an essential toolkit of the virtual collaboration tools every business should have. However, plenty of other tools can improve your hybrid workforce productivity. For example, virtual reality devices change our work, especially in a hybrid work environment. With VR equipment, teams can collaborate digitally as if they were in the same room. Also, we highly recommend you consider investing in resources that include AI technology.

Do you want to discover how deskbird helps you boost collaboration in the physical and digital workplace? Request a free demo or start a free trial of the deskbird app to learn more about all our user-friendly features!

Sources: 

Paulyne

Paulyne is a hybrid work specialist, who writes about sustainability, flexible work models and employee experience.

Virtual collaboration tools: creating the perfect toolkit for hybrid teams