It can take some effort to transition from a traditional, rigid work environment to a flexible one that is optimized for team performance, efficiency, morale, and recruiting.

But once you’ve decided to embrace work flexibility, finding the right tools for implementation is the fun part, thanks to the wide variety of options available these days. As someone who has made “not being there” a huge part of my working life, here are the tools (all 21 of them!) I recommend for ensuring remote work is successful.

Collaboration on a specific item

One of the key components of remote working is collaborating with others on one specific item. Maybe that item is an article. Maybe it’s a podcast or video. Or, maybe it’s a spreadsheet or a presentation (I feel for you).

It might seem like this would be difficult to do if you’re not all in the same place, but thankfully, document management and cloud storage capabilities have solved this issue. They allow shared access to files, and also allow you to track your changes, add notes and questions, and capture the most current versions of the content.

I often use Google Docs and Google Drive, but am also a huge fan of DropBox. I also like Box and OneDrive.

Collaboration on a larger project

Most of the work that I do requires me to quarterback a major content marketing project with multiple moving parts: content planning and creation, inbound and outbound optimization, tracking metrics, influencer engagement, and so on.

This can get pretty complex, requiring me to assign tasks, track progress and deadlines, and manage dependencies.

I am usually pretty good at snapping to whatever project management tools my clients use, but some of my favorites include Trello, Asana, and Wrike (especially its Gantt Charts!).

Scheduling

Think back to the last time you had to set up a meeting or call with someone else. How much phone or email tag did you have to play to get it done?

Now add a whole bunch of other people in different organizations to the equation and the task gets a lot more difficult.

I’ve found FreeBusy to be a godsend in helping me pull together cross-organizational calls in seconds because it is smart enough to find the free/busy availability of everyone, without making me create a new account or calendar. My clients can also quickly find time on my schedule for a call, and I love that FreeBusy allows me to publish an iCalendar, and lets me tell my Amazon Echo to set up meetings.

There are other solutions like Doodle out there, but I’ve personally found FreeBusy to be the most intuitive and comprehensive.

Communication

So you found the time to connect. Great. Now how are you going to do that?

Sure, if it all you need is a one-to-one meeting, your smartphone will do. But if you need to reach a larger group, or need to connect with people all over the world, you need to take your game to the next level.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have Skype (a big reason why Microsoft bought it). It’s also highly reliable, even in places where the internet may not be the best. It works all over the world (ok almost), it’s affordable (dare I say cheap?), and has navigated the mix of computers, machines, operating systems, actual phone numbers, and devices really well.

It does video, screensharing, and small group conferencing too.

Heck, it just works. I love it.

But I also use the messaging and voice capabilities of Facebook, and also WhatsApp and Viber, especially for my clients outside of North America.

If you want to facilitate message discussions among your team, Slack is the darling of the Silicon Valley. A close second is HipChat. Both take instant messaging, weave in a little contextual recognition and the ability to integrate third party capabilities, and turn the whole thing into a virtual water cooler that captures the searchable discussions for posterity.

Need to meet with a larger group in real time and lead a presentation? Webinar apps like GoToMeeting, WebEx, and JoinMe are great. You can also record them for folks who aren’t able to join in real-time.

Location

Home may be where the heart is, but sometimes you just need to get out to get work done. Especially if you are a grandmaster of slobbiness of the first order like I am.

The obvious places like libraries and coffee joints come to mind. But depending on where you are, there are also sites like workfrom.co that help you find the perfect place to set up for the day.

Need Internet access? Check.

Power? Double check.

Some coffee places even go the extra mile to provide ad-hoc meeting spaces that you can book, or, even serve up booze.

Have a bit of coin and want something more structured? Consider an office-on-demand service like WeWork or LiquidSpace, which allow you to find an open desk at various co-working locations, with the benefits of a vibrant start-up culture if that is your thing, but with no lease tying you down.

If you are already sold on working remotely or just want to do it better, these simple ways to gear up for the task should help you get started.

photo credit: istockphoto.com