When Hrishikesh Pardeshi started Remote Tools in 2018, there is no way he could have foreseen that the digital transformation many companies had been planning for years, would take place in a matter of months. Now, everyone is looking at remote tools as a matter of business continuity. As the Co-Founder of Flexiple and Remote Tools, he’s had a lot of experience working with remote tools – and how to adopt and use them effectively.
First off, why did you start remote.tools in the first place? What do you hope to achieve?
In mid 2018, we were working on multiple remote engagements through our venture, Flexiple. We realized that every time we faced a challenge, we had to sit down to search & evaluate tools that could help us address them. This can be mind-numbing – we couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a central repository of tools that had already been curated and vetted for remote teams to leverage. So we built one ourselves!
The first version of Remote Tools – received a great response and we realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
There were a lot of gaps around ideas in remote working. Over the next 1.5 years, we worked to create quality content around remote working in the form of newsletters, stories, guides, podcasts to address these gaps. This is what Remote Tools is about at its core – being a hub for all things relating to remote work.
There was still one key missing piece. We found that the existing communities around remote work focussed primarily on remote jobs. They miss the basic human need of interaction. As remote workers, we need to belong, relate, and learn from others who understand the journey we are on.
This is where The Remote Clan comes in to live up to this vision. We are developing a community for remote workers looking to enhance their careers with the help of others who are pursuing the same goals. This serves our objective to build a space to learn about and discuss remote work.
As a founder of a remote tool directory, you definitely have a lot of tools up your sleeve. If you had to choose only 5 tools for remote working, which would they be?
Wow, choosing just 5 is incredibly tough. But I would go with the ones that address the most basic needs:
- Gmail for email
- Zoom for video calls
- Slack for synchronous chats
- Slite for practically any kind of documentation
- Loom for sharing screen recordings
This is the primary stack we use as a team on a daily basis.
What are some small, lesser known tools that you find indispensable in your workflows?
Lots of them. I use tons of small extensions or apps daily, not necessarily related to remote working. Here are a few:
- Mailmeteor – Bulk, personalized emails from sheets – absolutely love this.
- WhatFont – Chrome extension to find out what font is used on a website
- Chrome capture – For quickly recording screen gifs – very handy for social media posts.
- InVideo – For creating fast and simple marketing videos.
For someone new to remote work, what is the biggest technological challenge they will face? How about the toughest behavioural challenges?
I think the biggest technological challenge would be to find the right tool for your use-case. This happens to tech savvy people as well. There are so many tools that are simple, intuitive and easy to adopt. Yet there are many more that are complex, require big changes to your workflows and can take a big investment of resources (especially time).
Earlier, whenever I had to reproduce a product bug or show a workflow, I had to get the person on call and share my screen to show it. I didn’t know something like Loom existed which lets you capture screen from your browser and instantly gives you a shareable link! Discovering nifty tools for your particular use-case always remains the biggest challenge.
Behaviourally, there are many challenges. The toughest one I would say is to find the right balance in communication and expectations. I used to be impatient in getting replies whenever I ping’d someone. Slack is notorious for this. You see the green symbol and expect the other person to reply immediately. Relying on asynchronous communication and documentation are key to succeeding in a remote setting.
You see so many new tools – how do you choose and adopt new ones?
There are 2 parts to this.
I usually keep tabs on the latest products not only because it’s part of my job at Remote Tools but because I am passionate about hunting for and exploring new tools. I try the ones I find interesting and keep using them on a limited scale in my personal daily work. For example, I really love Notion and use it for writing at times (e.g. this article) even though our team’s primary documentation tool is Slite. So when I actually need to select a tool reliably for a personal/ team workflow, I already have options to bring to the table.
The other more important flow is when I actually need to find a tool for a use-case at hand. Let me take the example of a scenario we faced a few months back. At Flexiple, we used Zoho heavily to manage our freelancer database and workflows. On top of this, we used to document our processes, SOPs, and project analyses on Google Docs and Sheets. We had a master spreadsheet just to navigate through all these documents!
We realized it was getting too disorganized and that we needed a more reliable, central tool for documentation. Our requirements were simple:
- Document capabilities
- Easy navigation and intuitive file structure
- Easy sharing and collaboration
- Sheet capabilities (not mandatory since we were anyway using AirTable)
The very first thing we did was to browse through the document collaboration category on Remote Tools. Notion, Slite and Coda came very close to fulfilling all our requirements. We chose Slite eventually since it mirrors Slack’s channel structure (we use Slack regularly) and it is (or at least was) lighter on the pocket.
Any other advice you would give to people when they are exploring new tools?
I would strongly suggest not to shy away from investing in tools, even if you’re an early-stage startup or small team. In our very initial months, we were always concerned about pricing and were sometimes unwilling to consider tools that we considered pricey. For example, Ahrefs is priced at $199/month. But anyone who’s seriously thinking of SEO should invest in Ahrefs.
The point here is to consider the financial investment into tech products equivalent to expanding your team. When you make a new hire, you are doing so with expectations on how the investment will pay off. Paying for tools should be viewed in a similar fashion.
You see a lot of new tools being uploaded daily, what kind of tools do you think remote workers are lacking?
I think the following are few areas that either need new tools or are in major need of disruption.
Hassle-free remote hiring: A tool that takes care of all logistics (and hassles) that come along with hiring employees across countries – labour laws, legal documents, mandatory deposits with government, insurance etc.
Video communication: Specifically with a focus on spontaneity and facilitating informal interactions.
Document management and note taking: Lots of apps are tackling niche use-cases, users need a more holistic approach.
Covid has changed everything – are there any tools you’ve started using because of these new circumstances?
I am not sure if it’s entirely COVID related but tools that facilitate informal interactions with your (remote) team are not very intuitive. I think one thing that’s taken for granted is the serendipitous conversations that happen in-office, when you just happen to meet someone in the hallway or at the water cooler. There are some really good apps that consciously help you achieve social and informal interactions in a remote setting. Some examples are Slack add-ons like Donut and Icebreakers.
But sometimes, at the end of the day – there is not a tool to replace everything. And the serendipity of in-person human interaction is unlikely to be replaced with a tool any time soon.