Remote work essentials from Hubstaff's distributed team

This is a guest post written by Rachel Go from Hubstaff,  who manages social media and enjoys writing the occasional blog post. She loves writing about remote work, productivity, and workplace culture. Rachel works remotely from around Asia, and is continuously learning about content strategy, SEO, and WordPress.

Remote work is a fairly new trend, but it’s gaining steam and for good reason. Many distributed teams are excelling, benefiting from a non-existent commute, optimal work hours, and a comfortable working space.

Hubstaff’s team is completely remote, which means all of our communications and collaboration takes place online. I’ve been a part of the team for more than a year and I still have never seen anyone else in person (although I chat with them all regularly and even know some of their upcoming trips).

Here are a few remote work essentials we have to keep our distributed team running smoothly.

Communication & Coordination


This tool allows us to send quick messages to different groups of people on a private platform. We have different “channels” within Slack that help us get to relevant team members quickly. For example, we have a #random channel for the entire team (the last thing shared here was a good place to work from) and a #content channel including everyone involved with the blog.

I can also reach out to someone directly by starting a private chat with them. In a distributed team, it’s important to know the best way to reach someone. We try to avoid email at Hubstaff, since inboxes get crowded and things slip through the cracks (especially with long email threads involving a lot of recipients), so Slack has become our go-to for communication.


We use Skype for instant messaging and quick voice calls. It’s useful for communicating with any team members you may be working with, or your clients. Skype is great for distributed teams because it’s instant communication that doesn’t get lost in a sea of email threads. Plus, depending on what kind of phone you have, you could have Skype on your mobile to keep your finger on the pulse of work and tasks.


Trello uses kanban boards to organize our blog to-do list into strategic tasks, which are assigned to individuals. We have different lists for article ideas, articles that are being written, going through editing, and finished articles that are ready to be scheduled.

We attach descriptions to our Trello cards to show an overall picture of what needs to be done, and upload files related to the card so that everything is in one convenient place.

Trello cards also support checklists, so you can break down a task into action items and get the project done more efficiently.

Coming soon: Hubstaff Projects

Hubstaff is rolling out a service called Hubstaff Projects very soon, which implements kanban style project management. Many of our departments have already moved over to Hubstaff

Projects, and we’re migrating our entire project management efforts onto there to test it before we release it to everyone.

Marketing & Growth


We use Intercom for online customer support, and we think it’s one of the most badass support software out there. We get to answer questions and troubleshoot problems virtually from around the world. Taking advantage of the different timezones also means that we can have support staff online almost 24/7.

We also integrated Intercom with our Facebook messages, which means if someone sends a question via Facebook, our support team gets it right away and can respond immediately. This keeps our customers happy, and hopefully they spread the word.


We use Buffer to optimize and pre-schedule our social media posts. It has helped us grow our social traffic and is great for ensuring a social media presence even when your social team is away from their desks.

I’m the social point-person on Hubstaff, and I use Buffer primarily to keep our social media profiles warm over the weekends.

Similar social media schedulers include Hootsuite, Edgar, and Sprout Social.

Management & Finances

Google Drive

Google Drive is one of my favorite tools for storing files online. It employs cloud storage to keep your files in one, easily accessible, convenient location. All you need to use it is an Internet connection and Gmail account.

At Hubstaff we organize our files into different folders within Google Drive. Some of the folders that I use heavily are “Marketing” and “Blog posts” (for obvious reasons).

Within Google Drive, you can create Google Docs and Spreadsheets. These are really useful for sharing blog posts, getting feedback, creating manuals and processes, and recording ROI. Since you can set shared folders and files, you can give members of your remote team access to your files so they can see what you’re up to.

For example, I first created this guest blog post in a Google Doc, shared it with another member of the Hubstaff team to proofread, and then shared it with a member of The Surf Office team for their review. Along each step of the way people can leave comments, make edits, etc.


We regularly share our screens to demonstrate what we want done, and use Jing Screencast to record actions and voice. So instead of having to type out and explain what I want done, I can record the actions on my screen, show exact functions, and explain (via voice recording) what I’m doing.

This is helpful because when your team is remote, you can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and ask them to teach you how to do something. These recordings can be used to teach multiple remote team members how to complete a task, and you can keep them handy for any new hires.


Efficiency = growth = money. Hubstaff is time tracking software that enables our remote team to operate efficiently, with project management integrations, time reports and timesheets, and automated payroll. Each distributed team member tracks their working time on their Hubstaff timers, and the tool calculates how much everyone should be paid and sends out the funds via PayPal.

Hubstaff also records proof of work, like the optional screenshots or activity levels that show productivity. This paints a clear picture of what is being done, plus it shows the breakdown of time down to task level. Seeing where our time is going helps our project leads manage resources, and it also helps us keep track of our hours.

I personally use Hubstaff for some of my other clients, and I simply download my time reports and send those in as invoices.



For security purposes, you should invest in a VPN that will protect your information. If you don't know where to get a VPN from, then you could always check out someone like hostiserver to help get you set up. This is especially important when working from public places and wifi, where your data could be at risk. I have Browsec in Google Chrome, and have also used VPN Shield in the past. 

Mobile hotspot

If you’re really worried about protecting your data, you could invest in a data plan for your phone and tether your laptop to your private mobile Internet connection. This is also really convenient for working in locations without any WiFi. Last year, I used my phone’s data to work one rainy morning from a tent in one of Oregon’s National Parks.


A lot of my colleagues have sweet desk setups, with giant second monitors, standing desks, and the works. However, the essentials for me are pretty basic;

All tools aside, the most important thing for remote work is a great distributed team. Gather people around you whom you trust, and whose work you respect, and you’ll find everything is suddenly more efficient, less stressful, and more effective.

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
budget retreat spreadsheet

Retreat Budget Spreadsheet

Are you organising a company retreat and want to make sure you have all the costs under the control?

Get a copy of our free Budget Calculator spreadsheet.

Get a copy

Interviews with more “newly-remote” companies:

Skift’s Insights and Experiences About Switching to Remote Work

Skift’s Insights and Experiences About Switching to Remote Work

During these times, many companies are switching to remote work. You may have heard that large companies, like Twitter, Shopify, and Slack are doing so, but we’re also seeing this shift with smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies as well. Perhaps this transition was already in the pipeline, or maybe COVID-19 was the catalyst. Either…

How a proptech startup REalyse switched from a London office to remote work

How a proptech startup REalyse switched from a London office to remote work

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that large companies like Twitter, Shopify and Slack are “going remote”. And recently, we’re hearing more and more stories about smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies doing the same. What were their motivations? What challenges do they face during this transition? How do they see their future? We…

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

WeTransfer switching to partial remote working

“We are not working from home. We are at home trying to make it work.” For most companies around the world trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, this quote probably feels pretty relatable as everyone adjusts to the sudden shift to working from home. Shared by Gwen Burbidge, the Head of HR at WeTransfer, these…

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

From the office to remote: Real.Digital chooses quality over the location

Around mid-August of this year Real.Digital announced that they will be operating as a remote first company from now on.They might not be affected by the COVID-19 in economic terms, but the decision to shift their work practices was still a significant one. Fortunately, they’re viewing it as a great opportunity to open up their talent pool to people from all over the world!


How to plan your first company retreat

Get for free

With knowledge collected from:

free course partners logos

Organize your next company retreat with Surf Office

450+ retreats organized ● 8 years of experience ● 110+ retreat locations
Get a quote