5 ways the right digital tools can keep your hybrid team humming

How to choose the right one for the job when your hybrid team needs to connect, collaborate, create, and innovate.

By Jared Lindzon — September 5, 2023

When Jason Sophian joined communications API developer Nylas in 2021, the company was preparing to go fully remote. Sophian, the company’s director of communications, says having the right tools to enable collaboration across locations and time zones was key to making the transition for its roughly 150 employees.

“Each team had been using their own systems,” he says. “There was a need for us to clearly define what tools and what channels to use for specific reasons.” 

As hybrid teams adapt workflows and processes for the way we work today — essentially reinventing workplace collaboration through trial and error — there’s a wide range of tools to choose from. Like most hybrid and remote teams, Nylas uses email, Zoom, Teams, and Slack, but that’s only the beginning. Research from the career platform Zippia found that employees who collaborate on the job and have access to digital collaboration tools are 17% more satisfied with their job and workplace culture.

Re-creating the energy, efficiency, and productivity of in-person collaboration requires an array of tools designed for specific purposes, from brainstorming to proofreading. “It’s a combination of having the tools and understanding how and when to use them,” says Sophian. These tools are helping employees in different roles, locations, and time zones work together in ways that allow for real-time or asynchronous interaction with colleagues that feels natural and collaborative, and they’re also having an impact on how employees feel about work. And not only do they make collaboration across time and distance possible, but in many ways more efficient than ever before. Many are incorporating technology like AI to help organize information more clearly, generate ideas faster, and unlock new ways to share and contribute.

From visual workspaces to virtual presentations, here are some suggested tools to help dispersed teams do their best work together.

“The office was the common denominator for all the years before. Now it needs to be the tools where work comes together.”

— Sid Van Wijk, head of the Global Miro Discovery Center

Group brainstorming: A virtual meeting of the minds

When employees worked in the same physical space, a quick brainstorm often just required a room and a whiteboard, but for hybrid teams, facilitating group strategy sessions may be even easier, thanks to digital collaboration platforms like Miro. According to a recent Forbes study, workers spend an average of 20 hours a week using digital communication tools, and nearly half feel more connected to their teams as a result.

These collaborative, visual workspaces provide an array of useful features to enable cross-functional teams to work seamlessly and collaborate efficiently — from sticky notes and white boards to diagrams and gifs — that facilitate more inclusive and engaging brainstorming, either fully or partially online. HP announced this week that its commercial customers can activate a free 3-month trial on any Miro plan on their notebook, desktops, and workstations, so hybrid employees are equipped to collaborate right out of the box.


RELATED: Learn more about HP’s partnership with Miro


“When content is being shared in a video meeting, you’re a tiny thumbnail,” says Sid Van Wijk, who leads the Global Miro Discovery Center, an executive briefing center and showcase space in Amsterdam.

“Our slides provoke collaboration,” Van Wijk explains. “While I'm presenting a slide, people at home can add sticky notes or comments that everyone can see on screen, so we provide them with a stronger voice.” He notes this more collaborative approach also encourages people who might not feel comfortable raising their hands to find other ways to make meaningful contributions to the conversation.

And adding in visual tools to document ideas as they flow can help keep the group on track, such as those featured in Trello, Ayoa Ultimate or Stormboard

Client presentations: Engaging an audience on screen

We’ve come a long way from the overhead projector and text-heavy slide decks. Look for virtual presentation platforms like Prezi, Visme, and Pitcherific that bring presentations to life in new ways; both in how they’re built and developed, and in how they’re ultimately shared and presented. They make it easy to build and share engaging presentations using pre-formatted templates that can include videos, interactive data visualizations, and images. Some include new AI technologies to help users better tell their stories by suggesting slides, images, and narratives. 

“If I need to make a presentation, I’m going to explain to the AI what I want, and it will start me off with a good structure that I can work from,” says Van Wijk. “This is saving me hours, and it’s making my presentation better.”

Project management: Every detail, where everyone can see it

Managing the moving parts of a large project can be especially difficult when contributors are dispersed. New tools and platforms like Notion, Wrike, and Asana have made it much easier to organize assignments and track progress across teams. They assign tasks to specific contributors with clear deadlines, providing each with all the resources they need to get the job done. Team members can also move their piece of the puzzle along various development stages and get instant visibility into the progress of others, including alerts that let each collaborator know when it’s time for them to step in.

“Using the right hybrid tools really can help your team work smarter,” says Toni Frana, lead career expert at the remote jobs website FlexJobs. “These tools can help people better manage not just their work, but also the flow of their day.”

A colorful illustration by Fernando Cobelo

Fernando Cobelo

Design, marketing, and product development: Real-time creative collaboration

Bringing an idea to life is often a collaborative process, requiring a range of tools to help teams develop original logos, page layout and design, visuals, videos, digital tools and content, and much more. Platforms like Marvel and Figma let users build from ready-made templates, create and test prototypes, and remotely collaborate on digital products such as apps and websites.

Previously, creating a brand logo or a graphic required a high degree of technical skills, and some understanding of basic design principles. Now, AI-powered features let users of any skill level type in exactly what they’re looking to create, and get automatically generated original designs and brand assets to match.

Sophian, of Nylas, says his team uses several of these tools today, and is looking forward to seeing how they’ll continue to improve. “We’re looking at how generative AI can be incorporated into the tools we’re using to enhance individual productivity and shorten the distance between ideation and execution,” he says. 

Editing and proofreading: Improving writing on the spot

Opportunities for in-person reviews of written content are less frequent, so digital solutions like Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Scribens are useful to improve writing, streamline content production, and help teams build skills along the way.

With new generative AI capabilities, tools like GrammarlyGO can go beyond identifying errors to help people come up with ideas and compose a first draft. 

“I see AI as a colleague who you can spar with, kickstart ideas, and take away writer's block,” says Van Wijk. 

The future of digital collaboration technology

Van Wijk recently delivered a presentation to an audience of 300, all of whom were invited to add virtual sticky notes to his digital Miro board while he was speaking. 

“The AI can summarize those stickies and do a sentiment analysis so I can get a voice of the audience in seconds, and as a speaker I can do so much with that,” he says. “That’s not only a new way of presenting, but a new way of digesting information.” 

As more teams put these tools to use, new ways to make the most of their capabilities will emerge, and new features will continue to unlock even more efficiency and innovation for hybrid teams.

“The office was the common denominator for all the years before,” says Van Wijk. “Now it needs to be the tools where work comes together.” 


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