Today, people work in so many different places. We might start our week in the office. The next day, we could be calling suppliers from home or writing a proposal from a café.

Online tools help us do all of this. With these tools, we can work effectively wherever we are. We use them to keep in touch with our teams and others. They also help us keep track of tasks and projects.

In this lesson, we’ll explore how these online tools can help you lead your team and work with others. You’ll find out how different tools can help you manage tasks and work together. We also have top tips on how to get the most out of these tools.


Workers use online collaboration tools for work

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1 in 4

work from both home and their workplace

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hybrid workers say it gives them a better work/life balance

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  • Work well, no matter where you are
  • Make the most of online tools
  • Know the challenges of remote working, and how these tools can help
  • Lead your team effectively

Read time:

11 mins

Chapter 1

How online tools can help you

Read time:

1 min

The way we work right now

Do you work from an office all the time? Many people don’t. If you’re self-employed, you’re more than twice as likely to work from home as your employed friends.

Some of us don’t have an office. Others work from home to save travel time and costs. We call this hybrid working – when we spend some time working from home, or somewhere other than our workplace.

When you’re away from your office, you need a way to stay in touch with your team, your clients, and your suppliers. This is just one reason for using online tools.

Even if you’re in the office, it’s not always easy to hold meetings. Trying to agree a time and place to meet can often take up much of your time. So can travelling to these meetings. ‘Virtual’ meetings using online tools can save you time and money.


An example

Cardiff-based Kew Planning use an online collaboration tool. It helped them when the team were working from home. They also save 12 hours travel time each month by switching to virtual meetings with clients.

With the right technology in place, we were able to conduct site appraisals, apply for planning applications and hold public consultations online

Kathryn Williams, Kew Planning

Chapter 2

What tools are available?

Read time:

6 mins

Pick the tools that work for you

You’ll want to pick the right tool for the job. Some are good for many tasks; others focus on certain areas. We’ll focus on those that help you to lead and work together with others.


We’ll look at tools to help you with:



Project management

Communication tools

These tools help you connect with others. This could be informal chats with your business partner, team meetings or video calls with clients or suppliers. So before you decide which tool to use, think about who you need to connect with, and how.


Here's a few tools that may help. Select each one to find out more

  • Mainly a messaging app, you can use this tool on your laptop or mobile device. It also integrates with other apps. If you have a small team, the free version may be a good option. Bear in mind this version has limits on file size and video calls. Want to use it to message people outside your own organisation? You'll need the paid-for Slack Connect option.

  • Like Slack, you can use this to connect with your team. Options include messaging and video calls. There's a lot more to Teams, and we'll mention it in more detail in the Collaboration section. Full of features, many large organisations use Teams.

  • You can send instant messages and hold video calls with this free app. Most people use it from their phones, though there are web and desktop apps too. It works best for informal chats and one-to-one video calls. For group video calls, the group size limits are lower than Zoom, Teams or Slack. You can't schedule your WhatsApp calls either. On the plus side, end-to-end encryption makes it a secure way to message others.

  • People use Skype to send instant messages, make voice and video calls. You can use it from your computer or mobile device. The free version lets you make 'Skype-to-Skype' calls and messages. This works if both you and the person you're calling have Skype. If you want to call international numbers, there are pay-as-you-go and subscription options.

  • Just like Slack and Teams, you can use Zoom for instant messages and video calls. The people you're calling don't need to download Zoom on their device. It's easy to book and host meetings with others outside your organisation, too.

    Unlike Teams, Zoom focuses just on communication. It has many features, even with the free version. If you use the free plan, you can hold meetings with up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes.

  • Like Teams, Google Meet is part of a wider range of Google tools. So if you use Gmail you may decide to try this one out. Its free version gives you video calls up to an hour. There's also more cloud storage on their free plan compared with Zoom.

Other communication tools

This should give you a feel for some of the common features. It’s worth knowing that there are many other virtual meeting and instant messaging apps.


You might also want to look at:

  • BlueJeans – A simple video calling app for meetings and events
  • Webex – This virtual meetings tool has a reputation for good security
  • Twist – An app that’s useful for less urgent messages or teams working in different time zones


Collaboration tools

These are the tools that are going to help you work together with others. So just as you did with the communication tools, take a moment to think about how you do this. Love to brainstorm? Do you plan with a spreadsheet or post-its? Think also about who you collaborate with. Some tools work better when everyone’s in the same organisation. Others don’t have these limits.

Let’s look at a few examples now. You may recognise some from the Communication section. It’s worthwhile seeing if these meet your needs for both functions. If so, this could make things cheaper and easier for you.


Microsoft 365

Do you use Word, Excel, or PowerPoint? Then you may already have this. If you use these apps but don’t have 365, it may be worth looking at. This cloud-based platform makes it easier to store and save your documents and files. It also has useful collaboration tools built in. We’ve talked about one already – Teams.

Working on a design, proposal, or budget with others? You can do all this together, at the same time. It’s also somewhere to store and share your work. Other collaboration tools include Whiteboard. You and your team can use this in a Teams call just as you might use a physical whiteboard together in a room.


Google Workspace

Just like MS 365, this is a set of tools that work together.


With it, you can:

  • Stay organised with team calendars
  • Hold video meetings and remote events
  • Edit shared documents in real time
  • Store, share, and access team resources from anywhere - even offline
  • Coordinate project plans and schedules


Other tools to help you work together

You may not feel that one of the large platforms is right for you. Perhaps you have other tools that meet your needs, and you’re just looking for an easy way to share ideas or plan with others. This is easier when you’re all in the same room. When you’re in different places, you need a tool to help.


Here are a few tools that might help:


Project management tools

These can be simple or sophisticated. You may just need a cloud-based to-do list that you can check and update anywhere on any device. Maybe you’re looking for something more, to plan large projects or manage team tasks. Once again, the key is to think about what you need before you look at tools that could help.


The large platforms: MS 365 and Google Workspace

You've seen these in our earlier sections. They are multi-purpose and include tools to help manage tasks and projects.


MS 365 has:

  • To Do – Useful for personal task management
  • The Tasks app in Teams – Just like To Do, but for teams
  • Project – For larger projects or team management tasks
  • Planner – A lighter project management tool that can work with To Do and Tasks


Google doesn’t have tools to manage large projects, but its Tasks and Calendar apps can help you track and plan tasks.


Other project management tools include:

  • Trello – Built for ease of use, this tool may suit small teams and simple projects
  • Asana – With a range of project views, Asana lets you break down projects and tasks
  • Monday.comThis tool works well for those who prefer a visual approach

It doesn’t matter where I am, I can manage the business the same as if I were in the office

Annie Browne, Hello My PA

Chapter 3

Our top tips

Read time:

3 mins

Starting to use these tools

Once you’ve picked your tools, you’ll want to get the most out of them. This means letting other people know what they are and how you plan to use them.

Think about what you and others need to use the tools. This may be training, or a good enough internet connection. Some tools may work with both mobile and desktop versions but are harder to see or use on phones. So think about where and when you’ll need to use the tools, to find out which device you’ll need for that task.


Our top tips for a smooth introduction:

  • Agree with your team the tools you’ll use and what you’ll use them for
  • Give yourself and others time to learn how to use these tools
  • Set goals and agendas for virtual meetings
  • Think about why you’re having this meeting and why virtual is best for it
  • Set the time and manage it well
  • Keep meetings short (and don’t have too many of them)
  • Set rules around use of webcams and microphones
  • Be mindful of bandwidth or Wi-Fi constraints
  • Make the most of non-verbal options like chat, polls, emojis/reactions etc.


Leading hybrid or remote teams

Leading a hybrid or remote team can be hard. When your team works in the same place, it's easier to notice any issues they each face. Plus you can support them in a natural and informal way. So if your team is remote, you do need to put more work into communication at all levels.


This might include:

Short daily catch-up calls

to set goals or tasks, check progress and understand issues to follow up

Weekly meetings

to update plans and celebrate progress

Longer, less frequent sessions

to share plans, ideas, and news

Social events

These could be drop-in ‘coffee break’ chats, quiz sessions, ‘happy hours’ or ‘pizza parties’

Our top tips for happy hybrid teams:

  • Make it clear how and when you expect updates
  • Be available for online chats and support
  • Ask how people are feeling, and what they’re thinking

We connect daily through a WhatsApp group, set up twice-weekly team meetings and even diarise coffee and cake catch-ups over Zoom where we talk about anything but work!

Miranda Evans, Disability Wales

Next steps

You have a few ideas on the types of tools available now. With these and our top tips, you’re ready to get the benefits of them.


Steps to leading and collaborating online

Define your needs

What do you want these tools to help with? Think about where they could save you time, money or just make life easier

Research the tools

Take time to explore and learn how to use the tools. Make the most of free trials and other resources

Start to use them!

Support your team or others who will also use these tools. Keep exploring – use online help and forums to get the most of them


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 29th September 2023.