Due to circumstances none of us could have foreseen, the world is in the midst of a major shift to favor more remote work environments. If you look at remote work statistics, you’ll see that this is a trend that has been emerging for some time—but the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has pushed many fence sitters over the edge, reinforced the decisions of managers who already made the switch, and forced long-reluctant traditionalists to reconsider their stances on remote work.
There are many advantages to working remotely. Employees get more autonomy, more flexibility, higher job satisfaction, and of course, less time and money spent commuting. Employers get higher productivity from their employees, and lower office costs. But these benefits are contingent upon your ability to work remotely effectively—which isn’t a guarantee.
When working remotely, you’ll need to design and enforce new approaches to communication, collaboration, employee management, and tracking. Fortunately, there are dozens of fantastic tools for remote teams available to make remote work as viable as in-office work – if not even better.
Table of Contents
- Work From Home Tools for Communication
- Remote Team Collaboration Tools
- Tools for Remote Team Management
- Remote Team Tools for Productivity and Work-Life Balance
Work From Home Tools for Communication
These tools for remote teams are mostly focused on improving communication in remote environments:
Slack has been one of the most popular remote team communication tools for professional teams for many years now. It attempts to streamline communication by consolidating multiple separate apps in a single view; with it, you can send private messages, chat in groups, and even video chat. Its unique “channels” feature allows you to keep in contact with regard to current projects, without distracting people to whom it’s not relevant.
- Slackbot is a built-in bot. It is always willing to help, whether it’s through a direct message (DM) or in a channel with your teammates or access to personal reminders and tasks.
- Slack is able to integrate directly with 2000+ list of third-party apps and services.
- Slack has powerful search capabilities.
- You can start audio calls with up to 15 people. This will save yor time from switching between different apps.
- User friendly and intuitive
- In-platform calls
- Downtime is very rare
- Excellent functionality for code snippets
- Saves the history
- Maintaining corporate privacy
- Fully functioning mobile and desktop friendly.
- Sometimes there are too many notifications
- Expensive for huge companies
- Customer / technical support needs to improve
The tool is free for small teams for an unlimited period of time. For medium to bigger teams, it ranges from $6 – $12.5 per active user, per month.
Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity in the wake of the pandemic, as businesses discover they need an innovative video conferencing solution for their remote teams. Zoom is super flexible and easy to set up, and with it, you can chat as a full team or break into smaller groups to have important discussions.
- HD video and HD voice
- Whiteboarding, polling, remote control, and users report
- Group messaging
- Hybrid cloud service
- Partner Integrations
- Conduct webinars and podcasts
- Continuous security improvements
- Integration with multiple calendars
- Virtual background options
- Screen sharing quality is excellent
- Easy to use
- In-depth support, such as live help, online chat, phone support, FAQs, help articles, and video tutorials.
- Strong internet capability is mandatory
It’s Free for 1 to 1 meetings. For small teams $14.99 /mo/host, Business and Enterprise $19.99 /mo/host.
Nextiva is a telecom app with options for both small businesses and major enterprises. With it, you’ll get a full suite of tools for remote teams that are designed to help your team communicate more efficiently, including VoIP, video conferencing, message-based collaboration, and even analytics. You can also integrate it with several other tools.
- Video & audio conferencing
- Mobile & desktop app
- Chat & screen sharing
- Integrate your team’s tools.
- Real-time data with custom reports & dashboards
- Advanced VoIP conferencing with call recording
- Relatively low priced
- Reliability and performance
- Complete portability
- Great Service with 24/7 support
- Less maintenance
- Latency and jitter (occasionally) happens
- Reliable internet connection required
- Not very user friendly
Collaboration starting at $19.95 per month per user.
4. Cisco Webex
Cisco Webex is a video conferencing and online meeting app that attempts to make it easier to share your screen and talk to your teammates. It also features a number of separate apps and tools, including collaboration tools, online event management, and analytics for remote team performance.
- Platform compatibility and data protection
- Integrated communication
- Sharing desktops and documents
- Network-based recording (NBR) of meetings including content share, chat and polling
- Secure call control and connectivity enabled by media encryption
- User-friendly: Easy to connect via web app or standalone app
- Powerful admin interface
- Webex webinars are delivered reliably.
- Interactive chat feature
- Easy to use
- Audio to text transcripts feature
- Super audio and video quality
- Tends to be a little buggy at times
The price is $30/user/month.
Skype is a long-lived remote work tool that’s been a mainstay for free conference calling and video chatting for years. It’s debatable that Skype has been outclassed by other video conferencing apps, but it’s still one of the best and most widely used communication solutions for remote teams.
- Calls between Skype and landline / mobile phone numbers
- Instant messaging and chat history
- End to end encryption
- Sync up your conversations
- Supported on Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome browsers
- Wireless hotspot network access
- Call recording
- Best audio quality for multiple people in audio / video conferencing
- Audio / visual Integration
- Multi-party audio / visual conference calling reliability
- Secure & confidential conferencing
- 100% user-friendly
- Free or cheaper video calls
- There are no language translation services.
- Sound quality on Skype is based on bandwidth.
- The information that is transmitted over Skype could be intercepted.
- Background noises are picked up rather easily.
Skype is usually free; however, if you want to use Skype to call someone’s cell phone or landline in the US, you can use a subscription that starts at $2.99 a month.
Remote Team Collaboration Tools
If you’re used to working together in person, in meeting rooms and over the lunch table, working remotely can be an adjustment. The following tools for remote teams make it much easier to collaborate together. For a much more comprehensive list, be sure to see our big, dedicated post on online collaboration tools.
6. G Suite
It’s kind of cheating to list G Suite as only a single entry, since it actually has several individual tools within it, designed to help teams collaborate. Every account comes with a Gmail account, and has access to collaboration software like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. There are also a number of communication and analytics tools available, including Google Hangouts and Forms for in-team surveys. You can open an account for free, but if you want more advanced features for your business, you’ll need to pay a monthly rate for each member of your team.
- Professional email addresses for every user
- Flexible user accounts management
- Double the Cloud storage for every user
- Powerful Cloud search that works across apps
- A marketplace that helps you discover thousands of G Suite compatible apps
- Simple/intuitive interface (easier than Office 365).
- Lots of integrations with other providers
- Great uptime and redundancy
- Amazing security
- Always up to date and bugs are minimal.
- Document conversion issues
- Can be time-consuming
G Suite pricing starts at $6.00 per month, per user. G Suite does not offer a free trial.
7. Office 365
Microsoft’s analogous software package is Office 365. Again, you’ll have access to a wide range of collaborative tools, including a Microsoft Outlook account, and access to both desktop and cloud-based versions of apps like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Office 365 and G Suite are highly similar, so you’ll likely only need one. If you’re not sure which one to choose, check out our guide on G Suite vs. Office 365.
- Real-time co-authoring (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Chat with co-workers in Office apps
- Advanced security
- Data loss prevention
- Power Map in Excel: Turning data into a map
- Superior security features
- Smooth operation and integration across all operating systems
- Seamless team collaboration
- Cost effective
- Easy to set-up
- Ability to customize important documents and reports
- Renewals can be a headache
- Compatibility issues with bespoke systems
- Internet issues can disrupt productivity
It costs either $6.99 a month for one person or $9.99 a month for up to six people. You can also choose the annual route at $69.99 or $99.99 a year.
8. Markup Hero
Markup Hero is a screenshot and file annotation tool that works for a ton of use cases. It’s great for capturing ideas and communicating with your team through markup like arrows, text callouts, highlights, shapes and more. Product managers use the tool to create and share QA feedback and product ideas. Customer support teams create quick notes and explanations in customer support tickets. And marketing folks use it to create quick content visuals or provide comments on ads and campaigns.
- Capture ideas
- Communicate clearly
- Give and get feedback
- Take screenshots, add annotations and create shareable links
- Edit, duplicate and keep assets organized
- Integrates well with Slack, SMS, email, and content editors
- Easy to use, fast and effective communication tool
- Works on web, Mac and Windows
- Markups are saved for future editing
- Annotate images and PDF’s
- Group files together with multiple pages
- Great customer support
- Newer software so team is still building out features
- Web based annotating takes some getting used to
- Only works with Chrome
There is a completely free version of Markup Hero that doesn’t require a credit card to signup. You are limited to 30 markups per month so if you’re a power user you’ll need to upgrade to their pro plan, Superhero, which is $4.00 per month (when paid annually). With the pro plan you’ll get unlimited screenshots and markups, unlimited storage and access to enhanced security features like setting share links to private or public.
Another project management platform worth mentioning is Asana. Asana makes it easy for individual team members to manage their respective task lists. You can also break projects down by category and assign different user permissions, so you can easily segment your projects by department and still stay organized.
- Add assignees, attachments, and hearts to tasks
- Automatic updates to email/inbox
- Create custom calendars and views
- Set goals, priorities, and due dates
- Comment on tasks
- Great for communications, you can avoid using emails for general announcements.
- Asana makes meetings easier to organize and handle.
- Customizable dashboard
- Asana is versatile and allows various layouts to accommodate several projects.
- Productive view and track comments according to task/project/etc
- Projects can get complex
- It offers many features, sometimes too many, that can create confusion
- Limited export functionality
The free version of Asana is available for teams of up to 15 people. Asana Premium costs $10.99 per user per month when billed annually and $13.49 per user per month when billed monthly. The price of Asana Business is $24.99 per user per month when billed annually and $30.49 when billed monthly.
If your team finds itself frequently sharing and exchanging files, Dropbox is an important remote team collaboration tool to invest in. Its primary feature is cloud storage, allowing you to back up all your files and make them accessible in the cloud. However, it also makes it incredibly easy to manage different versions of collaborative files and share your work with others.
- Restore Previous Versions of Files
- Request Files via Dropbox
- Backup All Your Pictures to Dropbox
- View Any File Without Installing Extra Software
- See everything you’ve shared with your team.
- Open Local Files from the Web
- Add Comments to Files
- Quickly locate files – It saves a lot of time.
- Advanced Software Integration that makes the tool more reliable.
- Offline Working Capabilities
- You can edit Word or Excel documents Online, even if you don’t have microsoft office
- Dropbox has the ability to automatically sync from other sources
- Extremely easy to use
- Brilliant for collaborating on projects – can track new/old versions easily and leave comments on shared files.
- Limited Search Function
- Pricing is a bit on the high side compared to other cloud storage solutions.
- Lack of Elite-Level Security
With Dropbox, you either get 2GB of storage for free or a whole terabyte for $9.99. (good news is you can get more storage space for free through referrals)
Evernote has been around for years, and it’s still one of the best note-taking apps available. With it, you can take notes, create task lists, and share content with others, using any device with an internet connection. You can even use it to save web content, and your team members can use it to organize their own files and tasks.
- It’s great for to-do lists
- Team collaboration and administration
- Simple drag-and-drop function
- Mobile and Web interface
- Annotation and markup
- You can add audio recordings, images and web page clippings all within one note
- Quick search- that helps to save time
- Evernote’s voice notes feature proves to be very useful, You can have voice recordings saved right to your iTunes library
- Sync to multiple devices
- Powerful note-taking capabilities
- Server reliability
- Not very reliable customer service
- limited number of total workspaces
- Sometimes the app is very slow and feels glitchy
Evernote currently has three different monthly pricing tiers: Free, Premium for $7.99 per month (which adds up to nearly $100 over a year), and Business for $14.99 per month.
Lucidchart is an online collaboration tool that specializes in making use of visuals. With it, you can create diagrams, work together on a shared whiteboard, and produce graphs and charts to visualize data. If you’re brainstorming together, it has the power to make you feel like you’re truly in the same room together—even when you’re miles apart.
- Easily style shapes
- Create clean diagrams
- Work faster with keyboard shortcuts
- Organize your diagrams with containers
- Include links and layers for easy-to-read diagrams
- Easy to pick up, no training required to get started
- Several visualization features
- Variety of pre-configured templates to speed up document creation
- Easy Integrations with Google Drive, Confluence, JIRA, and Jive
- Great platform to collaborate and contribute
- Scaling a large flow chart could be challenging
- The free version does not include storage so you will have to download your work to save it.
Lucidchart pricing starts at $7.95 per month, per user. There is a free version too.
Tools for Remote Team Management
If you’re responsible for managing employees in a remote team, you’ll need better tools to track them and manage their productivity. Most project management platforms have some team management features baked in, but these remote work tools are even better for keeping track of workers.
We have to pitch our own app, EmailAnalytics, here, since we built it specifically for monitoring and managing teams of remote employees. You can use EmailAnalytics to track how many emails your employees are sending and receiving every day, the average length of email threads, average email response times, and much more. With that information, you can improve your team’s communicative efficiency, balance workloads among your team members, and learn more about the effectiveness of your workflows.
- Real-time email analytics
- Monitor your entire team
- Get daily or weekly email reports
- Measure average email response time by actual time or within designated work hours
- Private and secure
- Fast and accurate analytics
- Limited customer support channels currently
$15 / mailbox per month. $5 – $12 / mailbox per month with bulk user discount!
14. Time Doctor
Working remotely naturally makes it harder to keep tabs on other people, but Time Doctor tries to restore some of those insights. At its core, it’s a time tracking tool that allows employees to keep track of how much time they’re spending and how they’re spending it. It also has built-in analytics tools to help you analyze project costs and team efficiency. Be sure to check out our complete list of the best time tracking apps. And don’t miss our in-depth overview of Time Doctor vs. RescueTime.
- Daily and weekly detailed reports
- Seamless integration and API
- Automated and manual time tracking
- Automated screenshot and webcam capture
- Multi-OS compatibility
- Client access to the platform at no additional cost
- Get accurate tracking reminders and time use alerts
- Screenshots and webcam snapshots for remote teams to increase productivity and decrease privacy issue
- Great customer support
- Every user costs extra
- Old user interface (UI)
- Expensive for small teams
Time Doctor pricing starts at $5.00 per month, per user. Time Doctor offers a free trial and a free version too.
ZoomShift is scheduling software designed for hourly employees. ZoomShift helps your business make work schedules faster, save money on payroll, and let your employees clock-in and view their hours with ease. The software helps your business keep all of its employee schedule information in one place, and can help improve the accountability of your staff.
- Automated scheduling
- Employee timeclock
- Shift swapping, messaging
- Mobile app access
- Staff notifications – Email & SMS alerts
- Payroll management
- Work schedule templates
- GPS location
- Quickly create schedules
- Track time from anywhere
- User-friendly: Easy to connect via web or mobile app
- Prevent errors in the timesheet
- Great for small to medium businesses
- Great customer support
- Manage time off requests
- Oversee shift swaps
- Internet issues can affect app performance
- Starter – $2 per active team member/month
- Premium – $4 per active team member/month
- Enterprise – Custom (depending on features added)
Toggl is a similar time tracking tool that attempts to make things easier on your employees and managers. It includes several tools designed to improve employee management for teams working from home, and features automated reporting so you can stay on top of your employees’ progress.
- Tracking reminders
- Recording your computer usage with Toggl Timeline
- Saving & sharing Toggl reports
- Productivity Tool set
- Super simple to use
- Available on all major platforms
- Idle detection, Pomodoro and reminders
- Beautiful UI
- Simple and Easy-to-use Time Tracking
- Limited reporting options
- Expensive paid plans especially for large team
Toggl pricing starts at $9.00 per month, per user. There is a free version that includes all the basic time tracking features, up to 5 members
17. Chimp or Champ
Employee morale can be an issue when going remote for the first time, but with Chimp or Champ, you can easily get a feel for how your employees are doing while working from home. Basically, it’s an employee happiness meter that asks employees to check in with their progress, feedback, and overall sentiments. It allows you to make changes to your remote work setup adaptively, so you can keep productivity at its peak.
- Sends it as Anonymous
- Actionable bottom-up feedback
- Provides anonymised weekly happiness ratings and feedback Simple and short feedback sharing
- Great way to improve employee well-being
- Helps in achieving better results
- May be an overkill for small companies
- Can be a bit pricey
Free to get started. The premium version is $2 USD / user / month and tailored pricing for enterprise.
Kickidler is employee monitoring software that allows you to track time, monitor employee screens, and get automatic notifications in response to certain events—like extended periods of idle time. One of the advantages of working remotely is giving your team more autonomy, so this tool may or may not fit with your vision for remote work.
- Employee Activity Recording
- Data Loss Prevention
- Remote Computer Control
- Productivity Fluctuations Report
- Work Time Reports
- Great customer support
- Accurate employee productivity analysis
- Very easy-to-go and user-friendly
- No Document and File Tracking features
- No Cloud hosting
Kickidler pricing starts at $9.99 per month, per user. There is a free version too but with less features.
If you’re in the habit of celebrating wins and rewarding your employees for their successes, try WooBoard. Once instated, you can use WooBoard to enable peer to peer recognition, set up gamified rewards for employees, and distribute rewards to your top performers. It’s great for keeping morale high and giving team members more chances to engage with each other.
- Send and receive unlimited recognition
- Notifications and summary reports
- Manager and employee activity reports
- Private and confidential data
- Customizable company values
- Social recognition
- Very inexpensive
- Easy to use
- White label
- Few HR tools
- No collaboration
- No employee collaboration
WooBoard pricing starts at $20.00 per month. There is a free version. WooBoard offers a free trial.
Remote Team Tools for Productivity and Work-Life Balance
As an added bonus, here are a few remote work tools I’ve found effective for helping employees improve their productivity while working from home—and possibly achieve a better work-life balance.
20. Focus Booster
Focus Booster is an interactive timer that makes use of the Pomodoro technique—a productivity hack that improves your performance by splitting your time between active work and breaks. It’s a simple tool, but if you’re the type of person who has trouble focusing in a home environment, or if you just want something to motivate you to get started every day, it’s incredibly valuable.
- Time Tracking
- Applications Management
- Project Time Tracking
- Timesheet Management
- Self Service Portal
- No pause button leads to zero distraction
- Easy to install and use
- Sleek, well-designed interface
- Free of cost
- Not really any significant cons because it’s a free tool =)
Did you know the right music can make you more productive? The emphasis here is on “right.” Music that’s too loud, too soft, too lyrical, or too aggressive can make it harder for you to focus. Brain.fm plays music designed to make you more productive, giving you the perfect background noise for a day of working at home.
- Go to tool for extended focus
- Helps stay focused even when multitasking
- Simple to use
- Minimum Categories
- Website design is outdated
A Brain.fm subscription costs $6.95 a month, $48 a year or $150 for “forever.”
Headspace is a mindfulness app, which has enormous benefits if you use it consistently. Mindfulness meditation, if practiced regularly, can give you more emotional control, help you reduce stress, and improve your ability to focus. It can also help you sleep more peacefully and consistently, keeping you mentally and physically healthier. If you have trouble forming and keeping good habits while working from home, it’s a must-try.
- Daily reminders
- Move Mode for body and mind fitness
- Sleep exercises and bedtime sounds
- A new meditation every day
- Approachable and effective introduction to mindfulness and meditation
- Very easy to use
- Great informational content
- Soothing yet strong voice
- A little on the expensive side
$12.99 per month to get access to the meditation sessions beyond the introductory ones. Alternatively, you can pay $95 for an annual subscription.
Working from home as a team for the first time is a major adjustment, even if you’ve dabbled in remote work in the past. But with these tools for remote teams, you’ll find it much easier to communicate, collaborate, and monitor your team.
If you’re interested in learning more about your employees’ email habits and overall productivity, why not give EmailAnalytics a try? It’s an all-in-one analytics tool for Gmail and G Suite that can tell you almost everything about your employees’ day-to-day email activity. Sign up for a free trial today, and take control over your new remote work environment!
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.