The remote work tools category, a $36 billion market, is one of the fastest-growing verticals. “We see it as an explosion that was definitely catalyzed by the pandemic,” said Max Lockie, Managing Editor at Speeda Edge. In our recent article with Max about the future of remote work tools, we learned that remote work is definitely not a trend and not going anywhere anytime soon.
Experts predict that even after vaccination becomes even more widespread, many will continue working remotely at least some of the time. In fact, Max estimates the cloud-based remote tools market will expand somewhere between 25% and 40% year-over-year going forward.
This increased demand is fueling a boom in new remote work tools, with new apps launching weekly. To help cut through the noise, we’re highlighting 12 of the best remote work tools based on pricing, ease of use, proven results, team communication tools, and ability to protect your productivity. Some are stalwarts, while others you might not have heard of yet. Here they are, listed in alphabetical order.
Asana is project management software used to help teams organize and track their work. Since you can manage nearly every type of workflow within Asana — file sharing, time tracking, team communication, onboarding, project brainstorming with a virtual whiteboard, and more — you don’t have to shuffle between several remote tools just to keep your business running. From day one to deadline, Asana supports seamless teamwork.
Asana also integrates with hundreds of other apps (such as Evernote, Gmail, Google Workspace/GSuite, Dropbox, and Canva) to create a robust tool you can customize for exactly what your business needs to thrive. You also have functionalities like time-tracking and timesheet reporting so you can ensure team members aren’t overloaded with work. In other words, Asana strives to provide the online resources you need to create an all-in-one remote workspace.
One of the latest integrations to join the Asana toolbox (and in our opinion, the coolest — and that’s not biased at all) is the Asana-Clockwise integration. With the Clockwise integration, you’ll be able to schedule tasks on your calendar with ease, protect your time, and stay productive.
Asana also works on Android and iOS devices, a huge bonus for this new hybrid work world, so you can stay productive while you’re on the move.
Basecamp is similar to Asana in that it also serves as an all-in-one project management software. Some of the key features include:
- Instant messaging with group chats for easy, real-time remote collaboration
- To-do lists
- Scheduling tools with reminders of due dates and other important dates to support a streamlined workflow
- File sharing so everyone has access to the resources they need to complete their tasks
- Global message boards that can be used as a company-wide communication tool for posting updates, brainstorming ideas, providing feedback, announcing team meetings, and more
- Automatic check-ins to help you regularly keep track of your team (if you manage one) to make sure everyone is feeling taken care of
- Integrations so you can customize your workspace
At this point, you may be thinking that Basecamp and Asana sound really similar. So let’s talk about the main differences between these two remote work tools.
The most significant difference is the platforms’ pricing. While Asana offers various plans at various prices, Basecamp only has one flat fee for unlimited users. The other characteristic that stands out to us is that Asana focuses much more heavily on robust project management tools (such as automation, reports, and time tracking), while Basecamp is more like a teamwork tool for distributed teams with some basic project management tools. Also, users report that Basecamp is also has a “techier” interface thatn Asana, which could be difficult to navigate for non-tech workers but great for teams who prefer that type of layout. In the end, one isn’t necessarily better than the other — it just depends on what your business needs.
Centered is a productivity tool designed to get and keep you in a state of flow. It’s a task manager, site and notification blocker, and “lo-fi beats to study/relax to” in one. Their website claims that Centered users get through their tasks 20% faster, which is great news for remote workers who want to work smarter, not harder.
Opening Centered presents you with your to-do list. Beside each task are a label and an estimate of the amount of time it will take to complete. “This is an important concept,” productivity guru Dan Shipper writes in a recent blog post. “Time is the main work input that we can control, and so forcing you to think of to-dos in units of time can help you be more realistic about how much you can get done.”
The calendar view is also handy for time blocking enthusiasts. “My personal anecdata show that putting a task on the calendar can help increase the chances it actually gets done,” Shipper writes.
Centered’s differentiating feature is its to-do list “playlist” functionality. When you hit “play” on a task, Centered plays background music meant to help you focus, shows you how much time you have left to finish your current task, and how long you’ve been in your current app. If you switch apps — let’s say to hop over to check Facebook — Centered pauses the music and a voice asks whether you’re still on task. Centered is a great app for people who will benefit from a little nudge to stay on task. If you’re currently paying for separate task management software, focus music, and notification blocker, Centered is an awesome way to get all that functionality in one place while saving some money.
Clockwise is a time orchestration platform that uses AI to optimize your calendar, helping you carve out the Focus Time you need to get real work done. It also enables you to spend less time scheduling and makes your life easier through integrations with Slack, Zoom, and Asana.
Clockwise finds and blocks off two-hour or more chunks of uninterrupted time for you to focus on your deep work projects. It also creates more of those blocks by making sure your meetings take place at the least disruptive time possible. (If you’re a freelancer or remote worker who attends a lot of meetings, check out our newest feature, Clockwise Links, a smarter way to schedule external meetings.)
To save you time on scheduling, Clockwise resolves conflicts automatically. It also suggests the best times to meet when scheduling based on different time zones, meeting hours, meeting preferences, Travel Time, lunch, and Focus Time. This is especially useful for remote workers, freelancers, and any other types of distributed teams. Clockwise is perfect for anyone who has ten or more meetings per week but needs long stretches of time for heads-down work.
Next up, we have a Slack app called Dash. Dash is a collaboration tool that lets you create temporary and time-boxed channels in Slack. With the rise of remote work and consequently, increased online communication, it’s crucial to have a Slack-like apps to keep everyone on the same page.
Create a Dash channel for group projects that have a clear start and end date, like a feature launch or planning a small-scale event.
As soon as the project is wrapped, Dash will ask you to archive the channel, thus helping you keep your workspace clear of old projects.
Dash keeps conversations specific, relevant, and deadline-focused — something that’s difficult to achieve with normal channels and DMs. For example, Slack channels hold onto entire message histories, which can make it hard to tell which messages are relevant to the project at hand.
To create a Dash, just type “/dash” followed by the task name and your collaborators’ handles. Set an expiration time for a sense of urgency. The fact that Dash channels start with a /dash means they're at the top of your lists, making them easy to find. To keep your Slack channels tidy, Dash will ask whoever created the channel to Finish & Archive the channel once you hit the end date. Dash then makes it easy to share your team’s achievements on another channel.
Disco is a rewards and culture platform for remote and distributed teams. It makes it easy for anyone to give colleagues praise and recognition for their contributions and accomplishments within Slack. Disco tracks points based on who’s giving and receiving kudos for People Ops and HR pros.
You can also display this info on a leaderboard. Disco will also nudge workers to recognize each other with prompts like, “Who lived the company’s values this month?” Disco also makes it easier for leaders to write and send out weekly Pulse surveys and displays the data in a dashboard.
Disco is great for any team where all or some workers are remote. The downsides of working from home include stress and anxiety, which went up for 67% and 57% of workers in the months after the pandemic began, respectively. It can also lead to loneliness and diminished trust between workers. Tools like Disco help teammates connect, recognize each other’s work, and build team cohesion over distance.
We recently spoke with Tim Olshansky, EVP of Product and Engineering at Zenput, about the remote tools their Engineering and Product teams have adopted for WFH. Among them was Donut for team community-building and morale. It’s a Slack app that pairs employees randomly for “coffee chats” that we’ve also implemented here at Clockwise. “That's been great,” Tim said. “It's created a little bit more connection amongst people who haven't had a chance to interact and may not have a chance to interact for quite some time.”
It's great for managing a remote team. Teams can use it to arrange remote team lunches, virtual onboarding processes, daily donut meetings, and cross-department introductions. Donut is also great for any team where some members work from home. It’s especially handy for remote teams where not everyone gets a chance to interact on a regular basis.
Krisp is AI-powered noise-canceling software for your microphone. Krisp reduces background noise during calls so people can hear you over your neighbor’s barking dog, your kid’s online classes, and whatever else is going on. It’s available for Mac, Windows, and there’s an iOS mobile app. There’s also a Google Chrome extension.
“[Krisp] set up easily and dramatically improved the sound of my audio, virtually eliminating music that was blasting just a few feet away as well as a horrific din of Los Angeles street noise right outside my window,” CNET Reporter Dave Johnson wrote. Reviews on G2 and TrustPilot are also positive.
Jira, run by Atlassian, is an issue and project tracking software for technical teams that specializes in Scrum, Kanban, bug tracking, and DevOps functionalities. Although it has pivoted a bit over the years to accommodate all sorts of agile teams, we believe Jira remains at the top of the list for technical-minded businesses.
When it comes to the benefits, Jira is most known for what it had originally started as: a bug tracking and issue management tool. Its ability to locate, track, and report bugs makes it easy for teams to address them right away. Its project management feature is also comprehensive with Kanban and Scrum boards, which help to streamline your team’s agile workflow and manage tasks in real-time.
The last feature we want to highlight is its reporting features. With over 12 kinds of reports, team leads can keep track of team needs and progress with sprint reports, burndown charts, release burndown reports, velocity charts, and more. There are many more features in Jira that could significantly enhance your agile team’s workflow.
The first launch from the Macro team was a Zoom-based meeting scoring tool that gave them access to data on 50,000+ meetings. They found that even pre-pandemic:
- More than 74% of meetings had at least one remote attendee
- A single person or small group was 41% more likely to dominate a virtual meeting
- Virtual meetings were 20% more likely to end without clear next steps
The team set about to build some of the best remote desktop software, a virtual meeting room interface that helps facilitate engaging, productive, and inclusive conversations. Macro is built on top of Zoom. It offers view customization so you can resize and reposition everything and everyone for whatever you’re doing, from pair-programing to design to screen sharing to just hanging out.
It also offers a native, in-Zoom smart notepad for less context switching and easy sharing. The notepad categorizes Action Items, Questions, and Takeaways as you write them. It also automatically creates a Google Doc for that meeting that you can share with the rest of your team via Google Drive.
Macro is great for anyone who frequently needs to make decisions in meetings over Zoom.
11. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is an oldie but goodie. For those who aren't familiar with the tool, Microsoft Teams is a communication platform developed by Microsoft and is part of their Microsoft 365 bundle for businesses.
Teams can be thought of as a Slack alternative, complete with instant messaging, video chat, file sharing capabilities, cloud storage, and integrations. Its video chat feature is particularly interesting because Microsoft has really focused on this functionality to outcompete platforms such as Skype and Zoom. It's also why its comprehensive video tools are great for webinars or team meetings.
What makes it different from Slack, though, is that with every team you create, you also receive:
- A new Microsoft 365 group
- A SharePoint Online site and document library to store team files
- An Exchange Online shared mailbox and calendar
- A OneNote notebook
- Ties into other Microsoft 365 and Office 365 apps, such as Planner and Power BI
- Office apps including Word, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint, and OneNote
Microsoft Teams is best for medium-to-large sized businesses who need a robust team communication platform to organize many different projects.
Trello is a project management software that’s become a popular remote work tool thanks to its user-friendly layout. It’s most known for its Kanban-style layout, which is meant to make team collaboration simple. You have the ability to create boards within Trello dedicated to a certain project. For example, if you are a social media manager, you could create a board dedicated to Instagram strategy, one for TikTok strategy, one for data reporting, etc.
Trello’s recently expanded their features, moving from the Kanban board to different layouts and views (like Timeline, Calendar, and Table).
It’s worth noting that while many of these platforms are geared more toward established teams just because of their more sophisticated and more involved processes, Trello is a great tool for small in-house teams and freelancers because of its casual and non-overwhelming setup. If you have a larger team and need a platform with more functionalities, we would recommend a different platform other than Trello, such as Microsoft 365.
Trello also makes it easy to customize your workspace by offering various templates and makes it easy to streamline your workflow with automation. And like most work remote tools on this list, Trello also integrates with your favorite platforms such as GitHub, Google Calendar, Zoho CRM, Evernote, Slack, Zoom, and more.
These 12 remote work tools will transform your work-from-anywhere experience — or at least make it a little easier! From better video conferencing to easy-breezy time management, a few upgrades will make remote work more fun and productive.