In December, we learned about the future of remote work tools from Max Lockie. Max is the Managing Editor at Speeda Edge, a business intelligence tool offering data and insights on emerging technologies. The remote work tools category, a $36 billion market, is one of their fastest growing verticals. “We see it as an explosion that was definitely catalyzed by the pandemic,” Max said. Experts predict that even after widespread vaccination, many will continue working remotely some of the time. 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, I’m highlighting seven of the best remote work tools (in my opinion). Some are stalwarts, while others you might not have heard of yet. Listed below in alphabetical order.
Centered is a productivity tool designed to get and keep you in a state of flow. It’s a task manager, distracting website and notifications blocker, and “lo-fi beats to study/relax to” in one.
Their website claims that Centered users get through their tasks 20% faster.
Opening Centered presents you with your to-do list. Beside each task is 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. In this way, Centered is also a project management tool.
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 a notification blocker, Centered is a good way to get all that functionality in one place while saving some money.
Clockwise is an intelligent calendar assistant that uses AI to significantly improve 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 and Zoom.
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 moving your meetings to the least-interruptive time possible.
To save you time on scheduling, Clockwise resolves conflicts automatically. It also suggests the best times to meet when scheduling based on everyone’s time zones. This is especially useful for remote workers.
Clockwise is perfect for anyone who has ten or more meetings per week, but needs long stretches of time for heads-down work.
Dash is a collaboration tool that makes it easy to create a new temporary and time-boxed channel to get work done with your colleagues. It’s a Slack app that’s meant to replace meetings for less video calling with team members during your day. It also replaces group direct messages (DMs) and reduces Slack clutter. Dashes are great for group projects with a clear start and end, including launching a new feature or planning an event.
Dash is a great tool for workers who live and die by their Slack. The main advantage of a Dash over DMs is that DMs are forever. So if you have message history with your collaborators, DMs will show your whole message history within that group. That might make it more difficult to tell which messages refer to this new project. Then, if you need to add a new collaborator later, you have to make a whole new DM group without any context.
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 to another channel.
Disco is a work tool for remote culture/employee recognition and rewards platform. 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 in 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 recently 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.”
Teams can use it to arrange remote team lunches, 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 cancelling 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 positive.
The first launch from the Macro team was a Slack-based meeting scoring tool which 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 trying to build a meeting 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.
These seven remote work tools should help make your remote working life and team collaboration a little easier. From better video conferencing to time management, these tools make work from home a little more fun and productive.