In a matter of two weeks amid the spread of coronavirus in the US, a Gallup poll reported that the percentage of Americans working remotely doubled to 62 percent. Of those workers who went remote during the pandemic, three out of five hoped to continue that arrangement in a post-pandemic world.
As remote work quickly became the norm and not the exception, employers, teams, and contractors rushed to determine the best ways to manage work and communication when it became impossible to shout something across the office or walk a file down the hall.
Countless productivity apps promise to solve these challenges. Most allow you to manage projects, chat in real-time, share files, track deadlines, and report on performance. So, how do you choose?
Whether it’s a platform to manage projects, take notes, or collaborate remotely, there are several things to consider before determining what’s right for your team:
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Who needs to use the platform?
- What is your budget?
- How customizable is the platform?
- Will your team’s devices support it?
Productivity platforms range in purpose from organizing communication to project management to individual tasks. Some platforms do all these things decently, while others do a stellar job in one area.
We’ve pulled together a list of our 7-best remote work platforms to keep you organized, communicating, and on task, now and in the post-COVID world.
Bogged down in emails and having trouble finding things? Say good-bye to your inbox and hello to Slack.
Slack is a form of collaboration software that keeps individual and group discussions organized. By adding team members to different channels, you can follow a conversation and collect important information that’s easy to search. Break into a side conversation with individual threads, or use the direct messaging function to chat with team members one on one.
This messaging platform is a great way to talk and share information in real-time. You can easily get notifications on your devices when there is new communication in your channel or set your away message to let others know when you’re unavailable. By using likes and emojis, you can acknowledge comments and notifications from team members.
Beyond the chat function, Slack offers audio and video calls. Plus, it’s easy to collaborate with vendors, partners, and contractors outside of your team.
Slack makes it easy to drag and drop files for sharing or review. A screen sharing option improves collaboration as well. With the option to integrate countless other apps—like Asana, Google, and Dropbox—there’s improved sharing and less toggling between platforms. This saves time and improves the organization.
Once you explore Slack, you’ll never go back to the endless chain of emails.
Think of Trello as a virtual project board. This workflow management tool provides an excellent way to manage one-time projects and ongoing work.
Based on the Kanban system, this tool uses boards, lists, and cards to keep work organized. Kanban is a Japanese-based framework for an organization that is particularly popular in software development. The system provides a very visual way to move a project through a funnel from to-do to completion.
Trello is a light, fun, and user-friendly tool that helps to organize anything from a personal vacation to a multi-member team project. It’s easy to provide detailed comments, tag collaborators, drag and drop attachments, and stay on top of due dates.
With a full website and app, Trello stays in sync on all your devices. It’s simple and user-friendly. The downside to its simplicity is that it does not offer the level of detail needed for more in-depth projects. There also is no reporting function that can track productivity.
On the plus side, Power-Ups offer additional features to Trello that make it more customizable. You can integrate with other apps that your team relies on to make your Trello experience fit your needs.
Trello offers three pricing options with different features. The basic option is free for a 10-member team with limited features.
Similar to Trello, Asana is a workflow management tool that improves the organization for both ongoing projects and individual tasks.
For a team where members might organize their thoughts or projects differently, Asana offers Kanban, list, calendar, and timeline views. The platform is highly customizable and keeps all details of a project together.
Asana provides multiple levels of detail for teams with complicated projects. You can start with a larger project board and work your way down to tasks, subtasks, and milestones. With each level, you can assign pieces, add due dates, upload assets, and develop checkpoints. Files can be easily dragged and dropped into a project. By assigning tasks or adding collaborators to a project, it’s easy to keep people in the loop and tag them by name to draw their attention to updates.
Small but mighty features include adding start and end dates to projects to keep tasks moving, accessing easy-to-fill forms for work requests, setting rules to automate workflow, and using likes to acknowledge comments, updates, or approvals.
Asana works well on a desktop or through the app and syncs with any device. It also integrates with many other apps, such as Slack, Google, and Dropbox.
This platform is as simple or as complex as it needs to be. Not only is it user friendly, but it includes some fun features like a shooting unicorn icon that appears when a project is finished. Who isn’t motivated by a shooting unicorn?
Asana has four pricing options. The basic option is free, with limited features, for up to 15 team members.
The idea is that all team members involved in a project or process can see and access what is needed to move that project forward. A team creates a column that includes different tasks, assignees, and due dates. Everyone can view the progress on that project, complete tasks assigned to them, and comment within that column.
This platform allows several project views. The Table default is like a spreadsheet. Using the Calendar view organizes projects by dates, and the Map view works well for projects that are assigned a location. Users can also choose board, chart, or timeline views.
Monday.com features project management, time tracking, detailed reporting, file uploads, comments, and a tagging feature. Everything is highly customizable, but there are several templates available to get started. The platform is easy to use, although it may take time to determine the best organization and use it for your team. Once boards are created, they can remain private, public, or be shared outside clients or vendors.
Like Trello and Asana, Monday.com provides areas for team members to chat within the column or task and tag them for notifications. Monday.com also offers great integration with other apps like Zendesk, Teams, Mailchimp, Slack, and Google. By default, the platform sets up notifications and automation, so team members will benefit by going into their settings and arranging their space the way that works best for them.
Monday.com offers four pricing options with varying features, none of which are free. There is a free 14-day trial.
As is in its name, Evernote is a note-taking and sharing app, stating it helps you “remember everything important.” From meeting minutes to lists to a stream of consciousness, this platform allows you to store, share, and tag your notes with easy access across devices.
Evernote is a great tool to improve organization and productivity both personally and professionally. One place keeps handwritten notes, photos, scans, PDFs, lists, and reminders. The platform can store and search written or audio notes and recognize words from photos, PDFs, or sketches. It’s easy to use via desktop or app and allows for offline access as well.
Searchability and tagging options in Evernote help users organize and find notes and files quickly. You can find files by text-based tags, geolocation, and stacks. If you’re sitting in a conference snapping photos of slides, Evernote can later search for the text on the slide.
If you can and keep documents, Evernote can search the uploaded PDF. You also can save webpages without the weird formatting and ads, making it easier to view and share later.
Its flexibility is a blessing and a curse. Because Evernote is so customizable, it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the company offers tips on its blog to get the most out of this tool.
Evernote has three pricing options. The lowest level is free with limited features
Grammarly is a professional must-have, especially if you’re working solo or with a small remote team! Whether you are communicating with clients or preparing a marketing campaign, this extremely helpful tool will make sure your writing is the best it can be. Although it would be ideal to always have an in-house editor, this tool is an excellent and consistent stand-in.
To date, more than 20 million people use Grammarly to improve their writing. This platform is an AI-powered writing system that does everything from correcting the spelling to editing grammar to detecting plagiarism. It’s very cool “tone detector” provides you with an emoji that states the overall tone of your message. It’s easy to unintentionally come across with the wrong tone when communicating remotely. The tone detector will let you know if your writing is interpreted as friendly, professional, formal, confrontational, and more.
Over the last 10 years, Grammarly has expanded its reach, now integrating with countless popular remote platforms. From Gmail and Messenger, from Slack and Asana, and as part of all your social media channels, Grammarly will keep your language polished and clean.
Another awesome feature includes regular writing stats via Grammarly Insight emails. Learn how your writing stacks up against other Grammarly users with productivity, vocabulary, and mastery stats, plus an overview of the tones detected in your writing.
Grammarly offers three plans. The free basic plan includes limited features.
Working remotely often means collaborating with clients and teams who use different platforms. As a freelancer or contractor, especially, you might be on a project this week with a company that prefers the Microsoft 365 Suite, and next week works with a team that uses GSuite. That can make scheduling a simple meeting more challenging than necessary.
In comes Calendly. This system makes it easy to schedule meetings without involving back-and-forth emails or multiple platforms. By connecting calendars to Calendly, the platform can automatically check each person’s availability and schedule a convenient meeting.
Calendly can coordinate one-on-ones, group meetings, and webinars, among other features. This highly customizable service allows for notifications, automatic buffers between scheduling meetings, a limit on the number of meetings scheduled per day, time-zone detection, and more.
If you’re managing a team, more advanced options include a broad overview of events, metrics and reporting, and administrative features for streamlined, efficient meetings. As with similar software, Calendly seamlessly integrates with many existing apps and platforms.
Calendly offers three plans, with the first being a free, limited basic option.
As more people across the country are learning, remote work can be relaxing, productive, and efficient. It’s all about how your team chooses to communicate, share, and stay organized. It’s highly likely that remote work, in some form, will continue in organizations across the US where it had not been an option before.
By reviewing available tools and determining which benefit your team the most, you’ll have everything to gain from going remote.
Once you consider what your needs are and who from your team or outside your company should be involved in a project, these productivity platforms can improve your workflow, project management, and communication from wherever you work, whenever you need to do it.
The best thing about using app-based tools is that your team, deadlines, files, and conversations are all housed remotely in a way that is easy to access from a desktop, tablet, or mobile device. This keeps you on top of communication and deadlines in a format that is most convenient for you.
Become familiar with these platforms now so you’re ready to stay productive in the post-COVID world.