- With the right tech in place, your remote workforce can hold virtual meetings, communicate using real-time messaging, collaborate on projects and share documents.
- Many remote working tools have a free tier, making it affordable for small business teams to stay productive, accountable and connected while they’re away from the office. Paid versions may better suit your needs and goals.
- In addition to allowing team members to work from home or wherever they have an internet connection, remote working tools can improve communication, management and collaboration.
The coronavirus has changed the way work is being done throughout the world. Instead of working in an office each day, many employees are now working from their living room, kitchen or home office. While remote work has grown in popularity in recent years, the current climate has made it a must for a large chunk of the working population. To facilitate this new working environment, many small businesses are diligently searching for free remote work tools. If free options aren’t a good fit for your business, paid versions may better suit your needs and goals.
What are the different types of remote working tools?
There are numerous types of remote working tools your employees can use to work effectively from home. The four key types of remote working software to look for – according to Miranda Nicholson, vice president of human resources at Formstack – are communication, scheduling, project management and file sharing.
What are the benefits of using remote working tools?
The goal of using remote work tools is to give your employees who aren’t in the office (and who may even live across the country) the feeling that they are in the cubicle right next to you. Remote working tools can keep your team connected, no matter how spread out they are. During these uncertain times, you can’t afford miscommunication, stalled progress, missed opportunities, or to let your customers down.
As companies rethink their team environment and culture strategy, now is a good time to lean into the benefits of remote working tools, said Billy Boughey, founder and president of Elevate Experiences.
“There are many resources that employees can use at home for their own work and to connect with employees so that productivity is not lost,” Boughey told Business News Daily. “Remote working tools can help employees stay on track, increase results and maximize output. Having the proper mindset is the key to unlocking great remote work environments, and we must also remember that we don’t have to be in person to do something personal.”
In addition to allowing team members to work from wherever an internet connection is available, remote working tools allow for better communication, management and collaboration. When you have seamless integrations and connectivity within your remote workforce, you can quickly host video calls and message each other in real time, giving your team easy access to one another.
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What are the best free and paid remote working tools?
The best free and paid remote working tools allow your team to stay productive, accountable and connected. These tools are vital for businesses transitioning to remote work due to COVID-19 or other reasons. In addition to providing employees with the resources they need to be productive when working outside the office, they come at no cost, which is critical for small businesses keeping a close eye on their bottom line. Here are the best free remote working tools along with paid options, categorized by software type.
Remote communication tools
These tools allow teams to stay connected through instant messaging, video conferencing and phone calls. [Business phone systems like Nextiva offer integrations of both through VoIP]. Email is important, but inboxes can make it difficult to manage and maintain conversations. New communication platforms allow teams to easily follow threads and add others to the conversation. They break down barriers, ensuring conversations are on topic and relevant.
Slack is an instant messaging platform that organizes conversations into shared channels, allowing businesses to communicate with team members from all over the world.
Slack offers a free tier that small businesses can use for an unlimited time. It includes access to 10,000 of your team’s most recent messages, one-on-one voice and video calls between teammates, and up to 10 integrations with other apps, such as Google Drive and Office 365.
The Slack paid option is recommended to small businesses that routinely hold online meetings. Identity protection inclusions are in place, along with full integration with Slack tools. A message history is also saved. Slack’s paid program keeps team meetings and communications secure without any time restrictions.
[Read related article: Free Business Services to Help You Weather the Coronavirus]
Zoom is a remote video conferencing service that can keep your team connected through video chat, conference rooms and phone calls. The service provides online meetings, video webinars, cross-platform messaging and file sharing, no matter where you are.
Zoom’s basic plan is free and includes hosting for up to 100 participants and unlimited one-on-one meetings. Groups of three or more can meet for up to 40 minutes at a time under this plan. The free basic plan also provides HD video and voice, full-screen and gallery view, simultaneous screen share, and Chrome and Outlook plugins. It supports Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android operating systems.
Many remote workers are opting for Zoom’s paid version to accommodate virtual communications. One of the major drawbacks of the free version on Zoom is the time limit. Many companies find it hard to limit meeting times to less than 40 minutes. With the paid plan, unlimited meeting times are permitted. The paid packages also support cloud storage of meetings and streaming on social media sites.
Microsoft Teams is a communication hub for team collaboration in Office 365 that combines workplace chat, video conferencing, cloud storage and app integration. Microsoft Teams is available as a free download through January 2021.
With Microsoft Teams’ free version, remote teams get unlimited chat, built-in group and one-on-one audio or video calling, 10GB of team file storage, and 2GB of personal file storage per user. If your business is licensed for Office 365, you already have access to Microsoft Teams.
With Convene, you get extra support with your virtual meetings such as interactive Q&A’s and polling options. You can host meetings up to two to four hours in length per day, with breakout rooms offered. The highest tier provides detailed analytics to help you evaluate attendee engagement.
Remote scheduling tools
Teams can use these tools to schedule meetings and share calendars. This gives employees the opportunity to see everyone’s availability and ensure regular check-ins. Many of these tools sync directly with your calendar and send out meeting reminders and invites automatically, reducing unnecessary emails.
HubSpot Meetings allows you to sync your Google Calendar or Office 365 calendar with it, set your availability, and have your customers or employees schedule meetings with you. The tool provides form fields for your meeting page to save contact information. You can also send the meeting page as a link by email or embed it on a website. You can get started with HubSpot Meetings for free with an unlimited number of meetings.
Setmore is an appointment scheduling tool that organizes your calendar, customer lists, booking page and staff profiles. This tool offers access to all your appointments from anywhere in the world, allowing your team and customers to reschedule directly from their inboxes to save on time-consuming phone calls.
Setmore’s free basic plan includes up to four staff logins and calendars, with automated alerts and notifications. You can use the service to book appointments with customers online. The free basic plan also integrates with third-party apps and platforms, such as Facebook, Mailchimp, Zendesk and Zapier.
10 to 8
The appointment and scheduling program 10 to 8 has become more popular since more workers are working from home. A free version is available, but you’re limited to two staff logins and 100 appointments per month. Paid plans support two or more staff logins per month and 100, 300, 600 (or a customized number) of monthly appointments. Paid versions can also be customized with your company’s branding.
Remote project management tools
These allow teams to create and share various tasks and assignments from one location. This makes it easier for team members to collaborate on projects and for managers to track progress and project completion.
Project management tools are usually cloud-based, multi-user platforms with numerous features, including mobile apps for on-the-go status updates and real-time task views for monitoring multiple projects at once.
Basecamp is a management tool that places everything your team needs to get work done in one place. Within every project, your team gets message boards, to-do lists, file storage, real-time group chat and automated check-in questions. Basecamp can also integrate with third-party mobile and desktops apps, such as TaskClone, Zapier, Project Buddy and Zoho Flow.
Basecamp Personal is a free plan for individual projects and small teams. The plan, which includes 16GB of cloud storage, allows three separate projects and up to 20 users.
The majority of users prefer Basecamp Business for their company needs. With this paid option, unlimited features and users are allowed. A high amount of storage space is also part of the paid plan—a necessity to keep workflow going. This also guarantees saved projects for as long as you need access.
Asana is a project and task management tool designed to help your team organize, track, and manage their work, no matter where they are. Its automation features reduce bottlenecks, streamline approvals, convert standard projects into custom templates, and save you the time of manually updating project schedules when deadlines change.
Asana offers a basic plan that’s free to use for up to 15 team members, includes calendar and list views, and allows you to assign tasks and due dates. The free plan integrates with third-party apps, like Jira Cloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, Gmail and Slack.
Remote file-sharing and cloud storage tools
With these tools, teams can securely share and store files in the cloud, which can boost collaboration efforts. File-sharing services make it incredibly easy to share interactive files. You can make edits, add comments and collaborate on content from anywhere in the world. [Read related article: The Best Cloud Backup and Storage Solutions]
Dropbox is a file-sharing service that provides cloud storage and file synchronization in one centralized workspace. It allows you to create, store, and share cloud content from Google Docs, Sheets and Slides; Microsoft Office files; and Dropbox Paper.
Dropbox Basic is a free account with 2GB of storage. With it, you can access and share photos and documents from any device and easily back up and recover shared files. Dropbox Basic is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems.
Google Drive is a cloud storage service that allows you to store, sync, share and access files across any devices. As a G Suite service, Google Drive integrates with other Google applications, including Google Forms, Drawings, Docs, Sheets and Slides.
Google Drive’s personal plan provides 15GB of free cloud storage. Your storage account is used by Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, allowing you to store files, save email attachments, and back up photos or videos in one workspace. Google Drive offers downloads for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Google Drive’s free version tends to fill up quickly.
Timesheet applications and software tools are musts for accountability among your company’s staff members. Time-tracking applications are essential for project budget planning. The following are free and paid options for time tracking virtually.
If you’re looking for a user-friendly tool that’s free, consider Clockify. The application has the distinction of supporting an unlimited number of users and no limit on projects. Features include tracked hours via virtual timers, prefilled timesheets, and categorizations by project. Users can also mark time sheets as billable or paid. Reporting features are customizable with a visual breakdown available.
Toggl (Free and paid plans)
Toggl is free to sign up, with paid options that offer more advanced features such as billable rates, time audit, calendar integrations and project templates. The program works as an application but also has support as a browser extension. Toggl works offline, too.