Companies’ collaboration and communication tools that have long depended on a typical in-office work environment are often not suited for remote and hybrid environments. As a result, many companies are doing “tool audits” to ensure they’re using the best remote work tools to improve their employees’ productivity, efficiency, and happiness.
For knowledge workers, the software applications in their toolkit that they rely on must be robust, dependable, and innovative. Of course, having the right people is crucial, but giving them the right tools enables them to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
In our guide, we’re going to look at the best work from home productivity tools that enable remote teams to improve their communication and collaboration.
Best Tools for Remote Work Productivity
There are two types of software tools: tools built for in-office work and flex tools built for in-office, remote, and hybrid work. Companies must look at their tool lineup to improve the ways their employees communicate and collaborate, as having the wrong tools can mean the difference between success and failure.
Spike is one of those tools that you can’t imagine how your life would be without it once you go “all-in” and start using it. Spike might look like just another email app, but it’s so much more. Spike takes your traditional work email account (Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, etc.) and builds a chat and productivity layer on top of it.
Spike can send and receive an email like any other email client, but it feels like a messenger. If the person you’re communicating with also uses Spike, you can see a real-time presence indicator as well to let you know if they’re online or not.
Spike continues to build out its productivity toolkit by including collaborative Notes and Tasks/To-Dos in your email inbox. With collaborative Notes, you can collaborate on a document from afar in real-time or asynchronously and include text, files, graphics, tables, and more. Changes to the Note sync to all devices simultaneously so you’ll never miss a beat. Notes can remain private or shared with others, and even if someone isn’t a Spike user, they can still read and edit a Note using a unique link.
For live collaboration, Spike includes video meetings inside the app. You can host and join video meetings for all types of gatherings, from 1:1’s to large group presentations and everything between. For the host, you can share your screen for live presentations. And you guessed it – even if someone isn’t using Spike, they can still join using any web browser without needing a login or a special plugin. Spike generates a unique link for each meeting that can be easily shared and joined by anyone.
Spike Groups is another key feature that streamlines remote working. Spike Groups operate like a team chat system but uses your email account. Teams can keep communication topics segmented, so it’s easy to keep projects moving ahead.
Spike is 100% free for personal use and offers competitive plans for business customers.
Best Tools for Cloud Storage
Cloud storage has become the default way to store and share files remotely. The idea of an onsite file solution is considered dead on arrival for remote teams. On-site file servers create complicated VPN situations for remote workers and require you to make holes in your firewall to allow outside connections.
When considering remote working tools, a better solution is to move all your file storage to the cloud. The cloud is a simple term to describe servers hosted in a large data center like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. IT staff provisions the server solution and allows a more prominent company to keep the server up and running. A cloud storage file system is key to ensuring remote work productivity without massive amounts of redundancy.
Google Drive is the best cloud storage for remote working. It’s tightly integrated with Google Workspace so many businesses who already rely on it for corporate email can efficiently work cloud storage into their workflows.
Google Drive is structured into three parts: My Drive, Shared with Me, and Shared Drives. My Drive contains the files that are only for you. My Drive can include folders, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, pictures, and more. Shared with Me contains files that have been shared with you over Google Drive. These files and folders can be revoked at any time, so if it’s something you depend on, it would be wise to make a copy. Shared Drives are only applicable in a Google Workspace setting. These files and folders have no owner and are owned by the company. The benefit of using this section of Google Drive is that files persist regardless of who created them. Files created outside of the Shared Drives section can be deleted if the user who created them is removed from the account.
Google Drive works natively with its own Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Slides file format, but it can also natively edit Microsoft Office files as well. Google Drive can be a general file storage for pictures, PDFs, and almost any other file type.
One thing that Google Drive makes incredibly easy when it comes to remote work is file sharing. It includes granular control overview/edit rights as well as sharing permissions. If you regularly need to share files with clients, Google Drive is a great remote work cloud storage solution.
Google Drive is included with Google Workspace, and pricing starts at $6 per user per month. 30 GB of storage is included with all accounts, and additional storage is available starting at $1.99/month.
Best Tool for Remote Support
Much of the talk about remote work tools is about collaboration and communication, but what about when you need IT support? Even though an IT department might not be responsible for maintaining your home network, you still might need assistance with installing new applications, updating your operating system, and dealing with error messages.
TeamViewer is an essential remote work tool for IT professionals when supporting their teams. TeamViewer is an easy-to-use remote access tool that works well when firewall rules don’t allow traditional remote access and remote desktop applications to function.
Unlike other more complicated access software, TeamViewer enhances remote support session collaboration with built-in video conferencing, secure file sharing, and easy-to-use screen sharing tools. TeamViewer is also beneficial for securely connecting to remote point-of-sale computers, digital signage tools, and un-manned kiosk computers.
The tightly integrated features of Team Viewer mean that it’s a one-stop-shop for IT professionals tasked with supporting users.
One of the most flexible remote desktop solutions, TeamViewer supports Mac, PC, Android, and iOS. It’s the best tool for efficient remote working when you need to support end-users who might be across town, cities, states, or even the world.
TeamViewer starts at $50.90/month on single-seat licenses. Enterprise customers with multiple IT professionals with advanced needs will want to consider one of the multi-seat plans.
Remote Tools for Graphic Visualization
Having the best visualization tools can really help remote employees feel more engaged with their teammates. Having an easy place to store visual assets that make it simple for your team to stay on-brand and communicate with your customers can be useful in a digital environment.
Venngage is the best graphic visualization tool for remote teams. Its template-creation tool enables all of your teammates to tell stories and present your organization in interesting and engaging ways.
Venngage includes drag-and-drop templates, so it’s easy for experts and novice users alike to work with. Since Venngage is a SaaS solution, it’s really easy for employees to use it amongst their team. Venngage includes a free plan, and paid plans start at $16/month and go up as the demand for more features increases.
Best Remote Tools for Project Management
You cannot look at the best remote work tools without mentioning project management tools. This category of tools was necessary when working in the office, but it’s even more critical when working outside of the workplace in a remote work environment. Project management tools are how projects ultimately succeed. They give companies a high-level view of how projects are progressing.
Slack, now owned by SalesForce, is one of the most popular tools in the workplace. Many people view it as a project management tool as it keeps everyone in communication. Where Slack excels is how it integrates with so many other tools. Slack has its own app store where Slack admins can integrate with tools like Jira, Trello, etc.
Slack is easy to use, but that sometimes makes it a distraction as employees end up feeling like they need to chat more than they’re actually doing their jobs. Chat is broken up into Channels as well as Direct Messages. Direct Messages can include more than just a 1:1 conversation as well.
So is Slack a project management tool? It’s really the hub that ties all of the other tools together in a single place. Slack pricing starts at $8/month per user. Annual plans can see a slight discount on the pricing.
Summary: Best Remote Work Tools
As your team looks for the best tools to streamline remote work, consider which tools accomplish more than one task. Single-focused apps might seem beneficial, but they lead to context switching. Instead, look at a tool like Spike that can combine email, team chat, file sharing, video meetings, and more into a single application. It allows your team to build a “virtual work desk” tailored to your needs.
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