For most companies, the recent surge in remote work has presented new challenges that need to be addressed immediately. One of the biggest challenges is keeping teams connected and productive, especially when you can’t have in-person meetings. Luckily, technology is keeping up by offering a range of tools that can help make remote work just as effective as being in the office.
Check out our list of must-have remote tools for business to keep your team engaged, no matter where they’re working from. For quick reference, here’s a table of contents with all tools in our list:
Productivity and time management tools
Communication and collaboration tools
Security and privacy tools
Productivity and time management tools
What might be the biggest concern for managers of remote or hybrid teams is that remote workers may be distracted outside the office, leading to a decrease in productivity. While we haven’t seen this borne out in the research, many teams still need hard data to show that teams are accomplishing their tasks on time and hitting targets. This is what makes productivity and time management tools especially important for remote teams.
The right productivity tools include not just time tracking but other data to see how processes and productivity can be improved. A really good tool will help you track employee productivity and engagement, so you can spot burnout before it becomes a problem. Individual team members should be able to track their productivity against company goals and team benchmarks, so they have a better understanding of how their work is doing, too.
If you’re looking for a total view of your team’s productivity, ActivTrak is your first stop. From time spent on tasks to time spent in apps, the platform helps you see where and how employees work across your organization. Our dashboards give you a deep dive beyond what employees are doing into how they’re feeling about it, giving you a better understanding of how new technologies or processes are affecting your workforce. With data visualization tools and a host of integrations, ActivTrak helps you not only see how your employees are performing, but make changes to help them do better.
Because of its ease-of-use and popularity, Google Calendar is an app that people actually enjoy using. Beyond a simple calendar, Google Calendar can help your team with productivity by allowing you to compare schedules, schedule meetings with Google Meet or other communication tools, sync with other calendars and even automatically add event details from your email, like flight info. The app integrates with lots of other technology, and can help you organize your daily agenda and to-do list while collaborating with team members.
Todoist is a project management tool with a user-friendly interface that’s made it popular both for businesses and individuals to organize their personal and professional tasks. While you can use it as a simple way to track your to-do list, its reminders, due dates, priorities, labels and integrations make it ideal for project management, too. It includes a Smart Schedule feature that can automatically tell you when the best time to do what projects will be, based on those priorities and due dates. While the app doesn’t provide time tracking tools as a native feature, it offers integrations with popular time tracking software. It’s cloud-based, which is convenient, but there’s not an offline capability, which can be difficult for some users who may want to work even when they don’t have an internet connection.
As one of the most popular project management tools, Trello is a simple (and usually affordable) way for teams to track projects. Similar to Asana or Monday.com, Trello allows you to assign tasks to team members through cards, called kanban. The tool provides collaboration through file sharing, assignments and deadlines. A drag-and-drop functionality and visual-based organization make it easy to use for most project managers and teams. Plus, the paid plan offers a lot of functionality, which is helpful. One drawback is that it may take time to customize and understand how kanban boards work, which isn’t ideal for every team.
While it may look like a spreadsheet, Smartsheet does so much more, like automating workflows, building and managing forms, creating tickets and more. It offers native integrations for dozens of popular work applications. You can use its resource management feature to keep budgets and forecast hiring. And it offers intelligent workflows to help team members manage the steps in a project across multiple technology stacks. If you’re already using a spreadsheet to track your projects, Smartsheet should provide an easy transition.
Asana is a popular kanban-based remote team management platform that helps organize, track and manage work. Similar to Trello, you can assign tasks to colleagues and upload files. However, Asana offers more flexibility in terms of visualization, with lists, timelines, calendars, Gantt charts and workflows available. Asana’s payment plans are also better for groups, making it a better option for organizations. Asana is also somewhat more traditional in its project management options, meaning it’s geared towards software developers rather than creative teams.
Another project management tool, Monday.com offers similar features to Asana and Trello but is even more customizable. The platform provides more file-sharing options and space for uploads than the other two, plus form creation and automation options. It’s cloud-based so users can access it from anywhere. The interface is intuitive, and its multiple view functionality may make it easier for different types of teams to collaborate. Unlike other project management software, Monday.com also offers phone support as well.
Communication and collaboration tools
A major problem for remote workers is keeping the team connected, communicating and collaborating effectively. Tools for communication and collaboration are essential to keep everyone working together. Whether it’s video conferencing, chat, file sharing or project management, these communication and collaboration tools can make working from home much more efficient.
The king of video calls is Zoom, which took off during the COVID-19 pandemic and is still a popular tool for remote workers. The app provides calendar syncing to make it easier to schedule meetings – even across time zones – as well as screen sharing and other video call tools. Zoom is also a great tool for virtual conferences or webinars, although the free version limits call times to 45 minutes and a set number of participants. There have been issues with Zoom security in the past, with rogue hackers breaking into classroom sessions or business meetings, but Zoom has worked hard to address those issues.
As a chat client, Slack is an extremely popular app for communication. But the tool also allows for collaboration, including integrations with file sharing programs and project management tools. Beyond just sending each other messages, team members can hold meetings, share calendars, and even work on projects within the app. As an added bonus, you can be logged into multiple Slack accounts in one the app, which is great for contractors or freelancers who may be members of multiple organizations, or for organizations who may have multiple affiliates. Slack recently announced that they are incorporating even more generative AI into their app to help teams be even more productive.
Google Drive is usually used as a simple, cloud-based file sharing platform for most teams. It integrates with other Google apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Calendar for easy collaboration and file tracking. Easily manage permissions on items for individuals both in and out of your organization to allow for easier collaboration in real-time. Google is known for being easy to use with a short learning curve, and Google Drive’s drag and drop functionality is no different. Their system makes it easier to keep track of documents, spreadsheets and other items, even with multiple collaborators. And they integrate with a number of other software tools to make it easier to get work done faster.
Since the 1990s, many workplaces have used Microsoft tools to get work done. In 2017, Microsoft introduced Teams, their communication platform, to keep up with other collaboration tools like Slack or Google Meet. Now the app is used by major corporations, government organizations and schools to integrate with their existing Microsoft suite for communication and collaboration. The tool allows for video conferencing, real-time chat and collaboration on documents and spreadsheets. There is a free version of the app, but there are limits to how you can use the free version beyond personal use.
Security and privacy tools
Another issue of remote work is security and privacy. Having a workforce located in a single location can make it easier to maintain firewalls or implement security features to keep the network safe, as workers will all be on the same internet connection and within the same geolocation. Remote workers may connect to unsecured wifi networks or even leave their equipment in less secure locations.
Many office technology suites include anti-phishing and malware protections built into their programs, like email scanning, pop-up blockers and malicious site warnings. But businesses often need to take their security measures a step further, especially if they’re dealing with sensitive customer data, like healthcare information, financial information or personal data.
Here are some privacy and security tools that can help remote workforces stay secure, no matter where they’re working from.
LasPass is a password vault that stores passwords for users using “military-grade encryption”. The tool offers two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometric logins to help ensure password safety. You can use LastPass on any device or browser; all you have to do is remember your master password. While the company experienced a serious breach in December 2022, LastPass’s saving grace was that the passwords that were stolen were still encrypted and thus unusable by hackers. It also gave the company a number of ideas on how to improve their security going forward.
Dashlane Password Manager is another password vault that encrypts data for both business and personal use. They use 256-bit encryption, offer 2FA and biometric identification as well. Most of their marketing centers on the fact that they haven’t had a security breach – unlike LastPass. They offer a 30-day free trial for businesses, including 1 GB of encrypted storage for files that are up to 50 MB (which means it’s best for sensitive PDFs or contact lists, and not for photos or videos).
NordVPN (Or NordLayer for Enterprise)
A virtual private network is a smart way businesses can manage employee access to sensitive information by hiding browser details and making it harder for hackers to monitor activity. NordVPN is a popular VPN service that offers traffic routing, file sharing and built-in antivirus tools. Why they don’t offer a free version, they work to make their somewhat pricey platform worth it for business users. The VPN can help IT and security professionals manage malware monitoring and block malicious sites so employees can work securely, no matter where they’re located.
Perimeter 81 is a cloud-based VPN solution known for being easy to implement. They boast quick deployment and world-class support, getting your network set up and running in as little as 20 minutes. They don’t offer a free plan, and they’re definitely not the cheapest VPN in the business, but they offer a number of security features and user management tools that can help secure your organization’s data and keep your employees safe from attacks and data breaches.
If you work in an industry that requires a lot of compliance in terms of data, like healthcare, government contracting or financial services, data loss protection (DLP) should be one of your top priorities. Forcepoint DLP is a software solution that protects data and intellectual property for businesses, focusing on “human-centered” risks. The software identifies sensitive data, monitors your team for leaks, protects data as it’s transferred across platforms, secures stored data and protects data while teams are using it.
Manage your remote workforce with ActivTrak
If you’re looking for data about how your remote team is doing from a productivity standpoint, ActivTrak is the platform you need. Get insight into where employees spend the most time and when they’re most productive, plus what tools help (or hinder) their work. Make better decisions based on data about what tools you use, what policies to implement, and how to allocate resources so that employees work their best.
Schedule a free demo today to see how ActivTrak can help your teams reach their best productivity goals.