20 Tools for Optimizing Remote Work

To stay productive and collaborate effectively when working remotely, it’s important to have the right tools. We have created an Upwave board to give you an overview of tools for collaborating on tasks and projects, collaborating on docs/files, instant messaging and video conferencing.

20 Tools for Remote Working – Public Upwave Board

Click on the image to go to the board. To read more about a tool, just open a card by clicking on it. You can filter the tools by Google, Microsoft or standalone apps by clicking on the colors at the top. Continue reading if you want the information in text-format instead of board view.

Instant messaging

When working remotely, it is more important than ever to communicate direction and prioritizations well. Instant messaging apps are great for communicating real-time with your team.

Microsoft Teams – Chat

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based team collaboration software that is part of the Office 365 suite of applications.

Image source: Microsoft

You start by setting up teams, and inside each team you can create different chat rooms, called channels. MS Teams uses the container method, meaning that each post is contained so that replies are grouped together. This way, the conversations are stored in threads, making the chat easier to follow.

Pros:

+ Included with your Microsoft Office 365 Business account
+ Tightly integrated with other Microsoft Office apps
+ Conversations are contained visually without the need for threads
+ Advanced formatting options for your messages

Cons:

– Large amount of tabs makes the interface feel cluttered
– The set up process is complex and time-consuming compared to other apps

Pricing:

Microsoft Teams is included in the following Microsoft Office 365 Business subscriptions:

​Office 365 Business Essentials:  $ 5 user/month
Office 365 Business Premium:    $ 12,5 user/month

It is also available as a free version. For instant messaging purposes, you get access to all features with the free version, but there are some limitations on file attachments and file sharing.

Google Hangouts Chat

Google Hangouts Chat is an instant messaging service developed by Google.

Image source: PC Mag

Like MS Teams, Hangouts Chat uses the container method. Inside each chat room, the chat is broken up into conversations. Each post becomes a separate “chat bubble”, where the replies to the post are contained inside. 

Pros:

+ Included with your G Suite for Business account
+ Tightly integrated with other Google apps
+ Conversations are contained visually without the need for threads

Cons:

– Limited integrations and bots outside the Google ecosystem
– Few notification settings
– No free version

Pricing:

Google Hangouts Chat is only available through a G Suite subscription.

Basic: $ 6 user/month
Business: $ 12 user/month
Enterprise: $ 25 user/month

Unlike most other Google apps, there is no free version available.

Slack

Since its launch in 2013, Slack has become one of the most popular collaboration and communications app. Slack is a powerful instant messaging platform and collaboration hub that can replace email to help you and your team work together seamlessly. The name is actually an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge.”

Image source: PC Mag

Unlike MS Teams and Hangouts Chat, Slack does not break the chat into conversations. In Slack you have a stream of messages, and replies are not necessarily linked to a specific post. You can, however, create threads if you want to reply to specific messages. 

Pros:

+ Intuitive user interface
+ Highly customizable with a ton of configuration options
+ Integrates with dozens of other online apps and services

Cons:

– Can feel a bit cluttered and disorganized
– Can be overwhelming for new users
– More expensive than its alternatives

Pricing:

Free:  $ 0
Standard: $ 6,67 user/month
Plus: $ 12,50 user/month
Enterprise: Tailored pricing – request quote

Discord

Discord is a free all-in-one communication app for communities, gaming, and friends. The target audience is mostly gamers making the voice chat its primary feature. There are also business teams using the app, but it’s design and feature set is created with gamers in mind.

Image source: Discord

Discords channels are organized into text and voice. Unlike Slack, there is no option to thread conversations.

Pros:

+ It’s free!
+ Intuitive and user friendly
+ Several chat options – text, voice and video
+ Super easy to invite team members – just send them a link

Cons:

– Developed for gamers, not business teams
– No integrations with work apps
– Low file-size limit and poor file search
– No option to thread conversations

Pricing:

Free: very few limitations 
Nitro: $4,99 user/month (higher file upload size and video conference quality)

Twist

Twist is a team communication app for small and medium-sized teams created by Doist. Twist differs a bit from other messaging apps in terms of layout – it looks a bit like email. Channels are more like topics and not chat rooms with an ongoing conversation. Inside a channel, you start threads. Unlike other apps, like Slack, where threads are used to reply to a specific message in an ongoing conversation, threads in Twist are the conversations. So you don’t have an ongoing conversation inside a channel, but you have several different threads.

Image source: Twist

Pros:

+ Reasonable pricing
+ Unread messages across Channels get collected in your inbox
+ Unique layout that supports the needs of a distributed team in different time-zones
+ Every conversation is in its own thread making it more organized

Cons:

– Looks a lot like email, which has its own set of problems
– Limited integrations

Pricing:

Free
Unlimited: $ 5 per user/month

Collaborating on tasks and projects

While email and instant messaging are great tools when working remotely, it can be quite cumbersome to coordinate a project or collaborate on a document over endless email threads and chat. This is where tools for collaborating on tasks and projects shine.

Upwave

Upwave is a visual collaboration platform that helps you organize, plan, track, and get things done – all in one place.

Screenshot of an Upwave board

Pros:

+ Visual and intuitive interface making it easy to get your team on board
+ Access to several templates, including Kanban, Scrum, Business Model Canvas and SWOT
+ Tightly integrated with both the Google and Microsoft ecosystems
+ Includes time tracking, estimation and reporting capabilities

Cons:

– Lacking more advanced features like Gantt and portfolio management (but it’s on the roadmap!)
– No free version (but you get a 14 day trial)

Pricing (annual):

Basic:             ​$ 4 user/month
Business:       $ 8 user/month
Enterprise:     Tailored pricing – request quote

Offer: To help you stay on track during the challenging situation brought on by Covid-19, Upwave is offering a 3-month free trial if you get in touch.

Microsoft Planner

Microsoft Planner is a light-weight task management application for teams, offered as a part of Microsoft Office 365.

Image source: GetApp

Pros:

+ Easy to understand and set up
+ Included with your Microsoft Office 365 Business account
+ Tightly integrated with other Microsoft Office apps

Cons:

– No way to notify individuals without notifying the entire team
– Not possible to add attachments to comments
– No search function

Pricing:

Microsoft Planner is included in the following Microsoft Office 365 Business subscriptions:

​Office 365 Business Essentials: $ 5 user/month
Office 365 Business Premium: $ 12,5 user/month

Jira Core

Jira Core is Jiras solution for project and task management for non-technical users.

Image source: Atlassian

Pros:

+ Highly customizable
+ Customized dashboards and pre-defined reports
+ Over 3000 integrations with third-party apps available at the Atlassian Marketplace
+ Free for up to 10 users

Cons:

– Complicated to set up and get started for beginners
– Confusing user interface
– Limited file size upload (10 MB)

Pricing (annual):

Free: $ 0 (10 users)
Standard: $ 5 user/month

Wrike

Wrike is a cloud-based collaboration and project management software.

Image source: Wrike

Pros:

+ Advanced project management capabilities, including Gantt charts, time tracking, analytics and reporting
+ Enterprise level security and controls
+ Free for up to 5 users

Cons:

– Interface is difficult to navigate
– Steep learning curve
– Advanced features only available in Business plan which comes with a hefty price tag

Pricing (annual):

Free: $ 0 (5 users)
Professional: $ 9,80 user/month
Business: $ 24,80 user/month
Enterprise: Tailored pricing – request quote

Monday.com

Monday.com is a Work OS where teams connect to run projects and workflows. At its core, monday.com consists of a collection of customizable spreadsheets.

Image source: Capterra

Pros:

+ Intuitive and easy to use
+ Advanced features like Gantt, time tracking, reporting and financial management
+ Several different view options including Kanban, Timeline, Chart, Calendar & Files

Cons:

– The user interface can feel a bit cluttered and disorganized
– Expensive and complicated pricing structure
– Advanced features only available with its more expensive subscriptions

Pricing (annual):

Basic: ​$ 7,9 user/month (when paying for 5 users)
Standard: $ 9,9 user/month (when paying for 5 users)
Pro: $ 15,9 user/month (when paying for 5 users)
Enterprise: Tailored pricing – request quote

Collaborating on documents and files

Let’s go through some tools that let you create and edit files with your team in real-time.

MS Word, Powerpoint & Excel

With MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel, you can collaborate on documents, presentations and spreadsheets, both on your desktop apps and in your web browser. MS Office still remains the industry standard for business use around the world.

Image source: PC Mag

Pros:

+ Superior editing features
+ Included with your Microsoft Office 365 Business account
+ Tightly integrated with other Microsoft Office apps
+ Available as both desktop and web version

Cons:

– Not great at avoiding collaborative conflicts
– Older versions of MS Office are not compatible with newer versions

Pricing:

These apps are included in the following Microsoft Office 365 for business subscriptions:

Office 365 Business: $ 8,25 user/month
Office 365 Business Premium: $ 12,5 user/month

If you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office 365, you can use Word, PowerPoint and Excel to collaborate for free through Microsoft Office Online. However, this is only a lightweight version that includes web access to the applications with limited functionality.

Google Docs, Slides & Sheets

Google Docs, Slides and Sheets are applications for collaborating on documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

Pros:

+ Superior when it comes to co-authoring and avoiding collaborative conflicts
+ Available for free with your Google account or G Suite subscription
+ Tightly integrated with other G Suite apps
+ Import and export flexibility

Cons:

– Less formatting options
– No desktop version
– Offline editing requires a browser plug-in

Pricing:

Docs, Slides and Sheets are included in your G Suite subscription where prices range from $ 6- $ 25 per user/month.

Basic: ​$ 6 user/month
Business: $ 12 user/month
Enterprise: $ 25 user/month

They are also available for free when you have a Google account. The difference is that with G Suite you receive a number of additional business-grade services not included with Google’s free consumer apps.

Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper is a collaborative document-editing service developed by Dropbox.

Image source: Dropbox

Pros:

+ Easily add rich media content to your document by pasting a link
+ Turn documents into presentations with a click
+ Several pre-made templates

Cons:

– Doesn’t support image editing
– Limited formatting options
– Expensive if you don’t already have a Dropbox subscription

Pricing (annual):

Dropbox Paper is included in all of Dropbox’s subscriptions.

Individual plans
Plus: $ 9,99 month
Professional: $ 16,58 month

Team plans
Standard: $ 12,50 user/month
Advanced: $ 20 user/month
Enterprise: Tailored pricing – request quote

Zoho Office Suite

Zoho Office Suite consists of Zoho Writer, Sheet and Show, which lets you work together on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. It’s included in Zoho WorkDrive.

Image source: Zoho

Pros:

+ Affordable pricing plans
+ Has a distraction free typing mode that lets you see only the paragraph you’re working on
+ Comes with an AI assistant trained to help you improve your writing

Cons:

– Takes some getting used to because it’s a bit different than other document programs
– Limited formatting options

Pricing (annual):

Starter: ​ $ 2 user/month
Team: $ 4 user/month
Business: $ 8 user/month

If you don’t need the Business capabilities, Zoho also offers a free plan for up to 5 people for their product Zoho Docs.

Bit.ai

Bit is a smart real-time document collaboration platform for teams to create interactive documents, manage digital content and track document insights. Bit lets you add and embed rich media like YouTube videos, Google Docs, One Drive Excel Spreadsheets, GIFs, Tweets, and much more directly into your documents.

Image source: Capterra

Pros:

+ Interactive document that lets you add any type of rich media content
+ Provides powerful document analytics & insights
+ Robust template library

Cons:

– Limited text formatting options
– Not accessible offline
– No mobile apps yet

Pricing (annual):

Free Plan: $ 0
Pro Plan: $ 8 user/month
Business Plan: $ 15 user/month
Enterprise Plan: Tailored pricing – request quote

Video conferencing

Even for those accustomed to it, working from home can feel unstructured and isolating. Video conferencing is a great way to mitigate this.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google Hangouts Meet is a video and voice conferencing service developed by Google.

Image source: G Suite

Pros:

+ Allows up to 250 participants per call and live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers
+ Clear, consistent, and reliable video experience
+ Included in your G Suite subscription
+ Robust security and encryption

Cons:

– No free option

Pricing:

Google Hangouts Meet is available through a G Suite subscription.

Basic: $ 6 user/month
Business: $12 user/month
Enterprise: $25 user/month

Unlike most other Google apps, there is no free version available.

Microsoft Teams – Video calls

Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based team collaboration software that is part of the Office 365 suite of applications. Video conferencing is a key component of MS Teams, and it has replaced Skype for Business Online.

Image source: Microsoft

Pros:

+ Included with your Microsoft Office 365 Business account
+ Allows up to 250 people in a single call and live events for up to 10,000 people
+ Tightly integrated with other Microsoft Office apps

Cons:

– Since MS Teams is not solely a video conferencing tool, it’s not that straightforward to find its video call function
– Inviting external users or participants is more complicated than it should be
– You can only see 4 participants simultaneously in a video call

Pricing:

Microsoft Teams is included in the following Microsoft Office 365 Business subscriptions:

Office 365 Business Essentials: $ 5 user/month
Office 365 Business Premium: $ 12,5 user/month

It is also available as a free version. For video conferencing purposes, you get access to most features with the free version, but you cannot schedule or record meetings.

Whereby

Whereby is a flexible video conferencing tool providing you with video meetings in the browser. You simply create an URL for your room and share it with the people you want to give access to, no installation or login required.

Image source: Whereby

Pros:

+ Create and share custom meeting room-links with a click
+ No downloads, PIN codes or registration for guests
+ Easy screen sharing

Cons:

– Plugin installation can be complicated for inexperienced users
– It is easy to join other rooms by mistake
– The Call Recording feature needs to be purchased as a separate add-on

Pricing:

Free: $ 0 (personal use – single user)
Pro: $ 9,99 per month (individual use for professionals)
Business: From $ 59,99 per month (small and medium teams)

Zoom Video Communications

Zoom is an enterprise video conferencing with real-time messaging and content sharing. Launched in 2011, it’s a bit of a newcomer in the market, but it has had a big rise in popularity lately.

Image source: Zoom

Pros:

+ Highly intuitive and user-friendly
+ Up to 1,000 video participants & 10,000 viewers
+ Advanced user management and admin control tools

Cons:

– The web version has limited features, so you need to install software to get the full experience
– Zoom doesn’t use total end-to-end encryption which has led to some recent security issues
– Free version have a 40 minute limit on meetings

Pricing:

Basic: Free
Pro: $ 14,99 host/month
Business: $ 19,99 host/month (minimum 10 hosts)
Enterprise: $ 19,99 host/month (minimum 50 hosts)

Cisco WebEx Meetings

Cisco WebEx Meetings is a leading enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen share, and webinars. WebEx has been around since 1996, and was acquired by Cisco in 2007.

Image source: WebEx

Pros:

+ Solid, reliable, and secure
+ Includes many advanced features
+ Fully browser-based
+ Lets you customize your preferred video layout

Cons:

– Frequent platform integration/compatibility issues
– Users complain about consistent issues with lagging/glitches when screen sharing
– Steeper learning curve

Pricing (annual):

Personal: $ 0
Starter: $ 13,50 host/month
Plus: $ 17,95 host/month
Business: $ 26,95 host/month

There you have it, 20 tools for optimizing remote work. I hope you found it useful!

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