Hybrid workplaces are here to stay. Companies value the emergency preparedness and the business continuity that this model offers during uncertain times. And employees love the security and the flexibility that comes with it. Replicating an onsite work environment to turn any space into a productive workspace – whether it is an office, a home, or any other place in between – is a top priority for all businesses that are small and big alike.
The increasing popularity of hybrid workplaces has resulted in high demand for workplace communication and collaboration solutions. Global players are stacking solutions with advanced features and integrations that enable seamless work experience both onsite and remote.
With so many new and existing providers, the market is flooded with a vast selection of potential tools. For someone not familiar with the tiny nuances of technology, one tool may seem similar and complementing to the others. So, how does one compare and determine which applications & collaboration software solutions are suitable for one’s team?
We have compiled a list of some of the best and recommended tools for your hybrid and remote teams. Our recommendation is split into the following categories:
- Team Communications | Featured GoToMeeting, Zoom, Microsoft Team, Slack
- Project & Workflow Management | Featured Trello, Asana, Basecamp, ProofHub, Monday.com
- Collaboration, File Sharing, and Storage | Featured Google Cloud, Dropbox, Egnyte
- Virtual Offices | Featured Intelligent Office, MyHive, Teemyco
- Remote Monitoring & Performance Management | Featured TeamViewer, Team-Doctor, ActivTrak
- Featured Canadian brands: Dynalist, Igloo, Jostle, Noodle, Prestavi, Zenhub
Best known for their video meeting experience, GoToMeeting is a web conferencing tool specifically built for business and remote workers. It offers a complete suite of features that help schedule and collaborate over the meetings. The ‘smart meeting assistant’ automatically records and transcribes the meetings for increased productivity, and their mobile conferencing offers a ‘commuter mode’ that switches to reduced bandwidth and enables data saving. It easily integrates with several other popular collaboration tools.
Arguably, the highest-ranked video conferencing solution that gained its popularity during the initial pandemic days, Zoom is today known for its easy accessibility and features. Small-medium businesses are the largest domain for Zoom as several businesses in this segment had to make a quick move to remote work when the pandemic broke out and did not have a business continuity plan in place. Its features like ‘Zoom Events’ enable large meetings with break-outs and in-event networking opportunities.
Microsoft Teams enables absolute collaboration and is more prominent in mid-to enterprise-sized businesses. It supports chat, call, video conferences, webinars, group meetings, file sharing and has built-in industry-specific apps that help enhance workforce productivity. It also supports building low code, no code simple apps, and automation through integrations and developer tools. Security and compliance controls are also one of the best. Microsoft 365 enables ease of collaborative work experience. Their ‘Together mode’ creates an almost in-person level of interaction.
One of the more popular communication tools, Slack, supports file sharing, team/ individual chat, and video calls. It is best-loved for ‘channels’ that allow the creation of team-specific collaboration channels that mimics an in-person workplace. It integrates with almost every popular tool there is. Their in-message search is one of the best. A significant set of features are available in the free version. Slack Connect enables communication with third-party contacts such as clients and vendors without leaving the app.
|Jostle: Connecting, and engaging a distributed workforce over the intranet. For news, discussions, file sharing, and task management.|
Noodle: Easy to use intranet software that connects the entire workforce. File sharing, video chats, conference rooms, calendars, task managers etc.
Igloo: cloud-based SAAS offering services in collaboration, communication, engagement, and knowledge management across organizations.
Project & Workflow Management
Trello, a widely used work management tool even pre-pandemic, helps plan, manage, get things done, and celebrate projects’ success. It makes it easy for teams to stay organized and be their productive best. The Its simple ‘board’ and ‘card’ interface is user-friendly and can handle complex workflows. Trello offers a built-in tool that helps automate tasks and workflows on boards, called the Butler. Power-ups and integrations are available on the free version, making Trello very popular among small businesses.
Asana goes beyond company-wide project management solutions and offers workflow-specific solutions customized by department – Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, Design, etc. Some of these workflow management tools in the basic free version empower small teams to collaborate and communicate efficiently while keeping on track with projects and deadlines. ‘Business’ and ‘premium’ versions offer more advanced features, accessibility, and scale meant for larger organizations. The ‘Remote Team’ solutions are probably Asana’s most popular offering in recent years.
At the core, Basecamp is a project management software like any other. Its focus, however, is equally on connecting the people. Meeting progress and individual/ teamwork status updates are made easy to share. The client interface is well fleshed-out, too, with the business having control of file accessibility.
ProofHub is a Project Management software that brings together a host of productivity and collaboration tools in one place. Best suited for teams that work collaboratively on several projects. It comes in 3 interfaces, ‘Managers’, ‘Teams’, and ‘Clients’, with their own shared goals and metrics in place. Besides monitoring project progress through engaging and informative charts and reports, it also creates a connected environment enabling ‘feedback’, ‘discussions’, and ‘celebrations’.
A very visual workflow management tool, Monday.com allows teams to custom-create workflows that suit their needs. It centralizes data, communications, and connections all in one place. The use of colour labelling and the simple one-board view of the complete workflow make it very easy to comprehend, connect, and collaborate. It makes creating dashboards and the overall project analytics easy to build and understand.
Collaboration, File Sharing & Storage
Google Cloud Offers 15 GB free for individual users to be used across Gmail, Photos, and Files. And up to 100 GB for premium Google One users. Besides the ease of file sharing and having a remote location for file saving, Google Cloud is very popular among small businesses and freelancers for its in-built integrations with GSuite tools. It is compatible with most devices and has a very easy-to-use interface.
Dropbox is one of the pioneer file hosting platforms that makes file sharing and remote saving seem simple. It syncs with most devices and is ranked high for its security features, making it more reliable than other platforms. Dropbox Paper, their online collaboration, and editing tool, is a relatively new addition and is a collaborative document-editing service. It enables a virtual workspace to bring creation and coordination together so users can write and edit, brainstorm, review designs, manage tasks or run meetings collaboratively.
Egnyte is an award-winning cloud-native file-sharing platform. However, it goes beyond storage and sharing. It is powered by AI to provide strong security, content classification, and compliance that make it a popular choice for remote teams. It provides a range of industry-specific solutions. It is integrated with popular productivity apps such as G-Suite, Dropbox Business, and Microsoft 365.
Intelligent Office offers a wide range of virtual office solutions for small teams or freelancers that do not want too many overheads. It offers virtual assistants and phone answering services. It can also be used to rent an office space/ meeting room for rent by the hour for virtual teams that need office space for an ad-hoc team catch-up or a client meeting.
MyHive helps create a physical office in a virtual world. Makes employee engagement and collaboration quicker and more effective. The customizable interactive office layouts boost the morale and enthusiasm of the employees. It brings back in-person spontaneity in a distributed environment. It offers a complete set of tools such as video and audio calling, conferencing, file sharing, chat, and APIs for integration.
Teemyco is another popular virtual office solution that offers an interactive layout to engage in. It is integrated with many popular workplace tools and brings them together in the office. In addition to collaboration, they have some cool features that improve work happiness. Emojis in virtual meetings and Kudos Hat (colleague shout-outs) are some good ones.
#Trend alert: Businesses are taking the concept of the virtual workplace a notch higher and merging physical and digital experiences to create unified ‘Phygital’ experiences for their customers. The retail, banking, and other customer-facing sectors are leading the way in this trend. Bigger business and retail chains have the resources to create complete Phygital experiences powered by facial recognition, AI, and other emerging technologies. Small businesses can begin small. For one, create unified customer engagement across all communication interfaces such as in-person, social media, email, and web forms. Maybe integrate online order and checkout processes for scheduled pick-ups. Or include an interactive space on the browser to interact with the customer using platforms such as MyHive.
TeamViewer is a remote work tool that enables remote desktop access allowing users to access office devices from anywhere. It offers secure remote access and is compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems. It enables remote access to many office applications like remote printing etc.
A popular time-tracking tool that helps manage employee/ freelancer/ contractor timesheets, task progress, and payroll. TimeDoctor is simple to install and provides worker productivity insights based on web and app usage monitoring.
A cloud-based workforce analytics software offers a wide range of productivity insights that are beneficial to both individuals and businesses. Besides app usage and real-time user metrics, ActivTrak also provides ‘ActivTrak Coach’ functionality that analyzes the team’s performance and recommendations to improve productivity and work-life balance.
|Prestavi: Build complex, customized workflows using a simple drag/drop editor.|
ZenHub: Project and workflow management software. Integrated with GitHub. Best for developers.
Dynalist: Tool for ideation and self-organization.
Communication is important to foster healthy working relationships. Besides enabling productivity and collaboration, it helps boost trust and employee morale. Using the right workplace tools and applications can facilitate communication in a remote workspace. For a small business with limited resources, these tools are an easy and effective solution.
But for larger enterprise organizations, solutions need to be custom-built. The size and the scale of work done unlock more technological opportunities. Cloud, Internet of things (IoT), CyberSecurity, Robotic Process Automation, Blockchain, AI & Machine Learning are some of the technologies that enable remote working environment for the Enterprise segment.