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10 Essential Remote Work Tools for Productivity and Communication

Working remotely has gone from a rare perk to the new normal. The days of huddling around the conference room table have been replaced with gathering on a Zoom call. Our 2023 DigitalOcean Currents research report says that 39% of surveyed companies operate fully remotely, while 23% follow a hybrid model with required in-office days (23%) or open remote options (25%). Only 14% of companies remain fully in office.

While the appeal of flexibility and avoiding daily commutes is clear, the transition to remote work hasn’t been without its challenges. Successful remote work requires a mindset shift and digital tools to enable communication across time zones, collaboration beyond borders, and connection across distributed teams. Distributed teams increasingly rely on a virtual toolkit to bring their best ideas to life and their colleagues within reach, no matter where we’re working from.

Whether you’re part of a distributed workforce or managing a remote team, having the proper software and platforms at your fingertips is essential for peak productivity and maintaining company culture from afar. This article explores the top remote work tools that can become your productivity suite—the apps, communication platforms, and collaboration hubs that will keep your virtual team on track.

Summary

  1. Transitioning to remote work requires the right digital tools for communication, collaboration, and organization across distributed teams.

  2. To ensure efficiency, collaboration, productivity, and data protection in a distributed workplace setting, consider these categories of remote work tools: project management, file sharing, communication, time tracking, and security.

Categories of remote work tools

When evaluating tools for remote work, there are different categories of tools to look for. Some apps support teamwork and communication, others can enable task management across distributed locations, while other tools promote security across a network of laptops around the globe. Here are some categories of tools to explore:

Project management

Efficient project management tools keep remote teams shipping fresh features, launching new products, and executing broader business goals. Look for a tool that offers an intuitive interface for assigning tasks, setting due dates, tracking progress, and maintaining visibility across your team’s initiatives. This will allow your distributed team to stay aligned, ensure nothing falls through the cracks, and keep projects moving forward.

File sharing and cloud storage

Remote employees constantly access files and documents from various locations and devices. A centralized, cloud-based file-sharing platform is a must-have remote work tool. Look for solutions that provide ample storage space, folder organization, and granular permission controls. This helps virtual teams collaborate on content, access important files, and keep sensitive data secure.

Communication and collaboration

Whether you’re discussing your next hire or finalizing your annual business planning, effective communication and coordination tools keep conversations flowing on a remote team. Choose tools with video conferencing features like screen sharing, virtual whiteboards, and breakout rooms that can help your remote coworkers feel more connected and aligned. Promote a documentation culture with an internal database and wiki tools, which will help your team maintain a repository of documents. A common team messaging or instant chat tool is also important to facilitate quick check-ins, impromptu discussions, and availability.

Time tracking and task management

Remote employees need intuitive ways to track their time. The right time-tracking and task-management tools will have features like logging work hours, managing to-do lists, and monitoring work status. This will help your virtual team stay on top of deadlines and gain visibility into overall productivity levels. It also supports accountability, progress reporting, and efficient workflow management.

Security

Implementing the right security tools can help protect your company’s sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access. Look for tools that offer features like multi-factor authentication, encryption, and secure file sharing. These tools should also be easy to use and integrate seamlessly with your existing workflow. By prioritizing security, you can give your remote team peace of mind and allow them to focus on their work without worrying about potential security breaches.

10 essential remote work tools

From video conferencing and instant messaging to project management and file sharing, the following list covers 10 essential remote work tools that can improve your remote operations and keep your virtual workforce connected, organized, and performing at its best.

1. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a powerful all-in-one communication and collaboration platform that’s perfect for remote teams. You can use it to host video meetings, chat with colleagues, share files, and even collaborate on documents in real time. Integration with other Microsoft 365 apps like OneDrive and SharePoint makes it easy to organize everything in one centralized hub.

Key features:

  • Meetings and conference tools: Users can conduct online meetings with features like video conferencing, screen sharing, and custom backgrounds, making virtual collaboration simple and professional.

  • Teams phone: Integrated VOIP, PBX, and video calling functionality, along with flexible business phone systems and contact center solutions to support remote and hybrid work models.

  • Chat and collaboration: Instant messaging, file sharing, and collaboration tools to enable quick, informal communication and efficient teamwork.

  • Devices and experiences: Utilizes Teams devices, including Teams Rooms, for a fully integrated and optimized hardware experience, ensuring smooth and effective meetings with AI-powered audio and video.

  • Frontline workforce: Solutions tailored for the needs of frontline workers, including workforce management and staffing/scheduling capabilities.

  • Apps and workflows: Integrations with various apps, like Dropbox, Workday, and Salesforce, to optimize productivity and support various business requirements.

2. Zoom

When it comes to seamless video conferencing, Zoom is hard to beat. With features like virtual backgrounds, screen sharing, and breakout rooms, you can conduct team meetings, client calls, and brainstorming sessions—no matter where your remote team members are located.

Key features:

  • Screen sharing: Enables users to share their entire desktop or specific application windows with meeting participants.

  • Breakout rooms: The host can split a Zoom meeting into separate sessions for smaller group discussions, which is ideal for workshops, classes, or team-building activities.

  • Meeting recording: The host can record and save meetings locally or to the cloud, making it easy to review and share meeting content with those who couldn’t attend due to varied time zones.

  • Virtual backgrounds: Displays an image or video as your background during a Zoom meeting, adding a professional touch or a fun element to your calls.

  • Chat function: Provides an in-meeting instant messaging feature where team members can communicate.

  • Scheduling with calendar integration: Plan and manage meetings directly from your calendar application, simplifying the process of setting up and joining meetings.

  • Virtual hand raising: Participants can signal that they wish to speak, helping maintain order and ensuring everyone can contribute in large meetings.

  • Polls and surveys: Gathers feedback during meetings, vote on ideas, or assess understanding, making it an interactive tool for engagement.

  • Webinar capabilities: Supports larger-scale virtual events with features like Q&A, attendee registration, and analytics, making it suitable for hosting webinars, workshops, and training sessions.

  • Security features: Encryption, waiting rooms, and passcode protection ensure that meetings are secure and attended only by intended participants.

3. Slack

Slack is a messaging tool used for instant messaging and team communication. You can set up different channels for projects, departments, or casual conversations, making it easy to keep conversations organized and on-topic. Slack also integrates with many other apps, like Mireo and Notion, to streamline workflows.

Key features:

  • Channels: Dedicated spaces for organizing conversations by topics, projects, or teams, allowing for focused and streamlined communication.

  • Direct messages: Enables private, one-on-one conversations or small group chats for quick communication among team members.

  • File sharing: Allows users to easily upload and share documents, images, and other files directly within the app.

  • Integrations: Connects with a wide range of third-party apps and services, like Google Drive, Trello, and Asana, centralizing tools in one platform.

  • Search functionality: Quickly finds past messages, files, and conversations, making it easy to locate important information.

  • Notifications: Customizable notifications keep people informed about relevant activities without overwhelming them.

  • Record video and audio clips: Allows users to create and share quick video (with an optional screen sharing facility) or voice messages within channels and direct messages, providing a personal touch and clear communication without needing a live meeting.

  • Huddle: Video or voice calls for quick, ad-hoc meetings and discussions, providing an easy way to communicate face-to-face or via voice within the platform.

  • Status updates: Team members can set custom statuses, informing others of their availability, current activity, or location, which helps manage expectations and coordination.

  • Pinned items: Allows users to pin important messages, files, or conversations within a channel for easy reference, ensuring that crucial information is always accessible.

  • Workflow builder: Users can automate routine tasks and processes within Slack, such as onboarding new team members or setting up reminders, improving efficiency and consistency.

4. Asana

Asana is a project management tool that helps teams manage tasks, deadlines, and project progress. You can use it to assign work, set due dates, track KPIs, and get visibility into what everyone is working on. The intuitive interface makes it simple to manage projects from anywhere.

Key features:

  • Task management: Allows users to create, assign, and track tasks, ensuring everyone knows what needs to be done and when.

  • Projects: Customize tasks into specific initiatives or goals, giving structure and clarity to the team’s work.

  • Boards: Users can organize and track tasks through every phase, making the work processes more transparent and manageable.

  • Gantt chart: Get an overview of projects, schedules, and dependencies to spot potential roadblocks and plan accordingly.

  • Resource management: Provides insights into team members’ capacities, allowing a balanced distribution of tasks.

  • Custom fields: Tailor tasks with specific information relevant to the project, ensuring all necessary details are captured and tracked.

  • Integrations: Connects and collaborates with other tools like Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams, streamlining workflows by keeping everything connected.

  • Milestones: Tracks significant points in your project timeline, helping teams measure progress towards major goals and celebrate achievements.

  • Forms: Collects and standardizes information from team members or external stakeholders, ensuring consistent data entry and task creation.

  • Reports and dashboards: Provides real-time insights into project and team performance, helping you make data-driven decisions and keep stakeholders informed.

5. Google Drive

Google Drive helps with remote file sharing and collaboration. You can organize all your important documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in the cloud, then grant your remote team members access to edit, comment, and work together in real-time. You can also integrate Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Slides to make it a complete experience.

Key features:

  • Real-time collaboration: Multiple users can edit documents simultaneously, providing instant updates and facilitating teamwork without the need for constant file exchanges.

  • Integration with Google workspace: Integrates with other Google apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides, creating a unified and efficient workflow.

  • Advanced search functionality: Quickly locates files using keywords, file types, or dates, making it easy to find exactly what you need.

  • Version history: Keep track of all changes made to a document and view or restore previous versions, ensuring no work is ever lost.

  • Offline access: Continue work on files without an internet connection, automatically syncing any changes once you’re back online.

  • File organization: Accommodates features, such as folders and color-coded labels, to keep the documents neatly organized and easy to navigate.

  • Security and encryption: Protect files with robust security measures, including encryption during transfer and at rest, helping data stay safe.

  • Mobile app: Users can access, edit, and share their files on the go, providing flexibility and convenience for remote work and travel.

6. Gather

Gather is a team management tool that replicates the organic interactions and spontaneous connections of an in-person office environment. It features a customizable virtual office space where your distributed employees can freely navigate and meet colleagues, sparking impromptu discussions and knowledge-sharing. Using Gather, you can also design your own workstation, have a virtual pet, and roam around the digital office.

Key features:

  • Spontaneous interactions: Allows team members to “bump into” each other as they navigate the virtual office, fostering organic conversations and collaboration.

  • Personalized workstations: Team members can design their own virtual desks, adding a personal touch and making the virtual workspace feel more like home.

  • Roaming capabilities: Employees can move freely around the virtual office across social spaces, engaging with colleagues and participating in discussions just as they would in a physical space.

  • Interactive meeting rooms: Dedicated virtual spaces for team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and one-on-one discussions, improving the collaborative experience.

  • Real-time audio and video communication: Allows natural interactions, making virtual conversations feel more immediate and personal.

7. Toggl

Staying on top of time tracking keeps remote employees accountable for delivering projects on time. You can use Toggl to log your hours, monitor productivity, and generate detailed reports from a user-friendly desktop or mobile app. You can even integrate it with project management tools like Asana to sync your workflow.

Key features:

  • Time tracking: Allows users to easily record the time spent on various tasks and projects, providing clear insights into productivity and work patterns.

  • Detailed reports: Generates comprehensive summaries of tracked time and analyzes work habits, project progress, and team performance for better decision-making.

  • Project management: Users can organize tasks, set deadlines, and allocate resources, ensuring that projects are completed efficiently and on schedule.

  • Billable hours tracking: Helps freelancers and businesses accurately record and invoice time spent on client work, streamlining the revenue-generating process.

  • Integrations: Integrates with popular tools like Asana, Notion, and Slack into the existing workflow and improves productivity without disruption.

  • Idle detection: Alerts when the computer is inactive, ensuring that only active work time is tracked and providing more accurate time reports.

  • Mobile app: Allows time tracking on the go, making it easy to record work hours from anywhere and ensuring flexibility for remote and mobile workers.

  • Pomodoro timer: Implements the Pomodoro Technique, promoting focused work intervals and regular breaks to boost productivity and maintain mental clarity.

  • Task tagging: Categorizes tasks with specific tags, improving organization and making it easier to filter and analyze the work activities.

8. 1Password

1Password is a password management tool. It is a comprehensive solution that helps your business secure every sign-in for every app on every device. 1Password allows your team to store their encrypted password database locally, ensuring complete control over sensitive information. This on-device security model eliminates the risks of storing credentials on external servers.

Key features:

  • Secure password storage: Keeps all passwords, credit card details, and sensitive information encrypted and securely stored, ensuring only specified users can access them safely from any device.

  • Passkeys (beta): Users can create, save, and sign in with passkeys using the public beta version in the browser, providing a secure and passwordless authentication method.

  • Cross-device synchronization: Allows users to access passwords and other stored information across all devices, ensuring they have what they need anywhere.

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA): Adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification using Duo—or hardware keys like Yubikey or Titan, protecting accounts from unauthorized access.

  • Watchtower dashboard: This gives an overview of your team’s security situation and suggestions for improvement.

  • Data recovery: Automatically recovers data during a crash or power interruption, ensuring that the information is always safe and accessible.

  • Developer tools: Create, manage, and sync SSH keys, push, pull, and sign Git commits.

  • Browser extensions: Quickly fills in passwords and forms directly from the browser, streamlining the login process and saving time.

9. Miro

Collaboration and ideation are challenging tasks when you’re not in the same physical space. Miro is a virtual whiteboard that allows remote teams to collaborate, brainstorm, plan projects, and visualize workflows—all in a highly interactive and engaging digital workspace.

Key features:

  • Infinite canvas: Allows teams to create, collaborate, and visualize ideas on an endless digital whiteboard, providing a flexible space for brainstorming and planning.

  • Real-time collaboration: Multiple users can work on the same board simultaneously, ensuring everyone’s contributions are instantly visible and facilitating seamless teamwork.

  • Pre-built templates: Helps jumpstart projects with ready-made frameworks for brainstorming, strategy planning, agile workflows, and more, saving time and enhancing productivity.

  • Integrations: Integrates with popular tools like Slack, Jira, Zoom, and Google Drive, creating a connected workflow with improved efficiency and keeping all your tools in one place.

  • Sticky notes and comments: Team members can jot down ideas, provide feedback, and engage in discussions directly on the board, promoting interactive and dynamic collaboration.

  • Interactive widgets: Polls, timers, and voting tools make it easy to collect feedback and facilitate team decision-making in real time.

  • Mind mapping: Visually organizes thoughts and concepts, helping to structure ideas and uncover relationships between them for clearer understanding and decision-making.

10. Dropbox

Dropbox helps remote teams with file sharing and cloud storage. It allows you to easily upload, access, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations from anywhere. The intuitive folder structure and sharing capabilities make it a user-friendly choice for distributed organizations.

Key features:

  • Backup: Stores files in one safe place, accessible from your computer, phone, or tablet. Backs up important folders like personal “Desktop”—any changes will sync across the account.

  • Smart desktop: Provides smart content suggestions, allowing the team to work with tools from one organized place, improving productivity and convenience.

  • Tool integrations: Integrates with tools like Slack, Zoom, and HelloSign, eliminating the need to switch between apps and streamlining the workflow.

  • Paper by Dropbox: A collaborative document editor that allows teams to create and review documents together in real time.

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