With a rise in remote working, organisations are looking for ways to keep employees productive as workforces become more disparate. It’s crucial for businesses to identify techniques and tools that assist in mastering team collaboration and productivity across distances.
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, the challenging state of the economy means businesses should be looking to question the status quo, find new ways of making themselves more resilient in the face of change and, ultimately, future-proof their business and protect their bottom line.
With tech ‘overwhelm’ on the rise, and companies succumbing to freemium software solutions to fix short term productivity and communications issues, it’s important to step back and question what you actually need from your technology. Does your patchwork of tech tools deliver the process and productivity improvements to keep you competitive in the new marketplace?
Minimising the number of tools you rely on, and streamlining your processes by strategically considering platforms for your team’s needs, can significantly help to improve the efficiency of your day-to-day processes.
Ultimately, if you want to stay one step ahead of the curve, you’ll need a way to keep your business up to speed with a now rapidly transforming environment. With versions for iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android, most productivity apps will keep your team members agile, mobile and, if you choose them wisely, productive.
From systems designed to replace email with instant messaging, to workflow management software, there are productivity solutions to solve almost every problem.
Best Productivity Apps
File sharing/storage tools
Sometimes the best productivity tools are also the simplest. Dropbox is one of the most popular solutions on the market today for companies that need to store and manage documents and share files online. Available in both free and premium versions, Dropbox makes it easy for employees to access the resources they need fast, with a simple cloud-based platform.
- Automatic syncing
- Information backup
- Quick and seamless file sharing
- Integration with many popular online collaboration tools
2. Google Drive
If you’re a fan of the Google Suite tools and you’re looking for a free range of useful functions to help you keep costs down, Google Drive is a great option for streamlining your document management and file storage needs. Offering file storage and synchronisation, Google Drive allows multiple users to store files, synchronise files across different devices, and share files between team members.
- 15 GB of free storage
- Powerful search function
- Seamlessly works with other Google applications
- Sync and share large files
One of the most widely used applications for file sharing, WeTransfer allows users to share large files and multiple files quickly and efficiently using one simple file sharing the link. Popular for its simplicity and the fact that you don’t even have to set up an account if you don’t want to, WeTransfer makes file-sharing quick and painless, allowing users to share files up to 2GB in size, in minutes from anywhere around the world.
- Quick file sharing online of documents up to 2GB
- File sharing in-app or via a timed access link
- Mobile app for iOS and Android
Online project management tools
ProofHub is a versatile online project management tool designed for multiple teams and team members. Encompassing many helpful features, it offers an ‘all under one roof’ approach to collaboration and project management, allowing users to plan ahead, keep to deadlines, and track progress.
- Online proofing software
- Streamlined task management
- Visual Gannt Chart view of projects
It’s a cloud-based software that includes everything a project manager might need to stay on top of updates. Nifty truly has it all: communication, project management, and workload customization. The intuitive UI makes it easy for even your least tech-savvy team members to adjust and start engaging with the tool. They have an easy file sharing mechanism for document access and navigation across teams.
They also have a variety of integrations available, including the key players of Google Suite, Slack, and Zoom. Nifty makes it easy to seamlessly shift your projects from other project management software to their platform.
Add project milestones, portfolios, and task and milestone dependencies to streamline and elevate your team’s work. Pro and Business plan come with even more features, such as time-tracking, reporting, and budget tracking.
• Task Management
• Built-in Collaboration
• File management
Trello is one of the most highly-commended online project management solutions on the web. It’s designed to streamline company workflows by categorising tasks and showing you which jobs need to be completed first. You can drag and drop cards into different segments like “To Do” or “Completed” and assign specific team members to each project.
- Easy-to-use drag and drop interface
- Customisable workflows
- Email and calendar notifications
- File sharing and document annotations
While Trello is popular for its Kanban board dashboard view, Monday.com allows you to choose from multiple different views to manage your day-to-day tasks. Monday.com offers slightly more extensive features and is best for larger teams with multiple complex projects. Key features include:
- Intuitive and deadline-focused project management
- Multiple view options
- Progress tracking and monitoring
- File sharing
Available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, Todoist is a tool that helps you simplify your task management. Popular for individuals, freelancers, and remote workers, Todoist allows users to keep on top of their day-to-day to-do lists, organise, prioritise and set timelines.
- Simplified task management
- Tracking of project goals
- Progress measurement and reporting
- Prioritisation functions
Salesmate CRM software also helps sales teams stay productive on the move. Designed more for smaller or medium-sized businesses, Salesmate has a visual and user-friendly interface which allows team members to streamline contact with customers. Salesmate users benefit from intelligent insights and analytics as well as marketing automation.
- Marketing automation integration
- Calendar note and reminder systems
- In-built lead generation
- Integrated calling tool, to connect in a single click
Arguably the most popular CRM platform, Salesforce can also streamline productivity and help teams to fine-tune their workflows. While used by many large global businesses, Salesforce is popular with small businesses and its widely-used mobile app for Android and iOS allows sales team members to stay productive while using their CRM system on the move.
- Cloud-based accessibility
- Mobile app for sales teams on the move
- Intuitive opportunity management
- Internal messaging function
- Account and contact management
Real-time Communication tools
1. RingCentral desktop app
RingCentral’s ‘one-stop’ desktop app allows users to stay connected from anywhere. With a dedicated desktop phone, team messaging, and video meetings all in one app, it allows team members to collaborate from wherever they are with file sharing and team collaboration on the move.
- Mobile-friendly and available on iOS and Android as well as Mac and Windows
- Team Messaging
- Desktop phone
- File sharing
- Video meetings
2. RingCentral Video
RingCentral Video is a holistic video conferencing solution that allows teams to benefit from HD video meetings. It also features screen sharing, team messaging, and call recording, and integrates into hundreds of popular business process tools like Salesforce, Zendesk, Box, Microsoft Outlook, and many more.
- Mobile-friendly and available on iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android
- HD video calls
- Video recording
- Up to 500 video conferencing participants
- Screen sharing
Time management/scheduling tools
1. Google Calendar
Another G Suite gem, Google calendar is free with your Gmail account and also has a number of benefits aside from simply scheduling your meetings and daily tasks. Users can set up multiple calendars for leisure, personal admin, and work-related commitments, allowing them to keep on top of every task management facet at a glance.
- Schedule meetings with “Find a time” or “Suggested times” features
- Create multiple calendars for personal or work-related use
- Add attachments to scheduled meetings
- Detailed meeting invites
Timely is a popular time tracking software that helps users keep a log of productivity and track how long it takes to complete tasks and projects. Overseeing time management can be made easier by establishing patterns in terms of realistic time scales. Timely helps teams establish realistic time-focused project goals.
- Visual calendar view to carve out time blocks or use Pomodoro technique
- Scheduling tool and a time tracker in one app
- Run a timer on tasks to improve efficiency or measure timescales
If you’re looking for a more feature-rich alternative to Google Calendar, this calendar app might be for you. Calendar.com connects all of your calendars including Google Calendar and Outlook so that you can get a single-interface view of all your commitments on the to-do list at a glance.
- Synced calendars, integrated with Google and Outlook
- Analytics to help you to maximise productivity
- Automated meeting transcriptions
- Easy, friction-free scheduling
Online documentation tools
1. Google Docs
Possibly one of the most widely used collaboration tools in today’s modern workforce, Google Docs allows users to synchronously edit documents, with team members seeing the changes in real-time. Review or leave comments, edit and make suggestions and view revision history. Google Docs is accessible (available on Android, iOS, Mac and Windows) and easy for multiple team members to share documents and start collaborating.
- Cloud-based accessibility
- Automated saving and storage in Google Drive
- Document changes are visible in real-time, reducing the need for multiple versions
2. Office Online
Office online is a handy documentation tool that allows team members to collaborate on a single document at the same time. Users can co-author and edit, convert from PDF to word and vice versa, all securely from any device. Ideal for remote teams or distributed teams, Office Online is a go-to for those working together on resources.
- Free to use
- Available on Android and iOS as well as Mac and Windows, working well across multiple devices
- Edits to documents can be made in real-time and all editors can see who has made changes
The Worst Productivity Apps
Though it’s easy to list some of the most useful productivity tools, your perception of the worst online collaboration tools will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish with your new technology. Ultimately, there are hundreds of productivity and project management tools out there, and the worst ones will be those that merely overwhelm your employees, rather than empowering them.
The worst online project management solutions:
- Don’t integrate with the tools and systems you already use.
- Offer minimal methods of communication.
- Are complicated to use, and difficult for employees to adopt.
- Make the workplace environment more cluttered, rather than streamlining teamwork.
The best way to start thinking about the productivity of your organisation is by first establishing what the hindrances are. What is keeping you or your teams from being productive? Is it a lack of structure or routine? If this is the case, try looking into something like time blocking or the Pomodoro technique using time tracking and project management tools.
If newly-remote team members need to work on documents at the same time as colleagues, it could be worth investing in documentation tools that help with collaborative productivity.
Ultimately, thinking and planning strategically to reduce daily friction, and finding the key reasons for organisational drag, will significantly improve the long term profitability of your business. Establishing key pain points first is essential. Once you know what problem you’re solving, it’s a lot easier to recognise which tools might help you to mitigate those issues.
In a new world of remote and disparate teams, it is to be expected that productivity may wane now and again. Using some of the handy tools at your disposal could just help to keep an element of continuity and normality which remote workers need. With loneliness cited as one of the biggest challenges for home and remote workers, ensuring you have tools in place which not only help them to keep on top of their to-do list but help them to stay connected with colleagues can make a vast improvement to the performance of your workforce.
Combating loneliness by allowing real-time collaboration while working remotely, and arming your teams with the tools to empower them in their day to day routine, is the key to achieving great productivity levels. In this new age, we learn new habits outside of the traditional office environment to help us when we’re operating inside that environment.
Be sure to sync your communication system with your chosen project management tool or your CRM system for more streamlined, more productive workflows for you and your teams. RingCentral’s cloud collaboration tools not only allow real-time collaboration with colleagues, but also integrate with all your business-critical tools, meaning your teams can stay connected and work together from wherever they are in the world as they make use of your core productivity tools.
Originally published Sep 16, 2020, updated Apr 15, 2021