With widespread internet access, the availability of virtual collaboration tools, and the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT), it has become easier than ever to bridge the gap between individuals worldwide. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the remote workforce has increased over the past couple of years. What’s more, with the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, even more businesses are forced to implement work-from-home measures to remain operational.
However, setting up a remote work environment is no cakewalk. You’ll have to consider how to communicate with each other, delegate tasks, and measure productivity not to mention learn the essentials of remote work management. So, to help you out, we have listed down some of the best virtual collaboration software on the market. In this article, we have broken them down into separate categories, namely, project management, communication, document management, schedule management, and time tracking. Also, we’ll tackle their core features and pricing plans so you can better gauge which of them suits your company.
Remote work, also known as work from home or telecommuting to some, is now the new norm for work in the modern age.
With the rise of the gig economy, more digital nomads now comprise the global workforce. What’s more, many employees are currently looking for home-based job opportunities or requesting their employers for the option to work remotely. In fact, Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work research reveals that telecommuting grants employees a flexible schedule that lets them have more time to spend with their families, pursue other passions, as well as travel. What’s more, this lets employees save up to $4,000 a year on commuting expenses.
Meanwhile, this work setup allows employers to gain access to a wider talent pool, decrease absenteeism, and reduce office maintenance costs. As a result, several studies have predicted that the majority of companies will employ more remote workers by 2028.
However, while working from home has its fair share of benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges. According to the Buffer State of Remote Work 2019, many remote workers have trouble with unplugging after work and feeling isolated. Even more alarming is that work-from-home employees struggle with collaborating with coworkers (17%), dealing with distractions at home (10%), and overcoming time zone differences (8%). That said, adopting remote work management best practices is a must.
Source: Buffer State of Remote Work 2019
Luckily, there are plenty of solutions built to address these issues. That said, it makes sense that you, as an employer or manager, learn what these are and how you can leverage them to your advantage. Granted, not all industries can implement telecommuting. However, if your company belongs to one of those that can, we have compiled some of the tools that you need to get started. Without further ado, here are the leading platforms that you can use to reinforce virtual collaboration.
When it comes to remote work, one of the biggest challenges is monitoring the progress of tasks. After all, as you can’t physically meet with your team, you won’t be able to see the work that’s being done.
To remedy this, project management systems serve as a hub where you can schedule and delegate tasks to your team. In turn, they can provide the status of their progress so you can simply check the dashboard to see if projects are being completed according to plan. This, coupled with remote work strategies, will allow you to deliver projects efficiently and on time.
If you want to learn more about these types of solutions, feel free to check out our guide to project management software.
monday.com is an award-winning software used by both co-located and remote teams worldwide. It is built to consolidate all pertinent project details into a single hub to streamline team processes and simplify information dissemination.
With it, you can get access to features, such as Kanban boards, interactive Gantt charts, and execution boards so you can see the progress of your tasks in real-time. It also comes with smart notifications so that you and your teammates are always in the loop whenever there are updates on tasks at hand. To top it all off, monday.com has a collaboration-first interface reminiscent of social networking sites, making it easy to navigate even for tech-averse users.
Another great thing about monday.com is that it has native iOS and Android apps so that teams can continue monitoring operations even while on the go. Lastly, it comes with open API capabilities and supports a wide variety of third-party integrations.
Price Range: monday.com offers a basic plan ($49/month), standard plan ($59/month), and pro plan ($99/month). These can accommodate up to 5 users and are priced depending on the features you require. The vendor also offers an enterprise plan that’s available by quote. Discounts apply if you opt to have your subscription billed yearly.
Wrike is an enterprise-grade solution offering one of the most extensive feature sets in the industry. It provides every feature you need, from task management and prioritization to document collaboration and workload management. What’s more, Wrike is accessible on both desktop and mobile devices so you can oversee your projects wherever you are and whenever you want.
Aside from its comprehensive functionalities and multiple project views, Wrike also leverages a three-pane layout that helps you get a clearer view of your operations. It also comes with a real-time newsfeed where you can see all the updates for tasks as well as movements in the project.
Last but not least, Wrike supports powerful integrations not only to extend its capabilities but also to simplify the process of data migration.
Price Range: Wrike has a free plan inclusive of all the basic project management functionalities that’s great for teams of up to 5 users. They also offer paid plans with additional capabilities that range from $9.80/user/month to $24.80/user/month. For larger teams with more specific features, there’s also an enterprise plan that’s available by quote.
Trello is an easy-to-use cloud-based solution built for freelancers, SMBs, and large enterprises. It utilizes Kanban boards and task cards to help you get a visual representation of the progress of your project. With this, you can easily pinpoint who is working on what and spot bottlenecks in your workflow.
Another nifty feature of this mobile-ready platform is that it also acts as a communication hub where teammates can discuss each task through comments. Users may also upload files pertinent to their projects and set up checklists so your entire team can have the information it needs to perform their tasks as efficiently as possible. Other key features that this platform has to offer include email notifications, deadline reminders, and rule-based workflow automation.
Last but not least, Trello’s interface can be reinforced using what the vendor calls “Power-Ups.” These are various widgets and integrations that either connect the platform with third-party systems or extend its functionalities. This way, you won’t need to switch from software to software for your daily work.
Price Range: Trello offers a free plan that can support unlimited members and boards. However, it can only accommodate one power-up and limited third-party integrations. If you want more flexibility, they offer a Business Class package at $9.99/user/month and an Enterprise subscription at $20.83/user/month.
Zoho Projects prides itself on giving users “the ultimate project management experience”—and for a good reason. It comes with a slew of functionalities that include not only task management tools and project boards but also budgeting and resource utilization features. The platform also has tools like custom permissions, invoicing, and critical path automation. With these at your disposal, you can perform a more granular approach to your day-to-day operations.
What’s more, Zoho Projects comes with built-in communication options, such as @mention capabilities, forums, discussions, and document distribution, to help you keep your entire team in the loop. The system also offers time logging tools so that you can see exactly how many work hours were spent per task or project, making it easier to bill clients.
As part of the popular Zoho suite, this platform can easily integrate with other products from the software provider. However, it doesn’t end there. It can also connect with third-party applications, such as GSuite, Microsoft Office, and Zapier. Meaning, you don’t have to worry about its compatibility with your existing software ecosystem.
Price Range: Zoho Projects has a free version that’s perfect for small teams. However, this comes with a bare-bones interface. If you want a more extensive feature set, the vendor also offers paid plans that range from $25/month to $150/month depending on the modules you require and the number of users you intend to onboard. Discounts apply if you have your plan billed yearly.
Asana is perhaps one of the most popular platforms in the industry. It is a comprehensive system that makes use of different board views, including lists, Kanban, and Gantt charts so you can structure your workflow however you prefer. The platform is also equipped with multiple workspaces as well as robust goal and priority setting functions to help you keep your team focused on the tasks at hand. It even has reporting and analytics tools to help examine your team’s progress.
Additionally, Asana also has tools for file sharing, activity feeds, smart notifications, @mention capabilities, and conversation boards. With these, it is easier for you and your team to communicate. Moreover, it will allow you to keep track of all project movements without having to message each other every time there’s a modification. If that’s not enough, the platform has a built-in search engine that lets you find any completed, pending, and active task that you want to take a look at.
As for integration support, Asana has powerful API capabilities that let it connect with a wide variety of third-party applications. The app may also be accessed via mobile devices so that you can easily work on the go.
Detailed Asana Review
Price Range: Asana is completely free for teams with up to 15 members. However, this version is not equipped with features like data exporting, centralized administration, and custom branding. If you want to get access to these functionalities, the vendor offers a Premium Plan at $9.99/member/month as well as an Enterprise Plan that’s available by quote.
As you may have read in the previous section, many project management systems can support files. However, it is important to note that these may not always be equipped to keep your confidential documents secure. Moreover, they won’t necessarily allow you to create, modify, and annotate your files on the spot. To get access to these functionalities, you’ll need a document management platform.
This type of software is built to help you and your remote team members work on documents simultaneously, thus, speeding up file creation. In some cases, it also allows for paperless transactions by support e-signatures. Moreover, these types of tools can help you transfer documents across platforms more securely.
To help you get a better idea of what these tools can do, we’ve listed some examples below. But of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to these three. To expand your options, you may take a look at this compilation of leading document management systems.
PandaDoc is a web-based solution built to help users create and distribute documents as seamlessly as possible. With this at your disposal, you can perform contract lifecycle management, store your files in a secure place, cut down on printed documents, as well as improve approval workflows. What’s more, as it is built for collaboration, users can simultaneously create, edit, and comment on Word files, PDFs, and other types of documents in the system.
Aside from the abovementioned, PandaDoc also offers plans that support esignatures for faster paperless transactions. This is particularly helpful to sales, marketing, finance, and legal teams as it will no longer require them to meet up with clients just to secure their signatures. Businesses can also make use of other advanced features, such as document analytics, template embedding, and content locking tools.
Last but not least, it can easily integrate with a variety of third-party applications so you can transfer documents from one platform to another without hassle.
Price Range: PandaDoc offers three different subscription options. For individuals that only need to send up to 5 documents per month, they have a plan that costs $9/user/month. For small teams that process more documents, there’s a Business plan priced at $49/user/month. Lastly, for big businesses that require more advanced functionalities, there’s an enterprise plan available by quote.
Detailed PandaDoc Review
Google Drive is a free yet powerful solution for users with Gmail accounts. A team can collaborate on files depending on the permissions granted to its members, from word documents and photos to music and video file types. If any files are accidentally deleted or moved, Google Drive monitors all changes made in the last 30 days, allowing those with permission to redo or undo them easily.
Other than offline working features, this system offers Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capabilities for scanning documents and converting them into online files. Users can also take advantage of its robust search engine, security options, and the free 15 GB storage capacity.
Also, as part of the GSuite, this product can work seamlessly with other Google applications. This is particularly helpful to teams that already utilize Google applications for their day-to-day operations.
Detailed Google Drive Review
Price Range: Google Drive is available for free to individuals who need only up to 15 GB storage. This is already inclusive of all the features that this platform has to offer. In case you need more storage capacity, they have plans that can handle 100 GB, 1 TB, and 10TB for $89/month, $479/month, and $4799/month, respectively.
Dropbox Business is the company’s answer to enterprise-grade document management. It is created specifically to help businesses distribute files, sync them easily, and simplify collaborative document creation. The platform also comes with 256-bit AES and SSL encryption so you can be sure that all your confidential files are kept away from prying eyes.
What’s more, Dropbox Business has an admin dashboard where you can toggle sharing controls and audit user activities. It also provides you with backup options and version histories. In this way, you not only ensure that your documents are being accessed by the right people but also help you recover different copies of your documents as needed.
Like the other examples we’ve mentioned, Dropbox Business is also accessible via Android and iOS devices. Moreover, it can be connected with over 300,000 applications for easier document transfers.
Detailed Dropbox Business Review
Price Range: Dropbox Business offers plans for both small and big businesses. They have a Standard plan for three users that costs $15/user/month, an Advanced plan at $25/user/month, and an Enterprise plan that’s quote-based. Discounts are available if you opt to have these plans billed annually.
Communication is the lifeblood of every distributed team. However, due to the lack of in-person interactions and timezone differences, building camaraderie between remote workers and maintaining a cohesive culture can be challenging. This is where digital communication tools come in handy.
By having a messaging system or conferencing software in your arsenal of business systems, you can keep your team as connected as possible without spending money on airfare. These tools can be used for quick announcements and group discussions to company-wide socialization and casual conversations. This way, you and your team can be more comfortable throwing around ideas with each other and operate more as a singular unit.
We’ve listed some of the most popular options for this software category below. However, if you want to scout for other options, feel free to check out our article explaining what is communication software.
Slack may be known for its instant messaging capabilities, but it also supports video conferencing and voice calling. With this platform, you can hold one-to-one virtual meetings as well as create private groups and separate conversation channels for your different teams. Moreover, it can be accessed via desktop or mobile devices to help you stay connected at all times.
In addition to these different real-time communication options, Slack reinforces collaboration through its robust file-sharing system. This not only lets you upload the documents you need for your projects but also archives and retrieves them later. It also comes with documents message histories so that it’s easier to search for any important conversations later on.
Lastly, Slack is one of the most extensively integrated communication applications on the market. It can connect with project management tools, productivity systems, developer apps, HR software, as well as other communication platforms.
Detailed Slack Review
Price Range: Slack offers a free plan that can accommodate unlimited users. However, this is limited to only 10 integrations, two-person calls, and a 5GB storage capacity. If you want to get access to more advanced tools, they have paid plans that cost $8/user/month and $15/user/month. There’s also an enterprise plan available by quote for larger businesses.
Skype is preferred by individuals and businesses alike. Users can opt for one-to-one calls, instant messaging, as well as video conferencing. What’s more, it comes with screen sharing options so you can make each call more interactive. As this works over the web, users from across the globe can conduct meetings, share files, and stay in touch when collaborating on projects. Calls can also be recorded as needed.
Also, Skype offers a Skype Credit feature that allows users to contact landlines and mobile devices through the app for a fee. With Skype numbers available in over 20 countries and regions, this surely comes in handy for businesses that not only need to use this remote work software but also to contact their clients.
As for accessibility, Skype can be used on tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones. Skype also integrates with other platforms like Alexa Xbox.
Detailed Skype Review
Price Range: Skype is primarily a free communications app. It can provide instant messaging, voice calling, and video conferencing options. Moreover, it can handle up to 250 people per online meeting. However, they offer business plans with more advanced features, such as HD group calls, larger file storage, and Office 365 tools. These plans range from $5.50/user/month to $12.50/user/month.
Zoom is a powerful platform ideal for big remote teams. Built for hosting webinars, teaching online courses, and holding large-scale virtual meetings, this platform can accommodate up to 100 interactive video participants and 10,000 view-only attendees. What’s more, it comes with high-quality video and audio capabilities that enhance your team communications.
Aside from these, Zoom also comes with screen-sharing tools so you can perform demos as well as explain complex topics to your team. It even provides you with both cloud and local recording options so that you can save your meetings in .mp4 or .m4a formats and review or share them with other team members later. Some of its other functionalities include file sharing, integrated scheduling, and real-time reporting.
For integrations, Zoom can connect with popular platforms, such as Marketo, Salesforce, Hubspot, Acuity Scheduling, and GSuite, to name a few.
Detailed Zoom Review
Price Range: Zoom has a free plan that is inclusive of almost all of the platform’s features. However, if you want additional capabilities such as toll-free dialing options, better admin dashboards, and on-premise deployment, Zoom also offers paid plans for businesses that cost $14.99/host/month to $19.99/host/month.
GoToMeeting is a simple and straightforward system, making it a great option for distributed teams with tech-averse members. However, this is not to say that the platform doesn’t provide powerful functionalities. On the contrary, it’s a more heavy-duty alternative to tools like Skype and Google Hangouts as it can handle large-scale HD video conferences. What’s more, it comes with virtual whiteboards and drawing tools to make meetings more interactive.
In addition to the abovementioned functionalities, GoToMeeting is also equipped with meeting schedulers. These come in handy for large teams with varying shifts as it helps them organize appointments more efficiently. Among the other tools that this platform offers are personal meeting rooms, recording options, and mobile accessibility.
Like the other options on this list, it can also connect with several third-party applications. Some of the integrations it supports include Slack, Zapier, MS Office, and Accord LMS.
Detailed GoToMeeting Review
Price Range: GoToMeeting has a free plan that can accommodate up to three participants and comes with limited features. For bigger teams that require more advanced functionalities, the vendor offers Starter, Pro, and Plus plans that cost $19/month, $29/month, and $49/month, respectively.
Yammer is built to connect teams and improve engagement across organizations. While it doesn’t offer conventional video conferencing like the other tools we’ve listed, this platform provides dynamic features that go beyond private messaging. It lets you organize live corporate events, such as large-scale training sessions as well as town halls.
Another nifty thing about Yammer is that it is built to look like a social networking site. On a granular level, it lets you set up a profile page, microblog, post polls, as well as set up employee communities. It also comes with a discovery feed where you can check out the activities of fellow employees as well as comment on their posts. Of course, it also comes with collaborative workspaces where teams can brainstorm on their projects.
As it is part of the Office 365 suite, it comes with enterprise-level security and compliance management features to protect your data. What’s more, it can seamlessly integrate with other Microsoft products, which is great if you are already using their tools for your day-to-day operations.
Detailed Yammer Review
Price Range: Yammer is available with the Office 365 plans. These cost anywhere between $5.00/month/user and $12.50/month/user, depending on the applications and functionalities you need.
One of the biggest challenges among remote workers is making sure their schedules meet. This is why many teams utilize schedule management software on top of their time tracking tool. With these, you can manage your virtual meetings more efficiently and get a bird’s eye view of each employee’s availability.
This type of platform is also helpful to customer-facing employees as it allows customers to schedule appointments on their own. Below, you’ll see some of the most popular options on the market, but if you want to check out other products, we have a comprehensive list of appointment scheduling software here.
vCita Online Scheduling is a no-code platform designed to help clients book appointments with businesses. However, it can also be used to schedule team meetings, one-on-one consultations, as well as other online events for your remote team. For your convenience, it can be accessed from anywhere at any time using virtually any internet-enabled device.
In a nutshell, this tool automatically reflects your available time on the calendar so that you no longer have to go through the back and forth coordination with employees and/or clients just to finalize their appointments. It can even sync your existing calendar with your personal work calendar so that no meeting falls through the cracks.
As part of an all-in-one business suite, it can provide you with many functionalities beyond online scheduling. It also integrates with third-party applications such as online calendars, social media sites, and other business systems.
Price Range: vCita Online Scheduling is available when you purchase the vCita business management suite. Plans start at $19/month when paid annually. This gives you access to the online scheduling tool as well as other modules.
SimplyBook.me is a solution built specifically for service-based companies. However, there are also remote teams that leverage it to organize internal appointments. You can use it to set up booking pages or simply connect it with your other business systems for easier scheduling. This way, you can see your and your employees’ availability in real-time. It even comes with email and SMS confirmations and reminders so that you never miss an appointment
What’s more, SimplyBook.me doesn’t limit itself to online booking. It also comes with POS systems, class and membership functions, and payment processing. While these may not be essential for remote teams, it may be useful for corporate training businesses, educational institutions, and similar organizations who want to sell courses or hold seminars for a fee.
Price Range: SimplyBook.me offers a free package that can accommodate up to 50 bookings per month. This should be good enough for remote teams that will use this for internal appointments. However, if you also intend to use this for customer-facing processes, the platform has three paid plans that range from $9.90/month to $59.90/month.
Calendly offers a straightforward interface that can run on all internet-enabled devices. It can be used for team schedule management as it can scan the availability of each employee and sync them to find the best time for meetings, seminars, and other team events. What’s more, it can be embedded in websites, in case you want to use it for customer-facing processes.
Calendly also offers custom notifications so that you can keep all of your teammates in the loop. It even comes with metrics and reporting tools to keep track of all meeting participants who attended as well as those who couldn’t make it.
To top it all off, Calendly also plays well with other systems because of its open API capabilities and webhooks. This means you no longer have to worry about manually updating your schedule across different platforms.
Detailed Calendly Review
Price Range: Calendly has a free version that comes with all the basic appointment scheduling tools. If you want more advanced functionalities, there are Premium and Pro plans that cost $10/user/month and $15/user/month, respectively.
Tracking productive hours is difficult enough for office-based teams—it is even more so for remote teams. As distributed teams don’t need to report to an office, they can’t use a Bundy clock or a biometric scanner to start their official time. As an alternative, they rely on time tracking solutions.
Using these tools, you can keep track of billable hours and monitor how many hours remote employees are working on specific tasks. What’s more, as daily time tracking can cut down productivity leaks by at least 80%, these tools will also allow you to optimize the use of official time across the organization.
When I Work is a versatile platform built for businesses of all sizes and setups. Whether you have a co-located or distributed team, this can help you record when employees clock in and clock out as well as pinpoint when they take time off. Moreover, it allows you to create and manage employee schedules without the need for a full-fledged HR software. With this, you not only oversee employee availability but also get a better idea of how much time they are spending on their respective tasks.
Aside from those, it can be used to prepare timesheets and calculate payroll. This way, you no longer have to manually input data and risk inconsistencies with the billable hours. If these are not enough, When I work also comes with other unique features, such as GeoCheckin, GPS tracking, and live map views, which are ideal for remote teams that have to visit specific sites for their work.
Price Range: When I Work offers a free plan that can accommodate up to 75 employees and comes with basic time tracking and employee scheduling tools. If you want enhanced schedule builders that can accommodate several teams and remote job sites, there are paid plans that range from $1.50/user/month to $2.45/user/month. There’s also an enterprise plan available by quote.
Time Doctor is a complete productivity solution that aims to keep employees focused and ensure productive day-to-day operations. With this, users can not only track the time spent per task and project but also documents the activities of each user during their official time. It can monitor mouse and keyboard activity, logs the websites and applications used, as well as take screenshots now and then to verify what users are doing at different points in their shift.
In addition to the above, Time Doctor also serves as an attendance and work schedule management platform. It documents billable hours and generates reports that can be imported to payroll solutions or HR systems. This makes it easier to keep tabs on absences, overtimes, and undertimes. Moreover, this data can also be used to evaluate the productivity of each remote employee.
Detailed Time Doctor Review
Price Range: TimeDoctor has a fixed rate of $10/user/month. The vendor offers a no-contract subscription so you can easily cancel your plan at any time.
The Harvest is a simple, no-fuss tool that offers robust functionalities. With this, you can perform bare-bones time tracking that can be done either manually or automatically. It also allows you to generate reports and invoices based on tracked time. Moreover, this platform is equipped to calculate expense reports based on project information and billable hours.
Aside from those mentioned, Harvest offers comprehensive security options to ensure that your important company data and employee information are protected at all times. It can also support a variety of integrations, ranging from productivity tools and payment gateways to accounting tools and help desk platforms.
Detailed Harvest Review
Price Range: Harvest has a free forever plan, which, unfortunately, is only available to freelancers and other professionals who want to maximize their productive hours. For remote teams and other businesses, the vendor offers a Pro plan at $12/user/month, which can accommodate unlimited users.
Toggl is an easy-to-use platform that’s popular among SMBs and freelancers because of its affordability. Accessible on desktop and mobile devices, Toggl allows you to track the time spent on tasks and projects and monitor the progress in real-time. What makes it stand out from other platforms, however, is that it can be used even without an internet connection. The data simply syncs to the cloud once you’re back online.
Another great thing about this platform is that it has a simple UI that ensures fast implementation with little to no learning curve. What’s more, despite this straightforward navigation, it offers powerful open-source capabilities so that you can integrate it with other business systems. Also, aside from keeping time tracking efforts in sync, Toggl can come up with detailed reports, such as day-by-day breakdowns and per-task breakdowns to help you gain insight into the productivity of your remote team.
Detailed Toggl Review
Price Range: Toggl has a basic time tracking plan that’s available for free, but it can only accommodate teams of up to five members. For larger teams, they have paid plans ranging from $10/user/month to $20/user/month, depending on the feature set that you require. There’s also a custom enterprise plan. Discounts apply if you opt to have your subscription billed yearly.
Building a virtual collaboration tech stack for your remote team can be a daunting task. With all the options on the market and articles left and right telling you about the latest platforms, you’re often left to wonder which technology tools for collaborative work are necessary and which ones are not. So, to help you weed out the software solutions that you might not need, we have compiled a few questions that you can ask as you browse for these products:
To conclude, there are plenty of virtual collaboration tools that you can leverage to manage your remote team. You can reinforce your workflows by leveraging project management tools like monday.com and document management solutions, such as PandaDoc. Meanwhile, you can build a cohesive work environment by utilizing communication systems like Slack. Moreover, you can optimize the efficiency and productivity of your team by using time tracking tools like When I Work. But most importantly, you should be informed on ways to manage your remote teams.
Hopefully, this guide was able to help you zero in on the virtual collaboration tools that make the most sense for your workflow. In case you want to learn more about this topic, be sure to check out our tips on home-based working.
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