It only took a matter of months to make ten years of progress in remote work and working from home.
The novel coronavirus has created a situation where all jobs that can be done remotely are now remote jobs. Working from home is not just a perk offered by some employers; it’s a suppression tactic against a global pandemic that will undoubtedly help save lives.
Still, that’s left many organizations scrambling to figure out how to transition their entire operation to a distributed team with remote technologies and processes. While company culture and leadership have a significant role to play in success here, the impact of the apps and tools that a team adopts to facilitate the transition cannot be understated.
Even as shelter-in-place orders are relaxed (and most likely, reaffirmed and relaxed periodically), social distancing is likely to remain an aspect of our culture until a vaccine is in place. For many, especially those who are high-risk, it may be safer to work from home for years.
So, in our new WFH world order, what are the best apps for remote communication and productivity?
In this list, we break down the best tech stack for remote work. We are particularly looking at industry-leading tools that have a proven track record and robust user base.
So that software adoption can take place in a smooth, rapid fashion, all of the tools in this list also meet these criteria:
- Free or freemium. Have a free tier and/or a COVID-19 deal for extended free use
- Good user experience. Are easy to learn and adopt
- Remote-friendly. Designed to enable collaboration with remote teams in mind
All of the tools shared here are ones we use ourselves — the best-in-class tech stack that we’ve built up to support our predominantly remote team.
So, are you wondering what remote technologies you should use when working from home in this crisis? Read on.
Here are our in-depth reviews of the best remote work tools in 2020:
- Best app for remote meeting notes: Hugo
- Best WFH screen & video recording: Loom
- Best WFH Virtual Whiteboard Tool: Miro
- Best software for Project Management: Trello
- Best collaborative "living documents": Xtensio
- Best WFH Chat: Slack
- Best WFH Video Conferencing: Zoom
- Best WFH Calendar, Docs, & Email App: Google Docs or G Suite
Best app for remote meeting notes: Hugo
Everyone working from home understands the need for reliable video conferencing to enable remote meetings. But the conferencing solution only solves for the transmission of information during the meeting. What about meeting preparation, note-taking, and follow-up on tasks and action items?
That’s where Hugo comes in. This connected meeting notes solution gives users a secure and collaborative place to set meeting agendas and take notes. With 20+ integrations, the system also passes meeting information to your other tools, like your CRM, project management software, and chat.
Hugo’s COVID-19 deal is for a generous team of up to 40 to free, with no limit on the number of notes, meetings, or integrations you can use.
Best WFH screen & video recording: Loom
Video is critical for remote work, but it doesn’t always need to be real-time video communication. Loom’s simple desktop app or browser plugin allows you to privately record your screen and/or camera and send video messages to your team members. Instead of spending 20 minutes typing out a careful email, a 5-minute video often does the trick. Instead of having a 30-minute meeting, a 5-minute video might do the trick too.
Loom’s free plan is robust enough for any team to get started, but if you want to keep videos around permanently, you may want to upgrade to avoid the limit (which has been raised during COVID-19).
Best WFH Virtual Whiteboard Tool: Miro
Miro is a virtual whiteboard that does a whole lot more than an ordinary whiteboard. Sure, you can draw and write collaboratively. You can also add images, text, links, stock graphics. You can create flowcharts, Kanban boards — the options are nearly limitless.
The key reason to try out Miro is that the tool is visual. So much of remote work occurs in text-based environments. Chat, documents, emails, CRM entries, project tools — they’re all primarily driven by text, which isn’t always a great way to inspire creativity or communicate.
With the ability to have three boards on free plans, you can designate one as your “meeting room” and make it work, although if you fall in love with Miro’s slick interface and decide to use it for other things, you may want to upgrade.
Best software for Project Management: Trello
If you’ve never used project management software before, it’s like having a to-do list on steroids. You might be tempted to go for a very robust solution, and products like Asana, Jira, and Monday.com certainly have a lot to offer. However, for newcomers, Trello combines simplicity, flexibility, and critical features in a way that makes it easy to start using on Day 1.
Trello also has a fantastic library of Trello Boards, so you can quickly grasp right away how to use and implement it. And, as a member of the Atlassian family of products, if, down the line, you want to bring Jira or Confluence into your tech stack, you’ll be in good company.
Best collaborative "living documents": Xtensio
Xtensio is a collaboration platform that every remote team and worker needs to create those beautiful presentations, reports, documents and more. These documents, called folios, can even be shared and managed by collaborators simultaneously.
Used by thousands of remote agencies, consultants, entrepreneurs and even educators to streamline their workflow, Xtensio offers easy-to-use drag and drop functionality. It even helps branding to be on point all the time as users can work under their custom dashboard.
Best WFH Chat: Slack
Despite Microsoft’s recent updates to Teams, Slack remains the reigning champion for workplace chat, with several enhancements that keep it ahead of the curve. Robust, reliable, heavily integrated, and well-understood, Slack is incredibly important to a remote team because it helps fill in the gaps between your other apps.
Best WFH Video Conferencing: Zoom
With its best-in-class video and audio reliability, Zoom has stood out in front of the competition for years as the leader in video conferencing. There’s nothing more disruptive than having glitches with your virtual meeting, having trouble hearing people, having video cut out. Zoom’s high-quality experience makes other platforms feel like they’re back in the 90s by comparison.
Best WFH Calendar, Docs, & Email App: Google Docs or G Suite
You might think that everyone ought to have their calendar, documents, and email squared away already, but for many physical shops, having this underlying layer of technology was never needed with everyone in the same room. Those who have transitioned to WFH may need to launch everyone on a common platform, and G Suite is likely the best option.
Once you've got your remote work technologies in place, you've got a good starting point for excellent work. There are still many WFH challenges to tackle. Here are some of the bigger ones: