If you’ve browsed a few job ads recently, you may have noticed a jump in positions that allow working remotely. It is no coincidence – remote work has been on the rise in recent years, thanks to some of its many benefits.

In fact, research shows that 99% of all remote workers intend to work this way for the rest of their careers.

However, as popular as remote work is, it also brings about certain challenges. Working in remote environments can sometimes be difficult because of obstacles in communication, collaboration, storage, and many other processes. Here are a few suggestions on which tools to use to facilitate remote work and make it easier for your team to work together, no matter where they are.

⏲️ Time tracking tools

The habit of time tracking is not a recent invention – it’s been around since the days of punch cards in factories. In remote teams, time tracking can be useful for a variety of reasons other than tracking how productive someone is. It’s actually a great way to track how much time a certain task takes away and eliminate those tasks that waste your time.

Clockify is the only time tracking app which is completely free and allows for unlimited users. You can create timesheets, turn them into reports, bill clients, set hourly wages for your employees and much, much more. To get a full overview of your time at work, Clockify can be used on the web, as a desktop/Mac app and a mobile app.

Hivedesk is built for remote teams specifically and it lets you track your team’s individual time and create automatic timesheets. If you feel like adding an additional level of trust, you can have Hivedesk take screenshots of your employees’ screens at random time intervals as well.

Toggl themselves are a remote-first company and their product is catered to remote and traditional workers. You can track time automatically and manually and sync your logged time. There are numerous integrations with other popular apps, there’s a free plan and awesome reporting features.

Harvest is an elegantly designed time tracking app that makes the process of tracking time while working super easy. You can create timesheets, billable invoices and well-designed visual reports based on your timesheets.

📞 Communication tools

The biggest hurdle in remote work is definitely communication. Since you can’t conveniently walk over to the other person in your office, you’re forced to resort to other means of staying in touch with your team. Using a phone is fairly inconvenient, email is slow and clunky and the best solution has come in the shape of team chat apps. Not only are these chat apps helpful for communication, but they can also facilitate better company culture in remote teams.

Chanty is a fast team chat app built to improve your team’s communication and increase your productivity. Besides the standard chat, it comes packed with useful features such as audio and video calls, screen sharing, project management functionalities and lots of useful integrations.

If you already use Microsoft products, chances are, you also use Microsoft Teams as a way to communicate with your coworkers. It has all the standard chat features, but what really makes it special is the native integration with Microsoft Office.

Slack is by far the most popular team chat app out there with an ever-growing user base. Perhaps one of the reasons for its success is the vast amount of integrations and a range of bots that allow you to customize your workspace to your needs.

📺 Video conferencing tools 

While chat is good enough for most of your communication needs, sometimes you really need video to get your point across. Video meetings are the next best things when you can’t sit down with your team in the same room.

Skype is one of the best known video communication tools out there and most of us have used it at some point to get in touch with friends or family. It can also be used for work communication, but this is not where it excels. The good thing is that you can get great use out of Skype on their free plan.

Google Hangouts is another tool that many teams use because of pure convenience – if you already have a Gmail account, it’s just a click away. It offers chat and video calls, as well as landline calls for those without a Gmail account. The video call feature is superb, while the chat is definitely lacking in comparison to Skype and the next tool on the list.

Zoom is the video conferencing powerhouse used by some of the most reputable remote companies out there. There are plenty of reasons – the quality of image and sound is superb and you can do almost anything on the free plan. In fact, Zoom is so good that even companies such as Slack use their product.

☁️ Cloud storage and file-sharing tools

Working remotely requires not only different means of communication, but also file management and sharing. Since your team members can be scattered all around the world, it’s necessary to have a reliable method of storing and sharing your files so they can be accessed at all times.

Dropbox has been around since 2007 and it’s set the bar very high for cloud storage services. The premium account for one user will set you back around $8 per month for 1TB of data, which is plenty enough for anyone who doesn’t have to deal with chunky files. If that’s not enough, you can upgrade to the Advanced plan for $20 per month and get unlimited storage – sounds like a great deal.

OneDrive is the least popular storage option when it comes to the number of users, but that may change in the future. The reason is simple – their free plan offers 5GB of storage, while you can get 50GB for as low as $2 per month. If you purchase Office 365 Personal or Home, it will get you 1,000 or 5,000GB of storage alone with the Office tools, which makes it a great deal, especially at $7 and $10 per month.

Box is an established cloud storage solution and it’s perhaps best suited for business users and remote teams. It has three professional plans, each starting with 100GB of storage. You can get unlimited storage for as low as $11.50 per month, with just one caveat – you need to have a minimum of three users.

🗃️ File collaboration tools

Once you have all the files tucked away safely in the cloud, it’s time to get to work. While these don’t cover all of the work done in remote teams, all remote teams have to handle documents and require these tools.

Google Suite is the most widespread set of tools for file collaboration out there. Since it already comes with a Gmail account (which you can get for free), you can give it a spin. Business G Suite accounts start at $10 per user per month, which is a small fee for tools such as Docs, Sheets, Slides and many others rolled into one package.

Microsoft Office 365 is the cloud version of the well-known Office package that comes with Windows. For those who are used to working on desktop, this is the easiest transition there is since the learning curve is non-existent. As mentioned before, buying a monthly package also gives you additional space on OneDrive, which makes it a smart investment.

Confluence is the go-to solution for teams of programmers that write a lot of code. You can use it to document your code, write functional and technical specifications and create mockups which you can discuss with the rest of your team. The price depends on your team size, but you can get accounts for as low as $5 per month per user.

🎛️ Project management tools

Working in the cloud needs to be supported with a strong project management system. At all times, you need to be aware of who does what and what’s the status of ongoing projects. There are

Workzone is for those teams that need advanced project and document management features and collaboration in the cloud. You can create and manage tasks and to-do lists, tracking your time as you go through them. It comes packed with some advanced features, such as automated task requests and approvals.

Asana is built on the Kanban board principle and it’s one of the best looking PM apps there is. Its sleek appearance, combined with great user experience makes it the app of choice for many remote teams around the globe.

Basecamp themselves are one of the best known remote companies out there so it’s only fit for them to create a project management tool to make remote work more convenient. While it is easy to use, Basecamp can be too simple for more demanding teams that need in-depth management features such as task dependencies and detailed reporting.

🎨 Development and design tools

If you run any kind of remote agency, getting by with standard tools won’t cut it. These apps were built with the cloud in mind and they allow you to easily design and develop with a remote or distributed team.

GitLab is the tool to use from the first to the last step in software development. Collaborate with your remote team in the cloud to plan your projects, manage your code and monitor your projects. Paid plans start as low as $4 per user per month.

Invision is a product made by a team of remote workers and it’s by far the most popular design collaboration tool out there. For a good reason, too – it lets you manage your entire design workflow, from prototypes to the finished product.

Bamboo is the second app on this list made by Atlassian, which is no coincidence. It allows teams to collaborate on complete projects, from the initial code all the way to deployment. If you use Jira and Confluence, it will play nicely together and create a well-rounded collaboration toolset.

Here are all of the aforementioned tools summed up in this infographic we at Chanty made:

Top productivity tools for remote teams

Wrapping up

While there are some hurdles with remote work, a lack of tools is definitely not one of them. These tools will help your remote team communicate and collaborate just as efficiently (if not even more) as if they were in an office setting.