In 2017, 43% of American workers worked outside of the office at least part of the time. Some of these workers were undoubtedly taking a day off to wait on the cable guy or tend to a sick kid and simply opted to telecommute as a one-time thing. Some of the workers are remote workers who work from home (or a co-working space, or a coffee shop, or a library) most of the time or all of the time.
Whether your company is open to remote work on a case-by-case basis, or you’re a fully distributed workplace, you might be concerned about how collaboration works when you’re not in the same room. Fortunately, there are some great workplace collaboration tools in 2018 that can help all your team members (remote and in-office) work together efficiently.
Cloud-based project management suites like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp are ways for everyone on the team to keep things in a single location. Each suite has its rabid fandom, but they all work a little differently.
Asana is based on the idea of the to-do list. If you’re the type of in-office organizer who makes a to-do list each day, you’ll feel right at home with Asana. While Asana does have the option to organize things in a Kanban board, Asana was really designed for a list format. Asana has a beautiful calendar option to help you keep your deadlines clearly marked, but the reporting options feel like an afterthought.
Trello is based on the Kanban board principles. Most projects and tasks are visually oriented. If your office has a large whiteboard with sticky notes that are moved from one section to the next as they’re moved through the process, Trello is a good visual project management tool. Like Asana, Trello has the option of using a list format, but it’s not as efficient at the to-do list as Asana is.
Basecamp is extremely project-based. Everything is centered around projects. Basecamp is like a shelf with file boxes on it; whenever anyone finishes an assignment, they stick it into the file box of the project. It’s a great way to keep everything together on complex projects, but it’s far less efficient for to-do lists and well-defined processes. Basecamp Classic had greater functionality on the to-do lists than Basecamp 2 and Basecamp 3, but it really depends on whether your company needs detailed, templated task lists.
Look out for…
Workzone. It’s a project management tool that nobody was talking about until recently, but it’s got a lot to recommend it. It’s more full-featured than Asana, Trello, and Basecamp, but doesn’t have quite as much excess bloat as conventional enterprise project management tools like Microsoft. It’s intended for startups who are facing a period of rapid growth, so there’s a focus on agility, speed, and efficiency. This is a workplace collaboration tool that we’ll hear more about in the coming months.
Slack. Everyone uses Slack. Communication is essential for collaboration, and a workplace collaboration tool like Slack allows you to have those micro-communication moments without needing to clog up email or burn up the phone lines. With 6 million active daily users, Slack is the benchmark program for workplace communication.
Of course, Slack has some competitors, and some of those competitors are making waves. IRCCloud is one Slack alternative. While it’s similar in functionality, it’s self-hosted on the company’s own intranet, making it a good alternative for companies that may have more advanced security or privacy needs. If your company has been using Slack’s integrations, IRCCloud may not have as hefty an integration library.
Microsoft Teams has been exploring communication services, too. Like Slack, it’s cloud-based, but Teams integrates more smoothly with Office. It’s also got more of a focus on the enterprise market, whereas Slack was designed to operate within more of a startup environment.
Look out for…
HipChat. Developed by Atlassian, HipChat allows you to host your chat on the company’s intranet like IRCCloud. It integrates beautifully with JIRA for issue tracking, so it’s a great alternative for software companies. HipChat’s audio and video calls generally function more smoothly than Slack’s, so they’re a workplace collaboration tool that’s already being touted as the best Slack alternative for tech startups.
Very few people get excited about spreadsheets, but they are essential for just about any business. If you need a workplace collaboration tool to help you with spreadsheets, you have a few options.
Airtable is the old standby for spreadsheets, but they blend the functionality of a spreadsheet and a database. They’re cloud-based, so it’s easy to collaborate on them anywhere, but there’s a fairly large learning curve if you’re new to the program and you need something customized. Because they adopt more of a database approach to spreadsheets, users without database design skills may struggle at first to adapt to them.
If you really need JUST a spreadsheet, Google Sheets is a great alternative. It’s easy to use and easy to understand, and it makes it easy to share and collaborate with others.
Look out for…
Smartsheet. This is a cloud-based spreadsheet creator with a lot of new, cool features. You can display and sort your lists in a variety of different ways, like a Gannt view, card view, or calendar view. You can also create forms based on your spreadsheets, and you can store all your spreadsheets in one place, but it’s as easy to use and understand as Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Smartsheet is one of the smartest workplace collaboration tools of 2018.
There are hundreds of apps, programs, integrations, and tools that can help make workplace collaboration smoother and more efficient in your company. But the most essential workplace collaboration tool is collaborative workers. Ask your team members what they like and don’t like about the tools they have in place already. Ask them what tools they’d like to check out. Every workplace collaboration tool works to do a certain thing, and your team knows what things they need a tool to help with.