Essential Remote Work Tools to Stay Productive in 2020 — Video Chat, Task and Content Collaboration

Updated: Apr 9

Remote work practices are nothing new, lots of companies (and millions of freelancers) have successfully adopted them for years, turning the whole world into one big virtual office. But in 2020 many more conservative businesses had to rethink their attitude to this previously unthinkable "work from home" approach.



At first, it may seem difficult to change our daily habits, adjusting to a completely different style of work in a living room or bedroom. Getting things done from your home office without productivity loss can turn into a real challenge unless you set the right workflow and choose some helpful tools. Luckily, in 2020, we have enough of truly great solutions to choose from.


To help with narrowing down the amount of options, we've compiled the list of our favorite tools in three categories — video conferencing, task management and content collaboration. Of course, Infolio is in this list, but so are many other great well-known and slightly less well-known tools.



Video conferencing – because sometimes face-to-face is still the best way to connect


Arguably face-to-face conversations are not mandatory to achieve the best results. People who are used to remote collaboration will insist that writing a paragraph or two will lead to better results — most meeting can be emails. But for many who are just adjusting to this brave new world of remote work video conferences help a great deal.


Modern internet speeds and technology make it easier than ever for people to meet virtually, communicate and collaborate with their customers and colleagues with video calls. From the variety of tools available today, we decided to highlight Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, which are all better suited for work and collaboration.


Zoom


Ubiquitous Zoom is one of the leading, feature-rich, cloud-based video conferencing platforms and it is used by millions for video and voice chats, webinars, live chat, and meeting recordings. It is de facto the standard today for video conferences. But with great power comes great responsibility, and right now Zoom faces a lot of criticism and controversy over their privacy and security handling. But they have promised to "win the users' trust back", so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.


Just look how happy these people are with Zoom

Zoom is very easy to use, once you're set up – you can start a conversation with your colleagues with just a couple of clicks, the technology is indeed one of the best on the market — it is that easy and smooth. The tool offers high-quality video and audio, advanced screen sharing, robust annotation tools, whiteboarding features, and more. You can see up to 49 videos on one screen in your Zoom meeting. Zoom is built with a business context in mind, and is a suitable choice for groups of up to 100 people (in Pro option). You can use it for free, but then sessions are limited to 40 minutes for three or more participants. To extend the participant number and have longer conversations, you need to upgrade to their Pro or Business plan. A good thing about Zoom is that you can set your video preferences that will apply to all the future meetings you attend. For example, by clicking "Touch up my appearance", you will apply a real-time filter to your webcam, so there is no need to put on heavy makeup when you are joining from home. Well, it is also a quite useful feature if you are in an environment with harsh lightning. One of the Zoom's all-time favorite features is the virtual background that allows you to display a custom image instead of your (potentially) messy home. One less thing to worry about and one more option to express your creativity! Pricing: — Free; — $14.99 per host per month for Pro option; — $19.99 per host per month for Business option.

GoToMeeting


GoToMeeting is another popular cloud-based solution for a web-based meeting environment. It is a diverse tool that allows users to communicate over the web using practically any device with an impressive list of features. GoToMeeting supports high-quality video and audio, basic annotation tools for screen-sharing, multiple video-recording formats, and more. You can display up to 25 webcams on one screen in your GoToMeeting conference.


GoToMeeting is a good solution for larger organizations that need to regularly accommodate 150-250 participants and value the benefits of unlimited cloud storage. Free plan is quite similar to the Free plan offered by Zoom, with the same 40 minutes limit for calls; most of GoToMeeting's best features require a subscription. Just like Zoom, GoToMeeting offers robust and easy-to-use screen sharing functionality. It also has a possibility to share keyboard and mouse. GoToMeeting boast about their advanced technical video settings, which allow a meeting organizer to optimize everyone's webcam's visuals remotely. Additionally, GoToMeeting provides users with more flexible dialing-in options. For example, "Call Me" feature is offered with every paid plan (we hear that Blondie song every time we stumble upon this feature in GoToMeeting), and participants don't have to dial in themselves with it – they will be called automatically at the scheduled meeting time. If your team or clients prefer to join meetings using the phone, then GoToMeeting can be a great choice. Pricing: — Free; — $12 per month for Professional option (150 participants); — $17 per month for Business option (250 participants); — Custom packages upon request (up to 3000 participants).

Google Meet


Google Meet (just recently Google Hangouts Meet) is another capable solution for audio and video calls, conferencing, and chatting. Google's long-term video conferencing/messaging strategy is somewhat muddled, but for how Meet remains a robust and versatile option for many people.



The service offers communication options with HD video and voice. If you are looking for a platform that can be used for secure text messaging as well, it may be worth considering using Meet and Hangouts Chat in tandem. These apps integrate with each other pretty well, since they are both bundled with other Google services as a part of G Suite subscription. One nice and minor thing we like is to be able to post emojis and GIFs in Hangouts chats to add some mood and color to conversations.

Google Meet is a reasonable solution for different team sizes. Thanks to the app's simplicity, a lot of teams prefer it to Zoom or other competing solutions. Technically, Google Meet is not available for free, as it is a part of G Suite's services. The Basic version of G Suite allows video calls up to 100 participants, while Business plan allows up to 150 participants, and Enterprise plan – up to 250.


The main advantage of using Google Meet is the ability to promote your business ­– it is very easy to share information, demos, training with the potential audience. So, it is an efficient and affordable tool for businesses to conduct online seminars and shows. 

Pricing:

— $6 per user per month for Basic option (up to 100 participants per call);

— $12 per user per month for Business option (for up to 150 participants per call);

$25 per user per month for Enterprise option(for up to 250 participants per call).


Microsoft Teams


Microsoft Teams is a chat and collaboration platform for Office 365 customers, specially designed to streamline teamwork. Teams is one of the latest Microsoft ventures into the team collaboration space. Before 2020 it was somewhat lagging behind competition, and the overall Microsoft strategy was not clear (Skype and Skype for Business anyone?). Now, it seems, that Microsoft finally decided to make Teams one of the headliners of its Office 365 offering. And while it faced some technical difficulties to support sudden increase of users, now things are running smoothly.



One of the best things regarding Microsoft Teams is its compatibility with Office 365. Therefore, in most organizations this tool is enabled by default. Teams integration with other Microsoft services allows users to access shared files and calendars, collaborative editing, and easy switching between voice, video, and text chat. 

MS Teams offers impressive video conferencing features – it can host audio and video meetings, web conferences, and even live events up to 10.000 people (we didn't test it). Users can host 1080p calls with up to 250 members, which includes screen sharing and call recordings for future playback. Not all supported platforms are supported equally though. For example, macOS client at the moment doesn't display more than 4 concurrent video streams.

But Teams has a lot more to offer, and we include it again in the content collaboration category of our list. It also allows us to create group chatrooms (channels). Within one team, multiple chat rooms or channels can be created. When users need a talk face-to-face, they jump straight into voice or video chat with a single click. 

With Teams, employees can easily meet virtually, discuss, brainstorm, and work on documents in real-time and on-the-go using the app for smartphones and tablets.

Pricing:

$5 per user per month (excluding Office apps);

$8.25 per user per month;

$12.50 per user per month (Premium).



Task and project management – plan, track and prioritize your work


One of the keys to remote work is to stay organized. Your boss won't be there to remind you throughout the day what you need to do, and you will definitely forget what you've asked of John, when you don't see his Facebook-checking grin across the room to remind you. So, keep yourself and your team organized and committed to a task/project management tool!

Task management implies setting deadlines, delegating work to team members, tracking task progress, and so much more. Task management tools are essential in remote work organization, whatever business you're in. While working on a ton of different tasks daily, there is no way you can keep track of the progress without a dedicated tool. So, let's consider Infolio (that's us!), Airtable, Monday, or Trello for you and your team.


Infolio


Okay, full disclosure. While we do love to write about productivity and product discovery, we are first and foremost a team collaboration and task/project management suite.

Infolio is an excellent cloud-based solution for visual project collaboration and task management. It offers a clean and straightforward user interface, which is quite intuitive and therefore, easy to get started with. In Infolio you can create an unlimited number of projects and tasks, organize tasks by lists and statuses (custom statuses and workflows!), and track the progress on a Kanban board, in a functional Table with custom fields or on a neat Calendar.

Infolio is suitable for individuals and teams of various sizes for different types of project planning and tracking. All the views are available in every project, and every team member can choose what he or she prefers without breaking the view for everyone else.

One of Infolio's advanced features is a choice of custom fields that allow you to enrich standard tasks with additional structured information. With custom fields you can turn some projects into lightweight CRMs or simple databases.

Among other useful Infolio features, we can highlight convenient file sharing, calendar view, e-mail notifications, project chat, and collaborative project spaces (more on that later).

Pricing:

Free without any feature limitations;

Professional version is currently also free for 1 year (normally $4.99 per user per month), just contact us after the registration and we'll upgrade you.


Airtable


Airtable is a well-known solution that helps companies and teams to create spreadsheets and databases, where all kinds of data can be stored, referenced, and retrieved. A user can create as many columns and rows per table as needed, and assign each column with a role, so it stores certain information. Airtable can also be used to create calendars, visual galleries, and Kanban boards. Basically, it's a powerful Lego-like solution for do-it-yourself projects, databases and more.

With so many features and such a great flexibility Airtable might be somewhat intimidating for an average user who doesn't need all of that power. But once you set it up to your liking it can be quite great for small businesses and teams within larger organizations. Airtable gives freedom to project planning and task management. But it is also powerful enough to act as a database that businesses can use for customer relationship management, and tracking inventory. 

Being incorporated with rich text fields, including file attachments, checkboxes, dropdowns, and so much more, Airtable is a very multifunctional all-purpose app. It will suit your needs best if you are looking for a smart-spreadsheet alternative with real-time collaboration possibility and task management functions.

Pricing:

Free;

$12 per user per month (billed monthly);

$20 per user per month for Airtable Pro.


Monday


Monday is another web-based project and task management tool that started as a replacement for Excel spreadsheets. It allows users to create projects, track tasks, update statuses, receive notifications, share files, prioritize tasks, and more. Multiple views allow you to check project overviews, timelines, individual workflows, checklists, and reports.

Monday could be a good fit for larger teams that are looking for a flexible solution that can adapt to various project management styles. The tool also provides guest access to projects for external customers. Apart from that, Pro and Enterprise plans offer time-tracking function, which can be helpful to distributed teams. Automation is another well-covered area in Monday and it is relatively easy to set up.

Monday also includes great analytics and reporting modules. It will collect data and relate connected projects and tasks, keeping them organized in a historical spreadsheet.

Pricing:

$25 per month for 5 users (Basic plan);

$39 per month for 5 users (Standard plan);

$59 per month for 5 users (Pro plan),

$188 per month for 5 users (Enterprise Plan).


Trello


Who doesn't know Trello? Trello practically invented the whole Kanban-based project boards or at the very least popularized them. Trello is as powerful as it is simple. In its basic form it is a visual task board which more image-oriented than others. That's why Trello is often chosen by designers, decorators, or other teams, that prioritize project visualization.

Task cards can be assigned to team members, categorized, assigned deadlines, and include files and subtasks. Attachments are limited to 10MB or 250MB, depending on the plan used. Among other useful features, we can name automated notifications, customizable lists and in-line editing. And who can forget custom backgrounds, stickers and emojis?

If Trello is too simple for you, then you may consider Trello Power-Ups. Hundreds of integrations and pluggable features will enrich your task and workflow beyond imagination, albeit with some user experience trade-offs.

Despite great extensibility Trello is usually the choice of smaller teams who are seeking a simple and affordable tool for task management. Teams that grow in size switch to something else eventually.

Pricing:

Free;

$9.99 per user per month for Business Class;

$20.83 per user per month for Enterprise.



File and content collaboration — confident document sharing and control


Content collaboration software meant to help you and your team to create, access, share, and manage work content securely. The right tool not only enables information to flow safely and freely within your organization but also get teammates more engaged. Let's take a closer look at some of the solutions.


Dropbox Paper


Dropbox is of course one of the pioneers for cloud storage and file sharing, used and loved by millions. Dropbox Paper is their collaboration solution, designed for creative teamwork from anywhere. It allows real-time collaboration, assigning tasks, creating to-do lists, and more within a single… well, paper. You basically start working on a document and turn it into a huge canvas for anything.

Paper is available to all Dropbox customers, so you might already have access to it. With Paper you can work in a fully creative mode: create, organize, and review content in a collaborative manner. As we mentioned, the platform looks like a single sheet of paper that can handle many kinds of content and supports multiple file formats. All the files in your workplace can be organized into folders on projects, which can be assigned to different users. All users can access and control these projects using Dropbox Smart Sync feature.

Real-time editing function makes content collaboration super easy. And there is also chat room for the team to stay in touch while working. You can insert a checklist block, which enables you to create tasks, assign them to contributors, set due dates, and cross them off when done.

Pricing:

Free;

$9.99 for Pro plan;

$75 per month for Business plan.


Microsoft Teams


We turn to Microsoft Teams twice in this list not because it is the best, but because it has the best potential. And because it is included with Office 365. And because we like it. Teams is not only a video conferencing solution, but primarily a file-sharing and collaboration team hub.


You can share files with your teams in your… Teams (please forgive us) by creating a folder in the SharePoint library. After that, you can add existing files to your library, create or add new ones. Files stored in the team's library are available to every team member. And the latest version of Office 365 allows real-time collaboration between different team members.

MS Teams has some nice additional options, like sharing files with people outside Teams and between multiple teams at the same time. 

Pricing:

$5 per user per month (excluding Office apps);

$8.25 per user per month;

$12.50 per user per month (Premium); 


Infolio


Yes, Infolio is also great for content and file collaboration. In fact, it started as a content collaboration platform before expanding to project and task management. You can of course add regular attachments to your tasks, but you can also link visual spaces (our fancy name for boards) to tasks and projects.


Spaces are these large canvases, where you put your images, documents, notes and weblinks, and organize them visually, like you would with real documents on your desk. And then, of course, your entire team can collaborate, add new content and comment on anything.

Project spaces can be used for various purposes­ – to add and store visual content and documents, to share ideas and images, to brainstorm, to organize marketing materials and more. You can add an unlimited number of spaces to any project. We also include a bunch of educational and useful Product Discovery templates for spaces.

To ensure effective team communication, every project in Infolio has a dedicated project chat, where you can discuss any issues related to your project, or have a friendly conversation. Can be useful to keep all the conversations close to the project tasks. All our features are entirely free for all Infolio users. 

Pricing:

Free;

Professional version is currently also free for 1 year (normally $4.99 per user per month), just contact us after the registration and we'll upgrade you.


Milanote


Another user-friendly collaboration tool for creative projects is Milanote. There you can organize your ideas and plans on visual boards with some light structure behind them. It has an easy drag and drop interface, and you can quickly upload images and files (JPGs, PDFs, Word, Excel, standard design files), collaborate on your content, write notes and to-do lists, upload notes and photos from your phone, and arrange things visually. 


Milanote app is made primarily for the ideas and thoughts visualization, and markets itself towards creative teams and individuals. A blank page resembles a pegboard, where users can share inspiring ideas. Your visual board can be a private place, or a shared collaborative workplace, where simultaneous real-time editing is supported. 

One thing we especially like in Milanote is nesting boards — it's when you add new boards on existing boards and then go deeper, and deeper, and deeper (Inception reference).

Comparing Milanote to other collaboration tools, we think it is more oriented towards early project stages, when brainstorming and planning take place, and you need a space to play around and stay flexible. At the same time, it is not just limited to a mere note-taking, so creatives will definitely love it.

Pricing:

Free (up to 100 notes);

$9.99 for the Pro version.

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