As the workforce continues to trend towards remote lifestyles due to the evolving digital landscape, many continue to wonder… how are so many people able to do this? Well, here are a few of my favorite software tools that I use to conduct my work along with my colleagues.
Perhaps learning more about these tools will inspire you to take the thought of working remotely to your current organization – be the change you want to see in your professional world!
Let’s get started by outlining that there is really no way to indicate which software tools are the best, these are simply the best for me. A few things to consider when beginning to utilize these tools is that, unless you are the trendsetter in your organization, you may not have a choice of what tools you get to use.
Most organizations have common themes for some of the most widely used tools, while others have industry preferences that dictate which you will be utilizing. With that in mind, I have compiled this list based on the tools being extremely user friendly, and they must be the solution to a challenge or two that I face in my everyday remote lifestyle.
Additional context – more and more professions are moving to a digital lifestyle; therefore, you must continue to educate yourself on new tools that are out there and what works best for you. Most of my career has been spent within sales based functions, customer support, customer success and so on – you will see that trend below!
Many of these tools can easily be integrated into non-remote friendly organizations as well and already are, they just make remote working that much more sweet.
The star rating system is simply based off of how essential the tool is for being able to conduct remote work. 5 Stars – the tool is perfect for its intended use and is essential to working remotely, whereas 1 star – is simply a nice value add and not necessary to your day to day business.
The star rating has no indication on the quality of the tool as there are several excellent tools of similar purpose and quality. The descriptions will indicate why these are my favorite. All pricing is in US Dollars.
Virtual Office Space and Digital Headquarters
Nicknamed “the Black Hole” by my friends and fellow remote friendly workers, this is essentially what we utilize as our digital headquarters and office space. The reason it has coined its nickname is it can be your best friend or biggest distraction. Depending on the size of the organization, essentially every conversation that is had within the organization is stored here (depending on your plan and length of data saving of course). This is the board room, the open office space, the lunchroom and the water cooler.
Slack is essential in the remote world as it allows you to feel closer to your colleagues, not only on a professional level through collaboration, but also on a personal level by assisting in team building. In Slack, you have the ability to personally message any member within your organization, create group conversations between a few – or create entire channels dedicated to a topic or team. Having integrations with additional software within this list, Slack has made it extremely easy to swiftly move information throughout the organization – keeping everyone connected and on top of the tasks at hand.
Notable Integrations: Google Suite, Zoom, Monday.com, Salesforce, Intercom, Dialpad
Pricing: Free Plan, $8/user/month (Standard), $15/user/month (Plus), Custom (Enterprise Grid
Before I lose you, I completely understand that essentially all organizations use email nowadays. I’m not here to tell you that Google Mail (GMail) is solely for remote workers. What I will say regarding the Google Suite though, is that they have made it extremely easy for teams to collaborate on common tasks through Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Forms… all while organizing and filing everything in the Google Drive for everyone who has access to edit and refer back to when the time is required.
For me, the Google Suite has become a second professional home, along with Slack. GMail is extremely user friendly and all client communications go through there. It’s also much more esthetically pleasing than some of the alternatives – I remember when I used to sit in a cubicle and have to look at my outlook interface… depressing times.
With so many integrations, the Google Suite works extremely well, not only alongside many of the software solutions on this list, but also within. A good example of this will be utilizing Google Calendar in conjunction with the tools listed in the Video Communications and Meeting Planning sections.
Notable Integrations: Slack, CloudApp, Zoom, Calendly, Salesforce, Monday.com
Pricing: $6/user/month (Basic), $12/user/month (Business), $25/user/month (Enterprise)
This one is definitely nonessential and there are probably many other equivalent softwares that do an equal or better job, however, this is the software that I use for screen recording, screenshots and file sharing with my clients and colleagues. For example, right now I am onboarding clients to the Dropified software and many of them would like to go back and review our conversation to continue the learning curve.
As the software records the outlined screen activity on my end – as well as mutual conversation between myself and the client – they can easily see and hear the screencast again at a future date. The second piece is quick annotation of screenshots that will be sent via email, or easily shared amongst your colleagues in Slack.
Along with your Google Drive, CloudApp reduces the clutter of screenshots and mp4’s that may be bogging down your laptop due to harboring them, long after the conversation is over. By simply sending the link for your file stored on CloudApp to your client’s and colleagues, you’ll ultimately improve the health of your device in the process.
Notable Integrations: Slack, Google Suite, Intercom
Pricing: Free Plan, $9/month (Pro), $8/user/month (Team), Custom (Enterprise)
Whether you are drafting your Fantasy Football team (like I had to a few weeks ago) or needing to conduct a virtual board meeting with a screen share, Zoom has you covered. Zoom is the self proclaimed leader in modern enterprise video communications. Offering an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing. The service includes collaboration opportunities, chat and webinars and is available across mobile devices, desktops and laptops, as well as telephones and in room systems.
I must say, I can back them up on the self proclamation… they are a, if not the leader in this space. The software is incredibly user friendly and can be quickly picked up by anyone and utilized. Remember the fantasy draft? Even the technologically illiterate were able to make it into the Zoom conference and participate in the discussion!
Everyday this is the go to software to conduct my product showcases. Through simple to use screen sharing and recording, I can effectively articulate what features my client’s need to be utilizing within our software. With the chat feature, you can seamlessly send links to further develop your thought process or share documents – in addition to having the ability to easily conduct interactive group meetings. An additional feature that many enjoy for large company wide meetings is the gridview… even though you can be fully distributed across the world, you can make it feel like you are all in the same room.
Notable Integrations: Google Suite, Calendly, Salesforce
Pricing: Free Plan, $14.99/month/host (Pro), $19.99/month/host (Business) – minimum 10 hosts, $19.99/month/host (Enterprise) – Minimum 50 hosts.
Included in the Google Suite, I used this software for a few years to conduct my onboarding and sales calls. It was definitely effective in a one on one setting with a simple screen share. The interface is much more simplified and I felt as though it was not as exhaustive as Zoom to get the job done in a professional sense and therefore I eventually went away from it. Also, it did not have a grid view for interactive group settings.
Throughout my travels I have used Skype for personal matters plenty of times, I guess I never really made the transition for business use because Zoom was so effective. It is definitely considered an alternative, however, through plenty of research you will see that Zoom is the clear choice for use. Some of the industry cons include that it does not have all the VoIP features of other tools and that it does not have integrated dial in audio features.
Time Tracking and Team Management
The need for Hubstaff lies in the middle of the road because it is very dependent on the type of remote role you have, as well as the size of your organization. For larger organizations that require accountability or time tracking when it comes to the compensation of employees – it is quite excellent.
The same can be said if you are in freelancing or contracting realms, it gives an excellent snapshot (literally) that you can send to your clients should they want some context for your billable hours. Certain roles and organizations don’t really require it as often times the key performance indicators can provide accountability and tell a story to management.
That said, personally, my experience with the tool has been excellent in not only seeing my contributions to the organization – but also keeping myself accountable when there is not an office setting to do so. One of the highlights of working remotely is being able to truly achieve work-life balance.
Sometimes you may feel a little guilty if you take time in the middle of the day to live your life – with Hubstaff, simply pause your timer, do what you gotta’ do and pick up right where you left off later… there’s really no more having to articulate how much you work – the data presents itself. The program offers a sleek interface and is extremely user friendly for first timers, if you want to see your productivity – it’s right there in the dashboard.
Notable Integrations: Salesforce, Asana
Pricing: Free Plan, $5/user/month (Basic), $10/user/month (Premium), $20/user/month (Enterprise)
Through industry comparisons and additional resources, Time Doctor is one of the comparable tools to be considered in this category. For myself, there are several similarities and marginal differences – that said, if I were in a human resources related function, I would most definitely place a lot more weight in this category and continue to research further to see what aligns best with the tasks I am looking to accomplish. In summary, Hubstaff is still one of the top software tools of the category in the market.
Meeting Planning and Sales Assistants
As with the previous software tool – your profession will greatly impact the weight you place on the categories that have more variability. In this instance, as a sales professional – scheduling meetings is essentially one of the most important elements contributing to success.
Can this be done through creating a meeting within your Google Calendar on your own after multiple back and forth emails? Why yes, of course it can – however, wouldn’t it be that much easier if your clients had the opportunity to select a time that was most suitable for them, at their convenience and create the meeting for you? In comes Calendly, with a seamless integration with Google Calendar, in order to grant calendar access for your clients, prospects and colleagues.
Don’t confuse calendar access with calendar availability, those external to the organization won’t see your 3:30pm tee time with Bill from accounting. The software provides those looking to book a meeting with your available time slots as structured and outlined in the settings by yourself. With a unique booking link and a clean user interface – the tool is extremely user friendly for not only you but those looking to book as well. All you have to do now is get a clever automated email sequence going and let the links fly… your calendar will passively fill for you!
There are some Calendly alternatives out there (one is mentioned below) but in my opinion it's the best of the bunch.
Notable Integrations: Google Suite, Zoom, Salesforce, Intercom
Pricing: Free Plan, $8/month/user (Premium), $12/month/user (Pro)
For this category, it’s really tough to have any real difference makers that can drastically set these tools a part. Often times it will come down to pricing and customer service as each tool will do what is required for my professional needs. Chilipiper, however, comes with a much higher price point, therefore you will have to have a deep dive into the features to see what is most suitable for your needs.
Unique Value Add:
Looking to alter the way companies engage their prospects and clients, Bonjoro is a unique add on to the remote sales and customer service professionals repertoire of tools. The platform allows you to send quick and personal video messages to your database. This can be anything from a thank you for purchasing your products, to a welcome message asking if they need any onboarding assistance, or even in potential instances where you would like to engage a prospect in a unique way and ask for a meeting.
This software tool is definitely low on a requirement to perform your duties scale, however, it is an incredibly handy way to personally engage a long list of clients or prospects in a way they may never have seen before. Utilized best in conjunction with a Calendly link call to action, Bonjoro is great for remote workers as face to face opportunities are very infrequent before having a set meeting on Zoom. Cold calling and emailing is definitely not dead; this can be used in prospecting, we just need to adapt to the times and alter the way things are done.
Notable Integrations: Google Mail, Calendly, Intercom, Slack and Salesforce (coming soon)
Pricing: Free Plan, $25/user/month (Essentials), $45/single user/month + $15/additional user/month (Growth)
Telephone Text and Calling
If you are wanting to take a look into the future of what telephone communications will look like, be sure to do some research and look into Dialpad. The software eliminates the hardware component when it comes to communicating with landlines and cellphones. In doing so, it is the ultimate telecommunications opportunity to create mobility where there were previous limitations.
This will ultimately be extremely important for outbound sales representatives needing to make traditional cold calls. Representatives will no longer have geographic restrictions therefore making the bullpen a thing of the past and you’ll now be smilin’ and dialin’ from anywhere…
Currently, I am primarily focussed on product showcases and utilizing Zoom as the primary communications tool. That said, not long ago I was required to get in touch with prospects from a variety of different regions. Through Dialpad, I was able to have a New York based number to call clients and prospects across North America, even though I was traveling through the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, etc.
At all times, I was viewed by clients and prospects as if I was sitting and making the calls from my desk in New York. This will be important in organizations that have territory segmentation – however, as long as you’re within the timezone and can move to digital face to face meetings, this is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door remotely. Dialpad has a sleek interface and a good user experience allowing easy calling and texting when the number permits.
Notable Integrations: Slack, Google Suite, Salesforce
Pricing: $20/user/month (Standard), $30/user/month (Pro), Custom (Enterprise)
Essentially the same software, there is not a whole lot that differentiates DialPad from Talkdesk in terms of quality of interface or the ability to call and text the numbers you desire. The one reason I chose Dialpad over Talkdesk was something pretty simple – the dial tone. Talkdesk decided it was a good idea to have a futuristic tone that feels like you’re calling Mars… over time it’s quite mind-numbing.
Customer Relationship Managers
Representing those with a sales background, this category is of utmost importance to your day to day duties. Of course, many organizations that are not remote will use Salesforce as their CRM of choice as well. That said, it is simply imperative that it be discussed as the importance of team alignment increases on a fully distributed team.
With nearly 20% market share according to Business.com – what Kleenex is to tissue, Salesforce is to CRM’s. It’s the most recognizable name on the market for a reason, having incredibly robust options and customizability – Salesforce is the go to option for small businesses up to the largest corporations. As a software powerhouse, Salesforce continues to acquire smaller companies resulting in more and more features as well as integrations with additional platforms.
Depending on the features you are looking for and the size of your organization, Salesforce is ultimately going to be the right choice now, or in the future. There are many alternatives that will allow you to manage your relationships effectively, if you are looking for a simplified interface and set of features. If you are looking to scale quickly – Salesforce has all the bases covered allowing you to grow into it.
Personally, I really like a robust software that essentially has every solution at your fingertips, even though it may take some digging and guidance from their support teams. If you have a large dispersed team, I really enjoy the pipeline views and statistics that could be chosen and pulled at your desire – resulting in healthy competition, even without the bullpen.
Notable Integrations: Slack, Google Suite
Pricing: See Salesforce website for pricing, very dynamic packages and several offerings.
Not necessarily the most robust program when it comes to sales based specifics – Salesforce most definitely takes the cake in that department – however, it is a great way for your team to connect with your clients in a collaborative setting. Intercom makes it very easy from a customer support chat perspective to handle several tasks and tickets across a team of representatives and customers. If you are looking for customizability and pipeline movement (sales focussed organization), look at Salesforce or elsewhere
Moving on to the next category of team collaboration and organizational tools – we have Monday.com. The project management tool is best utilized for development teams, marketing, or really anything that requires planning, task management, resource management, collaboration, issue mitigation and prioritization.
Built for teams of all sizes, there are customizable packages depending on your needs as a start up or enterprise entity. Monday.com is self described as a platform of visual collaboration that helps transform the way teams work together. It is a simple but intuitive tool that enables people to manage their work, meet deadlines and build a culture of transparency.
Next to Slack, Monday.com will ultimately ensure that your team is on the right track when it comes to fulfilling individual (and team) obligations and contributions towards a common goal. With a sleek and easy to use interface like many others on this list, the software makes it incredibly easy to organize your thoughts visually and ensure tasks and resources stay on their appropriate time and monetary allocations.
Depending on the type of organization you have, it is important to discuss with everyone on what they feel would be most suitable set of features. Monday.com is excellent for fulfilling the needs of diverse categories and personality types as they work with organizations across 200+ different verticals.
Notable Integrations: Slack, Google Suite, Salesforce
Pricing: See Monday.com for pricing, again very dynamic pricing packages depending on the number of users and level of features.
In reality, there are very minimal differences between Asana and Monday.com. Both are regarded as two of the most transferable and easy to use software within the category. As mentioned above, do a deep dive into what your team is looking for and what you are looking to accomplish. Asana offers a very similar user experience and visuals to Monday.com – however, if you look at alternatives such as Basecamp, Trello, or Jira, you may find the feature or experience you are looking for.
Always remember… find what is suitable for you!
Most importantly, I must revert back to the statement made at the beginning of this article… these are the software tools that I love and utilize in my day to day remote working life. There are so many digital freedoms at the fingertips of each working professional that it is important to find the ones that are most suitable for you!
After taking a leap and transitioning to the amazing opportunity of working remotely, it is my goal to educate others and highlight what is out there. In the end, the hope is that you have the means and opportunity to either take a leap of faith, or begin the conversation about workforce transition with your current organization. As always, I hope this was beneficial and best of luck with finding the right remote tools for you.