Internet Productivity

The 6 Best Free Online Collaboration Tools for Working From Home

Akshata Shanbhag Updated 23-03-2020

Remote work has picked up serious pace in recent times, going from optional to enforced in many cases.

Advertisement

Have you started working away from the office or are planning to? Remember, remote work can quickly turn complicated and stressful for everyone involved if there’s no go-to system in place to handle online collaboration.

You can avoid such a scenario by creating an effective strategy and workflow for remote work. (As part of a team with a streamlined workflow, I can vouch for the benefits of this approach!) An important step in this process involves setting up reliable online collaboration tools. To help you start with that, we have rounded up the following free online collaboration tools.

Try Premium Remote Work Apps for Free

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are doing their bit to ease remote work. Thanks to such moves, you can get temporary perks from remote work services and apps like:

  • Microsoft Teams: Business chat (part of Office 365); offering a six-month free trial of its premium version.
  • Google Hangouts Meet: Video meeting software for business (part of G Suite); the premium version is free.
  • Jamm: Voice and video collaboration tool; giving four months of free access for teams.

You might also want to give MeeroDrop at shot. This online visual file transfer tool was already free, but now it has upped the capacity and duration of file transfers from 5GB | 30 days to 10GB | 90 days.

1. Every Time Zone: For Time Zone Conversion

Timeline display in Every Time Zone online app

Advertisement

It’s a pain to track time zones for scheduling calls and meetings at times that are suitable for everyone on the team. That’s where a time zone converter can prove handy. It helps you figure out ideal times to get in touch with your teammates or clients.

Our top recommendation for a web-based time zone converter is Every Time Zone. It keeps time zone math simple and beautiful, with a slider-controlled visual timeline. You can visualize time-zone differences for any date and even share links to specific event times without signing up for an account. Creating an account, however, gives you full control over timeline customization.

World Time Buddy (WTB) and Timezone.io are a couple of Every Time Zone alternatives worth exploring.

Visit: Every Time Zone (Free, premium versions available)

Advertisement

2. Slack: For Real-Time Communication Via Text, Audio, and Video

Sample screenshot of Slack

Your remote team needs a proper virtual office—a place for everything from important team announcements to work-related discussions to water-cooler chats. We wholeheartedly recommend Slack for that role.

An active team communication platform like Slack can help you feel like a valuable part of the team as opposed to a nobody toiling away in isolation. It can also make much of email unnecessary.

The best part about Slack is its collection of bots, which let you create tasks, automate events, set reminders, and do a lot more in a few keystrokes and without leaving Slack. These bots can even replace some of the apps on this list. Take a closer look at how Slack bots can boost your productivity. And remember, Slack’s app integrations allow you to bring in data from various apps scattered across the web.

Advertisement

Slack isn’t the right fit for your team? Then try one of these free Slack alternatives for team communication.

If your team prefers a dedicated audio-video app for screen sharing, meetings, and conferences, take a look at Whereby. It was once popular as Appear.in, but now has a new identity.

Visit: Slack (Free, premium plans available)

3. Trello: For Project Management

Trello board view

Advertisement

Choosing a project management setup that goes well with your team’s specific workflow requires somewhat of a trial and error approach. But Trello makes a great choice for many teams, especially if they already use the Kanban method for productivity.

Trello is easy to use and capable of handling whatever you throw at it. You can map your team’s strategies, set goals, discuss ideas, assign tasks, follow up on them, and do much, much more. To get started with this versatile tool, read our guide to project management with Trello.

Of course, Trello is not your only option here. Asana and Basecamp are equally sturdy online project management tools.

Visit: Trello (Free, premium plans available)

4. Doodle: For Decision-Making

Doodle poll sample

General team discussions can go off on tangents and spin out of control super fast. They’re not conducive to making clear calls on any given proposal.

To keep decision-making streamlined, a voting app of sorts is much better. We recommend Doodle, a web-based polling app that adds clarity to the decision-making process.

With Doodle, you can start a proposal, add a few choices, and invite your teammates to take a vote on them. You can also use Doodle to pinpoint meeting times that are convenient for all team members.

Everyone voting can see at a glance where the proposal is headed. You can choose to make voting confidential, restrict participants to a single vote, or even limit the number of votes. Doodle lets you do all of this without signing up. The poll is accessible to anyone with a link to it.

If you want to remove ads, set a deadline for voting, create private invites and automatic reminders, or collect contact information, you’ll need to sign up for a premium plan.

For more elaborate surveys, software like Google Forms, Typeform, and SurveyMonkey is the way to go. For teams that use Slack or Microsoft Teams, Polly is also a great option.

Visit: Doodle (Free, premium plans available)

5. Google Drive: For Document Sharing and Collaboration

Shared With Me section in Google Drive

A repository to store, manage, and share project files is a must-have for any team, and a cloud storage service is the perfect choice for that role. We recommend Google Drive because it’s one of the best file-sharing solutions available, especially for teams using G Suite for business.

Paired with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, Google Drive makes a powerful piece of software for online document creation, editing, and collaboration.

If your team runs on Office 365, OneDrive is the better option. Likewise, Zoho WorkDrive works well for teams using Zoho. (You’ll find solid reasons to choose Zoho over G Suite.) Dropbox Business is also a great alternative to Google Drive.

Visit: Google Drive (Free, premium plans available)

6. IFTTT: For Automation

How to Use IFTTT Applets With Advanced Filters - create new applet

Whether you work solo or on a team, there are bound to be repetitive tasks that take up a lot of your time. The smart thing to do is to narrow down the ones that don’t need your input and then automate them using IFTTT or IFTTT alternatives.

We have plenty of resources here at MakeUseOf to help you automate various aspects of your work. Begin with our ultimate guide to use IFTTT like a pro.

Visit: IFTTT (Free, business plans available)

Take the Pain out of Remote Work

The online collaboration software listed here is a good place to start building your remote work toolkit. Of course, you might also need other software tailored to your job description. (For example, being on a design team, you might consider an online collaborative whiteboard or a design feedback app indispensable.)

But, at the very least, the types of apps listed above are essential for stress-free remote work. They work for small teams and solopreneurs, and can be scaled to accommodate remote work requirements for large teams.

Want more tips for home office productivity? Visit these super sites for remote workers and also our remote work hub Succeed at Remote Work: 70+ Tips for Working From Your Home Office Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. But with the right equipment, tools, and routines, remote work can be amazing. Read More .

Related topics: Cloud Storage, Collaboration Tools, Google Hangouts, IFTTT, Project Management, Remote Work, Self-Employment, Time Management, Trello.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. DJL
    May 24, 2018 at 3:03 am

    Excellent list of tools. Have you tried NowBridge.com? It's a great team connectivity app which creates the illusion of being in a room together by sharing small, filtered, still images every few seconds with the people you choose to connect with. This way you can see who is there and if they are free, but it still creates a privacy barrier compared to a live video feed. The system is mutual so you can only be seen by the people you can see. Additionally it allows you to open up chat windows with your team.

  2. Maya
    November 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Great tools, thanks for posting! I'm using some of those, though I have to say I love my online calls with ClickMeeting as it's simple and friendly.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      November 20, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      Glad to hear you liked them, Maya. And thanks for mentioning ClickMeeting. I'll file that away for a future article :)

      • Maya
        November 23, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        You're welcome! There's so many cool apps to find. Looking forward to your next articles :)

  3. Jason Dill
    November 18, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Hey, R-HUB web conferencing server is another very good online conferencing and collaboration tool.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      November 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      I hadn't heard of R-HUB, Jason. Thank you for pointing it out.

  4. Anonymous
    October 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Great writeup Akshata, love how you categorized the classes of Apps and functions needed for remote work, and while i should not do this in the comment section, i wish i could get you to take a look at Smartag (www at smartagapp dot com) for teams, Task/Project Management, Group calendar, File sharing and management, Team Chat, personal messaging and HD video chat and the interface is intuitive. I will appreciate if you get to see it. Should follow you on twitter right away. Thanks

  5. Anonymous
    October 29, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Great tools, thanks!

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      November 20, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Thank you for reading, Jane :)