Make Remote Working More Efficient With These Top 6 Free Software Options

By: on June 1, 2020

Over the last few years, remote work has become integral to how businesses function. In fact, according to a 2019 Getapp survey, as many as 65% of full-time employees in the United States work remotely at least once a month, while 22% work exclusively remotely.

Additionally, there is the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the remote work trend on steroids and accelerated its adoption at unprecedented rates.

In such situations, it becomes imperative for every business to have the appropriate tools to go remote. While large businesses can get extensive information on how to grow their remote working culture and have the resources to pay for the required tools, small and midsize businesses often struggle.

To help such small and midsize businesses find remote working tools that meet their needs for free, we’ve put together this article. To be considered for this article, the tools had to:

  • Offer a stand-alone free version of the software that is not too restrictive (i.e., supports more than three users and offers the core features for remote working).
  • Have an overall rating of 4.5 (without rounding off) on Software Advice in the last one year.

To know more about how we selected these tools, check out our methodology here.

Top 6 free remote working tools

In alphabetical order


  1. Asana
  2. Flock
  3. Slack
  4. Todoist
  5. Trello
  6. Zoom

1. Asana

Asana logo
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Customer support rating: 4.3/5
Reviews: 1,866

Asana is a project management tool that helps remote teams visualize tasks, responsibilities, timelines, and resources. It helps teams stay on top of projects and deadlines while improving their communications and collaboration.

The core features of the tool include a dashboard, task management, reporting, and automatic notifications.

Key features:

  • Use 50+ templates for marketing campaign plans, employee onboarding, sales plans, product roadmaps, etc.
  • Create custom drop-down, number, or text fields to fit tasks and project plans to business needs.
  • Duplicate a task in multiple projects, such that work can be highlighted and shared in context.
  • Integrate with multiple third-party platforms, such as Slack, Google Drive, and Salesforce.

Free version includes:

Tasks, list view, board view, calendar view, assignee and due dates, collaboration among (up to) 15 team members, and integration with third-party apps.

Ideal use case:

Small teams working on projects that have multiple components and require granular visibility into the workflow can explore the tool. They can use it to assign tasks to team members, create a workflow from one team member to another, and visualize progress.

Visualizing project timelines in Asana

Visualizing project timelines in Asana (Source)


2. Flock

Flock logo
Overall rating: 4.6/5
Customer support rating: 4.7/5
Reviews: 133

Flock is a cloud-based collaboration tool that helps teams bring social-media-style communication into the workplace. Team members can forgo traditional email communication to talk via group channels and private chats.

The core features of the tool include text chat, audio and video calling, and screen sharing. The tool also allows users to tag colleagues in comments via @mention, attach documents to conversations, and share multimedia files.

Key features:

  • Invite guests from outside the organization to access specific files and channels.
  • Create to-do lists without leaving a channel discussion, add due dates, and assign them to team members.
  • Hold polls with team members to make quick decisions.
  • Integrate with multiple third-party applications, such as G Suite, GitHub, Trello, and MailChimp.

Free version includes:

Unlimited one-to-one and group messages, 10,000 searchable messages, 10 public channels, 5GB total team storage, single team admin, and only one-to-one video calls.

Ideal use case:

Small teams with projects involving extensive discussions and contributions from multiple team members can explore the tool. They can hold project-based discussions, share multimedia files with the group, and extract a list of to-dos from the discussion thread itself.

Shared to-dos in Flock

Shared to-dos in Flock (Source)


3. Slack

Slack logo
Overall rating: 4.7/5
Customer support rating: 4.5/5
Reviews: 4,459

Slack is a cloud-based collaboration tool quite similar to Flock in its functioning. It provides a formal, yet interactive format for teams to communicate.

Some of its core features include chats, channels, and threads. It also offers audio and video calls, as well as bookmarks in conversations.

Key features:

  • Pin messages to channels to highlight need-to-know items.
  • Search, sort, and filter functions that help users find information quickly.
  • Use /remind command to set reminders for events, deadlines, meetings, and more.
  • Integrate with third-party apps, such as Google Drive and Asana, to embed information and tasks into the communication stream.

Free version includes:

Unlimited private and public channels, 10,000 searchable messages, integration with up to 10 apps, one-to-one audio and video calls, file sharing, and personalized notifications.

Ideal use case:

Small businesses that have multiple small teams that need to communicate within themselves as well as with others. The tool can help reduce back-and-forth emails and allow users to have easy comment-based discussions, pull in team members with @mention, and effectively demonstrate points with multimedia files.

Embedding a Google doc into a Slack channel.

Embedding a Google doc into a Slack channel (Source)


4. Todoist

Todoist logo
Overall rating: 4.6/5
Customer support rating: 4.4/5
Reviews: 426

Todoist is a project management and collaboration tool that helps users organize work into private lists or shared to-dos. It also helps users visualize progress on projects with daily, weekly, and monthly reporting.

The tool bundles together project scheduling, document management, and task management functionalities. It also offers recurring task dates and color codes to set priorities.

Key features:

  • Mark favorite projects and have labels or filters pinned to the menu.
  • Allow users to communicate and share multimedia via the comments section on each subtask, task, and project.
  • Award points—Todoist Karma—for completing tasks and maintaining a productivity streak.
  • Integrate with third-party tools, such as Automate.io, Cisco Webex, and TimeCamp.

Free version includes:

Up to 80 projects and 5 people per project.

Ideal use case:

Small and midsize teams that need to break bigger chunks of work into multiple tasks to be assigned to members. They can also use the tool to set reminders for recurring tasks in projects.

Sharing a pdf document on a task in Todoist

Sharing a PDF document on a task in Todoist (Source)


5. Trello

Trello logo
Overall rating: 4.6/5
Customer support rating: 4.4/5
Reviews: 5,300

Trello is a Kanban-style project management tool that helps teams visualize work in a stream of boards, cards, and lists. It can also help build workflows with custom board designs, rule-based triggers, and calendar commands.

The core features of the tool include due dates, comments, attachments on tasks, and assignees.

Key features:

  • Use dozens of templates to save time on creating workflows from scratch and adapt existing workflows for projects.
  • Send creative assets for approval by displaying them as thumbnails on cards (as opposed to a task with a name and an image attachment).
  • Create checklists within cards and reflect progress in percentage.
  • Turn emails into cards by sending them to a custom email address for each board and user.

Free version includes:

Unlimited personal boards, up to 10 team boards, unlimited cards, unlimited lists, 10MB per file attachment, simple automation features, and commands limited to one card button, one board button, and one rule. Users can run a maximum of 50 commands per month and get one Power-up (turn the board into an application that pulls information and data from outside services directly) per board.

Ideal use case:

Small and midsize teams that need to break projects into granular components and include visual elements, such as graphics, in projects. They can use the tool to set up workflows, provide inputs, and gain quick approvals on tasks.

Project organized into boards and cards on Trello

Project organized into boards and cards on Trello (Source)


6. Zoom

Zoom logo
Overall rating: 4.6/5
Customer support rating: 4.5/5
Reviews: 3,272

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that helps remote teams connect via audio and video calls. One highlight of the tool is its link-based meeting system that allows participants to join meetings by clicking on the shared links.

Other core features of the tool include private and group chat, host controls, and plug-ins for Google Chrome and Outlook.

Key features:

  • Use the full-screen and gallery view to switch between active speakers and call participants.
  • Hold virtual open-door hours via personal rooms wherein team members can pop-in for an instant call.
  • Use breakout rooms to split a meeting into smaller virtual rooms.
  • Share screens and co-annotate to discuss project documents and deliverables.

Free version includes:

Ticket support and unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants and a 40-minute time-cap for each session. It also includes extensive video conferencing, web conferencing, and group collaboration features.

Ideal use case:

Small and midsize teams that need to connect or collaborate with members outside of their organization’s IT network. The tool’s link-based meeting system allows members from multiple organizations to come together without a hassle.

Recording a call in Zoom.

Recording an ongoing call in Zoom (Source)


Tool selection checklist

Despite having a basic understanding of the tools’ requirements, making a choice can be overwhelming. To further ease this process, we’ve prepared this checklist to keep in mind:

  • Free version offers the core features needed.
  • Free version supports enough users for the required teams to use it.
  • The tool integrates with the existing software.
  • The tool is secured using methods such as end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and single sign-on.

Only shortlist tools that meet these criteria. Then, read their reviews and request a demo to get a look-and-feel before finalizing one.

For personalized help in selecting a tool or to learn about more options, schedule an appointment with our advisors.


Methodology

To select the products mentioned in this article, we identified the top product listings for remote work software searches via Incognito Google search on April 29, 2020. Products that appeared on these listings at least twice during this research were shortlisted for further evaluation.

The shortlisted products were evaluated against the definition of remote work software: Remote work software gives employees the tools they need to be productive outside of the office. Whether using a web conferencing platform to attend a meeting, a project management system to know what to work on next, or a collaboration tool to stay in touch with co-workers throughout the day, remote work software keeps employees connected wherever they happen to be.

The tools were further evaluated basis:

  • Products not falling into one of the following software categories were eliminated: web conferencing, collaboration, virtual private network, project management, remote support, and employee monitoring.
  • Products not offering a stand-alone free version (that does not have to be purchased at the end of a specified period) were eliminated.
  • The stand-alone free version must provide a reasonable amount of flexibility in use (tools that are restrictive to less than 3 users or don’t offer the core features required in the free version, were eliminated).
  • Cloud storage products were eliminated despite falling under the umbrella of project management to focus on core project management features, such as collaboration, RFP management, and templates.
  • Overall rating of 4.5 (without rounding off) on Software Advice’s software directory between April 28, 2019, and April 28, 2020.
  • 10 or more reviews on Software Advice’s software directory between April 28, 2019, and April 28, 2020.

Tools that met all the above criteria were selected for the article.

GetApp Remote Work Survey, November 2019

The remote work survey referenced in this article was conducted by GetApp in November 2019, among 912 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States. A follow-up survey was conducted in November 2019 among 394 respondents who reported full-time employment in the United States.

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