Work culture today is very different from that of 100, or even 10 years ago. Technology has changed the way we live and work, with new innovations constantly shaping our professional lives in different ways. The requirement for teams to physically sit together to finish a project is obsolete. Now, people can work from different parts of the world and accomplish successful projects like never before.
Remote work has gained popularity over the years, and the COVID-19 pandemic gave this trend a massive boost. Consequently, as more and more companies adopt the remote work model, more and more remote work collaboration and communication tools are available. So many that it can be hard to know which to choose!
Of course, you could try every online communication tool on the market, but who has time for that? We’ve put together the top 10 business communication tools that are popular, highly rated, and packed with extensive productivity features. Read on to learn everything you need to know about these tools, as well as the pros and cons of each.
10 Best Communication Tools for Efficient Remote Teamwork
It’s hard to pick only 10 favorites from the many remote communication tools available today. The below picks are the most popular and highly rated solutions for team collaboration. They all have the high-end features you’ll need to manage your projects and communicate in the best and most productive way possible.
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1. Google Suite
2. Microsoft Teams
Zoom is a team communication software that acts as a one-stop shop for all your meeting, chat, and conferencing needs. It has an excellent interface for scheduling and managing meetings efficiently, and lets you send email meeting invites.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has become one of the most popular business communication tools. It’s primarily used as a high-quality video conferencing tool, though it also has many additional features such as user management, statistics and reports, and branding options.
Document sharing is another key feature. You can easily drag and drop files for sharing and collaborating with other team members. You can also share your screen with them for more productive discussions. Business instant messaging service, video webinar, and Zoom Room are other notable features. This high-level communication tool also lets you record full-length video calls and offers a synchronized information library.
Zoom also easily integrates with a range of programs and online applications, such as HubSpot CRM, MS Outlook, Zapier, and many others. Zoom can function on the web, iOS devices, and Android platforms.
Cost: You can use the basic version of Zoom for free, and there is a free trial available for paid versions. Among the paid versions, Zoom Pro is $13.99 per month, per host, and can accommodate up to 9 hosts. As the number of hosts increases, you’ll need to upgrade to Zoom business (up to 90 hosts) or Zoom Large Enterprise Ready (50+ hosts). Both these versions cost $18.99 per host per month.
- High-quality video conferencing
- Screen and document sharing and in-conference chat
- Full-length meeting recording
- Synchronized information library
- Ability to run reports and gather statistics
- Easy integration with other apps
- Multifunction tool that works for meetings, events, and more
- Can allow large numbers of meeting attendees (up to 10,000) — allows for company-wide meetings, webinars, and more
- Allows meetings to be streamed on Facebook
- Extremely easy to use
- Free with some limitations
- Wonderfully scalable for any business size
- Integrates with Google calendar
- Subscription-based, but also has add-on services that cost extra (for example, to hold meetings for thousands of viewers, you need to pay thousands of dollars extra monthly)
- In some cases, such as public events, it can be difficult to moderate inappropriate comments on the fly
- “Zoombombers” – bad actors who somehow find access into meetings and “crash” them
- 720p standard quality for speakers (largely due to the massive demand on the platform)
Slack is yet another popular team communication tool, allowing all team members to stay up to date with tasks and projects. Team members can share ideas and information and communicate via instant messages.
One of Slack’s strengths is that you can create channels for specific topics or teams, helping teams organize their communications. Team members can also share comments, making collaboration more efficient by keeping all communication in the same place.
Slack also has a search function to let you easily find comments or messages.
Furthermore, unlike many messaging platforms, Slack lets you send messages to yourself, which is handy for personal notes and reminders.
There is also a dedicated reminder feature that allows you to send reminders to a particular person or channel.
Slack easily integrates with many popular business tools including Trello, Google Docs, and other communication solutions for business.
Cost: Slack has a free version that gives you access to its basic features. Paid premium options start at $8 per month and $80 per year.
- Private and team messaging
- Ability to organize chats by topics or teams
- Comment sharing
- Search function
- Integration with other online business tools
- The ability to create Slack channels, which can be private, public, or shared
- Instant communication allowing for easy real-time collaboration
- The ability to direct message individuals allows for quick conversations without involving a channel (and allows for off-topic conversations here and there)
- Excellent security measures
- Desktop and mobile app available
- Searchable message and file history
- Can become a distraction if the company Slack is active enough
- Possible to share files, but storage can be limited depending on how much you pay for
- Without ground rules and guidelines, can get disorganized
Trello is a very popular project management collaboration platform, thanks to its simplicity and user-friendly interface, which gives you a simple visual representation of all your projects and tasks. It’s highly customizable, so you can easily use it to keep yourself on track.
Using the Kanban system, Trello organizes projects into boards. Under each board, you can create columns and fill them with various tasks. Different stages of multiple tasks are easily viewable on Trello’s interface, and anyone can make comments, allowing for efficient collaboration in teams.
Trello’s flexibility is what has made it one of the most popular project management tools. Large projects and small tasks can also be organized separately on your Trello dashboard.
There are also tagging and color-coding functions that allow you to prioritize tasks.
You can assign tasks to different team members and track their progress using Trello’s Activity Area.
Cost: Trello’s basic plan is free, with a Standard version available for $5 per user per month, and premium options starting at $10 per user per month.
- Simple visual overview of all tasks and projects
- Team members can comment on tasks for efficient collaboration
- Tagging and color-coding
- Ability to assign tasks to team members and track progress
- Incredibly easy to understand; gentle learning curve allows for universal adoption
- Task automation is possible even on free accounts
- Tons of possible upgrades (for example to take Trello beyond being a Kanban board)
- There are third-party customizations, although they won’t always be the best or always supported
- The free plan is quite limited, so if you need more features you will have to upgrade
- Not always the best choice for larger businesses or businesses experiencing quick growth
- Trello still hasn’t implemented proper permissions settings, meaning you have to be able to trust the people working with the Kanban cards
Skype has long been one of the world’s most popular online communication tools. It has an efficient interface for all modes of communication such as video, audio, and text. While its primary functions include instant messaging, video, and audio calls, Skype also lets you conduct meetings and run video conferences online.
Other handy features include SMS integration and voice mail, as well as report creation and statistics monitoring.
Skype integrates with many programs such as Microsoft Outlook, Slack, Bitium, and MS Dynamics CRM.
Cost: Most of Skype’s features are free, but you need to pay to use it to make calls to landlines. You can either do this by loading credits on your account and paying by the minute, or through a subscription to a premium version, which starts at $2.99 per month. While you can conduct small virtual meetings and group chat sessions with the free version, upgrading to a paid version will let you conduct larger group meetings.
- Video and audio calls
- Instant messaging
- Group video conferencing
- Integration with other apps
- Ability to run reports and statistics
- Has been around forever, and for free (although limited)
- Can screenshare
- Video or audio calls possible
- Easy to install and get started
- Allows smaller group calls even without group features
- Secure calls
- Affordable subscription plans
- Skype has significantly improved upon issues that used to plague the service — impossibly garbled conversations are far rarer today
- Quality will still depend on the call participants’ internet connections
- There are no noise-canceling measures included with Skype, which means you’ll need a quiet background or a noise-canceling headset or microphone
- Not the best for larger meetings
- There can be video-audio syncing lags here and there
Monday is an excellent project management tool that allows for efficient team communication. Managers and team members alike collaborate through the same dashboard, keeping everyone focused on a common goal. Monday takes task management seriously, with each task seen as a building block towards the final objective.
This advanced tool is equipped with features that can accommodate even very large teams. One handy feature is that you can customize your viewing options according to your preferences. This lets you get the most accurate picture of your workflow, checklists, reports, timelines, and project overview.
You can also set notifications for various parameters, such as approaching deadlines, and it’s easy to track progress and update tasks or project statuses.
Each team member can upload and share documents and information to a common dashboard so that everyone gets timely updates as the project progresses.
Managers can use Monday to assign tasks to team members according to their workload, location, experience, or performance.
Cost: Monday offers a free version and a couple of paid versions that allow for more users. The standard package costs $14 per month, the Pro costs $22 per month, and the Enterprise has tailored pricing that requires contacting the platform.
- Common dashboard for viewing tasks and projects
- Ability to assign tasks to different team members
- Customizable viewing preferences
- Flexible notifications
- Document sharing
- Great user interface and wonderful user experience
- Email notifications for important events, tasks, and more
- Team communication is possible via forms and comments
- Many templates allow you to save plenty of time creating and managing projects and tasks
- Many possible integrations with apps like Trello, Slack, and Google Docs
- Larger teams working on larger projects may find the dashboard feeling cluttered and overwhelming
- Dashboards can take a long time to load if there is a lot of data to sync from Monday’s servers to individuals’ devices
- Lack of messaging feature can make it difficult to track past conversations about projects
- Pricey paid plans
- Steeper learning curve can make it difficult for all employees to seamlessly adopt
- Not exactly a task management tool, meaning you won’t have variables like project start or end dates, deliverables definitions, etc
Xtensio allows team members to collaborate to create excellent content, such as creatives or web pages.
It’s one of the best marketing communication tools around, allowing teams to create high-quality sales presentations, guides, and templates. This allows for powerful collaboration between team members, bringing everyone’s ideas together to create valuable marketing content.
Xtensio has a vast library with a wide range of templates if you don’t want to work from scratch. Collaboration is easy because every change is updated live and instantly synchronized across all devices.
You can browse, label, and organize documents, as well as categorize them according to clients, projects, or teams.
Xtensio takes data security seriously, using SSL encryption for all information on its network, and keeps a reliable backup of your data.
Cost: You can try out Xtensio’s features and use its templates for free, but if you want to use its collaboration features, you’ll need to sign up for one of their plans, which start at $10 per month.
- Content creation
- Large template library
- Instant synchronization of updated content
- Document organization
- SSL encryption of all information
- Easy to use with a gentler learning curve for even the not-so-tech-savvy
- Great templates available to make content creation easier and more manageable
- Convenient collaboration with teammates is possible
- The options are more limited when it comes to chart and graph creation
- Revision history, undo, and redo features sometimes run into problems
Hive is one of the most popular team communication tools around that allows teams to collaborate on projects and tasks.
Its Portfolio view allows you to view more than one project in the same place. It shows your action list and provides a native chat interface, helping you manage multiple tasks from one window.
Hive has many features that promote effective team collaboration, like action cards, email integration, and file sharing. You can use templates for recurring tasks, and use timesheets and workflow charts to manage projects efficiently. It offers four viewing options — Gantt chart, Table, Kanban, and Calendar views — so you can choose the one that works best for you.
Hive Notes is another feature that can make meetings more efficient, allowing you to take notes, assign tasks, and track progress through the platform.
Hive can integrate with over 1,000 applications including Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, and Slack, which allows you to work with all these tools through a single, centralized interface.
Cost: You can sign up to Hive for around $12 per month per user.
- Multi-project overview to manage multiple tasks in a single window
- Four viewing options – Gantt chart, Table, Kanban, and Calendar
- Timesheets and workflow charts
- Ability to take notes and assign tasks during meetings
- Integrations with over 1,000 apps
- Tons of features combined into one software so teams won’t need as many tools
- Incredibly versatile and customizable
- Great customer support
- Value for money pricing plans
- More than 1,000 possible integrations, especially for the most popular business communication software
- The desktop app is full-featured and robust, but the mobile app feels lacking in comparison
- Can be difficult to get used to due to challenging navigation and learning curve
- Notifications on Hive are popups in the app that can get distracting and frustrating to deal with
- Hive sometimes has issues with dependent task creation
GitHub is one of the most popular remote collaboration platforms for software developers, thanks to its coding and development features.
Developers can share their code with team members, manage projects, and perform software development processes through GitHub.
You can use this platform to work on both open-source projects as well as private program development. Irrespective of their location, all team members can collaborate efficiently using the vast variety of tools available on the GitHub marketplace.
Cost: Github’s basic features are free to use, with advanced collaboration features available with premium options, which start from $4 per user per month.
- Ability to share code and other aspects of software development
- Project management
- Software development processes
- Open-source and private program development
- Incredibly versatile tool for projects of any size
- Works well for publishing work, also functions as a versioning system
- Easy to get started without any additional setup
- There is a somewhat steep learning curve
- Not always great for using during the creative process
- Graphic user interface isn’t always easy, especially for those who are used to GitHub’s command line interface
5 Benefits of Using Remote Team Communication Tools
Now that we’ve covered the best internal communication tools available today, let’s take a look at their advantages. There are many benefits of using remote work communication tools, from boosting productivity to cutting expenses.
- Better Teamwork
Great internal communication tools give everyone access to the information they need, so no team member is left out. Better communication builds stronger employee relationships and creates a unified work culture that produces better results. Team members who have strong internal communication are more focused and work toward a common set of goals.
- Increased Productivity
Remote communication tools improve and streamline team communication for businesses, making teams more productive. Easy and centralized access to documents and updated information reduces double work or tasks falling through the cracks, boosting productivity.
- Better Client Relationships
Virtual communication platforms are not only great for team members, but also for clients and other stakeholders. Clients can easily get timely updates and know how their project is progressing. They can also suggest real-time changes and give feedback, greatly improving your relationship with your clients.
- Increased Access to Talent
Collaborating via online communication tools makes it possible to hire employees from all over the country, or even the world. This means organizations have greater access to great talent with specialized skills.
- Reduced Costs
Remote communication tools allow employees to work from home, which helps companies cut down on expenses like rent, maintenance, and office equipment. For example, IBM saved $50 million in real estate by moving towards a remote work model.
Contrary to what you may believe, studies show that employees believe they are more productive when working remotely.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to adopt a work-from-home model, many feared that productivity would suffer. However, in many cases, the opposite has proved to be the case.
This is thanks in no small part to the many exceptional team collaboration and communication tools that are available these days.
During times of uncertainty and change, it’s hard to tell how remote work culture will evolve in the coming years. However, having tools like these at your disposal will help you to prepare for anything!
What are Communication Tools?
Anything that can help a company’s remote and dispersed team talk and collaborate efficiently no matter where they are can fall under the umbrella of communication tools. These tools help keep a workplace informed and connected and help to improve the relationship between employees and management.
A great example of an office communication tool is a Social Intranet. Social intranets are essentially social media platforms — but for the workplace. A social intranet can serve many functions — it can be an internal messaging tool, a collaboration tool, a forum, a way for organizations to announce information, and more. This communication platform also offers many benefits. Employees can talk, comment, contribute, and even bond through a social intranet, all on their terms. And when employees can bond and create positive relationships, this could positively affect the company’s culture and potentially result in happier, more productive, and loyal employees.
There are so many other types of office communication tools out there today. Here are some of them:
- Instant Messaging – These days, most businesses require quick communication in real time. Email used to fulfill this function, but the truth is it’s suboptimal for fast, no-fuss, no-confusion communication. Instant messaging allows collaboration to happen in real-time without the lag caused by email communications. The ability to communicate without delay while keeping records of prior communications makes tools like Slack such a valuable addition to a company’s tool kit.
- Voice and Video Conference Tools – However, thanks to global quarantine policies following the 2020 pandemic, the process of companies adopting hybrid or fully-remote work became greatly accelerated. Nowadays, many companies have continued allowing remote work, ensuring that voice and video conferencing are here to stay. And even if a company doesn’t have any remote workers, these tools are practically necessary for conducting business in this day and age. Tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become must-haves in any business’s arsenal. It’s also worth noting that many communications tools integrate with popular voice/video conference tools.
- Email Management Tools – There’s no doubt that email is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean you should accept it in its basic form. Email blasts, CCing, and BCCing aren’t always practical ways to share information or communicate since emails can quickly get buried in massive inboxes. Email management tools can help improve the effectiveness of email communication in the workplace.
- Task or Project Management Tools – You’d be hard-pressed to find an effective and productive company that doesn’t use some form of task or project management tool, especially in the current remote work environment. It’s vital for teams to have their projects and tasks laid out so it’s clear who needs to do what and when. Project management tools like Trello or Monday help make efficient collaboration possible, even when teams are dispersed around the globe.
- Collaboration Tools (Documents, Spreadsheets, etc.) – Most companies will need access to collaboration tools that allow them to work on the same files simultaneously. Google Workspace provides teams with web apps that enable real-time collaboration on forms, word documents, slides, and spreadsheets.
- Social Media Management Tools
- File-Sharing Tools – You may not think file-sharing tools are considered business communication software, but they are. Tools like Dropbox, iCloud, and Microsoft OneDrive make it possible to organize and share files securely without any file size limitations. These tools also usually offer backup solutions to prevent the loss of important files. File-Sharing Tools allow you to share files easily and quickly (often via an e-mail invitation or shareable URL) with no fuss.
- Discussion Forums – A discussion forum can act as a dedicated space where employees can share knowledge, ask questions, and talk about their ideas or any new trends they may have noticed. These forums become small communities where people can talk and build relationships without ties to work projects or productivity. Tools like Slack can also allow this on a limited level through the channels feature.
Of course, many other tools can improve the communication, general knowledge, and culture of employees at a company. For example, employee directories can help lessen the confusion when it comes to employees needing assistance knowing who they need to reach within a company’s hierarchy. Internal videos, blogs, updates, and knowledge bases can significantly improve employees’ knowledge about their company’s products, services, and values. This increased knowledge has the potential to improve employee productivity and profitability, such as in the case of salespeople doing more to sell products or services they believe in.
Companies don’t need every single type of communication tool mentioned above. In fact, many business communication software can multitask, condensing many functions into one efficient software. It all depends on the size of your business and your needs.
What’s the Difference Between Communication Tools for Small Businesses and Tools for Enterprises?
Every communication tool is different despite many of them serving similar purposes. For this reason, what a small business needs can vary greatly from what a large enterprise with thousands of employees needs. Larger companies usually have massive tech stacks involving tool after tool to fill various needs. A smaller company generally won’t need anywhere near as many tools.
Despite most tools being unnecessary for smaller businesses, businesses of any size can benefit from ubiquitous tools like Google Workspace, task management software, and Slack.
How to Choose the Best Team Communication Tools
There will always be a place for communication tools in the workplace. However, with so many tools out there today, it can be difficult to know how to choose the right ones for your business. Generally, the best way to choose would be to know your individual needs and find tools that can fill them. Regardless, there are some general criteria that you can follow for choosing the best team communication tools for you. Consider the criteria below.
- Is the tool secure? These days, cybersecurity is paramount, especially with the prevalence of bad actors who may attempt data or even financial theft. Businesses handling sensitive data should always look into a tool’s security before committing, especially in the industries of finance, high tech, healthcare, and the like. Proper security can help to guarantee confidentiality, so look into the security measures of a tool.
- Does the software fulfill a function you need? In fact, you might want to ask: can the software fulfill multiple needs? If your business is the right size, you may be able to get away with an all-in-one tool, keeping everything condensed and in one place. An all-in-one solution can lessen the distractions and the need to go from one tool to another to get something done, saving time and money. If you can’t find an all-in-one tool, you can at least find a few that can multi-task well.
- Can the tool scale with your business? There’s no reason to invest in a tool and build an entire workflow around it only to find you need another tool later on. If your business grows quickly and outgrows your current tools and your tools don’t have any way of growing with you, you’re going to be in for a bad time.
- As with any product or service you are signing up for, it may help you to first consider — how’s the customer support? No matter how good a tool is, if you can’t reach anyone for assistance when something goes wrong, chances are the tool won’t be as helpful. It might be a good idea to look for tools that specifically focus on stellar customer service. Many tools offer paid tiers that come with dedicated customer relations agents or, at the very least, offer excellent customer support.
Of course, one of the most important things to ask yourself about a tool is — is the tool cost-effective? Is it reasonably priced and within your business’s budget? If it isn’t, it may serve you better to find something else.
And finally, another important thing to consider may be: would everyone on the team be happy with the tool? This consideration may be the most difficult one out of all, especially since everyone’s likes and tech skills may vary. At the very least, you can find a tool with a smaller learning curve so that employees can have an easier time learning and adjusting. Looking for tools with gentler learning curves can lessen the time they spend on training while also lessening frustrations all around.
In the end, the right tools will be the ones that can help make your teams (and as a result, your business) more efficient and productive. They also hold the potential to improve workplace relationships, employee happiness, and employee retention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which communication tool is best?
There is no one-size-fits-all communication tool out there today — the best tool(s) for you will depend on your needs and the size of your business. However, some tools are universally good. For example, most companies will probably be able to benefit from having collaboration tools like Google Workspace, messaging tools like Slack, task management tools like Monday, or file-sharing tools like Google Drive and Dropbox. In the case of smaller companies, it’s even possible to find multi-tasking tools that can lessen the total number of software needed.
What is the most commonly used online communication tool?
An argument could be made that email remains one of the most commonly used online communication tools despite all the new services and software available. However, many contemporary tools have also been growing in popularity. Task management tools, Slack, Zoom, and Google Workspace are widespread in many companies’ tech stacks.
Which is the fastest-growing communication tool?
Although it’s challenging to know which communication software is growing the fastest for sure, it’s easy to see that Zoom has seen astronomical growth in the past two years alone.
A quick look at Zoom’s history shows that it was first launched nearly a decade ago in 2013. Even after its initial release, the company saw growth — a million users within the first few months, ten million users a year after launch, and forty million two years after launch. But, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted Zoom to the front, making it a household name.
In May 2020, as many as 200 million users participated in daily meetings. In June 2020, that number blew up to 300 million.
Today, it continues to grow and gain new business and enterprise customers.
What is a communication tool?
Communication tools are apps or services that allow teams to collaborate and communicate no matter where they are in the world. There can be individual tools serving specific purposes or multi-tasking tools that perform many functions in one package. These tools can help improve workplace relationships and the relationship between employees and management. They may also improve productivity and efficiency.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to communication tools. Every individual and organization has their own distinct set of needs and requirements, so some business communication tools may be more suitable than others. It’s important to evaluate your priorities and choose the best tool or tools for you.
Having said that, all of the tools listed above have strong track records and are sure to meet most, if not all of your needs. They are well equipped with all the features you need to boost productivity, improve efficiency, cut costs, and ensure a smoother workflow.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.