Ever feel like your workday is dominated by responding to coworkers emails? How about asking team members for status updates? Or maybe you’ve spent an hour trying to track down the latest version of that project report?
Instead of meaningful teamwork—the kind that sparks great ideas, fulfilling professional partnerships, and business success—it feels like you spend all your time taking calls, sending emails, and attending meetings.
You’re not the only one.
It’s gotten so bad that researchers even coined the term “collaborative overload”.
The good news is there’s a better way.
And that’s thanks to collaboration tools.
These digital applications have different benefits: some improve communication, and others replace manual business processes. The central purpose is the same: simplify collaboration.
We’ve sorted through the top tools to help you find the best picks for your team.
What are Collaboration Tools for Teams?
Modern workplaces generate a staggering amount of information.
In 2019, 293 billion emails will be sent and received. And these messages pull our attention from important work. Research into instant messaging found that some employees viewed its “interruptive nature” as unfair.
Then there’s cost of managing all this data. Knowledge workers in this study spent, on average, four hours per week looking for documents.
So, not only is it difficult to keep up with daily communication, it sabotages sustained concentration: the kind of focus you need to do important work.
But at the same time, these are essential tasks. Without it, teamwork would grind to a halt.
Fortunately, collaboration software lets teams build central, digital workspaces. It’s why organizations use these software applications to enhance teamwork.
Here are some common collaboration tool types:
- Document management: easily create, edit and store documents. These services let you access full version histories. When you share files, assign permissions, e..g, some users might have limited access, and others may be able to edit.
- Communication: messaging applications and video conferencing tools go here.
- Project management software: brings all the project-related tasks into one forum. They typically offer features like task management, such as task dependencies, milestones, and progress reports.
Most of the tools integrate with other software applications. Google Docs, for example, integrates with electronic signature software like eversign.
Here are some of the ways collaboration tools maximize team productivity:
- Improved communication: all team communication is stored in one place. You now get updated, accurate information in a single space. No more digging through email threads to find messages.
- Increased productivity: gone are the days of spending hours searching for documents or having lengthy status update meetings. Plus, by paring down the list of tools, the team reduces the need for context switching.
How to Find the Right Collaboration Tools to Maximize Teamwork
Before diving in, make sure you assess the needs of your team.
Do you need to streamline communication? Are you looking for a better way to manage projects? What’s the size of your team?
Here’s a few pointers to guide your selection:
- When selecting a collaboration tool, prioritize ease of use. To get a feel for the application, try the free plan, trial, or demo.
- Assess the integrations available. The last thing you want is hassles connecting your collaboration tool to your existing systems.
- Consider your budget. Some applications bill per active user. Depending on the size of your team, this can add up quickly. Although many tools provide free plans, these are often limited.
- Check restrictions on searchable history. A tool like Slack, for instance, limits access to your archives in its free plan.
The 9 Best Collaboration Tools for Better Teamwork
Here’s a list of the top collaboration tools used by the world’s most productive teams.
When Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein joined Google as a product manager, he thought he’d landed his dream job. He’d be working with the world’s top designers to create exciting, new tech products. Instead, he spent most of his time doing “work about work”, attending meetings and preparing project updates.
And that’s when Rosenstein knew there was a need for a collaboration tool.
These days, Asana is one of the most popular collaboration tools on the market.
With Asana, teams can set deadlines and track overall project progress. View projects in list or board view, if you’re a Kanban fan.
Other collaborative features include:
- Conversations in tasks
- Assign tasks
- Set project milestones
- Advanced search
Teams turn to Trello to organize and prioritize work.
Trello uses the Kanban approach to categorize tasks, according to status:
- To do
- In progress
There are several ways you can use Trello to manage projects, and it’s a great way to visualize your work. With Trello, you can add due dates to tasks and tag team members. There’s lots of scope to set automations, like triggering actions when cards are moved or sending certain emails to Trello, for instance.
Basecamp gives teams a single space for real-time collaboration and communication.
With Basecamp, you can upload documents, organize tasks, and create calendars.
For task management, Basecamp lets you create to-do lists and assign tasks to team members.
To organize communication, each project has its own chat room. Real-time chat means you don’t need to use a separate application for team communication. There’s support for private, direct messaging.
A schedule tracks tasks and project milestones, complete with dates and times. You can save all the files related to a project in one space and have the option of linking directly to Google Docs. A full version history is available, so you can track changes and ensure you’re working on the latest version of the document.
To find information easily, there’s search capability. When it comes to reporting, teams can access a broad status update of all tasks, cutting out the need for manual follow-ups.
It’s hard to believe Slack started out as an internal messaging tool for a failed gaming startup. Who could have guessed it would go to become a multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley unicorn?
Each day, 12 million people from across the world use the app to communicate.
With Slack, you can create channels for specific topics, e.g., marketing, customer support, and sales. On top of posting messages in the channel, users can start threads in channels.
You can also:
- Send direct messages
- Attach files
- Video calls
- Screen share
You get access to your message history, but there are limits in the free plan.
Microsoft’s Skype is a popular video and voice call application.
By using Skype, you can make and receive video and voice calls from your phone and desktop.
In addition to video calling, you get to add live subtitles and record calls. For increased collaboration, you can share your screen with team members.
Like Skype, Zoom makes video calling possible. Zoom is ideal for online meetings and webinars.
On top of increased workplace collaboration, you can extend the reach of your services, too. For instance, you could provide client consultations or customer support via video.
In addition to video calling, Zoom lets you:
- Set up video calls from physical conference rooms - great for groups of distributed teams
- Send instant messages within the application
When it comes to workplace productivity, paper-based processes carry high costs.
Think about all the routine work involved with completing documents. There’s printing, signing, and scanning. And then there’s the delays that come with incomplete forms.
So that’s why teams use document collaboration tools like eversign. Upload any document from your computer or an application like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. Teams also save time by creating and saving templates.
With eversign you can:
- Package and send business documents for electronic signing
- Track progress of documents from the dashboard
- Offer user-friendly, secure signing for clients and new hires
Chances are you’ve used at least one application in Google’s G Suite, a popular set of collaboration tools.
Although you can use G Suite for calls and messaging, it also has a collection of apps for document management, like Docs and Sheets. The great thing about these cloud-based apps is how easy it is for teams to share, edit, and save files.
Team members can add comments in the document, suggest edits, and notify coworkers about amendments.
Like Google Drive, Dropbox keeps all your files in one space.
With Dropbox, teams can send large files from any device. We all know that feeling when we can’t send an email because the attachment is too large. Dropbox is the answer to those kinds of challenges.
So, now you can simply drop the link into an email or chat application.
Improve Teamwork with These Collaboration Tools
In the modern workplace, it’s becoming more and more common to collaborate across cities, countries, and even continents. Technology has made all of this possible. Despite the distance, distributed teams pool their efforts behind a collective purpose, a shared goal.
And with these collaboration tools, your team has everything it needs for a stress-free, simple way of working together.