Being productive in business is often more about how you do something than what you do. And doing things the wrong way can really add up. A recent survey estimated that, on average, employees in the UK waste 2.4 hours each week (1.8 billion working hours collectively per year) through inefficient meetings and a lack of technological support.
To help you and your team squeeze more out of each day, we’ve selected eight apps that streamline communication and collaboration. That way, you can focus more on the things that make the biggest difference to your business.
Slack – The instant messaging platform that’s putting emails into retirement
Slack is a team messaging platform that’s taken the world by storm, having grown to around 12 million daily active users since launching in 2013. For many businesses, Slack has replaced cumbersome internal emails with concise team chats. It’s a good choice if your team is highly collaborative, shares files frequently and works to tight deadlines that benefit from instant feedback. As well as direct messages between individuals, you can create channels dedicated to specific topics, like finance, brainstorming or marketing. You can also do video calls, search message archives, and invite external Slack teams (e.g. a supplier or client) to your space.
One word of warning: Slack is brimming with emojis, gifs and other features that make it easy for teams to get carried away with chatting. For maximum productivity, encourage users to stick to the designated topic for each channel.
Fuze – A cloud communications platform designed for the enterprise
If you’ve had enough of unreliable video conferencing apps, this suite of solutions could be the answer. Fuze is a single platform that covers screen-share meetings, video conferencing, instant messaging, and phone calls. Unlike apps that bolt video calls on as an additional (and sometimes glitchy) feature, Fuze specialises in high-definition video conferencing that is seamless enough to make remote meetings a truly viable alternative to travelling for a face-to-face meet-up. The result? Lower expenses and increased productivity.
Microsoft Teams – Collaborative workspaces with document integration
If you’re a Microsoft Office 365 Business subscriber, you’ll probably already have access to Microsoft Teams. Like Slack, it’s an environment that brings everything together in a shared workspace where you can meet, chat, share files, and use other business apps.
A major difference between Slack and Teams is that the latter integrates the full suite of Office 365 apps. For example, you can add a Word or Excel tab to a specific team and switch to it without leaving Microsoft Teams. This feature can make collaboration more efficient because you don’t need to leave the app to track down relevant documents.
Asana – A project management platform for getting things done
Asana is a project management platform that is specifically designed to increase team productivity. You can create spaces for individual projects and tasks, assign an individual to lead each project and other team members to tackle sub-tasks within it, organise deadlines, attach files, and more.
The main ways Asana helps to boost productivity are by preventing multiple people from working on the same tasks, making information easy to find, keeping crystal-clear to-do lists, and using templates for recurring projects and tasks.
Trello – Digital sticky-notes for supercharged to-do lists
Trello is a project management app like Asana but uses a simpler, more streamlined approach to organise your to-do lists. Instead of heavily focusing on workflow functionality, it prioritises task management through the use of visual "cards". Each workspace can have as many cards as needed, with lists and attachments added to each.
It’s a highly visual system that looks and feels like digital sticky-notes. If you want to improve your team’s collaboration and ensure nothing on anyone’s to-do list slips through the cracks, Trello could be a good fit. If you need a more advanced platform for tracking every moving part of a complex project, Asana could be the way to go.
Google Keep – Streamlined note-taking that’s totally free
Rolling out a new project management platform like Asana or Trello across an entire company can be a significant undertaking. However, if you want an immediate boost to your personal productivity, Google Keep could be the ideal choice.
It’s a stripped-back note-taking app with almost no learning curve and near-instant installation on Android, iOS, Chrome, or the web, so you can get started immediately. You can categorise and colour code notes, set reminders, use images as notes, share notes with others, record audio notes, and export to Google Docs.
Rydoo – Corporate travel and expense management made easy
Manually inputting expenses into spreadsheets or, worse yet, recording them on paper, can be cumbersome and prone to mistakes. Rydoo is a mobile, cloud solution for managing your expenses digitally. It has digital receipt management (including capturing and converting photos of paper receipts), currency conversion, itinerary management, trip notifications, mileage tracking and credit card integration. Rydoo claims to reduce expense time by at least 75% and have an average of 90% employee adoption within the first month.
Toggl – A time tracking solution that doesn’t waste more time
Toggl is a time tracking app that helps you understand what you and your team spend most of your time on and how you could work more efficiently and effectively. You tell Toggl what project and task you’re working on, then press the "start" button. When you take a break, you hit "stop". Toggl categorises and visualises everything that happens in between. For example, you might guess that you spend 45 minutes each day in your emails, when in fact it’s closer to 2 hours 45 minutes.
Using Toggl’s weekly reports, you can get a bird’s eye view of your activity, which makes it easier to spot opportunities to be more productive. If tracking your team’s time on a permanent basis sounds like a step too far, you could try using a tool like Toggl for one week to establish benchmarks for various teams and roles. That way, you discover what’s achievable in a certain time frame and can set realistic goals to gradually increase productivity without putting too much on anyone’s plate.
For more tips and inspiration on how to grow your business and boost productivity, check out our Business Trends and Insights hub.