2022: the year that employee productivity apps really came into their own.
After a couple of years of uncertainty around remote working and the extent to which it would be a long-term fixture, it looks like we’ve reached a resolution of sorts. Remote working, at least some of the time, is here to stay.
Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work Report suggests that nearly three quarters of businesses are planning to allow some amount of remote work, an increase of 26% from 2021. Meanwhile, definite ‘no’s have dropped to just 9%.
Another major issue: the dreaded Great Resignation. With the US now running on five million more vacancies than there are unemployed workers to fill them, it’s vital that you make the most of your current workforce’s abilities whilst competing to fill vacancies.
In other words, you need to do more with less. This doesn’t mean running your existing employees into the ground by piling up the workload – but it does mean that you should be thinking about which tools will help them work smarter.
Employee productivity apps are a broad range of tools that allow your employees to get more done with less effort. With the right combination of these tools, you’ll be able to:
- Offer remote working as an attractive employee benefit (97% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their career!)
- Seamlessly manage hybrid teams of location-based and remote employees
- Ease the burden on frontline teams caused by difficult-to-fill open vacancies
Here’s our definitive list of the best apps for productivity this year.
- The best productivity apps for 2022
- You won’t need every productivity app on this list
The best productivity apps for 2022
The best productivity apps for project management
You don’t need us to tell you that delivering on time and on-budget is vital to long-term business success. The good news is that, according to the PMI’s 2021 Pulse of the Profession Report, we’re gradually getting better in this department:
Still, with 45% of projects overrunning and 34% experiencing scope creep, there’s no time to rest on your laurels. These tools help your project managers keep everyone on track, ensure deadlines get hit and avoid scope creep.
We’ve never met anyone that doesn’t get on with Trello. It’s that simple to set up and use – and for small teams, the free version with a generous 10 boards will easily cover your needs. Put that calculator down and breathe a sigh of relief.
Trello is a kanban-style board, with expandable task ‘cards’ you can shift between vertical columns depending on the level of completion. This click and drag approach is simple, effective and a fantastic way of getting an at-a-glance view of project progress. Hard to beat, even with more expensive tools on the market.
If you’re a spreadsheet-based team out of necessity (stock incoming, sales etc) or if you rely on them for project management in other areas, you’ll love Airtable.
Perhaps best described as ‘spreadsheets on steroids’, Airtable is a great way of adding a little more functionality than Excel or Google Sheets can typically provide, with each cell linking to a card for task management. Go wild with customization, or use one of the many templates to get you up and running quickly.
For the discerning team who want a little more functionality from their tools, let us introduce…Basecamp. Basecamp offers it all – project hill charts, group chat, to-do lists, and a particularly useful automated check are the headlines, and there’s plenty more besides.
Basecamp has been an industry standard for a while now, which means there’s a good chance any PM you meet will know how to use it. That might seem like a minor point, but when it comes to getting the most out of the software and using it to run as tight a ship as possible, it makes all the difference.
If you’re managing fast, flexible project teams that are always on the go, Hive is the project management tool for you.
A range of different project views ensures that different management styles are well catered for, and with a personal to-do list alongside time tracking and team-wide resourcing features, Hive makes sure both PM and the wider team are on the same page.
Hive also offers a strong suite of automation features that save you valuable time throughout the day. You’ll be flying through those projects in no time.
The best productivity apps for collaboration
Whilst businesses have largely got to grips with collaborating digitally over the past couple of years, longer-term issues remain. In a recent survey, 65% of respondents cite at least one problem with current digital collaboration technologies and want them to be more user-friendly.
If you’re experiencing a similar problem, this is the section for you. Effective collaboration across remote and hybrid teams is entirely possible – with the user-friendly, accessible tools listed below, you can manage teams which span cities, countries and even continents, all from the comfort of your home office.
5. Google Docs
If your team regularly works by contributing ideas to the same document, Google Docs is a must. Over five million businesses now use G-Suite apps (including Docs) for collaboration purposes, and it’s easy to see why.
It does the same job as Office apps in Sharepoint, but is so much easier to use. The interface is more intuitive, the comments are easier to follow and interact with, and it’s clearer who’s added what to the document.
Docs doesn’t have some of the more advanced functionality of Microsoft Word – equally, if you’re using Google Docs as a collaboration tool rather than for creating high-spec print-ready documents, you probably won’t miss it.
If you’re finding that trusty old meeting room whiteboard difficult to replace, an online whiteboard tool like Miro offers the same potential for creativity as a physical board does – it just shifts the action online.
Trying to map out customer journeys, come up with new product ideas or encourage creative thought processes more generally in dispersed teams? Miro will help you unleash your team’s creativity much more effectively than ‘linear’ text tools like online notepads and word processors.
The online whiteboard is free, but you can expand this functionality with customizable templates, workflows and integrations via the paid version, starting at $10 per month.
Could we really do a post-pandemic roundup of productivity apps without mentioning one of the two video conferencing platforms that got us all through those confusing first few months?
We appreciate that you may already be ‘Team Zoom’ or ‘Team Microsoft Teams’ – and to be clear, both offer more than adequate video conferencing features. Whilst Zoom is definitely easier to get the hang of, Teams tips the scales for us because:
- The call allowance for its free plan is 20 minutes longer (60 minutes vs 40 minutes)
- If you’re Microsoft-based already, you won’t need to engineer any complex integrations
- Teams doubles up as a workplace messaging app, like Slack
So, if you’re looking for workplace messaging and video conferencing all rolled into one, Teams is the ideal option here. If you’re already set up with Slack or similar, or you don’t use any other Microsoft-based apps, you might find Zoom an equally useful alternative.
The best productivity apps for task management
If you’re sick of looking at a to-do list that never ends, you’re definitely not alone – terrifyingly, around 89% of people don’t regularly finish their daily to-do lists.
Partly, this is a productivity issue – but it also has a lot to do with how you manage and prioritize your tasks on a day-to-day basis. Ease that feeling of apprehension when you look at just how many tasks you need to complete with a task management tool. You’ll soon be crossing items off that list in no time!
For team leaders and project managers, Todoist offers an easy way of building to-do lists, assigning tasks to employees, and tracking completion.
We particularly like Todoist’s ability to set recurring due dates for regular tasks, and being able to color-code tasks by level of importance is useful too. If your team is even the slightest bit competitive, the Kama productivity view, which gamifies making progress against each task, is sure to speed up task completion.
It’s always useful to have a personal task management solution on hand, or to recommend to team members looking to max out their own productivity.
The wryly named Remember the Milk is part personal organizer and part personal scheduling app. Employees can use task priorities, due dates, repeats, lists and tags – all with email, SMS and mobile notification options – to keep on top of work, and to help find a suitable work-life balance.
With a clean, drag and drop interface and simple swipe right action to remove tasks from your list, Any.do is one of the most intuitive and well-designed task management apps out there.
Headline features here include a daily push notification to remind you of your schedule, adding tasks by voice command, a great scheduling assistant and integration with Slack and Alexa.
The voice features in particular make it ideal for busy teams on the go, who will appreciate time saved via dictation and Alexa integration.
The best productivity apps for employee engagement
Businesses with a large number of engaged employees report up to 21% more profitability, according to Gallup.
With stats like that, it’s impossible to deny how central employee engagement is to long-term success. Engaged employees stick around longer (no small consideration given how tough it is to find new talent right now) and are more productive whilst they’re with your business.
The key to employee engagement? Make everyone feel like a vital part of your organization, recognize great performance and provide skills/career progression opportunities.
Yes, it’s us. What can we say, we back ourselves…
Blink’s employee app is all about drawing everyone in your business to your overall mission, wherever they are. If your employees recognize their work as meaningful – and the rest of the organization does as well – engagement goes up. So does productivity.
How do we do that? By providing a mobile intranet alternative based around a social feed to reach all employees – not just the ones in the office. Frontline and remote teams can share their successes and their knowledge, visualize how their work contributes to wider organizational goals and recognize themselves as a central part of your business.
Alongside that, of course, you get access to all sorts of employee engagement tools, including secure chat and employee survey apps, a centralized document hub and a Pages editor for you to build engaging guides and blog posts.
In a recent survey of workers who left their jobs in 2021, 57% said they did so because they felt disrespected at work.
A rewards and recognition app is a great way of showing your employees that you appreciate their skills and talent, and hold the work they do in high regard. Bonusly allows managers to assign bonus points to their employees for great work, which can be exchanged for gift vouchers, cash or charity donations.
Out-of-box Integrations with other workplace apps, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoho, and Zapier) means that any recognition is visible publicly. Employees appreciate being given the choice of a reward that’s relevant and meaningful to them.
The joint top reason that workers left their jobs (alongside low pay) was a lack of opportunities for career progression and advancement, with 63% of respondents listing it in the survey above.
To keep your talent engaged, you need to offer attractive opportunities for skills and career development. An expansive learning management system, or LMS, really helps with this – we think Docebo is a great pick here.
Docebo allows you to both create your own e-learning content and purchase courses from its online marketplace. This gives you the option of offering organization-specific courses and more general skills development opportunities, to open as many doors as possible for employees.
The best productivity apps for time management
Did you really need to spend three hours on that particular task, or did the perils of the online workplace get in the way?
Whilst, broadly speaking, employees work more productively at home – a large-scale Stanford University study suggests 13% more productive, to be precise – temptations remain ever present.
The ‘pets’ Slack channel, that guilty pleasure social media scroll, that recipe you needed to find for dinner tonight…we all have our distractions of choice. How could we not, with everything just a tap of a phone screen away?
Time management apps give us a better sense of how we’re spending our time so we can identify and phase out distractions.
Sometimes, simple is better. This is the case with Clockify, a completely free time tracking tool that lets you see where you’re putting in the most hours. Simply toggle the time to ‘on’, start working and turn it off when you finish a task.
It’s not just the tracker itself that’s free. Clockify also offers s timesheets, an invoicing tool, an expenses tracker, a project overview screen, leave management and analytics that let you explore how you’re spending your time. Impressive.
Stay motivated with RescueTime, a time tracking tool that assigns you a daily Focus Work goal and keeps track of your progress towards it. As it’s computer-based, this is one for remote desk-based workers in particular.
RescueTime tracks what you’re working on to alert you to the best possible time for uninterrupted work, and warns you when you’re losing focus or trying to complete too many tasks at once. Discover which websites distract you the most and opt to block access to them during Focus Work time.
In a recent study of working professionals, 40% reported getting interrupted 10 or more times per day.
Back to back video meetings, constantly having to reply to emails or instant messages, or even just browsing the internet can drain your employee’s productivity, particularly for remote workers. Let’s be honest – browsing holidays we can’t afford to put off replying to that awkward email? We’ve all done it.
Offtime lets you block access to apps and websites that you know distract you at specific times of the day. Whether you’re liable to extend your lunch break Insta scrolling or messaging friends instead of focusing on work emails, Offtime gives you time back to focus on the job, so you get things done quicker.
This also makes it ideal for maintaining a decent work-life balance (by blocking access to emails after a certain time, for example) or for carving out some ‘deep work’ focus time in otherwise meeting heavy schedules.
The best productivity apps for note-taking
Amongst the possibilities that online whiteboards, advanced project management tools and powerful employee engagement apps offer, it’s important not to forget the simple stuff.
Note-taking apps are perfect for jogging the memory, completing to-do lists and making sure everyone gets the key takeaways from a meeting or a one-to-one – perhaps this is why the note-taking app market is expected to more than treble in size between 2022 and 2028.
The beauty of Evernote is how flexible it is, scale-wise. Your employees can use it to track their personal tasks or make their own work to-do lists, but it works equally as well as a team-wide productivity app.
Designed to store and process notes, ideas and tasks in the same way your brain does, Evernote’s personal task management features are completely intuitive. You can expand this functionality significantly with the paid-for version, which offers appointment scheduling,calendars, note templates, document scanning, and a handy ‘web save’ tool for bookmarking useful online content.
It’s also super easy to use on smartphones and other mobile devices, which makes it perfect for teams who are on their feet all day – and the ability to add audio, video and PDFs to notes is invaluable for keeping everything in one place.
Make minute taking during meetings a thing of the past with voice transcription service Otter.ai. This handy AI tool takes real-time notes during your video calls and saves them in a secure and searchable database for future use.
This frees participants from the burden of taking notes themselves and ensures everyone’s working off accurate, centralized meeting minutes. Your team can engage more with what’s being discussed, and you reduce awkward post-meeting misunderstandings as a result of having an accurate, time-stamped record of who said what.
19. Day One
Productivity journaling – regularly spending small amounts of time writing some self-reflections on your working life – is a popular way to improve focus and critical decision making whilst reducing stress and tracking work towards key professional goals.
Why not encourage your employees to give it a go by offering them subscriptions to Day One, an easy-to-use mobile journaling app that lets you reflect wherever you are? Alongside the text editor, users can upload photos, videos and audio, or add sketches or handwritten notes using their finger or a stylus.
You won’t need every productivity app on this list
Ironically, that would make your team less productive.
Many of the apps on this list overlap with others – Trello, for example, makes a great task management tool, as does Clockify. It’s all about finding a combo that works well for you.
To a large extent, this will depend on the shape of your organization and the teams within it. Are your employees deskless frontline workers who will have to rely on mobile technology to access these employee productivity apps, or desk-based salaried workers with 24/7 desktop access? Does your business depend on a strict shift-based rota, or do you offer flexi-time?
Think about your working patterns and find apps that fit with them – your teams will soon have a suite of apps to help them get more done in less time.