These are the 10 best employee productivity tools of 2023 for SMBs
Sure, you may appreciate the reminders and notes programs that assist organizing tasks and capturing important information. Those are great apps. But some solutions are capable of far more. Some apps enable collaboration among team members, empower effective communications or simplify complex workflows.
Just which apps are best for powering productivity? Here’s our list of the 10 best employee productivity tools of 2023 for small and medium businesses.
1. Microsoft 365
The Microsoft 365 ecosystem is an obvious pick as the single greatest productivity-enabling solution. Packed with such popular office apps as Word, Excel, OneNote, Outlook and PowerPoint, the Microsoft 365 platform must be listed as a single entry to prevent its individual components from occupying each of the top-10 business app productivity list’s entries. Consider the fact Microsoft 365 subscriptions can also include email and shared calendaring, not to mention OneDrive, Teams, Project, SharePoint and the compelling suite of Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI apps that require little if any coding experience to deliver significant measurable results, and it’s easy to understand why Microsoft 365 has become a de facto small and medium-size business (SMB) standard.
A number of Microsoft 365 subscription packages are available at a variety of price points. A Microsoft 365 Business Basic subscription, for example, runs just $6 per user per month and includes web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, Outlook and OneDrive as well as SharePoint and Exchange-hosted business-grade email and calendaring, The Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan costs $12.50 per user per month and adds Access and Publisher along with desktop versions of those programs, among other features. Still numerous other combinations are possible, so ask your IT department or provider if you have questions, as various components can often be added on an almost a la carte basis that increases pricing just marginally.
2. Google Workspace
Google, of course, provides a compelling and capable Microsoft 365 alternative. The Google Workspace collection of collaboration and productivity tools covers a wide range of needs, even if the platform isn’t as comprehensive as Microsoft’s. The Google alternative is still significantly capable, which justifies its placing second on the list of best SMB productivity apps for 2023.
Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Meet video and voice conferencing, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Chat are among the many components making Google Workspace a leading productivity solution. Other optional Google solutions include Voice, a telephony service, and AppSheet, a no-code development platform that simplifies building mobile and web apps. Yet other available components include Forms, Sites and Keep, a popular note-taking app.
As with Microsoft 365, multiple Google Workspace subscription plans are available. The Business Starter plan begins at $6 per user per month and includes Gmail, Drive, Meet, Calendar, Chat, Jamboard (a whiteboading app), Docs, Sheets, Slides, Keep, Sites and Forms. The Business Standard upgrade is priced at $12 per user per month and increases storage from 30GB per user to 12TB, while increasing participant video meeting limits from 100 to 150 and adding recording capabilities.
A messaging solution that supports group conversations and collaboration, Slack enables organizing and coordinating multiple projects—or channels—among team members, whether those users are working from the same location or from different regions and time zones. The program’s Workflow Builder assists creating and adjusting processes, while flexible communications and file sharing capabilities further extend the app’s usefulness. Slack supports thousands of other tools and integrations—including from Asana, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft and Trello—making it easier for the platform to replace email and other tools and collect entire workflows within a single solution.
Multiple Slack pricing plans are available. A free version provides users with access to the most recent 90 days of messaging history and up to 10 integrations with other tools, as well as one-on-one audio and video meetings with screen sharing included. The Pro version, which costs $7.25 per user per month, includes all the free version’s capabilities but adds full message histories, unlimited integrations, audio and video meetings for up to 50 people and secure collaboration with outsiders and guest users. Business+ and Enterprise Grid versions are also available.
Borrowing from the kanban scheduling method popularized within Toyota’s lean manufacturing environments, Trello is a web-based task management platform that assists organizing workflows and projects. Think of Trello as an online board upon which you pin cards, notes, lists, files and other information while also assigning responsibilities and deadlines. You can create and maintain multiple boards and synchronize them across a variety of devices. The program enables automating workflows and assists visualizing complex initiatives and processes. Trellis also supports a variety of integrations, which further extends the app’s power and capabilities.
Trello offers multiple pricing plans. A free version includes unlimited cards, creating up to 10 boards per workspace and up to 250 workspace commands per month, among other features. The $5-per-user-per-month Standard plan adds unlimited boards, larger file sizes and up to 1,000 workspace commands each month, among other capabilities. Premium and Enterprise plans are yet two other plan options.
A cloud-based app for managing projects, Monday assists budgeting and planning, risk identification, resource management, approval processing and collaboration. The platform offers dashboards to assist monitoring project progress while also helping surface the need for any changes or adjustments. Supporting integrations with such leading tools as Microsoft Outlook and Teams, as well as Dropbox, Slack and Google Workspace, the project management platform can often quickly integrate an organization’s existing investments to better enable collaboration, communication and productivity.
Several Monday pricing plans are available. A free Individual account provides up to two seats, creating up to 1,000 tasks and brainstorming and planning features, while a $9-per-user-per-month Basic subscription adds unlimited tasks and projects, support for project requests, centralized project communication, Agile project support including Monday’s Kanban View, a dashboard and more. Standard, Pro and Enterprise plans are other options.
Collecting an impressive number of tools and capabilities, ClickUp, is designed to assist professionals fulfilling design, engineering, finance, HR, IT, marketing, project management, sales and other functions. With support for tracking and managing tasks, sharing and storing files, setting and tracking goals, enabling and tracking team chats and surfacing dashboards, among other capabilities, the online solution also offers templates, supports third-party integrations and permits customized and even automated workflows.
Some five ClickUp pricing plans are available, beginning with a Free option that includes 100MB of file storage, support for unlimited tasks, an unlimited number of plan members, whiteboards, real-time chat and collaborative documents. The $5-per-user-per-month subscription adds unlimited storage, integrations and dashboards, among other features, while the $12-per-user-per-month Business plan adds Google SSO compatibility, unlimited teams and support for advanced automations, among other features. Two other plans—Business Plus and Enterprise options—are also available.
Designed to assist organizations with maximizing social media efforts, Hootsuite is a management platform that assists planning, executing and tracking digital marketing initiatives on such outlets as Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. Social media marketing is only growing in importance and gaining efficiencies and optimizing processes will only help marketers become more productive. Hootsuite assists by providing an integrated platform from which an organization’s marketing team can better manage and maintain a business’ online presence and digital marketing initiatives.
Four Hootsuite pricing plans are available. The Professional plan is the entry-level subscription and runs $99 per month. Supporting one user, 10 social accounts, unlimited posts and the ability to schedule posts, messages are limited to a single inbox with that plan. The $249-a-month Team plan supports up to three users and 20 social accounts, while adding role and permissions capabilities and the ability to assign posts to specific team members. Business and Enterprise plans are also available that add approval workflows, support for content and asset libraries and greater limits.
While numerous task managers regularly win accolades, Todoist frequently appears on task management and productivity app lists. Boasting a clean user interface, the app assists tracking responsibilities and tasks across multiple projects. The program also offers the ability to delegate tasks, surface notifications and reminders, set priority levels, configure recurring actions, create subtasks, upload files and integrate with calendars and more. Centralizing all those capabilities within a single app assists busy professionals in completing the most important work first and remaining productive. Tracking activity history, meanwhile, assists reviewing work completed to date, while productivity visualizations assist remaining on track and completing initiatives on time. Todoist also supports numerous plugins and offers Android, iOS, macOS and Windows apps, among other options.
Todoist offers three subscription plans. A Free version enables creating up to five active projects and having up to five collaborators per project, as well as 5MB file uploads and viewing the previous week’s history, among other features. The $4-per-user-per-month Pro subscription enables having up to 300 active projects, 25 collaborators per project, 100MB file uploads and unlimited activity histories, among other capabilities. A Business option, supporting up to 500 active projects per member, is also available and adds team billing, among other features.
Calendar is just that: a calendaring app. Before you move on thinking you already have a calendar program on your phone or computer, know Calendar (as opposed to a standard default alternative) offers compelling and unusual features that enable saving time, time that can be dedicated to other activities to boost productivity. The app also offers convenience. You can extend anyone the ability to schedule a meeting on your calendar, while protecting pre-existing meetings or pre-reserved time slots. The program also eliminates the typical back-and-forth that occurs when trying to identify the time at which multiple attendees are available. Built-in analytics, meanwhile, assist productivity by helping you better understand where and how your time is spent and with whom.
Featuring one-click scheduling, accommodation for different time zones and simple multiple-person meetings, three different Calendar pricing models are available. A free Basic account includes using a personalized Calendar link, connecting one calendar (such as from Gmail, Outlook or Microsoft 365), a single customizable scheduling time slot and up to five team members, while a $20-per-user-per-month Standard account supports connecting up to three calendars, five customizable scheduling time slots, an unlimited number of team members, 15 meeting polls and analytics capabilities, among other features. A Pro plan, at $24 per user per month, is another option that enables connecting up to 10 calendars and having up to 50 workspace teams, among other capabilities.
Odds are good that, if you attend a motivational or productivity seminar, you’re going to hear about Notion, the web-based solution that assists coordinating and tracking personal and professional responsibilities and that includes Wikis, Docs and Projects components. Notion offers creative workspaces that assist brainstorming, planning, collaborating and managing a variety of initiatives across a range of fields. Notion enables creating planners, storing and sharing files, tracking individual projects and corresponding tasks, adjusting and filtering views and integrating information and workflows from a number of third-party sources, including Google and Microsoft apps, ClickUp and Trello.
Four Notion pricing plans are available. The Free version offers a collaborative workspace, several popular integrations, 5MB file uploads, basic page analytics, a seven-day history and support for up to 10 guests. The $8-per-user-per-month Plus subscription includes all the Free features and adds unlimited blocks for teams, unlimited file uploads, a 30-day page history and support for up to 100 guests. Business and Enterprise options are also available and further expand features and capabilities.
Did we omit your favorite app or one you and your business finds helpful? Let us know. We may supplement this article with updates noting the programs and solutions you use and appreciate that didn’t make the initial cut. Email [email protected] with your thoughts or questions or should you need help making better use of any productivity tools within your organization.