What is Work Management Software?
Work management software is a digital tool that allows you to plan, track, organize, and review project and non-project tasks and activities to improve your business results and team performance. Ideally, work management software comes with a dedicated invoicing module or integrates with invoicing software to allow you to bill your clients from the same platform.
But where did this need for work management software as a distinct tool come from?
People commonly search for project management (PM) software to manage all their professional work. The catch is that most of them have other activities besides project-related tasks. They prefer using one software to manage client and internal work-related activities: daily tasks and activities, client projects, time tracking, collaboration, and invoicing.
And it makes a lot of sense: why would you use several apps to plan, track, manage, and organize all your work, including what’s out of project management software’s scope?
When you use work management software, you pay less, the workflow is more streamlined, you have all the information you need in the same place, and onboarding new colleagues is more straightforward.
Work Management Software Core Features
A good work management software should allow you to do these four critical things related to your work:
- Plan and schedule tasks, resources, and projects
- Track the time you spend on each task
- Collaborate with your teammates
- Send invoices to your clients
What specific features you should look for in work management software:
- Advanced task management – Create and assign tasks, manage priorities, and track your team’s work to stay within budgets and deadlines.
- Centralized communication – Teams collaborate through message boards or discussion threads, leave comments, and receive notifications whenever a task changes to stay up-to-date.
- File storage and sharing – Use the tool as a centralized place to securely store all your documents and images and access them whenever necessary.
- Time tracking – Track work hours, create timesheets, and share time reports to identify potential bottlenecks in your workflow and keep your clients in the feedback loop.
- Resource management – Schedule out your team and see who’s working on what to avoid distributing more work than they can chew.
- Kanban boards – Create workflows to manage work on a visual board through sequential steps.
- Reporting capabilities – Create and send reports on time, costs, and resources to oversee progress, spot potential problems, and update your clients.
- Invoicing module – Create and send invoices to your clients and get paid online.
Certain work management software offer modules or features specific to an industry, like proofreading, prototyping, CRM, whiteboards, documents, or integrations with third-party tools.
To speed up the research process, here are the best free work management software to look after:
Paymo is one of the top choices for all-in-one work management software. Despite its apparent complexity, Paymo has an intuitive interface. It mainly consists of modules that help you plan projects and activities, monitor progress, schedule resources, track work time, and invoice clients. The reports and analytics are dense enough to provide a holistic and granular view of projects, depending on the context.
Many users appreciate the time tracking and invoicing features, saying they are much better integrated into the project management core compared to other popular tools like Clickup or Asana. It’s ideal for small and medium businesses and teams but also for those who are just starting to manage all work from the same place.
- Free plan – For 1 user, allows freelancers to organize tasks in 4 different task views.
- Starter – For 1 user, at $4.95/user/month, allows individuals to create unlimited invoices, generate project templates, and integrate Paymo with third-party apps.
- Small Office plan – Costs $9.95/user/month, charged annually. Besides unlimited tasks, time entries, and invoices, it offers a Meta Kanban board, recurring tasks, and 50GB of storage.
- Business plan – Costs $20.79/user/month, charged annually. In addition to the Small Office plan, it offers plenty of features like Gantt charts, resource scheduling, employee leaves, and free onboarding.
Start planning & organizing all your work in Paymo
If you’re a company that also wants business management software with a focus on CRM, you could consider choosing Bitrix24. It has everything you need to start working right away: process management, internal chat, and document collaboration. Despite feeling like an ecosystem, the complex interface can pose some difficulties for first-time users.
Bitrix24 offers a lot of CRM features that you’re charged for in most work management tools. Some users have reported only a few useful apps in the marketplace that add value to the platform. This recommends it as a good entry point for a small team but not for a mid-to-large one with established processes.
There’s a Free plan with limited functionalities and no seat cap. Paid plans start at $17/user/month for 2 users. There’s also a standard Business plan that costs $54.9.month for 50 users. On-premise installation is available as well, with different price tags for each plan.
Toggl Plan strikes the perfect balance between visual graphics and details to stick with a simple task management tool. Users love the ability to drag and drop tasks, set task hourly budgets, and the overall vivid colors. Sharing projects is easy thanks to the public links for which you can choose a pre-set zoom level.
Where Toggl Plan has gaps is the milestones that are too simple, serving as a note on the timeline, with no possibility to link them directly to tasks. Other than this, the tool is a great choice for teams and freelancers who value planning more than other project management processes.
Tip: Learn how to manage a project step by step in Paymo to tackle deadlines and tasks with ease.
The Solo plan is geared towards solopreneurs, being narrowed to 1 user and unlimited tasks and timelines. The Team plan starts at $8/user/month charged annually, making up for recurring tasks, milestones, and a Toggl Track integration. The Business plan tops $13.5/user/month charged annually, allowing data exports.
Redbooth is dedicated to helping teams communicate and deliver work and projects faster. It does so through rich task overviews and visual tracking tools – the Gantt chart being a great example. Too bad the free plan doesn’t support task dependencies for more accurate project planning inside it.
The poor mobile app experience can be a detractor for most marketing teams, who might need more specialized tools to tackle parallel projects. But if you want to make the transition from pen & paper to a simple project management tool with tasks and due dates assignments, then Redbooth is the answer.
- Free plan – Limited to 2 users and simple task and due dates assignment.
- Pro plan – Costs $12/user/month and includes native time tracking and video meetings on top of simple task management.
- Business plan – Costs $18.75/user/month and comes with a resource scheduler and advances subtasks.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing that includes a dedicated customer success manager.
TeamGantt combines the ever-popular Gantt chart with the benefits of team collaboration. It’s quite flexible, allowing you to omit weekends and specific work holidays from the actual timeline calendar. You can also schedule your team’s workload in advance and group tasks into specific clusters.
When you have several projects with a lot of tasks, it becomes hard to navigate. The collapsible menus will also make you miss certain tasks when in fact, you’ve just run out of screen real-estate space. Despite these drawbacks, TeamGantt is still a valid option for sharing project progress with clients.
TeamGantt boasts a Free-forever plan limited to only 1 Gantt chart and 3 users. There are two paid plans: The Standard plan is priced at $64.5/month for 5 users and includes workloads and baseline, while the Advanced plan is priced at $89.75 for 5 users, having time tracking and hourly budgets as extra features.
The main product in Teamwork’s portfolio is Teamwork Projects. And for a good reason. The tool acts as a centralized workspace for tasks, comments, milestones, calendars, and dashboards. Its strength lies in a broad task management system that covers all task planning and monitoring fundamentals. It doesn’t focus on just one industry vertical. Hence it’s suitable for most small and large teams alike.
There are various user roles that, once customized properly, can unlock team efficiency. The lack of a well-built time-tracking module slows the overall monitoring process, according to some users.
- Free plan – Teamwork Project’s free forever plan includes basic project management without project templates though, and a limit of 5 users per plan. Gantt charts as well.
- Starter – Starts at €5.99/user/month, charged annually. 3 users minimum, which means you have to pay at least €18/month if you’re a freelancer or a team of 2.
- Deliver plan – Starts at €9.99/user/month, charged annually. Coming with 20 project templates, a team chat, and unlimited free clients. 3 users minimum, which means you have to pay at least €30/month if you’re a freelancer or a team of 2.
- Grow plan – Starts at €19.99/user/month, charged annually. Includes custom fields and a resource management module. 3 users minimum, which means you have to pay at least €60/month if you’re a freelancer or a team of 2.
- Scale plan – Custom pricing, with priority support and onboarding training.
Quire is a work management tool that helps project managers break down ideas into task lists. It uses Kanban boards and timelines to organize information more visually. Quire also boasts a powerful set of analytics like project hill charts and cumulative flow charts.
One common reason for dissatisfaction among users is the absence of robust mobile notifications and a desktop app on par with the web one. Thanks to the intuitive interface, it’s good for organizing simple tasks. Larger ones will require more project management features like a calendar view.
For now, Quire hasn’t launched any pricing plans. The platform is free for accounts of up to 35 organizations, 80 projects, and 30 members per organization.
Zenkit Base is the central puzzle piece in Zenkit’s Suite. It’s highly customizable, allowing users with different technical backgrounds to collaborate in a shared space. A great addition is the mind map feature that captures ideas along with files, comments, subtasks, and due dates. There are also wikis on a team level.
The free plan doesn’t allow you to add visuals to a task inside a Kanban board unless you pay. Although many users love Zenkit’s Base elegant design and versatility, the platform has a low storage limit on all plans.
- Free plan – Limited to 500 items of any kind, 3 users, 5 workspaces, and 1 GB.
- Plus plan – Costs $8/user/month charged annually. Grants you the power to define user roles, add unlimited users, 50.000 items, and 20 workspaces. Storage is limited to 6GB. 2FA enabled.
- Business plan – Costs $21/user/month charged annually. Allows for 150.000 items, 500 workspaces, and advanced Gantt Chart features.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing and bulk discounts are available.
Avaza is a cloud-based work management software that covers project management, time tracking, invoicing, and, lately, team chat. Clients can collaborate with you on tasks, approve timesheets, and view financial information if given the right user permissions. They can also pay you directly via PayPal, Stripe, and Payoneer.
The sheer number of features and user permissions can be overwhelming to start with, the outdated interface doesn’t help either. It’s ideal for more seasoned marketing teams and professional services.
The pricing system is perhaps one of the most overly complicated ones. The Free plan provides 1 user who can have admin access and 5 with chat rights. For all paid plans, you need to pay different price tags depending on the 4 user roles. Avaza does offer though unlimited client access.
How Work Management is Done in Paymo
You now know what work management software is and some of the available options
It’s now time for a real-case scenario and to see exactly how you can manage your entire work in Paymo.
Paymo is one of the most reliable work management software options. It is ideal for small and medium agencies (like, for example, marketing agencies) and businesses that want to manage client projects, internal activities, and invoice their clients from the same platform.
If you want to follow along, you can start immediately by creating a free trial.
Here are all the steps you need to take to manage your work with Paymo:
Setting up your internal project
Start by setting up an internal, non-billable project. This is where you’ll later add all the non-project-related activities.
Yes, you’ll still have to associate a client with it, but it will be your own company this time. Just remember to add it under the Clients module. Name this project “Internal Activities” or “Admin Tasks” and use it for specific groups of tasks (task lists) like “Accounting,” “Emails,” “Meetings,” or “Team Training.”
After all, there’s no problem if the Projects module contains regular structured and internal projects—that’s the idea behind work management software.
To better distinguish between them, create new project statuses from Company Settings (see below), and label each project with a distinct status. You can filter projects after them for increased visibility, like “On-hold” for projects where you still wait for the client’s approval or “Internal” for the administrative ones.
Establishing distinctive project statuses in Paymo
Customizing your workflow
Next, you’ll be asked to select an existing workflow.
A workflow is a group of task statuses that indicate how tasks evolve from creation until completion. A visual process, if you like, focused on the actual movement of work.
The default workflow in Paymo contains three statuses: TO DO – IN PROGRESS – COMPLETE:
Default workflow in Paymo
This one has a straightforward structure to get you started, but we encourage you to set up your custom workflows. Through them, you’ll be able to spot bottlenecks and prevent further errors whenever too many tasks are placed under one stage or user.
Clearly define your workflow at the start of any work management process and customize it to handle your needs. Add as many statuses as you need with distinctive names and colors to better distinguish between them. To create your own, please head to Company Settings > Workflows.
Please note that any changes you make from your Company Settings will also apply to your live projects.
Creating and managing your tasks
Any work management software should come with an advanced task management module. Based on your work style, there are several different ways of organizing and visualizing tasks:
- To-do lists – For simple tasks lined up under each other, together with only the essential details (users assigned, deadline, task priority)
- Detailed task lists – Help you handle complex work that involves multiple team members or resources simultaneously.
Detailed task list
- Kanban boards. A visual tool for getting a bird’s-eye-view of one project so you can quickly move an activity from one workflow stage to another.
Regarding work management, you’ll need to use the organizational methods on a larger scale, including your regular projects and non-project or admin work. Luckily, Paymo’s Home module allows you to see your and your team’s activities across the entire company through three views:
- Simple view. A to-do list format of all your activities grouped by priority/due date/project.
- Table view. Detailed task list showcasing additional task information such as billing type, estimated budget, and tracked time in a spreadsheet-like format.
- Board view. A Meta Kanban board shows all your tasks across all projects (external and internal) grouped by user or workflow.
Paymo’s Meta Kanban for an overview of all your project and non-project work
The first thing users should do when they start work is check out the My Tasks area. If you never know which tasks to start with, Paymo offers you the ability to sort them according to Project, Due Date, or Priority:
Tasks sorted according to priorities
These three ways of displaying the tasks you’re in charge of, paired with the highly customizable filters, will help you reorganize how you execute your duties. This will make you more productive and efficient, so you can focus on executing work and not just sorting it.
Monitoring your team and reviewing work
Supervising your team members’ activity and the status of each task is an ongoing process. Besides the everyday visual tasks list like Kanban boards, there’s resource scheduling. Think of a resource scheduler as a calendar showing who’s working on what, when, for how long, and what physical resources can be used.
In Paymo, we call this Team Scheduling. This module allows you to determine if your team is available for 2-3 more tasks or if they are overallocated and spot any current constraints to prevent conflicting resources. Your team’s allocation—your resources—can be viewed in three different ways:
- Ungrouped. Bookings are displayed as a timeline to see when each project and non-project task are scheduled.
- Grouped by Projects – Bookings are grouped according to the project they belong to, so you can visualize how employee schedules compare.
Bookings grouped by project
- Grouped by Users – Bookings are organized according to each team member, so you can easily prevent over or under-allocation—the green color highlights when someone is underbooked, yellow for complete allocation, and red when overbooked.
Bookings grouped by user
Another way of monitoring teams is through time tracking. You can use it as a future reference to create better time estimates for your following duties and prevent resource overbooking or underbooking.
Time entries in Paymo can be added either in bulk or via the web time tracker for more convenience:
In-app time tracker widget
Paymo Track works on Windows, Mac, and Linux if you’d instead track time outside of a browser. It automatically records time spent in all desktop apps compared to the web timer. Match the app entries with their corresponding tasks and projects.
All time entries are automatically registered under the Timesheets module, so you’ll see the exact number of hours and minutes a team member spends on a task. Depending on your preferences, These can be edited later in case of any errors and viewed from a daily, weekly, monthly, and agenda view.
A web designer’s timesheet with the project and non-project tasks for one week
A neatly displayed timesheet in a calendar format can only go so far. So, create a time report from the Time Reports module for more detailed information on your time spent.
In Paymo, there are two types of time reports you can create and share with your clients:
- Static − offers a snapshot of your current timesheet data for a specific time frame
- Live − updates itself with new info whenever someone opens the report
Try automatic time tracking if you often juggle several tasks, handle projects and additional non-project work simultaneously, or forget to start your timer. This time tracker tool automatically tracks all the activities on your computer, whether within the web browser or not. This means you’ll no longer have to start and stop your timer for each task you’re working on. Instead, the software will do this for you and pair the entries with their corresponding tasks based on your rules.
You can also use the mobile time tracking app options (Android/iOS) to suit your needs while on the go. Or the built-in Pomodoro work and study timer app to break down your work into intervals of 25 minutes and boost your productivity.
Tip: If you want to see exactly who is tracking their work in real-time, what task they’re currently working on, and when they started tracking their time, go to Home > Dashboard and look at the Active Timers widget.
Collaboration is a central element of any successful work management process. Paymo offers three simple ways of keeping teams interconnected and updated at all times:
The “I wasn’t told about that” excuse is no longer valid. Paymo provides in-app and email notifications whenever a change is made to a task. We’re discussing new comments, status changes, file uploads, and more task-related details.
To ensure all teams have the necessary information, comment on a task or start a project-wide discussion thread. Notify only the relevant colleagues about new task updates through assigned comments so you don’t spam the others and keep the feedback circle tight.
Considerable time is regularly wasted just on searching for a task’s files. If handling multiple files for projects and non-project tasks, you must keep your file storage connected to your work management software.
Paymo is a cloud-based solution that securely stores all your documents and images, whether you’re linking them to a specific comment, task, or project. The in-app search function means fewer team members will be aimlessly scrolling through a database searching for an image you made five months ago.
File storage for work management within Paymo
But what about the client?
Besides the live and static reports you can send to keep clients updated, Paymo also allows you to give them access to a client portal. This lets them view their invoices and reports anytime, so they won’t have to search through hundreds of emails or ask you for a new report when they can check the live report you sent them. To give them access, go to Clients > Contacts > Edit and check Has access to the client portal.
How Is Work Management Software Different from Project Management Software
Work management software is a relatively new digital tool still confused with project management software. Some don’t notice any difference between the tools from the list. Others regard the best project management software as just another type of work management software.
You commonly need all the essential features mentioned above to handle work in general. Here’s a graph to help you see precisely where each functionality stands:
Functionalities and use cases for work management software
As you can see, most of these features help handle both project and non-project activities. Gantt charts are specific to project-related work and don’t have much use for other activities since they focus on tracking project schedules, while non-project work is commonly not restricted by set schedules or dependencies.
The fundamental difference between using a feature for a project or non-project activities lies in your approach to work.
Work management software helps you tackle both your project and non-project duties simultaneously. It offers more flexibility, allowing you—as a manager—and your team members to handle project and non-project activities through your workflows. In my experience, it helps stop procrastinating and tackle that hedonistic delay, that urge to engage in distractions.
On the other hand, project management software is based on rules. It is usually paired with a project management method, methodology, or framework, following a rigid structure that doesn’t always allow room for work unrelated to a project.
Having said this, with all their strictness, project management methodologies have many benefits from the experience of leading experts and tried and tested pm methods.
You don’t always start with a plan when it comes to work. Sometimes you don’t have a clear deadline or time frame in mind. Project management, though, always requires structured planning. This means you’ve got a clear deadline, budget limit, activity list, documented plans, and resources scheduled out from the beginning.
Work management software allows you to start with just one task, work on it, develop it in time, or even turn it into a project if it requires more steps. Answering emails daily, sending invoices, or buying new office supplies will never become a project.
Work management software should be easier to use and have a smoother learning curve. But in reality, an advanced tool like this has many more features that can make it more challenging than simple PM software.
Comparing them in this sense might not be the best way of deciding which tool is right for you.
Work Management Software Benefits
We’ve already mentioned how work management tools unite various modules and features into one system. So, naturally, its benefits are both general and feature-specific.
Its main advantages are that you no longer have to use multiple different tools and waste money paying for them since you’re only buying one solution, not 3-5 different ones.
But what are the extended benefits of these features when applied to work outside and on a project?
- Balance schedules. A resource scheduler, for instance, offers better transparency and visibility into your team’s schedule besides projects. You can assign each team member to new tasks and balance their workloads.
- Maintain control of your time. Tracking your time on non-project work, besides your regular projects, allows you to be more productive and self-aware of your efforts, make better time estimates, and keep your team accountable.
- Track your work. Creating a report for all your tasks lets you monitor work progress, spot issues, and share updates with clients or other stakeholders.
- Organize tasks. Then there’s task management. Most work management tools come with extra features to help you prioritize, track, and collaborate on each one of your tasks, so none are left uncompleted. I can’t stress enough how vital structured task lists are when working on multiple projects, even more so when you’ve got additional non-project tasks just screaming for your attention.
- Visualize your workflow. Suppose you’re not a fan of detailed activity lists. In that case, you’ll be happy to discover that specific work management platforms offer Kanban boards, a way to segment and visualize all your duties as they go through different workflow stages. Move them with a simple drag and drop to the corresponding stage, and you’re all done.
- Collaborate effectively. Perhaps the most considerable benefit binding all the others together is the ability to collaborate freely across multiple projects and tasks. Whether sharing a file or just leaving a comment to offer feedback, work management apps extend collaboration opportunities beyond a project.
Generally, choosing work management software in favor of a specific tool—task management or time tracking—will help you tackle your tasks and meet your client requirements, whether related to tasks, projects, time, costs, or anything else.
Tip: Consultants, lawyers, and creatives benefit the most when tracking time spent on meetings with clients or working on deliverables. If that’s you, check out this list of the best time-tracking software.
Your entire work process will improve, allowing managers to see how work is distributed throughout the company, not just within projects or at a team level. Implicitly, this increases your work efficiency and productivity to deliver higher-quality results.
Who’s It For?
Think about your daily work. Is it exclusively project-based? Does it focus mainly on non-project tasks, or is it a mixture of these two?
Work management software is the perfect solution for project-based businesses that regularly have additional non-project activities. However, choosing PM software instead will be enough if you’re only working with projects.
Move on to prioritize your needs, both general and particular. Are you paid by the hour? Choose tools with employee time tracking software with high reviews for time clock software. Do you use only software to collaborate? Aim for solid communication and sharing functions. Is more than one person going to be working on a single task? Make sure you’ve got multi-user assigning.
If you don’t know where to start, look at the tools you’re already working with. See what features your team is using and which are never used. Also, ask yourself, “Do I need an additional tool?” If you only need to work on a few non-project tasks and record your work hours, a task management tool with time-tracking functions or integrations could be good enough.
If you’ve got multiple tasks, projects, budgets, timelines, and resources all going on simultaneously, you’ll want to switch to a solution that reunites everything under a single platform. Moreover, you’ll want a platform that analyzes project profitability if you’re a freelancer or business owner to understand which tasks and projects are profitable and make sense for your business.
Finally, consider your team’s size. There are a couple of project management and work management options out there that are free, so you won’t have to invest too much unless you’re looking for something that packs in more power.
As an individual, you’ll only need a simple tool to help you sort your tasks, track your time, and send out invoices regularly. If you’re unfamiliar with the invoice format, we’ve explained in this guide what a digital invoice is and how sending invoices helps your business.
You’ll have to go through the other factors to choose a tool for a small or medium team. Again, a project management tool is a good fit if your team mainly works on projects within a predefined method, methodology, or framework.
Work management software is better suited for project and non-project duties and several different teams collaborating across multiple tasks.
You’ll need a work management tool when you add a couple more teams, departments, and perhaps even company branches to your business. Otherwise, you and your team will inevitably face challenges like disruptions due to remote work, burnout, mental health issues, and even employee turnover. Maybe you’ve noticed that the latest trend of people seeking new career opportunities is the Great Resignation—and how it affects the typical workplace.
But we’re digressing—on to work management.
Tying it all
Here are a few key points to remember so you can make an informed choice when picking your following tool:
- Work management software lets you plan, monitor, organize, review, and report project and non-project activities to support team performance and results.
- Work management software can be used for projects, too. The only difference is that the focus is not solely on projects but on other types of work activities too.
- Work management tools are the best choice if you have non-project tasks besides your general project-related duties that you’d usually handle just with project management software.
- This solution provides more flexibility than a project management tool, letting you work and monitor your results beyond a project’s set dates without any client, budget, or other constraints.
- A work management solution integrates task management, communication, file storage and sharing, time management, resource management, and reporting capabilities under one app. This reduces costs and helps you balance your resources, budgets, and time intervals for project-based and non-project duties.
Have you been using the right software until now? If you plan to switch to a work management software, you can give Paymo a try right away:
Start your free trial to manage all your project and non-project tasks from a single place
Alexandra Cote is a SaaS content writer and strategist with a passion for workplace productivity, social media marketing wonders, conversion rate optimization, artificial intelligence, and keyword research. Reach out to her via LinkedIn.
Laurențiu started his marketing journey over 18 years ago and now leads a marketing team. He has extensive experience in work and project management, and content strategy. When not working, he’s probably playing board games or binge-watching mini-series.