Business users are turning to apps and cloud-based communications tools to skip the dreaded email inbox and get their colleagues’ attention right away.

It’s safe to say email is overwhelming everyone in business. Each day, an average of 205 billion emails are sent and received, according to The Radicati Group, Inc. That’s expected to reach 246 billion by the end of 2019.

The average office worker sends or receives 122 emails a day, which should grow to 126 emails daily in 2019, the research firm estimates.

Meanwhile, consumer email traffic is slowing. “Consumers on average are sending and receiving fewer emails and are opting instead for other forms of communication such as social networking sites, instant messaging, Mobile IM, and SMS/text messaging,” according to Radicati.

With consumers often bringing their favorite devices and apps to work—witness the “Bring Your Own Device” phenomenon of the past few years—it’s no surprise that businesses are starting to use alternatives to email via mobile apps. If you really want to get a colleague’s attention, are you going to send an email or a Snapchat? Some project management and other tools feature built-in chat as well, helping workers stay focused and productive within the context of whatever they’re working on.

Here are 13 communications tools that can help you stay out of email purgatory.Project Management/Productivity Tools with Built-In Chat

Google Apps Chat
Google Docs includes a chat tool for communicating with colleagues when collaborating on a text file, spreadsheet, or presentation. For instance, as you and a co-worker are looking at the same blog editorial calendar spreadsheet, you can easily ask each other questions or make suggestions. There’s no need to jump to another tool, such as Google Hangouts, to ping each other with messages. The paid Google Apps service offers similar chat features.

Trello is a freemium project management tool designed for individual and team collaboration. Once you share a project board with others, you can post comments to a card (which is an item on a list, in essence) and add a file attachment if desired. Paid plans, which aren’t required for sharing comments, start at $3.75 per user/month.

Speaking of Evernote, you can share notebooks with others and message them within this freemium note-taking service. The free basic plan allows for in-notebook discussions. (Paid plans start at $25/year.)

Redbooth (formerly Teambox) integrates cloud-storage tools from Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive with group chat, project management tools, and high-def video conferencing. The software is often praised for its clean, streamlined interface, and its pricing plans ($5/user/month and up) are easy for small businesses to swallow.

Teamwork is a Cork, Ireland-based company offering a suite of business software tools, which include Teamwork Projects for group collaboration and project management, Teamwork Desk (for customer support) and Teamwork Chat (currently in beta). Though the other tools require paid plans, Teamwork Chat is free.Top Business Communications Tools/Email Alternatives


HipChat is a popular team chat tool that includes video conferencing, file sharing, screen sharing, and integration with many other tools such as GoToMeeting, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, MailChimp, Trello, WordPress and Wunderlist. The free plan includes group chat, instant messaging, file sharing, and unlimited user/integrations. Paid plans add voice and video chat and screen sharing and start at $2 per user/month.


Slack competes with HipChat in the team-messaging arena. It offers the ability to organize colleagues in channels, such as a project, department, or topic; send and receive direct messages; and create private groups for confidential messaging. You can share files from Dropbox, Google Drive or Box, too. Slack has a free plan with plenty of features. Paid plans start at $6.67/user/month.

If you’re not sure which might be better for your team, check out this detailed comparison between HipChat and Slack.


Wickr is a bit different from HipChat and Slack, billing itself as “the most trusted messenger in the world.” Messages are kept secure using peer-to-peer encryption and are “forensically wiped” from mobile devices after the messages expire. Wickr is available for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. Plus, it’s totally free. The app developers have vowed never to charge users or sell user data. Instead, they’ve launched B2B security tools that other developers can incorporate into their products.

Other business communications tools worth checking out include OfficeChat (freemium; paid plans start at $3/user/month); Cotap (freemium; paid plans begin at $5/user/month); and Avaamo (freemium; the premium plan adds administration controls and other features but you must contact the company for pricing).

Popular messaging apps among teens and Millennials are also finding their way into the business world. For example, ephemeral messaging app Snapchat is gaining traction not only for group messaging but for social media marketing.