You’ve heard of computer operating systems (OS) before. They’re the software that supports a computer’s most basic functions. Think of an OS as the command hub for your computer, the central node that allows you to run all other programs and applications. Without it, you’d have to use long lines of code to get anything done. Even if you can’t explain what an operating system does, you’ve probably used one to run Windows, MacOS, or Android platforms.

In an exciting shift, work operating systems are carving out a significant niche across all teams focused on operating productively and efficiently. Just like a computer OS, a work OS is a centralized platform for your team’s efforts. It’s where projects are planned, processes are tracked, and tasks are assigned and managed. Those key functions may sound simple, but they yield incredibly valuable benefits.

A work OS puts the whole team on the same page, increasing clarity, transparency, and accountability. It streamlines work and cuts down on duplicated efforts and wasted labor. It provides valuable data on organizational productivity, making workflow optimization easier. And thanks to advances in AI and machine learning algorithms, many of these time-saving tweaks can be automated.

As more organizations adopt a work OS, they’re becoming global, with hundreds of thousands of users on each. Looking to supercharge your company’s productivity or manage projects more effectively? Read on.

1. Smartsheet

From Cisco to Netflix, Smartsheet counts more than 3 million users of its task management software across 83,000 brands and 190 countries.

It’s not hard to appreciate the appeal of Smartsheet. Setup takes only a matter of minutes. Subscribers can customize their own systems or draw from a library of existing templates to get under way. Collaboration and file sharing is simple. With automation integrations available, you can cut down on time spent on repetitive or basic tasks.

Those kinds of features make Smartsheet a flexible one-stop operating system for all your workplace needs.


Work can be super complicated and hard. However, as, an emerging leader in the work OS category, proves, it doesn’t have to be either of those things.

Its product offers aesthetically pleasing interface users love and get excited about. Upon logging in, you’ll see a palette of bright colors and an easy-to-use format. Anyone who can click, drag, drop and type won’t have trouble navigating its engaging format, which is why it’s widely used. And if you want help making the most of the platform, the brand has prepared engaging tutorials to guide you.

But if the user experience of is fun and games, its performance isn’t. It integrates seamlessly into your current programming suite, can be customized to different user interfaces, empowers you to build your own workflow to work the way you want, and brings powerful analytics to help optimize your workflow. No wonder organizations from the BBC to Uber use this colorful work OS.

3. Airtable

One of the defining traits of a good work OS is its interface. And it’s here that users often voice strong opinions on how they want to experience these solutions. Some prefer a calendar view; others like a spreadsheet that lays out categories clearly. The visually inclined like to browse icons; still, others dig kanban-style organization or forms to complete.

How will you keep them all happy?

Airtable offers a simple answer to this question: multiple display options for the dashboard that can be tailored to individual tastes. It’s an all-in-one collaboration solution that’s flexible enough to cater to the different needs of your workplace.

4. Notion

Notion touts itself as an “all-in-one workspace.” That isn’t just branding; it’s a revolutionary consolidation of all the different parts of our work life into a single easy-to-use hub.

To see how it works, consider how we typically work. At a meeting or in a conversation with a boss or client, we get a project going. Maybe we jot down a note or two and move on. Going into the project, we have to check old emails and the staff wiki to recall a standard procedure or two. Then there’s the breakdown and delegation of tasks. When the project’s complete, we take a few minutes to document and analyze our efficiency.

Notion puts all these functions — notes and docs, knowledge bases, task management, and spreadsheet documentation — in one place. By simplifying how we work, Notion makes it much easier to manage everything we have on our plates in one place. That’s making workspaces much less confusing and distracting.

5. Asana

Asana provides one of the longest-standing and most popular work OS programs on the market. Available via a number of subscriptions, it offers different capabilities to cater to the needs of various industries operating on all scales.

The company built its reputation on no-nonsense structuring and tracking of workflows. Since its introduction, Asana has injected more engaging graphics into its once-staid system. Newer developments include improved analytics software and automated rules settings to cut down on remedial work.

Given its size, influence, and power, Asana remains a competitive force in the task management space.

6. Trello

Before the advent of the work OS, there were yellow Post-it notes. They offered a simple but effective system (as long as the sticky notes kept their stickiness, that is).

The designers at Trello have brought the user-friendliness of the Post-it into the Information Age. It’s a free application that takes just minutes to install and learn. You can type up individual “cards” or work from broader templates, mark tasks complete, and attach documents with ease.

An application that works with the simplicity of notes on bulletin boards would be enough, but Trello also seamlessly integrates with existing communications programs like Slack. With Butler, users can automate some processes.

Sometimes, the best approach is the simplest. Trello is proof of that.

7. Zoho Projects

A SaaS innovator based in India, Zoho Projects is just one offering among a more extensive suite of programs for office management. As such, it was created to run in tandem with other programs, both those within the larger Zoho constellation and with applications like Slack and Google Docs. That focus on integration makes Zoho distinctive — and incredibly useful.

Like most work OSes, Zoho offers scheduling, task assignment, and collaborative features. It’s also on the cutting edge of analytics, with Gantt charts built into the UX. Another great feature is its time-logging integration, which is vital for contractors and hourly employees.

Not for nothing, then, does Zoho Projects see itself as the most effective project management software you can get.

It’s hard to imagine using computers without an OS, and it’s becoming equally hard to imagine work life without a working OS. Adopting one of these platforms will help you see what companies from Google to Netflix already know: Working on one centralized platform will change the way you do business.

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at