Get more done from anywhere in the world with the right tools for remote working.
One of the many positive effects of today’s digitally connected world is that it’s much easier to work remotely than ever before. Now you can work from home, from a café, or from the top of a mountain—as long as you have an internet connection and the right tools, that is.
There are dozens of tools for remote workers which help with everything from communicating with your home office to keeping you organized. Picking the right combination of tools makes you more productive and helps you keep on top of everything while working remotely. Some tools are optional, like music streaming or meditation apps, which help keep you in the right headspace for productive work but aren’t really vital to getting the job done. Here are the apps and tools that you can’t work remotely without.
Communication tools are vital for every type of remote worker. Whether you’re a freelancer, an independent contractor, or an office worker who works from home a few times a week, you need to be able to keep in touch with your clients, colleagues, employers, and employees. Skype is one of the older communication apps around, and it's still holding its own. Skype is free, has extremely good call quality going, and offers apps that are compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and Xbox platforms. Skype allows for instant messaging, voice calls, video calls, and screen sharing as well as conference calls. Zoom is another good communication app which performs better than Skype at conference calls and virtual meetings. Zoom can handle a greater number of participants and screen-sharing at a level that slows Skype down too much.
If you’re part of a larger team of remote workers who all need to share information and ideas, it can be useful to have a platform for multi-directional chat. And more fun too—working remotely can get lonely with no one to chat with at the water cooler or share a joke about the latest project. That’s where chat platforms like Slack come in. They are more focused than social media networks where you’re too easily sidetracked into unproductive time-wasting, but they do fill the need for communication and collaboration.
Slack is a good choice thanks to its easy search function so that you can find the details you need about your current work focus, and the ability to organize and prioritize sub-channels for task or project-oriented conversations. Slack integrates well with many other tools, syncs across platforms, and supports file-sharing for better project collaboration.
File Sharing and Collaboration
When you’re working remotely, you usually need a way to share your current projects and work materials securely and to be able to collaborate on them smoothly and seamlessly. Safely encrypted applications such as Dropbox and Google Drive have plenty of space for saving files and project materials and allow you to set permission levels so that you can permit each contact to have just as much access to your work as you want.
Google Drive is free and permits you to save, share, and work on documents, videos, photos, PDFs, and other file formats. The easy search options and folder hierarchies help you to always be able to find what you need and sync it for working offline.
Dropbox is free for up to 2GB and only $9.99 a month for 1TB of storage. Both tools are also fully collaborative, so more than one person can work on the same file at the same time, and everyone will be instantly updated with all the changes.
It can be hard enough to keep track of roles and assigned tasks when everyone is in the same office. When you’re working remotely on a multi-person project, a project management tool is non-negotiable. Asana and Trello are both free for the basic versions – Asana is free for up to 15 users and Trello for unlimited users, but the companies both put limits on the extra features that are included.
Asana has the advantage of making it easy to break down projects and assigning each responsibility to a different colleague, but you can all see who is in charge of which tasks. You can add comments and requests, set deadlines, and attach files to make projects easier to follow.
Trello has a different but fun layout that looks like a pin board. You can drag tasks from one board to the next and add images, notes, and files to any project. Trello cards can be tasks, projects, suggestions, or anything, and you can use a board for a project to keep all of the tasks organized, or have a board per employee to make it clear who has which assignments on their plate.
Keeping yourself organized when there’s no one around to look over your shoulder can also be a challenge. Trello and Asana both contribute to keeping you on topic by recording your deadlines and reminding you of your responsibilities within a group project.
Another very useful to-do list app is Wunderlist. Wunderlist automatically syncs every new note and change across all of your devices, which includes almost every platform including iOS, Apple Watch, and Chrome. Wunderlist lets you share notes, ideas, tasks, and reminders with others, making it also useful for collaboration as well as keeping on top of your own ongoing projects. The free version comes with limited file attachments of up to 5MB, while the paid version lets you send unlimited files.
Ideas can strike in the most unexpected places, so you need a way to keep track of all the ideas, thoughts, and comments that occur to you while you’re away from your desk. Evernote is one of the most flexible tools for note-taking and file sharing. You can clip bits of texts, web addresses, pictures, and audio snippets from anywhere on any device and save them with tags and files. Evernote syncs all of your devices so that you can access your material again anywhere and automatically share it with anyone. The paid version enables group chats as well so that you can clip, share, and discuss interesting pieces around the world.
Office Working Suite
If you’re working remotely you need a way to write documents, complete spreadsheets, create PDFs, and edit files from any device. It’s important to be able to save your work in formats that are compatible with most devices and are easily shareable. Microsoft Office is fully usable on desktop and multiple devices including touchscreens, has cloud support for easy sharing, and sets the gold standard for intuitive workspace interfaces. Saved files are compatible with just about any office software, and you can work on documents, presentations, or spreadsheets depending on which app you choose. If you need advanced functionality, you can get an Office365 subscription.
Google Drive rivals Microsoft Office for word processing, especially when it comes to collaborative work. Although the word processing and spreadsheet computing tools aren’t quite as complex as Microsoft, they are powerful enough for most documents and spreadsheets and allow you to make PDFs, too.
With the Right Tools, You Can Work from Anywhere
Between communication tools, file-sharing apps, and productivity support, today’s workers can do their jobs remotely and from just about anywhere. So, there’s nothing stopping you from leaving your desk behind.