Working remotely requires self-discipline to stay focused and flexibility so you can solve problems in new ways. To perform every part of your role and maintain a high level of productivity, you’ll need to adjust how you work, heavily concentrating your efforts on project management, team communication, and collaboration.
Thankfully, there are tools that can help you maximize personal and team performance in a remote work scenario.
This article will describe some of the best remote work tools. Breaking these applications into categories, we’ll give you several recommendations of apps or programs that will enhance your personal productivity, reduce distractions, and help you manage projects. There are suggestions about tools for team communication and collaboration and some thoughts on tools you should consider for sharing data and computer resources.
If remote work has changed the way you do your job, the good thing is there’s also an app that can help solve any problem you run into.
Let’s get started with the first category, tools to help you stay focused!
Tools for Personal Productivity
To be as productive working from home as you would be at the office, you’ll need the basics like email, a calendar app, and maybe a word processor, plus some tools to help you keep track of your projects and tasks. Many affordable options exist, as described below.
There are certain features of an office productivity suite that we’ve all come to expect, and many of us have paid high licensing fees to get them. A powerful word processor, a capable spreadsheet tool, and a flexible presentation platform—these are the kinds of applications that many of us use every day and would be lost without.
Sophisticated online versions of all those tools, plus Gmail, Google Calendar and other apps are combined to create Google’s G Suite, a popular collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration apps.
HostPapa offers an attractively priced, managed G Suite bundle that gives you access to these powerful web-based office tools with generous storage, helpful support, and reliable anti-spam security.
If your home internet service was used exclusively for non-work-related things, you might not have needed a fast connection. In that situation, opting for your ISP’s slower, less expensive offering makes sense. However, when your internet service must support mission-critical work tasks, speed matters.
Fast.com allows you to test your internet speed easily. This free, one-page connection analyzer won’t bog you down with unneeded information—your download time and your upload time are reported in a matter of seconds.
Not all online activities require a fast connection, but many work-related tasks do. For example, acceptable performance when video conferencing takes 1-4 Mbps download speed and 1 MBPS upload speed. Consider how you’ll be using your connection when working from home and upgrade your internet service if you need to.
Staying on top of your daily tasks can become more challenging when working remotely, and many telecommuters rely on Todoist to create order out of chaos. This popular task management app lets you define, organize, and prioritize all your activities.
Todoist makes it easy to share task information with collaborators; team members can add task and project comments, while automated notifications keep you aware of progress. Additional capabilities emerge when you integrate Todoist with Google Calendar, Dropbox, Zapier and other popular tools.
You can do everything you need to with the free version of Todoist and get some great enhancements in the reasonably priced Premium version.
Trello is a web-based list-making app that’s become extremely popular as a personal productivity tool. It’s a unique system that lets you organize and prioritize your tasks and collaborate more easily. There’s built-in workflow automation that lets you define rule- or date-based triggers so projects run smoothly and on schedule. The free version should have everything you need, unless you commonly deal with attachments larger than 10MB, in which case, two premium offerings are available.
Tools to Reduce Distractions
Working from home can come with unwanted distractions, some originating from your work computer. You have to deal with a barrage of work-related and personal messages combined with other online distractions, like the constant lure of social media, for example.
Here are a couple of apps that can help you turn off the outside world and stay focused on the task at hand.
They say it’s coming soon to Windows, but for now, you’ll need to be a Mac user to take advantage of Serene, an innovative, free app that helps you stay focused and ignore distractions. Each day, you tell Serene what you want to get accomplished; the app helps you visualize your progress and monitor how much of the allotted time remains. The anti-distraction features involve explicitly blocking certain websites and apps and even cutting off access to music. With your goal defined and your distraction options specified, once you click the “Go Serene” button, the app takes over to make sure you keep your focus.
Perhaps you’ve already made sure your work computer hides distractions, but it’s your mobile phone that’s the problem. If hearing your notification alert makes you reach for the phone without thinking, there’s a way to stop that from happening. For Android phone users, a free app called Daywise allows you to schedule when you’ll get notifications. For example, you could mute your notifications during work hours, allowing them to collect until you have time to go through them at the end of the day.
Reducing distractions is usually about keeping ourselves focused, but noise during a phone call might be more distracting for the people on the other end of the line that it is for you. A tool called Krisp allows you to mute background noise during calls (yes, it works even if you have a noisy pet).
Tools for Project Management
You may already use a project management tool, but if you also rely heavily on team interactions to run your projects, switching to remote work might mean picking a new project management tool. Here are some popular options.
A market-leading project management tool, Asana helps teams organize, track, and manage their work remotely. This flexible tool allows you to plan and structure work, set priorities, delegate tasks, establish deadlines and track progress. The free Basic version might get you started, but it has limited capabilities.
Resource management is tricky with a geographically dispersed staff, but a helpful tool called Float can be the answer. It allows you to plan your projects and schedule your teams in a single, intuitive interface. There’s a 30-day free trial, but to continue using the basic version, which is focused only on resource management, requires users to pay a fee, and you’ll pay a little more if you want Float’s time tracking features.
Another application that’s gained a reputation for helping remote teams stay productive is Basecamp. It’s a web-based project management tool that lets you keep projects on track with to-do lists, milestone management, team messaging, file sharing, and time tracking.
Tools for Team Communication
If your team is new to working remotely, you may need to get everyone on a single communications platform. Even if the plan is to find a more feature-rich team communication tool later, there’s no reason you can’t hit the ground running with an option like Google Hangouts. You can go with the limited functionality for free, or get increased options with a paid version, like ours. Here are some other available options when you’re selecting a tool to enhance team communication.
One of the most popular tools for team communication is Slack. Using this tool, teams interact in channels that can be defined based on role, project, client, or any other organizational distinction. It offers boundless flexibility, enables collaboration through resource sharing, and integrates with your other tools. The free version provides access to Slack’s basic features, and there are three levels of advanced offerings you can choose from.
Another major player among team communications platforms is Microsoft’s Skype. Seamlessly integrating chat, voice, and video functionality, this tool allows teams to hold virtual meetings with up to 50 people. You can record calls, use live captions and subtitles to enhance presentations, and more.
One thing’s a given when you work remotely—you’ll send and receive more messages on all your communications channels, especially email. A tool called Spark can automatically prioritize your email, moving the most important messages to the top.
If some of the messages you deal with are part of your business processes, you can use a popular tool called Zapier to create sophisticated workflows, automating the movement of information between your message platforms and the web apps that enable the next step in your process.
Tools for Collaboration
In the office, your team’s best collaboration may happen when the right group meets in a conference room—30 minutes later, the whiteboard is a mess, but decisions have been made!
That kind of meeting can happen when you’re all working remotely too. Here are some tools to help with that.
A popular option you can get started with for free is Zoom. It lets you have one-on-one video chats, or you can get your whole team together. It offers HD video and clear audio, even if some users have a slow connection. You can use Zoom as a unified platform for meetings, phone, webinars, and chat, and this tool runs on users’ desktop clients, browsers, and mobile devices.
Cisco’s WebEx is a mature offering in the team collaboration market. It provides highly refined features for video conferencing. Teams can take advantage of interactive whiteboards, messaging, and file sharing. This sophisticated platform allows businesses to conduct professional webinars, hold online training sessions, and provide real-time, video technical support.
A big part of team collaboration is reporting. iDoneThis gives leaders and contributors access to a channel that facilitates daily check-ins and the sharing of detailed progress reports. You can find out if a team member has finished their task or if they hit a barrier of some kind, plus, the tool lets you deal with detailed reports and zoom out to get a birds-eye view of the team’s progress.
Tools for Remote Access to Computers
If remote access to another computer, your office desktop, for example, is the key to your work-at-home strategy, you’ll need an application designed to make that happen. Here are a couple of apps that can handle the job.
AnyDesk works on every OS you can think of and allows you to connect to a computer remotely in a secure way. You’ll be able to interact with the desktop like you’re on-site, and the performance is great even over a slow connection. There’s a free version for personal use and reasonably priced tiers for business use.
Chrome Remote Desktop
Chrome Remote Desktop is another option if you need to access a computer remotely. It allows you to use a computer or mobile device to access files and applications on another computer, perhaps one that’s far away from your home, in your business’s server room, for example.
Tools for Remote Access to Data
No aspect of remote work has been more fully addressed by the software market than cloud storage.
All the data you need to do your job, whether it’s in documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or any other format can be stored so that remote access is easy for everyone one with permission and impossible for those without it.
One popular secure cloud storage platform is Google Drive. It has both free and paid plans, so you’ll have to take into account your needs and number of active users to decide.
A trial offer is the only way your company can use Dropbox for free, but sky-high storage limits are available, and you can choose from monthly per-user pricing options to find a plan that’s right for your team.
An advanced option for cloud storage that offers some useful content management capabilities is Box. With Box, there’s no free option, but one plan is available for less than $10 per month. Several price tiers are offered, and you can check out any one of them on a trial basis at no cost.
Stay Focused, Informed, and Connected with Remote Work Tools!
Whether you’ve been working from home for a while or it’s something new, challenges arise that require unique solutions. Luckily, the software market is loaded with powerful, flexible tools to address any need.
There are tools to increase personal productivity and keep you free from distractions. There are project management apps, tools that help teams stay on track, and remote access solutions for every type of data or computer resource.
We hope this breakdown of remote tool categories and our app suggestions will help you work more effectively and maximize productivity!