Remote working used to be niche—the only people who could “remote in” to the office were those with the right technological set up. But now, thanks to better WiFi, clearer screens, and the many tools that help us stay connected to the office wherever we are, remote work is becoming more popular. Here are the necessary tools and apps to help you keep your remote routine on track.
A messaging app for the whole team
The messaging app Slack has become so ubiquitous, it’s almost unimaginable to work without it—whether it’s in the office or remote. Slack’s instant messaging feature keeps everyone on the same page and has effectively slayed the email, the sending of which can waste close to five hours in a given work day. But even more than that, it can be an important space for collaboration between team members at a distance. Here are some tricks to customizing your Slack experience.
But just because Slack has dominated the workplace doesn’t mean it’s the only team chat app. For those of you looking for an alternative, here are a few options:
- Twist: Much like Slack, it’s a communication app which separates channels into searchable conversational threads. It claims it solves the stressful nature of Slack communication by prioritizing clarity.
- Microsoft Teams: A messaging platform that’s particularly good at supporting the kind of collaborative work done in documents or meetings.
- Discord: A voice app, for those of us who need to be able to speak to our coworkers (or our fellow gamers) at the touch of a button.
- Google Hangouts Chat: Google’s team messaging app basically has all the same features as Slack. It might be the right fit for a team that spends a lot of time collaborating on G Suite documents and presentations on the same platform.
Video conferencing tool for the remote team
You might think that remote workers don’t have to attend as many meetings as their in-office counterparts, but this is not the case. Remote workers go to a ton of meetings—that’s why getting everyone on the same reliable, easy-to-use video conferencing app is so important. Here are a few options.
- Google Hangouts: The most convenient thing about Google’s video call tool is that it’s integrated with your Google calendar—if you have a business account, a video call appears every time you add a new event.
- Zoom: Yes, the audio and video quality are great, but that’s not the only reason people think this tool is the best. Zoom can scale with your team. If you’re trying to organize a webinar with 100 active participants and tens of thousands of viewers (and record them to watch later), Zoom is for you.
- Screenflow: If you want to record your meetings, but don’t want to pay for Zoom.
- Timezone.io: For a team made up of digital nomads, it can be difficult to keep your time differences straight. Timezone.io keeps track of everyone’s remote schedules, and makes planning those long-distance video conferences easier for everybody.
Cloud storage tools for remote workers
Cloud storage is important for any office, but it becomes especially so when your team goes remote. If you’re looking for a cheap option for a cloud storage tool—look no further than the G Suite. Not only is the platform well-suited to sharing and working simultaneously in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations of all sizes, but it’s also compatible with Slack, making it easy to share with the necessary teammates on any given project. And it never hurts to have more than one cloud storage solution! Dropbox is another great option, as is Microsoft OneDrive.
A way to remote in to the office computer
You never know when you’re going to need access to that one file on your office desktop that you forgot to bring home. When that need comes up, there are several secure options to help you gain access to another computer from the comfort of your couch. The remote access platform TeamViewer is free for personal use. It has plans for businesses that include just about every remote feature one might require, including easily sharing screens, both for tech support and during video presentations and calls. There’s also an option from Google, Chrome Remote Desktop, which lets you very simply set up computer’s permissions to be accessed by another, if you’re looking to do some quick troubleshooting or grab a missing file.
A remote project management tool
A project management tool is important whether you’re working remotely or in the office—but with a lot of moving pieces, having a single platform where all the work is organized and stored becomes even more essential. Here are some of the best tools to help you manage collaborative work.
- Trello: This simple Kanban board-style tool helps you visualize your workflow, moving projects around depending on whether they’re in the backlog, in process, or done.
- Monday: This adaptive tool is customizable, so the most relevant data is always the most visible. Plus, there are easy ways to communicate with your collaborators within the program, so you don’t miss anything.
- Asana: If you want all your work in one place—big or small task—Asana is a great way of tracking the workflow of collaborative projects as well as daily recurring tasks.
- Todoist: To-do lists are a tried and true method for productivity for a reason. It always helps to get the thought out of your head and onto the page. This is a great solution for a remote worker who’s trying to organize both their work and their life—and achieve a better balance between the two.
Time management tools for remote work
Time management can be a challenge for everybody. But it’s a lot more difficult to stay focused on the task at hand when you’re working from home or travelling. Here are a few tools to help you keep track of your hours—and manage how you’re spending them.
- Toggl: This platform is a great way to track how much time you’re spending on a given project. What’s more, you can make reports to show clients how you’re spending your time within a given project.
- Timecamp: A tool that not only helps you track your hours, but can help you plan for the future—and provide simple estimates for how much time certain projects could take.
- PomoDoneApp: If you want to take your productivity to the next level, start working in sprints. This app will help you keep track of your hours using the Pomodoro technique, which separates out all of your tasks into 25 minute chunks with breaks in between. Plus, it can be integrated with many of the task management tools on this list.
- KanbanFlow: This all-in-one task and time management tool is a Kanban board—with customizable views similar to Monday—and also has a Pomodoro timer attached to each task.
An anonymous feedback and check-in tool
In an ideal world, all workers would get the chance to tell their direct reports about the stresses in their work schedule. But with remote teams, it can be hard to find the space to air concerns, even with regular one-on-one meetings. For those managers that want to do a quick anonymous check-in with their remote teams, try Chimp or Champ. The tool sends out a simple survey on Thursday—and then on Friday, those results are turned into a meter, which the manager can use to quickly gauge the satisfaction or frustrations of their team.
Visual Commenting Made Simple
Those Slack comment threads and handwritten notes are now a thing of the past. MarkUp is a free visual commenting platform that allows users to upload any webpage and leave simple, clear, effective comments for editing. It’s the easiest way to get digital feedback on your creative work… and we know that because we built it 😉
Tools and apps for working anywhere
As these tools and apps make clear, it doesn’t matter so much where you’re working as much as how you’re working. Many of these tools are essential to good work whether you’re working remotely or just trying to boost your productivity at the office. Ultimately, the point is that they make your work more transparent and available to your team members and managers. So, whether you’re working from your couch, your cubicle, or a beach in French Polynesia, it will be easy to stay on top of it all once you have the right organizational setup.
This story is part of our new series on remote working. Want to start back at the beginning? Here’s a Remote Working Primer.