Many workers around the globe are now working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For some people, the transition has been seamless — perhaps they were even working from home part- or full-time already or appreciate not having to endure a lengthy commute into the office every day. Others may have a harder time making the switch. For one, they weren’t technologically equipped to turn their homes into their workspaces.
As you’ve probably discovered, there are, in fact, many benefits to working remotely, including increased productivity and a better work-life balance. However, before you can enjoy the rewards, you’ll need to be equipped with the right software and tools for your home workspace.
Here are some of the most important tools and programs you should have at your disposal, no matter what you do for a living.
This may seem a little basic, but it’s an essential starting point: you must have basic hardware for your remote workspace, including a working desktop or laptop computer, reliable WIFI, and a smartphone. Depending on your job, a printer, scanner, landline, and other equipment may be necessary, too. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you’ll probably want to be able to print proofs.
If you don’t already have these devices and they’re critical for your job, your employer will probably pay for you to have them or reimburse you for special equipment you have to purchase while you’re working remotely. Even if they don’t, these tools are a good investment that will serve you well in the future, even when stay-in-place orders end.
Microsoft Office 365
You probably already use many aspects of Office, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and possibly PowerPoint. These programs are practically mandatory for any office job, along with jobs in which you’re not at a computer all day, and are included in the platform.
There are other features that can be especially helpful for remote working include Microsoft Teams, which enables you to collaborate with your coworkers through messages, live-editing, file-sharing, chats, and more. This is especially helpful when you’re not having face-to-face time with the coworkers you usually see every day.
Project management tools
Project management tools are useful even when you’re working in the office alongside your coworkers, but they’re especially important when you need to keep track of projects remotely. Trello, for example, allows you to assign team members to tasks, set due dates, and more. The pictorial layout uses a system of cards that you can move to different columns and allows you to see the overall progress of the project.
There are plenty of other popular project-management platforms available, too, including Monday, Asana, Basecamp, Wrike, and many more. Some are free at their most basic plan levels, and most have paid options for larger teams or additional features.
Cloud computing platforms essentially recreate your work environment in a virtual space, offering storage, application management, data analysis, security, support, and much more. These solutions are scalable for when you need to add resources and services, accessible for users who need to collaborate remotely, and often affordable.
There are many choices of cloud computing platforms available, but top providers include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba, and Oracle Cloud.
Video conferencing and chat platforms
As you’re probably well aware by now, staying in contact with your colleagues during the pandemic, as well as during “normal” circumstances, is important for optimal collaboration. It’s also easier than ever before thanks to technology. With platforms like Zoom and Webex, you can continue to have face-to-face time regularly, either one on one or with your entire team.
For less formal communications, such as a quick check-in, try tools like Slack or Rocket.Chat. This app lets you send direct messages or chat through channels, which include select teams or groups of people. You can even send and share files through many of these platforms, and some also let you switch to video and audio conferencing when you need it.
Not only are cybersecurity tools important for protecting your own information and privacy, but they’re especially necessary when you’re accessing potentially sensitive company files and data. You don’t want to put your organisation — or yourself — at risk, after all. These tools are important no matter where you’re working, and they’re essential for your home office.
One tool you should have in your repertoire is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN protects your privacy by establishing a private network and masking your IP address when you access the internet. You’ll be able to hide your location and other data, allowing you to browse the internet anonymously. This is especially important when you’re accessing public networks, like WiFi hotspots, which make you particularly vulnerable.
Cybersecurity software, of course, is also important — it protects your devices against threats like malware and hackers. You might set up a two-factor authentication system as well. This means you must offer two forms of evidence attesting to your identity, such as entering both your password and a code that’s emailed or texted to you.
There are many other types of software and hardware you might need depending on the nature of your job. People working in creative industries, for example, may require Adobe Creative Cloud. Financial advisors, meanwhile, might use a program like Money Tree. However, the ones listed here are the basics necessary for most workers across industries, whether you’re a software developer or an office administrator.
If you don’t already have these programs and tools set up on your devices, check with your employer. They may provide them to you complete with installation, which can often be done remotely, pay for them, or reimburse you for the cost. Even if they don’t, you should still make an effort to have these tools in your home working environment — you’ll use them time and time again for many purposes, no matter what your job or organisation.
Malcom Ridgers, Bairesdev
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Malcom is a tech expert specializing in the software outsourcing industry. He has access to the latest market news and has a keen eye for innovation and what's next for technology businesses.