How to set yourself up for remote working

How to set yourself up for remote working
(Image credit: Veriato)

If you’ve got a smartphone then you can work remotely, it’s as simple as that. Add on some other tech, like a laptop or tablet, download some business apps and you can quickly turn yourself into a remote working powerhouse. And, with times that are changing rapidly it's likely that more and more of us are going to want to seize the opportunity to work from home or another convenient remote location.

Remote working isn’t a new phenomenon and lots of freelancers and small business owners have been earning a living this way for years. However, bigger businesses with lots of employees are seeing that sending everyone home to work remotely can, and does work effectively. While you might expect it to be counterproductive, many businesses that have adopted this way of working have claimed to see productivity go up, rather than down.

Type of work

Setting yourself up for remote working is, naturally, easier for some vocations than others. If you have to deal with customers face-to-face then it’s going to be difficult, but in difficult times people are also prepared to compromise. As a result, and thanks to technology, you can actually carry on with many jobs using connectivity as your secret weapon even if you’re not actually in the same room as the person you’re dealing with.

So, if you're looking to work remotely then the first thing you’ll want to think about is how you’ll be connected to the rest of the world. Secondly, you’ll want to decide what kind of device you’ll use to communicate with your global audience. Once you’ve worked that out you can then go on to select the additional tools that you’ll need to get up and running and keep things ticking over.

Essential tools

As we said at the beginning, you can actually carry out most remote working tasks on a smartphone, although for a little more usability you're probably going to want a laptop, desktop PC or a tablet. With the hardware in place though you’ll want to turn your attention to software. This is where remote working really comes into its own, as there is a wealth of options at your disposal.

If you're a freelancer then invariably it’s all about the bottom line, so lookout for free alternatives to Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. Alternatives do exist and some of them are very good indeed. However, be ever-watchful of dubious download sites and dodgy-looking programs. Stick to legitimate sites that have an obvious track record. And sometimes it’s worth paying to get the right tool for the job if it improves efficiency and productivity.

Security issues

On a related note: you’ll definitely want to think carefully about staying safe and secure while you work remotely. If you’ve been used to tapping into random free Wi-Fi networks in the past while you’ve been on your travels then you’ll want to rethink that strategy. That’s especially so if you’re going to be remote working and also dealing with client files or private documents from an employer.

In that respect you’ll want to lock down things like passwords and your Wi-Fi router, as well as getting hidden behind a Virtual Private Network. And, while many of us like to skirt around antivirus software it really is worth spending a bit of cash to get yourself behind a firewall and have up-to-date ways of dealing with the latest threats. There are new versions of old threats and an avalanche of fresh security issues to battle daily, so be prepared.

Joining dots

Remote working all starts to come together once you’ve completed the foundation steps, including setting up the hardware and software, and ensuring everything is hopefully safe and secure. From there you’ll be able to start networking online, and for this you’ll find all of the same tools that you’d once have used in a regular office or similar work space.

In fact, working remotely, especially if you’re based in a home office, can actually give you a few more tools to get the day’s work done. There’s regular email as well as webmail, which means you can log in via your browser if you don't want to have a work email client installed. There are video conferencing tools, including the likes of Zoom, which has been enjoying huge popularity recently. And, if you want to use your smartphone less then phone calls can be done via the web too.

Team effort?

While there’s considerably less to do if you’re setting yourself up as a lone remote worker, if you’re part of a team you can work with collaboration tools. Not being in the office means that you’ll have to schedule what needs doing and when, which is where a core handful of software tools can really make a difference to overall productivity.

Slack is one of the best options for coordinating a collaborative effort by several people. If you need to allocate different duties and keep tabs on progress then Slack can prove to be an invaluable tool for the job. Similarly, Trello makes a lot of sense if you’re trying to manage a team and all of their respective tasks. This is also a fine tool for keeping everyone on top of their respective deadlines.

Joined together

While remote working does suggest that it might be a slightly solitary existence, working from home or indeed anywhere else doesn't actually need to be like that at all. As long as you have internet connectivity, which can obviously also be maintained using your mobile phone if you're not in possession of broadband, then clients, colleagues, friends and family are all out there.

In fact, in the case of the latter group they may even be in the room next door. Proof positive that remote working is making the world a much smaller, but hopefully safer place, particularly during the current situation.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.