Remote working offers up all sorts of opportunities and certainly much more freedom than being confined to an office. And, thanks to technology you have a tantalizing suite of digital tools at your disposal. Here’s our pick of the best options so you can hit the ground running.
Although many people think that a suite of Microsoft Office (opens in new tab) tools will answer their prayers there are also plenty of other options when it comes to general remote working productivity (opens in new tab). A simple search online will reveal a plethora of alternative office suites (opens in new tab), many of which are free. You can produce written documents, spreadsheets and deliver all manner of other digital output without signing up to the mighty Microsoft. Google, for example, is obviously a major player but the collection of online collaboration tools (opens in new tab) it has available are invaluable, particularly as they can be accessed online and from anywhere.
Just having something like Google Drive (opens in new tab) at your disposal is super convenient for storing, well, just about anything. At the same time, there are plenty of other Cloud-storage options (opens in new tab) that will prove essential as you get more productive and accumulate lots of digital files. Many are free, though some paid-for options deliver more flexibility and a good deal more storage space if you’re expanding at a rate of knots.
Safe and secure
If you’re working remotely then one of the first things worth considering is getting yourself set up with a VPN, or Virtual Personal Network (opens in new tab). Alongside conventional online security options such as antivirus software (opens in new tab) (which you should have too), the humble VPN can be useful as it effectively masks your computer in a way that renders it basically invisible.
As well as adding another layer of anonymity to proceedings, which is handy if you use random Wi-Fi networks, it’s also useful for tapping in to websites that might otherwise be off limits due to geographical restrictions. If you need to do lots of research online, and stay secure while you do it, then a VPN is an essential.
Next up, you’ll want to connect with others remotely, which has never been easier. Video conferencing (opens in new tab) has come a long way in recent years and it’s now possible to enjoy regular communications with colleagues, clients and fellow collaborators without fuss or bother. Dialing into a meeting online used to be fraught with minor irritations, include connectivity issues, audio quality quirks and, on a purely practical level, not knowing who was going to say what and when. Yep, collaborating over the internet used to be chaos.
Now though there are some brilliant software tools for getting the best from online conference calls, both talk and video-based. Zoom (opens in new tab) is an obvious example, particularly where you need to speak with several people and have them all present virtually without the meeting descending into white noise. Zoom offers clever call management, with lots of options for sensible mediation, the capacity for chatting alongside video meetings and handy scheduling that brings a sense of order and calm to virtual meet-ups.
Slack is another tool that works perfectly for remote workers as it brings almost office-style communication to any location. There are others like it of course, but Slack is one of the best, simply because it has been refined over time and now offers a pretty comprehensive collection of features and functions. You’ll be organised in no time using the power of this software, and so will your fellow collaborators no matter where they might be. There’s a free trial and then the paid for version is more affordable than some of the rivals out there.
Working remotely is easy enough, but it’s vital to stay organised and have a basic plan of action. Trello is one of those tools that, once you’ve been using it for a while, will make you wonder how you ever managed without it. Simply put, Trello is a cloud-based project management platform (opens in new tab) that allows you and others on your team to manage projects with ease.
It comes with a comprehensive range of tools and options that enable anyone given access to it the ability to stay update with what’s going on. Remote working can often cause communication issues, crossed-wires and uncertainty, so it's vital to have a project management tool such as Trello (opens in new tab) and/or others like it that deliver clarity and precise timings for deadlines, allocated duties and more besides.
WhatsApp is a hugely popular tool for staying in touch with people, either on a professional or personal level. Setting up a WhatsApp group if you need to network with a collection of people can be a really practical way of sharing facts, figures and schedules with others. WhatsApp is also useful for adding a sense of fun to proceedings if you’re looking for a little bit of light relief from the daily grind. Naturally, if WhatsApp doesn't appeal then there is a rich seam of alternatives to WhatsApp (opens in new tab), from Viber and Signal through to WeChat and others too.
If you’re a remote worker who plans to stay productive overseas then there are also tools that can help you get around minor things, like the local language for example. Duolingo is a cool app for tackling a raft of different languages while adding a little bit of fun into the mix. Meanwhile, Google Translate, as an alternative example, is another powerful tool for getting around language barriers and proves once again that there are no real barriers to productivity when it comes to remote working. For more serious projects, there are a number of translation software (opens in new tab) options out there.
In the zone
Similarly, if you work across time zones with fellow collaborators who might be in other parts of the world then something like Figure it Out is well worth investigating. Available as an extension for the Google Chrome browser (opens in new tab) and also as a web version, this handy add-on is a useful way of keeping tabs on who might be contactable in the office (home or otherwise), or indeed anywhere, by showing their time zone in an instant. More useful than you might think if you’re prone to globe-hopping with your work duties.
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