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Maybe you’ve just joined a totally remote company. Or, perhaps the recent COVID-19 pandemic suddenly has your typically co-located team working from their separate home offices.
Regardless of what led you here, this much is true: You’re working from home, and you’ll admit that you don’t know a ton about how this whole thing is supposed to go.
Whether you’re working remotely temporarily or for the long haul, you want to make this arrangement work for you. You’re eager to prove that you can be just as productive and efficient as you are in the office—even if you’re now cranking through your to-do list in your favorite pajama pants with your four-legged friend curled up at your feet.
Here at GoSkills, we’re a 100% remote staff with team members distributed all around the globe. So, we like to think we’re pretty familiar with what it takes to make the very most of the remote work lifestyle. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned? Technology can be a lifesaver.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together 16 of our favorite remote work tools that we rely on day in and day out. We’re confident that they’ll help you and your team thrive among all of these changes. Because, take it from us: You don’t need to be under the same roof to do great work together.
16 best tools for working from home
What it costs: Free, with business plans starting at $9.99 per user per month
Why you’ll love it: You had an easy time keeping track of tasks and projects when you could stop over at your colleague’s desk and ask for a status update. But now? Things aren’t quite so straightforward, and you feel like you’re losing visibility into how your shared work is moving along.
That’s where Trello comes in. It’s a list-making tool that uses a Kanban-style to make it easy to immediately understand where something is in a process. You can create columns for different stages, and cards for various assignments. With other features like checklists, the ability to @mention team members, and deadline notifications, you’ll have a much easier time keeping all of your work on track.
Check out our free Trello tips webinar to get a taste of how you might use this powerful tool.
What it costs: Free, with business plans starting at $6.67 per user per month
Why you’ll love it: According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Report, communicating is one of the biggest challenges of working remotely—ranking only behind unplugging after work and loneliness. Fortunately, an instant messaging platform like Slack can mitigate all of those struggles.
You can keep conversations streamlined by creating designated channels for specific topics, like one for that major website redesign you’re working on or even a fun channel used only for pet photos. Slack has a number of other helpful communication features as well, like direct messages, automated reminders, and even a calling feature to allow you to chat with team members live.
Watch our bite-sized video on how to become a Slack pro in less than 5 minutes!
What it costs: Free, with premium plans starting at $7.99 per month
Why you’ll love it: You consider yourself an avid note taker, as evidenced by the dozens of sticky notes you have littered all over your desktop. The only problem? You can’t keep track of all of those supposedly helpful messages and reminders you’re jotting down.
Evernote is a note taking and organizing app that brings some order to all of that chaos. Within Evernote, you can store everything from documents to photos in different notebooks and then tag them to make them easier to find later. Plus, all of the content within Evernote syncs between your devices—so, even if you saved the screenshot of that website inspiration to Evernote on your desktop, you can easily access it on the fly from your iPhone.
What it costs: Free, with premium plans starting at $3 per user per month
Why you’ll love it: You have a lot on your plate, and your trusty paper to-do list isn’t quite cutting it anymore. When it comes to remote work tools, there are plenty of to-do list apps and collaborative work platforms that will help you streamline the way you get work done.
Todoist is one of our favorites. All of those random tasks that are rattling around in your brain can be dumped into this platform. You can easily organize and prioritize those items, and even delegate them to other team members to make sure you’re clear on who should be working on what. Plus, if you really want to keep yourself on the right track, you can set weekly productivity goals and look at graphs to monitor your progress.
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5. Google Drive
What it costs: Free for first 15 GB of storage, with paid plans starting at 100 GB for $1.99 per month
Why you’ll love it: Staying organized at work can be a challenge, and it becomes even more complex when everybody is working from home. Your work is all happening online, which creates a lot of...well...stuff. From product roadmaps or timelines to meeting recaps and status updates, you all of a sudden have a pile of digital files and resources to keep organized. Continuing to pass things back and forth in endless email threads is only creating confusion and frustration.
If you aren’t already using Google Drive, it’s time to start. This file storage service gives you a place to keep spreadsheets, documents, and slides in a shareable, collaborative space. That way, you and your team will have access to the most up-to-date files you need—without tons of scrolling through email chains. You can also use comments and “suggestion” mode to work together on files in real-time. It’s the next best thing to sitting side-by-side.
What it costs: Free seven-day trial, with paid subscriptions starting at $39 per month
Why you’ll love it: You’re career-driven, which means your growth and development means a lot to you. Rest assured that you aren’t alone—one Society of Human Resource Management survey found that 30% of employees consider career development opportunities very important. Yet, it’s something that can easily get pushed to the back burner when you and your team members are just trying to make it through your daily responsibilities.
Push yourself to keep learning and evolving by accessing online courses and learning opportunities through a platform like GoSkills. Whether you want to brush up your Excel knowledge or become a Photoshop whiz, you can master or refine skills from the comfort of your own home office (or, you know, couch).
What it costs: Free for first five sessions, with unlimited access for $6.99 per month
Why you’ll love it: You’ll admit that you were the one who always complained about how noisy your office environment was. But, now you’re surprised that you find yourself missing all of that background noise. Being alone in your home office or at your kitchen table is almost too quiet.
Brain.fm is here to fill that void with way more than the too-loud phone conversations or incessant keyboard tapping you hear in a typical office. They have science-backed playlists that can actually boost your focus. Put your headphones in, and you might just be surprised by how much work you’re able to power through.
What it costs: Free, with paid plans starting at $14.99 per month per host
Why you’ll love it: Working from home doesn’t mean that you never get to see anybody face-to-face. The occasional video chat is a great way for your team to get work done similarly to how you would if you were all around the same conference room table. And, it gives you the chance to connect and combat some of that loneliness that comes with working remotely.
There’s nothing more frustrating than technical glitches, so you’ll want a video conferencing solution that’s straightforward and reliable. That’s why so many teams swear by Zoom. After installing the software (it’s easy, we promise!), you’ll see that it’s incredibly user-friendly and includes helpful features like the ability to record calls or share resources via chat.
Honourable mention to Whereby (formerly Appear.in), a browser-based video meeting tool that only requires a link for your team to join the call.
What it costs: Free, with basic G Suite plans starting at $6 per user per month
Why you’ll love it: Speaking of video chats, Zoom isn’t the only player out there. Google Hangouts Meet is another popular solution among teams.
Particularly if you’re already using other G Suite products like Gmail or Google Drive, Hangouts is a great choice. It makes it easy to include a video chat link directly in your calendar invite and get everybody on that video call without any confusion. What’s even better is that Google has recently made advanced features of Hangouts Meet available for free to all G Suite users until July 1, 2020.
What it costs: Free for up to five team members, with paid plans starting at $9 per user per month
Why you’ll love it: If you thought distractions were prevalent in the office, just wait until you get into the groove of working from home. From that load of laundry that needs to be folded to the Netflix series that’s calling your name, there are seemingly endless things that threaten to sabotage your productivity.
One of the best things you can do is keep an eye on your working hours with a time tracker like Toggl. You can log your activities with the simple push of a button and then view detailed reports that show exactly where you’re spending your time (including any time-wasters you tend to fall victim to).
What it costs: Free
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for another way to manage your time and avoid the siren song of distractions, the Pomodoro Technique is a great way to give your focus a boost. It’s pretty simple: You’ll set a timer for 25 minutes and get as much work done in that chunk as you can. When that time is up, you take a five-minute break. After completing four cycles, you treat yourself to a longer break (try 10, 20, or even 30 minutes) before starting all over again.
This approach instills a sense of urgency, while also making your whole workday feel a heck of a lot more manageable. But, keeping track of your work intervals shouldn’t feel like a full-time job. TomatoTimer is a web page that makes it easy to set your timer with just the single push of a button. You can also adjust the settings to set custom intervals. So, if you want a slightly longer break, go ahead and adjust the duration and start the timer.
What it costs: Free, with paid plans starting at $4.49 per month
Why you’ll love it: Now that you’re no longer side-by-side with your teammates in the office, it’s not quite so easy to get an idea of everybody’s availability. You used to be able to pull together an impromptu meeting right after lunch, but now coordinating everybody’s schedules is a struggle.
Doodle allows you to quickly and easily get a sense of everybody’s schedule and availability. All you need to do is create a quick poll and then have people enter their names and select the days and times that work for them. From there, you can go with the most popular choice. After all, scheduling a meeting shouldn’t take longer than the meeting itself.
What it costs: Free 30-day trial, with paid plans starting at $2.99 per month
Why you’ll love it: With all of the tools and platforms you’re using now, you have a ton of passwords to keep track of. For security reasons, you don’t want to use the same password everywhere. But, that also means that you’re constantly resetting your login information or digging to find what credentials you used for that particular account.
A password manager like 1Password totally removes that hassle from your plate. You can store all of your login information within the vault. As long as you remember your master password, you can quickly gain access to all of your different tools, accounts, and profiles.
Another popular password manager is Lastpass, which allows you to store all your passwords securely. You can choose from personal and business plans.
What it costs: Free
Why you’ll love it: For remote teams that are globally-distributed, there’s another major hurdle that they need to cope with: time zone differences. Those major discrepancies in working hours can make scheduling tricky, and can also lead to miscommunications about when team members are actually signed on and available.
Timezone.io makes it easy to record and remember what time zones your team members are in. Wondering if your colleague is available for a quick call? Check Timezone.io to see their local time without any frantic Googling.
Honorable mention to similar tool Spacetime, a meeting scheduler that helps you map out timezones and can be integrated with Slack.
15. Smiling Mind
What it costs: Free
Why you’ll love it: When you are working from home, sometimes it can be hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance (especially when you’re in self-isolation or quarantine!) Smiling Mind is a popular free mindfulness app that can help you take a few minutes out of your workday to quiet all the noise and distractions. Regular practice of mindfulness has been shown to increase focus, relieve stress, and improve productivity – just a few good reasons for you to make it part of your daily routine.
16. Cold Turkey
What it costs: Free, with a pro plan available for a one-time payment of $20.49
Why you’ll love it: It’s amazing the internet rabbit holes you can fall down when you aren’t worried about your boss randomly stopping by your desk and catching you. Before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour online shopping or watching pointless YouTube videos.
Stop being your own worst enemy and use a blocker like Cold Turkey to block webpages, Google searches, applications, and even your entire computer if necessary. Unlike other blockers, it’s not easy to get around—so, once you’ve blocked something, there’s no turning back. When you try to access one of those blocked resources, you’ll see a motivational quote instead. It’s just the kick in the pants you need to get back to work.
Working from home? You’ll want these remote work tools in your corner
Whether it’s a temporary solution or a permanent shift, we know that transitioning to working from home can be a bit of a challenge.
Fortunately, technology can help you do everything from organizing your workload to keeping track of your passwords.
Check out some (or all) of the tools for working from home that we’ve rounded up here, and you’ll be prepped and ready to make the most of this new arrangement. Hey, you’ve got this!
Working from home shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own learning and development. Check out GoSkills to access tons of online courses and take your skills up a notch. Start your 7 day free trial today.
Want more productivity tips?
Take your productivity to the next level with our comprehensive (and free) ebook!
Thank you! I wasn't aware of some of the applications on this list. They might be useful to me. I like Evernote, I used it even before quarantine, but I don't like Trello very much. When you work in a team on a project that has many tasks and you fill those tasks at the same time, there is a lot of mess... at least in my experience.
Thanks for putting together this list My team and I are working on Buj https://www.buj.cloud/ – would love for you to check it out! It’s an easy way to collaborate on information.