Best Apps and Tools for Working Remotely
Technology has given many of us the freedom to work from anywhere as freelancers, entrepreneurs, and full time employees, students, retirees, and stay at home parents.
For some, “anywhere” is a local coffee shop. For others, it’s warmer climates. And for the vast majority, it’s simply on the couch in the comfort of their own homes.
Nevertheless of how anyone chooses to embrace the shift towards more remote friendly work lives, it’s the tools at our disposal that make it all possible.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of remote work tools and travel apps to make your life easier, whether you choose to work from home or on the go.
Slack: A workspace for remote teams
As reliable as email is for communicating with others, there are many benefits to having a dedicated workspace for your team, especially one where many of its members are working remotely.
Slack is one of the more popular solutions for team communication given its variety of collaboration-oriented features. You can create channels for different purposes, such as one for customer support tickets or one collecting your latest social media mentions.
With a growing number of apps and integrations, Slack can be customised according to your own workflows, connecting with many other tools on this list, and letting you set up automated notifications from other services.
Trello: Project management and collaboration
Trello is a canvas style project management tool that can be used for pretty much anything from product development to content planning and managing freelancers to daily task management.
What sets Trello apart from similar tools is how easy it is to use. You can drag and drop files and text, and paste images from your clipboard onto cards to collect them together. You can assign due dates, labels, team members, and comments to both plan out a strategy and track its progress.
There’s a 10MB limit per attachment on the free plan, but you can just as easily attach Google Drive or Dropbox links to your cards to keep both assets and ideas in one place.
WiFi Map: Find free wifi near you
The one thing every remote worker and digital nomad needs, which enables almost every other app on this list: WiFi.
Finding a free, stable internet connection can be hard enough in your own city, let alone when you’re travelling abroad.
That’s where WiFi Map comes in handy.
Through the magic of crowdsourcing, this app touts over 100 million free hotspots around the world, along with passwords and download/upload speeds submitted by users. It’ll also tell you what kind of establishment is hosting the connection, so you know whether you can go in to grab a coffee or a bite to eat while you’re there as well.
Best of all, you can download WiFi maps in advance for offline access in the cities you plan on travelling to, solving the problem of needing internet to find internet in the first place.
Just keep in mind that, since it is crowdsourced information, it’s prone to becoming outdated so be sure to check the freshness of each submission.
Google Translate: Translate the world around you
If you’re traveling abroad to a place where you don’t speak the native language, Google Translate can come in handy, especially with its camera feature that makes use of your smartphone to read text physically in front of you.
Simply snap a picture of the text to see an overlay of the translated version on top of the original. It works well with many popular languages, including some with non English characters.
You can also speak into your microphone and the app will translate what you say out loud into the language you’ve set. Specific words and sentences can be saved to a phrasebook that you can easily reference later.
Google Drive: Store your files in the cloud
Cloud storage is easy to take for granted, but it’s a must when you’re working remotely, especially as part of a small team that needs to share files and make them easily accessible in a single place
Google Drive remains one of the most generous cloud storage platforms by giving you 15 GB of space for free right off the bat.
Plus with Docs, Slides, Sheets, and more as part of Google’s suite of tools, you can open many of your files and share them on the go.
TripAdvisor: Find fun things to do near you
Not everything on this list has to be about work. Sometimes you just want to travel somewhere new and have fun. Remote work wouldn’t work without work/life harmony, after all.
That’s where an app like TripAdvisor comes in handy. Not only can you browse and compare flight and hotel bookings, but you can find activities to do in the city of your choice, along with reviews, prices, pictures, and more.
Want to check out the best local restaurants? See the most talked about attractions? There’s a variety of stuff to do during your downtime while traveling or working abroad.
Momentum: A new tab that keeps you focused
Discipline is one of the harder aspects of working remotely. Without anyone tracking your time or watching your progress, it’s easy to fall out of focus, especially if you’re a procrastinator.
Momentum is a popular browser extension that turns every new tab you open into a reminder of your single most important task to get done and how much time is left in your day to do it.
You can combine it with some of these other Google Chrome extensions to make your browser less of a distraction and more of the productive tool it's meant to me.
Hangouts: Remote communication
Sometimes text messaging doesn’t cut it and you need to meet face-to-face or the next best thing: over a video call while screen sharing.
Google Hangouts is one of the best tools out there for this, particularly because the person on the other end doesn’t need a Google account to accept your call. Plus, it integrates with Google Calendar to make scheduling calls easy.
You can conduct 1-on-1 conversations or host a group meeting, sharing your screen to make it easier to walk through instructions, discuss results, and give or get feedback on an idea.
Evernote: Collect ideas on the go
Every entrepreneur needs an idea journal, a place to collect research and capture fleeting moments of inspiration.
Evernote is one of the most widely recommended productivity apps for this purpose, letting you create notebooks to store specific notes that can include images, links, text, and even snippets of important information with its web clipper tool.
With Skitch, part of its suite of complementary apps, you can also take screenshots of what’s on your screen and automatically store these images in Evernote.
If you’d like a more simple tool, you can also try Google Keep for jotting down your ideas and to-do lists.
Zapier and IFTTT: Save time with automation
Time. There’s never enough of it as an entrepreneur. But automation can help you earn some of it back.
If there’s a repetitive process you feel anyone can do, chances are you can automate it with Zapier or If This Then That (IFTTT). Download photos posted under your branded hashtag. Collect mentions of your products on Reddit and Twitter into a spreadsheet. Connect two apps that don’t normally integrate.
There are a ton of ways you can use these services to take some of your work off your plate, execute tasks when you’re sleeping, and pass information between apps or people.
I’ve included both Zapier and IFTTT because they each have their own strengths:
Zapier is built for enterprise use cases with a free plan and pricing that scales with your usage.
IFTTT lets you create a mix of personal and business workflows for free without any limit.
Work From: Work friendly environments near you
As a remote worker at home or a digital nomad abroad, you often need to establish a temporary base of operations to concentrate for hours at a time.
Work From makes that easier by crowdsourcing local recommendations from a large community of remote workers.
Whether it’s a coffee shop or a co-working space, you can find locations near you based on priorities such as good Wi-Fi, noise levels, abundance of outlets, and the likelihood of meeting new people.
Each venue gets a “workability score” out of 4 to help you choose the best place to set up your laptop and get to work. Plus, as a member, you can contribute your own favourite spots too.
Google Docs (Distraction-Free Mode): Focus on writing
Google Docs is a solid text editor. It’s cloud-based, lets you add images, format your writing in a variety of ways, easily share it with others for feedback, and do so much more.
But what it’s lacked is a distraction-free mode that eliminates all the extra options in favor of pure, no-excuses writing.
This free browser extension is a game-changer if you spend a lot of your time in Google Docs, whether it’s writing a blog post or drafting copy for your website.
Enable this add-on, toggle full screen mode, and get ready to block out everything else and write.
Entrepreneurs, writers, developers, marketers, and remote workers of all kinds might belong to different disciplines but share many of the same challenges, whether it’s finding a good Wi-Fi connection or the focus you need to get things done.
By embracing the technology at your disposal you can also embrace the opportunities that come with remote work namely, the freedom to choose the setting you work in and the flexibility to live a fuller life.