The idea of working remotely, whether from home or a coffee shop, is an attractive one. Remote work eliminates the commute to work and gives you control of your hours, ultimately allowing you to maintain a good balance between work and personal life. With the outburst of remote work productivity technology, telecommuting is becoming an increasingly competitive alternative to the traditional office-going kind of work. In the United States alone, the percentage of people who work remotely has grown 37%.
However, the lure of independence and work-life balance associated with remote working also come with challenges: chief of which are distractions. Distractions that can make you unfocused, unproductive and unfulfilled. To make the most out of remote work, I’ve found that there are five important skills that need to be mastered. Mastering these areas has become even easier thanks to remote work management software. Below are the five skills I’ve noticed are most important for remote workers, and the tools that help me make the most out of my day and run my remote team.Check out the essential set of tools that make running a remote team a breeze Click To Tweet
Let’s face it: life is measured in time – years, months, days, hours and minutes. One of the biggest benefits to remote work is the ability to set your own schedule and manage your time to maintain good work/life balance. Effective time management means prioritizing tasks you want to get done, allocating hours to these tasks, and getting them done. For remote teams with members in different time zones, proper time management allows you to know how each member optimizes their time so you can sync with their schedules to get important things done. Tasks done in chunks of time allow you to enjoy the small ‘victories’ or successes along the way.
Recommended software for time management: Hubstaff
For proper time management, the best tool out there is Hubstaff. Hubstaff is a time tracking software that makes it extremely simple to stay on top of how you use your time. Because Hubstaff runs silently in the background (and uses keyboard and mouse activity to track working and idle time), it enables you to achieve results without interfering with your important tasks.
It is also excellent when you have a remote team and want to manage what everyone is up to. This is because you can check out your dashboard and see which tools your team members are using, what sites they’ve been visiting and their general activity levels. And the app can take random screenshots of your team members’ screens. You don’t have to stress about your team getting work done because you’ll know. Even if you or your employees lose connection, you can continue working offline as Hubstaff stores the data on your computer and syncs automatically when you get connected. Hubstaff has 30+ integrations so it works seamlessly with the tools you are using for project management, accounting, and paying your team.
Pricing: starts at $5 per user a month. You can also try the 14-day free trial.
Free for 14 Days
Track Remote Time with Hubstaff
Free for 14 Days
Remote workers often tend to work alone, in isolation. While some people function best this way and others do not, it’s important that remote workers maintain a consistent connection with team members or stakeholders. This is why communication is a critical skill to develop when working remotely. Communication entails clearly articulating ideas to team members, asking important questions, providing feedback, and doing all of these in a good, timely fashion. Also, it isn’t enough to just have to have something to say; you must be available to say it too – with no restrictions regarding time zones.
Recommended software for communication: Slack
My top software recommendation for remote workers is Slack. Slack is a messaging app that allows you and your teams to communicate in a real-time and transparent manner. You can communicate with all members of your team individually, all at once, and/or set up multiple groups. All of these allow you to communicate with key people without spamming everyone with irrelevant emails. Within a group, you can create different ‘channels’ to enable yourself to have different conversations around key topics.
Slack also allows you to send different formatted codes as messages, and it has huge diversity of syntax highlighters (this is great if your team is full of coders). You can even import social media conversations (e.g. Twitter) into Slack and search through them in a group archive. With close to 100 integrations, Slack works well with all the tools you already use. All data in slack is transferred via an encryption.
Pricing: Free for small teams with a basic plan. For packages with more integration & customization, pricing starts at $6.67 per month for 1 user.
Project management is essentially the ability to collaboratively plan, design, kick off, manage and close projects in an open and transparent manner. This is important because although you work remotely, you don’t work alone. You still need to collaborate with other stakeholders – who are not physically present with you – to make the projects you work on a success. Not only does good management of projects provide accountability; but also it enforces responsibility. So that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, with whom, and at what time.
Recommended software for coordination: Asana
My recommended software for project coordination is Asana. With its clean and intuitive interface, Asana enables you and your team to manage workflows. And the backbone for workflows is task creation (at least in the world of Asana). So essentially you can define a task that has to be accomplished, assign it to a member of your team and add a deadline or ‘due date’. Over time, you can track the execution of that task and if you integrate with Hubstaff how long it takes to complete the task. For every task in Asana, you can upload files, discussions, and tags, which are a great way to see important characteristics that tasks share in common.
When working on multiple projects with different stakeholders from separate entities, you can create multiple Workspaces in Asana. That way, you can engage appropriately with the different organizations based on their own unique set of people, projects, and tasks. Asana also offers a depth of customization which makes it possible to filter projects so you can keep tabs on what’s important to you.
Pricing: Asana is free for Individuals and small teams of up to 15 people
This refers to the important habit of consistently and digitally filing, saving or storing your work in a way which is easily accessible to you and your colleagues. You don’t want to just dump files in a hard drive. You want to be able to share, modify, sync across all the devices you and your team members are using, and also store in a way which makes them highly searchable in the future (i.e. you don’t want to spend precious minutes looking for files you save!). This is vital because there are no physical cabinets or drawers that can be accessed by your colleagues from your remote location.
Recommended software for file management: Google Drive
My recommended software for file management is Google Drive. Google Drive is a free digital storage space where you can store your files in the cloud in a way that makes them highly searchable. Google Drive has the ability to scan photos (and PDFs too) and find terms you’re looking for using optical character recognition (OCR).
Also, you can place certain restrictions (e.g. downloading, printing, or copying) on the files that you share with team members based on how appropriate it is. That’s sharing with purpose! Google Drive’s all file-syncing services also ensure that it’s easier for you to switch between computers or mobile devices without losing your work’s momentum. Uploaded files can be edited online and exported to different standard file formats, making the sharing process convenient depending on which projects you’re working on.
Pricing: free for 15GB of space
As I mentioned earlier, a major benefit of working remotely is the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Part of the reason is so that you’re constantly refreshed. And empowered to bring your best creative work to the table. Creativity here means coming up with new thoughts or refined ideas that enable you to deliver more value both as a person and a colleague to current and future projects. Creativity keeps you motivated and brings a deeper sense of fulfillment that you’re able to impact your project.
Recommended software for creativity: Evernote
My software recommendation to help organize your creative thoughts is Evernote. Evernote helps you organize creative projects in a way that makes them actionable whenever you want to focus on them. One way Evernote helps you to do this is by leaving random voice notes. Their voice note function enables you to leave audio recordings (through your smartphone) of an idea you had when you were away from your laptop. The audio notes are saved inside Evernote where you can listen to it, share it with team members or download it.
Also, in moments when your creative ideas are best sketched, you can use Evernote in combination with Penultimate (a digital handwriting app for iPad). This fits perfectly into Evernote’s sync and search features. You can even annotate the image. Additionally, Evernote allows you to set reminders for ideas that you want to follow up on by giving you the option to set reminders. This helps you to take action on your ideas.
Pricing: free for a basic plan
Any tools to add?
These tools have enabled me to focus on results and thus, increase my remote work productivity. Are you using any amazing tools that I missed here? Please feel free to share them in the comments section.