Optimizing: Your guide to the best work from home tools

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Work from home tools have been around for longer than we might think. However, it hasn’t been until lately that the demand for them have skyrocketed.

This is because, as in all things, there are a lot of risks and concerns involved with working from home—both on employee and employer ends.

Often, a major concern for employees (or freelancers or self-employed individuals—whichever boat you’re on) is the distractions to be found in the home that might cause a considerable decline in productivity.

On the other hand, employers may find themselves worried about team management, such as how to operate a team scattered all over the country or the world even, tracking the tasks that have been or are being completed, and of course, the time employees render.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of all this, but just as advancements in technology have paved the way for the rise of remote work setups, so too have these technological progresses bridged the gap between these concerns and the viable and feasible solutions available.

These solutions come in the form of work from home tools that help employers stay on top of their employees, who in turn can stay the course of their assigned tasks.

Technology has made it possible to work from home or anywhere in the world, really, quite easy; and it’s the same technology that brings the peace of mind that quality work can and will still be done despite being removed from the physical confines of a traditional office setup.

Truly, a remote work setup is just as sought after, and perhaps is even more beneficial than the traditional office setup, these days.

To learn more about the tools that can help you realize this, read our guide to the best work from home tools you can get started with today.

 

Reviewing the catalogue: types of work from home tools

Depending on your needs, there are plenty of tools available in the market that can help you lock in on working productively from home.

These tools can take the form of a platform, service, software, or system.

Here’s a list of the most common types of tools available.

 

Project management system (PMS)

PMS is a centralized hub for online work, not unlike an online toolkit that can be accessed and used by various team members.

Documents, task lists, and other important information are all stored in one place, making it easy to look up relevant information, regardless of where you are.

PMS also comes with an interaction platform for teams to virtually meet in and discuss matters.

 

Team collaboration tool

This is essentially an online platform that simulates the means we collaborate with others in the office space: through communication.

These types of tools allow for instant messaging, voice or video calls, file sharing, and more between team members.

It’s like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Viber, or whatever app your team uses, but for professional use—and on a more technologically sophisticated level.

 

Cloud storage service

This type of tool enables the online sharing and storing of documents and multimedia files.

Depending on the size of your storage, this is a great alternative to a physical hard drive as it allows you to sync and access your files from anywhere and across multiple gadgets.

It’s also an easy solution for sharing files quickly, especially those too large to send by email.

 

Productivity tool

As can be inferred, these tools are best for keeping yourself in the zone and rolling.

If you’re easily distracted or need an external reminder to take breaks, these tools will do just the trick.

 

Time management tools

These tools are meant to help you keep track of your work hours, in addition to the activities that you worked on during that time.

They also allow you to manage your time more effectively.

 

Team management tools

There are four main kinds of team management tools.

There’s appointment tools, which help you easily schedule meetings even across different time zones.

There’s feedback tools, which allow both employer and employee to give performance and experience insights to the other.

There’s telecommunication tools, which enable you to hold virtual meetings and conferences.

And there’s voiceover internet protocol (VoIP) services, technology that allows you to call someone via the internet instead of a telephone or mobile phone.

 

Other tools

There are also specialized tools that cater to specific industries, such as call center software for agencies and help desk tools for businesses.

 

Tickling the brain: things to consider

As you browse through the multitude of work from home tools you can get your hands on, how do you know which one is right for you?

While this is mostly dependent on what kind of business you’re in and what the needs to be met are, here are four things that you should consider, regardless.

 

Resources

Not all tools come with a free trial period, and those that do rarely stay free. Developing these tools take time and skill, and as such, justifiably come with a price.

So as you select your tools, remember to work within your budget and to choose those that will really give you your money’s worth both in efficiency and in longevity.

Ask yourself: if you were to suddenly stop using a particular tool someday, will you still be able to work optimally still or not? If the answer is no, then you are most likely on the right track, as this means that the tool is a necessity.

Additionally, determine whether access to a particular tool is on a lifetime or contractual basis. Will you have to pay one-time-big-time to have access to the tool forever, or are there expiration and renewal dates?

As you study the features presented by the tool, weigh its value against its lifespan. This is a good way to see whether the tool matches your resources per value.

 

Convenience

How easy will it be for you and anyone else on your team to learn how to use the tool you have chosen?

If a tool is too complex, you might want to think twice about purchasing and implementing its use, as your purchase might just go to waste when you’re forced to look for an alternative tool later on.

It’s better to choose tried and tested tools that are easy to master than highly technical and sophisticated ones that only a select few can come to grips with.

Ultimately, your goal should be convenience for all, not for some.

 

Effectivity

Before you go gaga over a tool, do your due diligence. Take the time to check out reviews from others and study the features and packages being offered.

You will want to choose tools that simplify the workflow system but also keep everyone efficient and on track. After all, why bother with a tool that sounds good in theory but is a flop in practice?

 

Third-party integrations

More is not always better, but in this case, the more third-party apps your tool of choice can integrate with, the better.

Of course, it doesn’t have to give you access to a hundred other apps—that’s insane and lowkey alarming in the scam-alert sense.

Rather, identify the third-party apps essential to your workflow and look for the tools that can easily integrate with them. Depending on what your research concludes with, this factor could easily revolutionize the way your team operates on the day-to-day.

 

Considering the odds: benefits of work from home tools

You might be wondering whether work from home tools are necessary to do your job or to keep your business up and running.

The truth is, it’s not necessary. But with the way it streamlines the workflow and makes operations simpler and more efficient, it might as well be.

If you’re not convinced, here are some of the benefits we’ve found work from home tools to bring to the table.

 

Organization

Everything you’ll ever need to get the job done is in one place.

Whatever you need is within virtual reach, and there’s no need to keep asking your boss or your colleague for a copy of this or that because it’s all been uploaded to the tool’s server already.

 

Real-time collaboration

The beauty of technology is that remote workers can work in sync with colleagues no matter where they are.

You can simply send a message or start a call, and in so doing, do the following and more, live: give updates, work on projects together, or simply just bond with each other. There are no boundaries to teamwork.

 

Visibility and accountability

Never fear having your accomplishments go unrecognized.

With the help of tools, you can show your progress not just to colleagues but to supervisors, too. This consequently keeps you from slacking off and makes sure you get your work done.

At the same time, visibility can also apply to the projects you’re handling themselves: you can monitor timelines and keep track of changes and updates—all with the click of a mouse.

 

Better management

All these benefits allow managers to get a better picture and a better handle on their employees and their activities. There’s no need to worry about not being able to supervise or even to train or mentor those in their fold, as there are plenty of virtual alternatives now.

On the employees’ end, you can expose yourself to a variety of tools that greatly save you time, energy, and risk of miscommunication and missed deadlines. Some of these tools are even used in the traditional office setup, or would be useful for a freelancer or small business owner!

All in all, work from home tools are a great learning and operating investment.

 

Peruse the bounty: top work from home tools

Now that we’ve gotten the preliminaries out of the way, here are our top suggestions on the best remote work tools that could significantly help you.

 

PMS tools

 

Basecamp

This user-friendly tool is perhaps the most basic yet most well-known one in the PMS industry.

It has a built-in team collaboration feature which makes it convenient to reach out to clients. Organizing conversations is a breeze, too, allowing for a quick navigation and exchange of ideas.

On the downside, Basecamp offers no way to track time ins and time outs, to archive conversations, and to create subtasks.

 

Instagantt

As you might have surmised, this is an online Gantt chart software.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a Gantt chart is essentially a bar chart plotted on Excel to both visually plan and to keep track of projects over time. The data on the left side corresponds to specific tasks and activities, while the top shows the timeline. As such, each bar’s position depicts the activity, its start and end date, and its duration.

Although Instagantt is easy to use, it is nonetheless impressive. It gets the nitty gritty done, especially in keeping track of important details and keeping each team member in the loop of the others’ progress.

You don’t just create Gantt charts, either: you also get to streamline your team’s workflow while communicating with them. Its other features include free templates, guidelines, and automatic project scheduling, among others.

 

Proofhub

This PMS tool allows for real-time project delivery and team accountability. Any changes that occur across projects and channels are synced to the second a change is made.

Additionally, it gives users simplified but complete control over features, which include proofing, discussions, and chat to share feedback, among others.

What makes it most attractive, however, is that its price plans are fixed, meaning there are no per-user fees involved.

 

Team collaboration tools

 

Asana

Asana is no ordinary team collaboration tool in that it has its own PMS features, particularly a Gantt chart, to keep everything organized.

Teams can organize lists, boards, and calendars to keep each other in the loop. You can also create forms and assign tasks to others as well as yourself, and these tasks can be given priorities and deadlines, too.

An added benefit is that the tool is integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, Gmail, Microsoft Teams, and Slack, among others.

 

Microsoft Teams

This business messaging app by Microsoft allows for a seamless integration with other Microsoft 365 apps. So if you work with a boss or coworker who prefers to send and received Word or Excel files over Google Docs or Sheets, then Microsoft Teams would be a great tool for you.

Aside from this, the app comes with great messaging, video conferencing, and VoIP features. Yes, you won’t have to set up an external Zoom or Skype meeting anymore!

It does take a bit to get used to though, so a bit of exploration and adjustment time maybe be required, especially for those who aren’t as tech-savvy.

 

Slack

Boasting its ability to “replace email inside your company”, Slack is perhaps the most popular team collaboration tool on the market today.

It’s not hard to see why it’s well-loved: it’s a sleek and colorful digital space that organizes your virtual workspace efficiently. Conversation threads are neatly arranged, and channels are available for various teams to hold focused discussions on.

Guest users can also be given limited access to workspaces as long as they’re invited by a workspace admin.

 

Troop Messenger

Used by small, medium, and large enterprises, this is an uncomplex but highly functional tool that adapts to many domain specifications.

Much like Slack, invited guests can join workspaces with limited  access. This makes it easy for clients, consultants, and more to stay on top of what’s happening with the projects they’re involved in, especially with Troop’s integration feature with other platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

 

Cloud storage service tools

 

Dropbox

Before the advent of Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, the king of cloud storage services was Dropbox.

It revolutionized the way we share files with coworkers. Instead of busting out your trusty USB, Dropbox allows you to upload large files onto its platform and share the link with others.

It also now has a collaboration feature powered by API, which is tremendously helpful for remote co-workers.

 

Google Drive

Who doesn’t use Google Drive these days?

This multifaceted platform allows you to create and store documents, presentations, media files, spreadsheets, survey forms, and more.

A great advantage over its counterparts is its “Offline” setting. You can turn this feature on and access and edit files even without Internet connection.

 

Productivity tools

 

Blink

Blink combines productivity and communication tools onto a unified platform to promote synergy within your team. Easily find features such as calendar management, directories, discussion boards, and even your own newsfeed on your dashboard.

A unique feature to the platform is the ability to create micro-applications, such as automated timesheets and payment cards, within it—even without any technical know-how.

 

Evernote

This superior note-taking app keeps all your minutes and to-do lists tidy and synced across various devices. You can even format and highlight text, add links and images, and create folders.

Think of a 3-in-1 app where Microsoft Word, Sticky Notes, and Reminders have all been merged.

 

Krisp

This AI-powered app cancels noise on both ends of a work call, making it especially useful for remote workers who do not live alone.

An added bonus is that it can be integrated with many communication and telecommunication softwares such as Skype, Zoom, and even Slack.

 

Todoist

Todoist is perfect for anyone who loves organized to-do lists.

More than just creating an endless array of tasks and subtasks, you can also set reminders, get started on projects, create a productivity chart, and even add notes and flags.

 

Time management tools

 

Hub Staff

This tool allows you to keep an eye on what, specifically, employees are spending their time on. What are they working on, and when?

These data are made available through employee monitoring features such as GPS tracking, online invoices and timesheets, payroll software, and project budgeting, among others.

 

Kickidler

This software is primarily known for its employee productivity analysis and time tracking.

Its recent Autokick update even allows for a self-monitoring interface to check your productivity statistics. Kinda intimidating, but also pretty cool, right?

 

Teamwork

As its name suggests, this tool is meant to boost team morale by “[focusing] on the work that matters.”

Not only is the time you log per day tracked, but your corresponding expenses for projects are taken note of as well. This enables you to create the necessary reports on the hours and money you spent on a project.

 

Time Doctor

Pretty straightforwardly, this tool keeps track of each team member’s work hours, thereby directly holding them accountable.

Time Doctor offers a 14-day free trial available on its desktop, mobile, and chrome apps.

 

Team management tools

 

Appointment tools

These tools help you effectively convert and schedule meetings with colleagues and clients—even if they live in different time zones.

 

Feedback tools

 

Chim or Champ

This is actually quite the fun tool, as it gives employees the chance to anonymously weigh in on a happiness meter, providing insight to managers about how well their employees are doing.

 

iDoneThis

Instead of conducting daily check-in meetings, managers can use this app to keep tabs on employee progress and give feedback based on the reports they submit.

 

WooBoard

This app is perfect for recognizing a deserving employee. Managers can create reward programs, and employees can celebrate their recognitions. They can also make use of social engagement features and use the tool accordingly.

 

Telecommunication tools

Need to hold a video call? Try the following tools:

 

VoIP service tool: CallHippo

This cloud-based advanced call center management software has a user-friendly interface. It also has its own mobile app and 24/7 customer support, on top of features such as autodialing, contact management, detailed call reporting, and predictive dialing.

 

Other tools

 

Call-center software: Dialpad

This AI-powered communications platform primarily allows for calls and video conferences across devices to simulate an up-and-running physical call center.

It has built-in Voice Intelligence that enables automated note-taking and call transcription, in addition to a feature that integrates Dialpad with other cloud-based platforms such as Google Suite, Salesforce, and Zendesk.

It also has a unique real-time sentiment analysis function to allow managers to provide employees with in-call guidance.

 

Help desk tool: LiveAgent

For businesses that require help desk support, this tool is the way to go. It supports multiple channels and superb customer support features such as a call center operation, customer portal, live chat interface, spam and fraud protection, ticketing system, and more.

What’s even better is that the software runs in thirty-nine different languages. This makes it accessible and available to a wide range of workers, especially when your team is made up of individuals from different parts of the globe.

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