This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by Nooria Khan.
The number of regular work-from-home employees has grown by 173% in the last 15 years, which is around 11% faster than the rest of the workforce. The pandemic has surely marked the end of regular 9 to 5 for many companies around the world.
However, from social media to smartphones, and from binge-watching your favorite shows to gaming, pets, kids, and life partners, there are several distractions hell-bent on reducing your remote work productivity.
I’ve worked remotely for most of this decade. One thing that has helped is to leave the PJs and distractions at home at least 2-3 times a week and set up shop at a coworking space instead.
But that’s not all. I also use a few tools to ensure that I stay focused, thereby maximizing productivity and boosting efficiency.
1. Slack [Free – $12.50]
The success of a business or a team is defined by the frequency and effectiveness of the communication among the members. In a remote work environment, the chances of synchronous communication is minimal to say the least, and you have to look for asynchronous communication options.
In the case of my team, Slack is our go-to choice for short updates, whereas more complex communication is handled using Trello (which I’ll discuss in a bit). Unlike many communication tools, Slack makes talking to your team a fun-yet-effective experience.
In combination with real-time messaging between members and teams, it provides an easy-to-share user interface where coworkers can share their cat pictures and memes in their free time. For virtual teams that need an open line of communication at all times that is both practical and enjoyable, Slack is the undefeated champion.
- If your email inbox has been crazy due to work emails, you will find Slack to be great at helping you organize your tasks and communication threads.
- Thanks to its advanced encryption system, your data is always safe and secure.
If you are part of a larger organization, keeping track of every conversation you are tagged into can at times get distracting. But you can get your company to set up policies about tagging people to help minimize this issue.
2. Zoom [Free – $150+]
You knew this was coming. From school kids to senior workers, everyone knows about Zoom. It is a necessary tool for working remotely as it allows you to have live communication either within your team or with your clients.
This feature-packed tool that allows you to record your sessions for later use, alongside virtual conferencing and collaborative screen sharing, is the go-to choice for most remote workers.
However, keep in mind that if you want to add more than 2 participants you will need to spend some cash or shorten the timing to 40 minutes.
- When working remotely we can often feel isolated. Using the video chat feature of Zoom on a weekly or monthly basis can help reduce that feeling by a big margin.
- Toll-free coverage in more countries than its competitors.
- With the industry-standard becoming 4K and 1080p, unfortunately Zoom only supports 720p momentarily.
3. Trello [Free – $17.50]
We’ve tried quite a few project management tools since companies that use project management practices save 28 times more money than those that don’t.
For our particular set of needs, Trello works out pretty well. We also feel the learning curve isn’t too steep for our team, and it’s easy to manage complex projects using Trello. But we recommend learning some basics of project management if possible before trying Trello or any other project management tool.
This free-to-use tool delivers one of the best and easiest UI experiences, effortless task management, and scheduling of your milestones.
- With the best-in-class notification system, every comment or movement between the cards can be noticed.
- You can easily integrate with most other tools such as Slack.
- Limited or no access to the projects when there is no internet. This can be annoying sometimes, especially if you need to monitor tasks on the go.
4. Hubstaff [Free – $10+]
To overcome the challenge of employee monitoring, team leads and supervisors use Hubstaff. It is a time tracking software that lets you see the active working hours and productivity levels of each individual. Employers can make use of the timesheets, easy payroll and task management, project budgets, and GPS tracking features.
Alongside signing in from anywhere, employees can also monitor and maximize their productivity and efficiency by tracking their progress within the software.
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- Tracks time and activity even without wifi or data access. The data is sent to servers upon reconnecting to the internet.
- Tracks only mouse and keyboard activity – so if you’re watching a work-related video or reading an article, it may reduce your activity rate.
5. Mural [Free – $12+]
Mural is a fun and engaging tool for expressing your creativity in a digital coworking space. Sure, in-person workshops have their own charms; however, with the right tools remote workshops can be a lively experience.
The Mural is a virtual whiteboard where multiple users can share and brainstorm ideas through images, writing, and drawing. It is packed with cool stuff such as follow me, lock, timed sessions, and my personal favorite: the voting session feature.
- Easy to understand and neat user interface. Simple drag-and-drops work really well.
- Minor quirks such as lag when moving lots of pieces, and sometimes users are unable to view pictures on the whiteboard.
About the Author
Nooria Khan is a tech-savvy software engineer turned blogger. She has been featured in media outlets like Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, Business2Community. She always keeps a journal and a cat by her side, and the only time she doesn’t play it safe is when she’s writing. Connect with Nooria on Twitter and LinkedIn.