woman sitting on laptop in home office
When implemented successfully, teams who are working from home should have the tools to be able to communicate, collaborate and produce the same work as they do when on-site. — Getty Images/filadendron

Working remotely — whether from home, a coffee shop, library or any other out-of-office location — is a widely desired employee benefit and, as a result, has increased in popularity.

In fact, more than 30% of U.S. employees are allowed to work from home regularly. And of those that don’t, 80% to 90% would like to work from home at least part of the time.

From establishing a reliable method of communication to implementing organizational tools that can be accessed from anywhere, there are many steps to take to ensure that the workday is as productive remotely as it is on-site.

[Read: 3 Employee Benefits Trends You Need to Know About]

Fortunately, there are apps and tools available to make this easier. Here are seven tools that will help make working from home achievable and successful.

For security: A VPN

The first place to start is by choosing a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN allows you to establish a secure online connection with a remote computer network.

A VPN is a must-have for anyone who virtually accesses sensitive customer data. But it’s especially important if you routinely use unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Before settling on a VPN, you should check the company’s security encryption level and privacy policy. And make sure the VPN you choose will work across all your devices.

For file storage: Google Drive

Using a cloud-based file storage system will make your workday much more manageable. Google Drive lets users store files in the cloud and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

It’s easy to organize your files into different folders. And the search engine makes it easy to access your files quickly, share documents and collaborate directly within the app. You can also set up two-factor authentication for additional security.

When you use Google Drive, you’ll automatically receive 15 GB of free storage, but you can purchase if you need it.

Alternatives: Dropbox, OneDrive, Box.

For organizing tasks: Trello

A popular task management app, Trello makes it easy for teams to collaborate and work together on nearly any type of project. Once you sign up with Trello, you’ll create a new “board” for each project.

A Trello board provides a bird’s-eye view of each project and all of its moving parts. You can choose to add team members to boards or keep them private. And Trello lets you comment and tag team members directly within the app.

Trello syncs to dozens of third-party apps, as well, allowing users to upload documents and schedule items to calendars.

Alternatives: Asana, Monday or Basecamp.

As the remote workforce grows, teams will be more pressed than ever to find ways to collaborate remotely.

For seamless signatures: DocuSign

If you regularly sign contracts, you’ll need a cloud-based e-signature software like DocuSign. DocuSign makes it easy to create and share documents with other people.

The DocuSign contract comes with fillable forms, and if needed, you can utilize multi-party signing. And once a contract is signed, DocuSign will save a copy of it for you so you’ll always have it on file.

Alternatives: HelloSign, SignNow.

For scheduling meetings: Calendly

If you regularly schedule meetings or conference calls, then you’ll need a scheduler like Calendly. This will save you from the back-and-forth email string that can occur when trying to schedule a call.

With a scheduling app, you set your calendar preferences ahead of time. Then you email your Calendly link to the person you’re trying to schedule a call with.

Once that person schedules the appointment time that works for them, Calendly adds the meeting to your calendar.

Alternative: Acuity Scheduling.

For instant messaging: Slack

As the remote workforce grows, teams will be more pressed than ever to find ways to collaborate remotely. Slack, a messaging and file sharing platform, is currently one of the most widely used options out there.

Each chat in Slack is called a channel, and you can choose to message one-on-one to in groups. You also get to choose whether those channels are public or private.

Alternatives: Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams.

For video chats: Skype

Skype is a good option for anyone that regularly schedules video calls. It’s an app that you can access on a desktop, mobile app or tablet. You can add new contacts, message within the app and share documents.

You can also set up video or voice calls, and screen sharing is available. The app is easy to use, and the company offers various pricing plans.

Alternatives: Zoom, Google Hangouts.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published October 09, 2019