Working remotely can be a difficult transition for anyone to make without the right tools. What used to be a walk to a colleague’s office now is an instant chat or video call. In-person training seminars are now digital courses with webinars. But you don’t have to be scared of these changes—we encourage you to embrace them!
After deciding how your role can go remote, you’ll need to get the right hardware and software to work. If you're still trying to decide, check out our article on working remotely that can help you get online.
Below, we took the time to research the best tools for working remotely so you don’t have to! As an online training platform, tools are part of the process to work and train remotely. Check our list below to get started!
The best hardware for working remotely
We can’t list the literally thousands of computer options available. Instead, we can give you a list of what we’re all using, as well as the accessories our departments need to succeed.
If you’re looking for a great, daily workhorse, the MacBook Pro 13inch model is our top pick. It has all of the bells and whistles of higher-end laptops with the battery and performance to back it up. These are especially solid laptops for design or developer heavy tasks that need a little more oomph.
If Apple’s OS isn’t your thing or you like having touch capability, our Marketing Content Specialist loves the HP Spectre 360 13t model. It comes with great specs on even base models and still boasts high-end performance. Being able to swap between tablet and laptop on the fly comes in handy for notes and collaborative projects.
Lastly, if you just need something to do word processing and web browsing, Chromebooks like the Pixelbook Go are up to the task. Coming in at the lower end of any budget, Google’s Chromebooks are fastly becoming a great entry-level computer. And you have the benefit of utilizing the Android app store to boost productivity with a host of tools.
If you’re taking video or audio calls (we’ll assume you will be since you’re working remotely) a headset is a must. Whether you’re using a pair of AirPods or the earbuds that came with your phone, you’ll need them. While most web and phone cameras have mics that pick up sound, it’s difficult to isolate your voice. Having a dedicated mic and headphone combo ensures consistent sound for everyone on the call. Don’t be that one person that has too much background noise or can only be heard in a hushed whisper.
Our best bang for your buck recommendation is MPOW which can be found on Amazon. With high marks from our own team and customer reviews, you’ll be able to step up your sound game.
For Monitors, Acer has been running a solid line for years. The quality can vary wildly depending on what your needs are for work. But this model comes at a great entry point price that can serve almost any task you’ll put it against! For keyboards and mice, you have a variety of options available based on your operating system. Keyboards like the Logitech Multi-Device Keyboard have button mapping for either OS you’re using. It also comes with a mouse, giving you a full kit to work with your second screen or desktop.
In terms of posture, working from home should be treated no differently than working at the office. Standing desks can dramatically improve your ergonomic workspace by taking some strain off your low back. If you have the space in your home, these desks are remote work game-changers. Check out this list of the best standing desks based on in-depth reviews by ConsumersAdvocate.org. If you have an HR team at your company, many of them are supplying these desks for remote teams as part of your office budgets. Reach out to your manager to find out!
If you’re looking to elevate just your laptop at home, then a stand like this one by Rain Design is perfect. It’s sturdy and will help you keep your posture in check. Laptop stands are a great way to elevate your writing area as well when a standing desk is not an option for your space.
Lastly, here’s a quick list of desk accessories our team can’t go without:
- Post It notes (with colors to match specific tasks).
- A writing pad (blank or lined, we still argue over which is better as a team).
- Coasters for all your drinks (we see those coffee rings on the table).
- A ring light if you need to brighten up your video calls.
- A desk lamp to keep your work area well lit.
- A plant to add some nature to your space, keep your area looking fresh, and purify the air.
Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of what’s needed to get your home set up for work. But hardware is only half the battle. Now let’s have a chat about the software the really drives remote work success.
The best software for working remotely
The applications you use to connect, communicate, manage, and deliver work remotely can vary greatly by profession. Below are some tools nearly anyone can make use of in their workdays. Many also offer mobile and computer compatibility, so you can access them from wherever you are located.
Video conferencing is one of the most important ways to stay in touch with your team. For video, you also have a plethora of options to choose from for your company. Our two picks are Google Hangouts and Zoom. Both are great depending on what you need from a conference platform (Zoom can host large numbers, Google is intuitive with scheduling). Both offer a chat function so people can ask questions and share links during a call. Both also offer a phone-in option for anyone that can’t join with video.
For chatting with your team, instant messaging applications are your best option to maintain a steady flow of communication. Slack is the best tool for remote work when it comes to communication. The integrations list is nearly endless and you can access your team’s channels from anywhere. If you have a team working across different time zones, we highly recommend getting the Timy integration so you can schedule messages. This can make it easy if you have something you want to send but don’t want to bother your teammate before they’re awake.
💡 Pro tip: Check out our course on how to get started using Slack—Click here to access.
Video messaging is a great way to explain a complex topic without sending a complex message. We love applications like Loom that work anywhere you need. This is also helpful if you’re trying to create evergreen video content for online training and customer demos.
Being able to manage and measure projects for your remote work is crucial to maintain transparency with your team. Our own CEO Ryan Macpherson talks about transparency in our article on managing remote teams. By staying on top of what everyone is doing, the entire remote team's productivity can improve dramatically.
A platform that can actively help you manage project progress for work done helps everyone stay on track. This also ensures work is getting done efficiently when team members are operating over different time zones. We have four of the best tools for working remotely in project management below!
Being able to get through your whole work day with a single application was something thought only possible in the late 90s. But thanks to productivity tools like ClickUp, there's hope of that happening again. Aiming to serve as your team's one app to rule them all and in the process bind them, ClickUp offers a powerful suite of functions and features. Each designed to replace the multitude of tools that pull your team across dozens of workspaces (and murdering your productivity). Best of all, you can try out the platform for free and access most of the features before going unlimited. And we're all about trying before you buy.
Our teams love Atlassian’s software for a variety of reasons. The learning curve is a little high of the three apps listed, but definitely worth the effort. Being able to track ticket issues, blockers or progress made, and time logged is incredibly useful. You also can utilize sprints for the Agile and Kanban methods of project planning. You’re able to organize everything based on role, team, department, and company project goal. It also integrates with many popular office suites so you can link relevant work right into an issue card.
Asana is visually appealing and incredibly easy to use. A great mid-tier app that offers project management tools without a lot of fuss. Asana works well because it’s visually focused, creating cards to project plans. What we like most about Asana is that almost anyone can use it once they install it. And the mobile app makes it handy to keep up-to-date on projects.
By far the easiest to use, Trello is a great place to start if you’re new to project managing remote teams. One of the best tools for working remotely, Trello thrives in simplicity. Being able to get yourself and your team on a platform fast is essential. This is a great beginning application for project management that you’ll want to check out.
📅 April 1st, 2020: Currently, all of the products Atlassian offers are free for teams and companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re on the fence about which tool to try, consider this first since your entry fee is 0$. This lets you test the platform before purchasing it.
Office suite tools
Without stating the obvious, office suite tools are essential to remote work for any team. We have the best three depending on your OS or sharing needs listed below. But we think we can all agree that an office suite is an essential part of the best tools for working remotely.
Rather than look at a single app, we’re giving you our top three picks as their respective groups.
G Suite is probably the most well known and accessible of the three. Gmail, calendar, and the drive alone make it an easy choice. But the powerful spreadsheet and word processing apps that accompany it combine for one of the best tools for working remotely. Being able to collaborate, connect, and share work with your team is essential when working remotely. Another perk is that many of these features come standard for free with any Google account. The business upgrade increases storage and hangout features, as well as extra storage for your Gmail inbox (for all those spam offers you haven’t deleted yet). Best of all, you can access all of this from your android or iPhone devices.
Microsoft 365 (Office 365’s new name) might be the right fit if you’re a larger team or have a predominantly windows-computer based team. Working natively on any PC (Mac and Chromebook have versions as well!), you’re able to access all of your team’s work with Microsoft Teams in the project hub. 365 can integrate messages from Outlook into the team’s program chat, giving you one place to access and communicate with everyone. And just like Gsuite, 365 can be used on mobile devices when you’re out of the office!
iWork is definitely not the powerhouse Google and Microsoft offer, but it makes up for this with design and user interface. iWork is Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—three apps for word processing, creating spreadsheets and creating presentations. Each offers incredibly powerful features for creating content without needing much experience to get started. And you have access to the apps through Mac OS, iOS, and anywhere on the web with iCloud.
The best tools for working remotely that improve productivity
These are tools that aren’t necessary but can definitely make life easier for remote workers. Productivity for remote work means using tools that translate in-office tasks to the online space. When setting up a remote space, our 7 tips for working remotely has you covered! All of them are also accessible from nearly any operating system, making each accessible to anyone on your remote tech.
Drawing, notes, and whiteboards
We all have that one person that needs a whiteboard (or at Coassemble, most of the team). But working remotely means adapting to how whiteboards and other notation and drawing tasks can be shared virtually. Below are our favorite apps for getting these tasks done timely and with ease.
Simple and easy to use (easier with a touch screen or input tablet), Microsoft Whiteboard is a fantastic tool to replace whiteboards. What makes it even better is that it’s collaborative—giving you access to draft and share a board with teammates. It’s accessible from everywhere, including most mobile devices so you can draw on your touch device and then review on your laptop.
Miro is another great whiteboard app that shares a host of design elements with a focus on collaboration. They also offer a scaled pricing structure that starts at 0$ and grows with your team’s needs. The best part is their integrations list is so long that you’ll be wondering what you can’t connect with them to increase productivity. You can also use their stickies capture feature to grab all your post-it notes digitally.
Invision is a powerful UX collaboration tool with an emphasis on aesthetics. Whether you’re trying to sketch out a quick wireframe or starting to build an element library, Invision has your back. And with an extensive list of name brands in their customer base, you can rest easy knowing you’re with the pros.
If you need to jot down a quick note, we’ve got three solid and easy to use apps depending on your needs.
- Dropbox Paper is a free tool by the cloud storage giant that combines word processing, notation, and project management. Definitely powerful, Paper is a great option if you’re looking for an all-in-one platform and haven’t bought into Google or Microsoft’s platforms. You also have the benefit of sharing files with one of the most reputable cloud storage companies in the world.
- Google Keep is a great notation tool for anyone already in Google’s application ecosystem. Keep has a chrome extension that lets you jot down a note and it links that note to the webpage you’re on. You can also access all of your notes from anywhere, and all of them will be synced with the most recent additions.
- Milanote is perfect if you’re a visual note take and like to have all your thoughts on a single board. Milanote lets you note and create ideas into a cohesive plan of action. You can also gather content from anywhere and get a bird's eye view of everything you’re currently working on in a week/month/quarter.
💡 Bonus tip: if you’re transitioning from an in-office to working remote work environment, you might not have the luxury of taking your computer home. If that’s the case, Google’s Chrome remote desktop integration might be for you. As long as you have chrome up and running on both devices and both are connected to the internet, you can access your work from anywhere. This also makes it easy to work remotely if you have a lot on your work comp that you don’t want to set up at home. Best of all, Chrome remote desktop can be accessed from any device, whether via the web or app.
📅 April 1st, 2020: Chrome Remote Desktop is also incredibly handy during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many teams are transitioning to working remotely, having access to your physical office computer is crucial for a smooth shift. If you have time to make sure your office comp has the app up and running. If not, we suggest contacting your IT department and see if they can help install the app in-office for you.
Our honorable mentions for apps for rounding the best tools for working remotely list out are Grammarly and The Time Zone Converter. Grammarly is great for grammar checking and comes with a chrome extension so it works on any page you’re drafting on (the desktop app works just as well!). Time Zone Converter is great if you have a large team or customer base spread across time zones. It shows you where every time zone is at a glance and makes it easy to plan meetings and keep track of differences.
Online training’s best tools for working remotely
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include an online training platform to onboard and train remote teams. Since we’re experts on the subject, we’d like to recommend Coassemble for all your team’s online training needs.
The most difficult part of working remotely is having a team trained and enabled to work successfully. With our easy to use creation, delivery, and measurement features, your team can access training from anywhere. And you’ll be able to track their progress and results all from the same platform.
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