Telecommuting Tools Every Remote Worker Needs

December 10th, 2016 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. Aaron O'Keeffe

Are you considering making the switch to telecommuting, or already a remote worker? This is the essential list of hardware and applications every telecommuter needs to make the most of working from home.

The right setup

Working remotely offers a lot of freedom for folks to choose where, when and how they work. Depending on your role, you’ll get lots of flexibility around scheduling, what you wear, and a lot of control over your ‘office space’. You’ll need to be responsible for your own hardware, though. That means ensuring you have a stable Internet connection, suitable data plan, a comfy place to work and the right kind of computer for your needs. That means ensuring you have a stable internet connection and suitable data plan, a comfy place to work, and the right kind of computer for your needs.

Essentials: Desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone

Picturing a remote worker often conjures up images of a fit, young, twenty-something lounging in an inner-city coffee house with their MacBook. While a good laptop is definitely important, a quality smartphone or lightweight tablet can often do the job just as well, depending on your needs.

Here’s why:

Smartphone

As a remote worker, you are responsible for your own time. A quality smartphone can be the difference between a lucrative contract and a lost job, and it can be useful if you need to be out of the house but still in contact with your work. There’s so much you can do on a modern smartphone, from sending and receiving documents to responding to clients and team members, that we think it’s worth investing on a top range device.  

Laptop or tablet?

With the line continually being blurred between what constitutes a tablet and a phone, as well as the rise of hybrids, detachables and hinge laptops, your choice is going to come down to a couple of key points:

  • What are your main duties as a remote worker?
  • What Operating System do you prefer?
  • Are there any software requirements for your job that only work on specific platforms?

Other factors you might want to consider include the location you will be telecommuting from:

  1. Are you going to be working mostly around the house? A high end laptop with a bigger screen could be just the ticket.
  2. Plan on doing most of your work at the cafe, or down by the beach? A lightweight and battery-efficient tablet with a keyboard dock might make getting around easier. Many tablets charge off the same plugs as smartphones, reducing bulk in transport.

It’s also common for your employer to make the final decision about the type of hardware and software you use, so make sure you speak with them before deciding on something that may not be suitable.

Do you need a desktop?

Good question. There’s still a place for desktops in the modern remote worker’s workflow, particularly if you work on spreadsheets, databases, or anything that works better with two or three screens. With desktop and monitor prices falling every year, it’s a cost effective way to ensure you have the right hardware on call for when you need it.  

Other hardware

Noise cancelling headphones

Don’t underestimate the power of some ambient vibes or the Rocky soundtrack to put you in the mood to crunch out some work. Grab a pair of noise cancelling headphones and that couple arguing at the next table over will just melt into the background.

Video chat

The days of laggy and awkward video chats are slowly disappearing, and while there’s still the occasional hiccup in group conference calls, video chat is a great way for remote working teams to communicate face to face. It’s also important for meeting new clients, interviewing prospective staff and discussing complex strategies or concepts that aren’t suitable for email or even voice chat.

Here are our picks for the best video chat options for remote teams and telecommuters:

What started as one of Google’s first attempts as a chat app quickly found value as a group video conferencing tool. With Google’s release of Duo set to replace person to person chat, Hangouts is now even better positioned to offer a business video chat service.

The go-to video conferencing service can be a bit annoying with it’s always on feature set, but there’s no doubting it provides a great video chat experience. The addition of ‘bots’ provides further use for this favoured application.

Video chat alternatives:

  • Blujeans – A standalone business video communication web service.
  • Facebook Messenger – With so many registered users, Messenger is a great way to find common ground with people outside the team.

Cloud file storage

This one’s a no-brainer for telecommuting teams and individuals. Remember the days when people would email each other back and forth with huge powerpoint attachments and other documents? “Hey Bob, it’s Rob, here’s a 10MB file, can you edit one thing please?”

Well, sorry Rob, those days are over.

Not only does emailing documents fill up your email inbox quick smart, it also creates issues with version control. With so many different saved files floating around, who remembers where they are up to?

Cloud storage lets you store and link to files that are easily accessed by everyone in the team. It’s cheap, easy to use, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection and best of all, some of them even have version control.

It’s easy to recommend GDrive, thanks to its generous storage sizes, easy and granular access controls and integration with Docs and Sheets, which also allows for pretty reliable version control.

The original and for many still the best. An intuitive interface, as well as fantastic UX and widespread usage among business professionals and web services, makes Dropbox a worthy file sharing platform for your remote team.

Performance management

Both team managers and remote staff will want to keep an eye on performance and how it relates to projects, goals and the scope of their business duties. Remote workers and teams are reliant on technology to make their collaboration possible. It can also make your workflows more efficient and measurable. Here’s our picks.  

Track and manage projects easily with this task sharing, tracking and communication tool.

Project management made easy with a focus on collaboration and integration.

Collaborate in a co-working space

While the home and cafe offer more than enough ambience for the average telecommuter to make the most of their day, every so often you’ll need to meet up with teams or clients in a professional environment. If you live in a city, you probably already know of a few co-working spaces that are available to rent, with things like high-speed internet, printers, private meeting rooms and offices.

If you don’t live in a high density area, try the local library or town hall, and see if you can book facilities there.

Making the most of telecommuting

A clean and non-distracting workplace, a high-speed internet connection and the right technological tools can be the recipe for working productively and successfully when telecommuting. Great for you, great for your company!

About the author

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron works from an office in the tropical Northern Territory, inciting intense jealousy from his Victorian workmates during winter. He’s an expert in IT solutions from the ground up. Aaron is National Sales Manager of Aussie Broadband, which specialises in bespoke telco solutions for corporate and government customers.