When people who’ve never worked from home think of remote workers, they typically think of people in sweatpants, t-shirts and top knots who’ve spent most of the day binge watching television instead of working.
While the wardrobe choices may not be far off, the productivity they assume is. It’s a common misconception that remote workers get less work done. In fact, people who work from home (or anywhere they want) typically accomplish more than their office-bound coworkers.
The big difference between office workers and remote workers is that remote workers depend more on certain resources in order to make all that magic happen. You can’t just stop into Janet’s office to ask how her side of the project is coming along, or tell Brad you’ll have that spreadsheet by the end of business when you see him in the hallway.
You need channels of communication that allow for fluid workflow and programs designed to keep everyone on the same page. Thankfully, our technology-centered world lets us do this pretty easily.
Whether you run your own business, manage remote workers, or are a remote worker yourself, you’re bound to find some tools and resources on this list that will make your job (and life) easier. Here’s what we use:
Best Tools for Digital Nomads to Stay Sane (and not lonely!)
We couldn’t possibly write a list of the best tools and resources for remote workers without bringing up our online therapists. If you listen to the podcast, you know all about how much we BetterHelp – we dig our internet therapists so much, we have an affiliate relationship with them that gets YOU a 7 free days of online therapy when you click here.
We’re big advocates for self-improvement and self-care, and there’s almost no better way to accomplish both than by talking to a therapist. Our therapists help us out wherever and whenever we need them, whether we’re in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, or the Netherlands.
Remote workers have more trouble finding therapists if they’re moving around. Most traditional therapists will do a phone appointment with you, but at some point they want you in their office. But online therapy? Their office is wherever, just like yours. It’s the perfect solution for people who want to maintain a consistent relationship with a therapist — or even just a check-in-once-in-awhile therapist.
Remote workers have the same stressors that stationary workers do in terms of workload and deadlines and personal stuff. Choosing to work from anywhere doesn’t mean you’ve also chosen to walk away from your responsibilities — it just means you’re choosing a different path for yourself.
And let’s be real here: traveling is stressful.
Sometimes, you need help unwinding at night (or in the middle of an airport when your flight has been delayed four times) and for that, apps like Calm can do the trick. Calm offers guided meditations (perfect if you’re new to meditation), bedtime stories, and even guided stretching to help you get that tension out of your shoulders. You won’t regret this download.
Facebook Groups for Digital Nomads
We’ve talked about loneliness on the road in our podcast and one of the things that really helped us navigate these waters was finding other like-minded folks — even if they weren’t in the same city (or country, or continent) as we were.
Tapping into Facebook groups dedicated to digital nomads was a game-changer for us. Finding our own little community is what helped us push through some of the tougher times and make some new friends. We’re particularly fond of Workationing: Support for Aspiring Digital Nomads and Remote Workers (full disclosure: we run it), but there are also many others that are specific to cities around the globe.
You’d be surprised at how many cities are represented in Facebook groups of this nature (this one for Chiang Mai, Thailand being one of the most popular ones). We have the Medellín Facebook group to thank for our introduction to tejo Chris, which allowed us to experience a unique slice of Colombian culture we might have otherwise missed during our time there.
There’s also more generic Facebook groups for Digital Nomads Around the World and even lady-specific groups, like She Hit Refresh and Digital Nomad Girls Community. Another one (Girl Gone International) specifically focuses on Facebook groups that organize meetups in just about any city you can think of. These groups can introduce you to your new bestie, or even future travel companions.
Best Tools for Digital Nomads to Stay Organized
If you’ve ever tried to schedule a meeting with people who aren’t in the same room (or country) as you, you know how frustrating it can be. The back and forth of trying to find a 30-minute block of time on 5 different people’s calendars can result in 15 emails cluttering up your inbox.
Jennifer Maffei is the founder and President of VEA Services, a consulting and coaching firm specializing in helping Executives get the most out of their executive assistants. With clients all over the world, she knows this struggle all too well. To cut down on the inbox-overload, Maffei uses Calendly, which allows her clients to check her schedule and find a time that works best for them.
Calendly lets users set their own parameters as to when people can book meeting times and for how long. So for example, if you don’t like to take meetings past 3:00pm local time, you can just set your limits accordingly. Clients can choose their time and it automatically books the time on your calendar, as well as theirs. Our favorite part about this method is that it cuts down on time zone confusion (which happens to the best of us).
The entire G Suite is an invaluable resource for remote workers. Between Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you can say goodbye to your Microsoft Office Suite and maybe even your extra cloud storage.
We love the collaborative nature of Google Docs. We can work on a report and send it to anyone, anywhere in the world and give them permission to comment, edit, or simply view it. This cuts down on the number of “versions” any given document can have, which (usually) eliminates the possibility of someone editing the wrong version.
Kathy Barnes of Barnes LTD Support Services uses Google Drive all the time to send files to clients. For her, it’s a matter of trusting Google to keep her data safe (and backed up), and that her clients also trust Google. They’re not getting links from random websites telling them they have files to download. Everyone knows what Google is, and that allows Barnes to stay on track.
Best Tools for Digital Nomads to Stay Connected
While we don’t love the idea of video-conferencing (see: top knot and yoga pants) we recognize that others do. Some clients — and employers, for that matter — just love the je ne c’est quoi of a face-to-face meeting.
Eric Chiang is the Marketing Lead at GooseChase Adventures, an app that allows users to organize and run scavenger hunts. Chiang says he and his remote co-workers use Zoom to keep in touch when they need to. Sure, you can always talk on the phone, but sometimes, it’s nice to see a person’s face — especially when you’re conducting job interviews.
Most businesses meet and interview a person before hiring them, but with remote workers, you’re looking at a resume and a cover letter. You’re missing all that nonverbal communication and services like Zoom are a good way to make up for it.
Remote workers have the unique challenge of frequent conference calls — with clients, yes but also with your own coworkers. You can’t exactly meet everyone in the conference room at 3:00pm if you don’t actually have an office.
So for all those conference calls, Robert McGuire, Publisher at Nation1099 uses UberConference to communicate with his coworkers. He likes that you can have one URL and one phone number (with no PIN, to boot) as opposed to setting up multiple rooms for different meetings.
We also love UberConference, and use it frequently. One of our favorite functions is the ability to record all your calls. It’s great when you need to reference back to something a client said on the call, or make sure a person who missed a meeting can catch up on what happened.
Remote workers who are also digital nomads are oftentimes dealing with public WiFi, leaving them vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves. For this reason, David Alexander, Digital Marketer for MazePress, uses NordVPN to not only protect his data, but it ensure he doesn’t get locked out of any content while traveling.
VPNs are a great idea for remote workers, whether they work from home, a local coffee shop, or a beach in Acapulco. VPNs can keep your client work secure and your personal info private.
As awesome as working from home (or anywhere) can be, remote workers sometimes report feeling isolated from their coworkers. To make the company feel more like a team, many businesses — both large and small — have turned to messaging apps like Slack.
Nellie Akalp is the co-founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service based in southern California. Akalp manages a team of 10 employees, some of which are remote. According to Akalp, “With remote workers it’s all about being accessible as if they are right in the office alongside you and the rest of your team.” For her, Slack is a way to constantly connect her team, while organizing conversations according to priority.
We’re also huge fans of Slack — in large part because it cuts down on the number of emails in our inboxes. When your inbox is constantly full, you run the risk of missing important messages from clients as they get mixed in with internal messages that might be able to wait.
Slack helps you take all those internal emails and organize them neatly into either private messages or designated message boards, like Social Media, PR, and Writers. We may never reach that coveted inbox-zero status, but it’s a lot more manageable with Slack.
One of the downsides to remote work is sending large files. This is even more frustrating when you send large files frequently — like for high-quality photo or video work. The G Suite will allow you to do some of this, but even enterprise accounts are limited by the amount of Drive space Google designates.
“As an outdoor advertising company, we often share photos and large files between vendors and clients. It’s necessary for us to not only share large files, but multiples at one time. When these files are too large for email, we use WeTransfer,” says Brooklyn Outdoor President and CEO Candice Simons.
WeTransfer is free up to 2GB, and they offer a paid version to send files up to 20GB. The paid version also keeps your files for a period of time, rather than having them expire on a certain date in the near future. It’s totally worth the investment if you regularly send large files.
As a business founded upon the principles of untethering your life, opening yourself up to new possibilities by working remotely and teaching others how to do it, we’re pretty familiar with digital meeting software by now. There are a lot of options at this point, but one of the coolest is ClickMeeting.
ClickMeeting is a powerful online meeting platform that offers important tools for remote workers, such as screen-sharing, whiteboards, calendar sync, auto-recording, and in-meeting chat. They offer tiered pricing for scalability, but you can start off with a 30-day free trial to give it a test drive.
Best Workflow Management Tools for Digital Nomads
Remote workers are often asked how their bosses know they’ve actually been working all day. In truth, their bosses know they’ve been working because results in remote work are purely merit-based, but that’s a discussion for a different day. Practically speaking, many remote workers use some kind of tracking program for their hours. Toggl is the one we’re most familiar with.
While its main purpose is to make sure everyone is hitting their 40 hours, the other thing we love about it is that it helps us keep track of how long tasks are taking us. This allows us to fine-tune our pricing structure and figure out how much we need to charge clients for certain work, in addition to holding ourselves accountable.
Harvest is another time-tracking tool that’s great for remote workers. One of the cool things about it is that it lets you create invoices directly from the app, based on the working hours attributed to each client. Obviously, this isn’t appropriate for every project, but if you’re charging by the hour, it’s perfect.
One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is project management, which is oftentimes a result of simply not being in the same room with your coworkers. Luckily, it’s the 21st century and there are plenty of tools to help us work around this issue.
Tudor Stanescu, Digital Marketing Manager at Format says they use Asana to manage their projects: “Through Asana, we manage our project planning, delivery and task delegation. [It] enables management to track progress and understand at a top level the current health of the different departments and if they are on track to reach their strategic goals.”
The ability to assign tasks and corresponding due dates makes project management much more simple and — like time-tracking — helps keep people accountable. Stanescu isn’t the only person we’ve met who loves Asana for their remote workers. Lots of companies use it, including Disney, Deloitte, Kaiser Permanente, GE, Spotify, and Indeed.
Speaking of project management tools, we said there were a lot of them. Another one people swear by is Basecamp, in large part because of the user experience. Everything you need is in one place, like a schedule, a message board, attached documents, and a to-do list.
Cristian Rennella, co-founder and CEO of elMejorTrato.com, uses Basecamp to manage his 134 remote workers. He finds it provides a “central place that allows everyone to be synchronized at all times,” which allows his employees to remain efficient.
One of the coolest features about Basecamp is the HQ board, which includes a function called “Automatic Check-ins.” This allows managers to ask everyone what they worked on at the end of each day. Each user can quickly type in their response whenever they have a moment. This eliminates the need for weekly conference calls asking what people worked on that week — and as your company gets bigger (say, 134-employees-big), that prospect becomes less and less feasible.
At this point, remote workers are using a billion tools to keep themselves organized, which unfortunately means people can message you from almost anywhere. Email, Slack, texts, social media — the possibilities seem endless, which can make it difficult to find a message you need to refer to later on. You can search your email, but Slack and texts are more difficult.
In addition to Basecamp, Rennella also uses an app called Front, which organizes all your communication mediums so you can search and respond all from one place. You can even assign tasks to coworkers directly from the app.
Rennella says that the combination of Basecamp and Front have increased productivity among his remote workers by 37% in comparison to when they were only using email and the G Suite. We have to admit, that sounds pretty enticing.
Want to Become a Digital Nomad?
If your goal is to break free from your daily grind and build a more flexible, fulfilling life, we hear you. We’ve been where you are, but we successfully built a whole new life for ourselves — and we want to help you do the same.
We offer training courses to show you exactly what you’ll need to do in order to untether your life and start working remotely — whether that means you want to work from home in your yoga pants, or on a balcony in Paris. Whatever your goals are, we want to help you get there.
What are you waiting for? Sign up now for our free training seminar and take the first step toward your new life.