By Mark Anthony Dyson
I remember travelling to an east coast client meeting in 2010 and needing a document I forgot to bring with me.
Fortunately, I had a copy in my Dropbox app (more below).
I went to a desktop computer, accessed Dropbox, and downloaded that file.
Everyone looked at me like I had superpowers then because many people had not seen anyone use the Dropbox app.
Today, with the growing concern about avoiding exposure to the Coronovirus (COVID-19), working from home (a.k.a. "remote work" and "telecommuting") is becoming more popular with both employers and employees.
But, working outside of an office may be very challenging without the right tools to use.
World at Work reports 43% of U.S. businesses will allow remote work within the next year. Another report, from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, states older workers (ages 40-65) are more likely to work from home.
As you can see in this chart, working from home is growing in popularity.
The percentage of people working from home has increased 159% in the last 12 years.
This increase in remote workers requires the right tools to meet or to exceed productivity and connectivity expectations from employers.
The best tools for the modern remote worker can destroy the ceiling on limitations. As a remote worker, you will be responsible for ensuring your work products, communications with your distributed team, stakeholders, and clients are as seamless as possible.
These tools are essential, not just a luxury, to bring value to your work and the virtual workplace.
Working remote tools are mobile-friendly and cloud-based yet easily accessible to you, your team, and your clients.
Below are 9 apps for both laptop and mobile phones, Mac and Windows, that I find helpful.
This article explains how both apps work together on projects, when multiple people are collaborating and sharing ideas, can exchange files and links in real-time. Remote workers can also converge on concepts, work products, or casual conversations using video.
Working away from the human, face-to-face touch of team members can be very lonely. For a remote worker, seeing someone's face is the best connection you can have to conduct business without a personal touch.
All four apps are useful to distributed teams for face-to-face communication for real-time conversations. Only Zoom offers FREE audio and video recording for a one-on-one discussion. Zoom also provides 40 minutes FREE for multi-users.
Where will you store the volume of work you are doing as a distributed worker? A virtual file cabinet!
I've been a Dropbox user since 2010 and have files safely stored and secured since. It's similar to a file cabinet, but it's portable.
If you or your team needs a cloud solution for file storage, they offer a free version or, for a small cost, a version multi-user business account. Both are excellent ways to maintain private files and to keep them accessible to clients.
It syncs to all mobile devices. The mobile app offers additional password security, primarily when files exist on your mobile device.
If Dropbox is like a file cabinet, then Evernote is a portable note pad or notebook.
For years I used the free version, but a year ago, I caught the yearly $40 special and bought the subscription. With its scanner, you can store multi-page documentation in a digital format.
The search for terms makes it easy to save passwords, credit cards, or documents, and it's as secure as Dropbox's settings for security. You can even send your remote work team notes from your Evernote.
Remember those expensive phone call and text message from your mobile phone plan? Yeah, me too.
The solution to an international distributed team is the WhatsApp that allows you to text, video message, or share links to anyone. The big draw for this app is the money it saves on international text messaging, voice, and video calling.
Receiving digital documents are annoying if you need to print, physically sign, and scan to send the signed document back. DocuSign is my personal choice for a mobile app to help you sign documents, business or personal, on the go.
DocuSign is easy to implement when receiving a PDF file or Word document, signing it, and sending it back. Or import documents from cloud services such as Google Drive, Evernote, or Dropbox to sign and save to the portal of your choice.
Your company or client may provide some security software making your work products more secure. But, anytime you work away from home on another WiFi network, for additional security, you need to use a VPN.
I have a subscription to IP Vanish, making my IP address invisible on any WiFi network safe from predators who want to attack you via your Internet use.
Norton LifeLock has a suite to include VPN and a security suite to use its software on all of your mobile devices. Your device can reach the network and encrypts your IP to protect against cyber predators, and conceals your personal information.
Even when on vacation, a client or coworker may need a signature, confirmation, or a video call from you.
WiFi Map helps you find the nearest available WiFi network. Although the strength of WiFi signals are not created equally, at least the app will provide options.
I was once at a Starbucks near a wireless mobile store where the mobile WiFi signal was so powerful, it was much faster to connect using it rather than the Starbucks one. Both showed up on the map, but, in my case, it did not matter which had the stronger signal.
Add another layer of security by using LastPass free version. It allows you to store passwords through all of your devices.
Since safety and personal information for all apps are essential, strong passwords are a crucial part of maintaining security. If you have more than one device, this is a helpful app to use.
You may consider their low price of $3 per month for the premium, but read this article to understand the difference between free and premium versions.
These tools will provide a powerful distributed work experience for remote workers when time is invested. They are not just productivity tools, but also communication necessities needed across all mobile devices. Most of the useful mobile tools are budget-friendly and, usually, adaptable to the remote work experience you desire
Mark Anthony Dyson a career-advice writer and consultant who loves helping people discover their ideal career. His award-winning blog and podcast, "The Voice of Job Seekers," has provided job-search advice since 2011. Follow and connect with Mark on Twitter (@MarkADyson) and LinkedIn. To read more of Mark's articles and listen to his podcasts, visit his website: TheVoiceofJobSeekers.com.