15 free remote working tools to handle working from home (with bonus tips)

Many of us have gotten used to our home offices by now. If you've changed from an in-person office to working from home, chances are that you had to learn a few new remote working tools. Here are a few more that'll change the way you work.

April 8, 2021
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Many of us have gotten used to our home offices by now. If you've changed from an office to working from home, chances are that you had to learn a few new remote working tools. You’ve also probably seen how much easier these remote work tools make your life.

In this article, we'll talk about 15 tools that you might not use (yet) but will make working remotely even easier (and more fun!) whether you’re part of a remote team or working from home alone.

Remote work tools for teams

When you begin telecommuting, many things that were possible in the office become different. Things like team meetings, water cooler chats and after-work beers. Instead of having a workspace that you go to and leave, your home is now your office. That takes a different type of mindset and some new work habits.

Instead of brainstorming in a room, you’ll do it via instant messaging, video conferencing or in a shared document. Apps will help you to keep productive and track your progress. And Friday beers? How about a round of trivia with your teammates instead?

Here are nine work from home tools we recommend for remote teams.

Team-collaborating: Google Drive

Google Drive: we love this work from home software from Google workspace (formerly G Suite)! Though Google Sheets can still learn a thing or two from Excel, we all regularly use Google Docs as a collaboration tool—especially our content writers. 

Once a document is done we share it with the team members involved, who can then leave comments or activate the suggestion mode to proofread and edit the text. Google Drive makes it easy to simultaneously work on a document, and with the file sharing options, we can decide who can view, edit and/or comment.

Google drive is available on: Web, iOS, Android

Messaging and written communication: Slack

For team communication, we are rooting for #TeamSlack. In fact, we love this tool so much that we wrote an entire blog about it. Slack is a communication tool for teams where you can talk in groups or privately, share files and automate messages using integrations.

Slack is great for teams and makes it super convenient to share, store and search for information both asynchronously and in real-time.

Their free version is not just for business purposes, but also for group communication (think Facebook groups 2.0). Create channels based on different topics, host video calls (complete with screen sharing) and integrate Slack with your favorite project management tools.

Missing those water cooler chats?

By adding Donut to Slack you can still have those catch ups with work friends, but virtually. Donut automatically pairs team members and encourages them to start a chat conversation or hop on a quick (video) call. This strengthens your team engagement, builds relationships and creates an overall better culture in the company.

Slack is available on: Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows.

Writing: Grammarly

Remote work is all about written communication, and Grammarly ensures you always sound professional. The tool highlights spelling mistakes, helps with punctuation, recommends substitutes, detects the tone of your message and even autocorrects as you type. Spend some weeks with Grammarly and you’ll be hooked. We especially love the personalized, cheerleading emails with your writing stats they deliver to your inbox.

Grammarly is available on: macOS, Windows, Microsoft Office.

Scheduling: Calendly

You need a schedule. Take it from retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year up in space and listed “having a schedule” as one of the main lessons he learned to maintain a normal life (well, as normal as it gets). 

We might not be from a spaceship, but our mindset when working from home is similar. There’s no office that provides a routine, instead, you need to make your own planning. Calendly helps you plan your day and organize meetings. 

The calendar tool makes it easy to find a time that works for everyone, without wasting time going back and forth playing scheduling ping pong. After connecting your schedule and creating a new appointment, Calendly checks for free spots and creates an invitation link. Participants can visit this link and pick from different time slots. You can also embed your availability on your website and let people schedule sessions—great for coaches, online businesses and more.

Calendly is available on: Web, iOS, Android.

Project management: Trello

The free remote work tool that we enjoy using for project management is Trello. With this tool, you can manage projects, keep track of progress and assign tasks for easy team collaboration. The visual drag and drop interface makes it easy to check-in on what your team is up to while organizing and prioritizing projects.

Trello is available on: Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android.

Time-tracking: Toggl

Open offices can be quite a distraction, but try working from home and having your Instagram notifications, your WhatsApp friends and your fridge all begging for your attention. 

Time management is a skill a lot of us have forgotten how to master. If you need a kick in the butt and long for more self-discipline, Toggl is your accountability buddy. This free time tracking software tracks your web browser and phone app usage and then reports back. It lets you know exactly how much time you spent on what and reveals which websites and apps keep you from completing tasks that are actually important. For those of you interested in the Pomodoro technique, Toggl’s free plan includes a Pomodoro timer to help you streamline your workflow.

The coolest part? Toggl integrates with other work from home tools such as Asana, Basecamp, Trello, Jira, Github and Evernote. So you can keep you on top of the right tasks during your work sessions.

Toggl is available on: Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Android.

Productivity: Serene

When was the last time you scrolled through your social media feed? We all do it way more than we’d like to admit. If you’re tired of accidentally getting lost in a vortex of memes, we have just the app for you. 

Serene app for Mac is a work from home tool that lets you focus on one task and cuts all distractions. Organize your day in the planner by creating to-do lists. Then set the session timer for a time period of your choice and prevent yourself from losing focus by using their built-in phone silencer and app and website blocker. If you work better with background music, the app makers also provide focus music suggestions

Serene is available on: macOS.

Security: Bitwarden

If you’re still using the same password or variations thereof, now is the time to finally make the switch. With so much of your personal information stored in different accounts, it’s important to protect yourself from intruders. Bitwarden helps you to generate unique passwords and safely stores all your login data. 

This has three main benefits:

  • If you use the generator, your passwords are always strong

  • You’ll have a different password for every account you create

  • You don’t need to remember any of these passwords by heart, as you can easily save your logins in the app

With Bitwarden, you’ll have one place where all your passwords are securely stored. It’s available for desktop, web browser and mobile.

Bitwarden is available on: Linux, macOS, Windows, Android, iOS.

Friday fun: Gather

Gather is our remote team’s virtual answer to staff drinks at the local bar. Using Gather, you can create a virtual “town” in the shape of a beer garden, lounge, conference room or even a virtual office! Team members can enter your town, create an avatar, interact with each other and even play games like Tetris, chess and poker (think Zoom meets Habbo Hotel).

Catch a glimpse of our Gather parties in this video from one of our virtual workations.

Gather is available on: Web, macOS, Windows.

Work from home tools for individual remote workers

Even if you’re a seasoned freelancer, entrepreneur, digital nomad or employee working from home, you know how tough it can be to manage a workday on your own.

Whether you own a business or not, you essentially become your own boss... which can occasionally lead to extended breaks or increasingly “lenient” office hours. But fret not! Here are five work from home tools you can use even if you’re a team of one.

Task management (and life admin): Nirvana

Nirvana is free project management software designed to help you organize and engage your to-do list with intent. Nirvana utilizes a tag system that allows the app to bring your next actionable tasks into focus, without letting you get distracted by future/low-priority tasks.

The great thing about Nirvana? You can use it for general life admin too! The Nirvana basic plan allows you to have up to two areas in which you add unlimited items. Add doctors appointments, dance recitals and shopping lists in your “At home” area while keeping track of your work life in a separate area.

Nirvana is available on: Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android.

Focused work: Forest

One of the biggest challenges for remote workers can be keeping your hands off of your mobile phone. With no eagle-eyed manager around to peek over your shoulder, it can be easy to drift into an unscheduled, mindless scrolling session.

Enter Forest. Forest encourages you to leave your phone alone with the help of a virtual tree. Whenever you want to focus on work, open up the Forest app and plant a seed. If your phone remains undisturbed, the seed will grow into a happy little tree. If you leave the app halfway, your tree will wither and die (No one wants to be a tree murderer, right?).

However, the longer you work on the task at hand, the more your tree will grow until it’s a lush forest that represents your hard work and self-control.

You can even turn your virtual tree into a real tree! Forest partners with a real-tree-planting organization, to plant real trees on Earth; so users can spend virtual coins they earn in Forest on planting real trees.

Forest is available on: iOS, Android.

File sharing: Dropbox

Dropbox simplifies managing, storing and sharing files online. With their free plan, you can use up to 2GB of cloud storage granting you remote access to your work. Dropbox makes it easy to connect and collaborate, whether you’re sharing files with a client or working with a large team.

Dropbox is available on: Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android.

Noise cancelation: Krisp

When the pandemic forced families to stay at home, we became all too familiar with the awkwardness of new background noises during Zoom calls. Video calls can be hard enough to get used to without your potential clients or colleagues getting to know the intricate cadences of your toddler's meltdowns.

Krisp helps you to mute all background noises (kids, pets, construction etc). Plus, Krisp works with 600+ apps including Zoom, Skype, Google hangouts and Microsoft teams. That way you can hear, and be heard, no matter where your virtual meeting is held.

Krisp is available on: Chrome, macOS, Windows.

Socialization: Facebook

Yes, really. Facebook. For the digital nomads among you (and those aspiring digital nomads), the feeling of isolation may be all too familiar. Especially if you’re traveling alone in a different time zone while working remotely.

But this doesn’t just affect travelers.

According to this 2021 state of remote work report by Buffer, two of the top struggles reported by remote workers were loneliness (16%) and difficulties with collaboration (16%).

Facebook is filled with remote work communities built for connecting with like-minded people. For example, the Global Digital Nomad Network on Facebook has over 50,000 members that you can use to connect with other remote workers and join in discussions about marketing techniques, upcoming webinars, remote work tools, ideal travel destinations and share personal experiences with other traveling entrepreneurs.

Are you more of an entrepreneur and less of a traveler? Perhaps the Read With Entrepreneurs Book Club Facebook group is the community for you. 

[Bonus] More ways to optimize working remotely

Having the right free WFH tools installed on your laptop or phone is a good start, but there are many other things you can do to optimize working remotely.

We’ve been sharing many tips from our own years of experience as a remote-first team. Here they are:

What free remote working tool is your favorite one? Share below!


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