In the age of startups, most of us know working at home isn’t just a privilege — it’s a necessity. After all, most of the world’s biggest companies didn’t start in a board room or a sea of cubicles. Google, Apple and Amazon all got their starts in the humblest of places: the garage. It’s not exactly surprising, considering the benefits of remote work.
Working at home can actually be less distracting than working in an office environment. It can also make it easier to concentrate, according to a 2017 study, conducted over a two-year span by Stanford. The same study also found that employee attrition rates dropped by 50 percent among remote employees, and companies saved around $2,000 per employee on office space.
Clearly, with the right tools and technology, working remotely can be a boon for companies and employees alike. Here are a few of the tools every remote entrepreneur needs in order to succeed.
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A good collaboration platform
You’ve probably read it on a conference room wall or a motivational poster, but it’s true nonetheless: collaboration is key. But working remotely can present challenges to collaboration. When you’re not in an office environment, there are major differences in the way you exchange ideas, give and get feedback and have day-to-day water-cooler conversations with your team.
That’s where collaboration tools come in. There are tons of them on the market, but you should look for one that allows you to chat with co-workers from your home office or smartphone anytime, anywhere. It should also save your conversations, make them easily searchable and maybe even offer file-sharing services.
Currently, Slack is one of the top tools in this arena, offering chat tools alongside plugins for video conferencing, whiteboarding and much more. Other reliable options are Trello and, of course, Google’s suite of applications, which includes Hangouts, Drive and word processing tools.
Video conferencing capabilities
Working at home full time, you’ll likely notice that there are some distinct differences between in-person meetings and conference calls. Foremost among them, you can’t read the room. You have no idea whether your audience is smiling and nodding, or looking at their phones and spacing out. That’s why every remote worker needs a good video conferencing tool, like Skype for Business or RingCentral Office. Granted, it may require that you put on a decent shirt and comb your hair, but you’ll be glad you did.
When looking for video conferencing software, consider each platform’s features and your own needs. Does it offer a certain number of participants free of charge? Is it easy to use? Do you need to record meetings, share your screen with participants or attend meetings from mobile devices? Choose your platform accordingly.
Project management software
When working remotely, you can’t simply stroll over to a co-worker’s desk and ask about the status of a particular project, and managing your projects via emails and spreadsheets is cumbersome at best.
Project management software not only allows you to freely create and assign tasks to any team member, it also serves as an invaluable communication tool. All that email back-and-forth you would’ve done can be accomplished and accessed in one place. Tools like Wrike, Workfront and Basecamp also make it easy to know exactly what you need to do and when. Most also offer reporting tools that help you gauge how your projects are progressing and how well your process is working.
A smart speaker
Working at home offers a unique privilege: such as blaring your productivity jams at whatever volume you’d like! But a smart speaker can help do more than just help you dance your way through your to-do list. It can also help you schedule meetings, set reminders and perform internet searches — all with voice commands.
Plus, if you’ve invested in smart home technology, a smart speaker can help you manage your workspace (aka your home) without ever leaving your desk. Turn the heat on? Done. Switch on your desk lamp? Got it. Smart speakers can integrate with your virtual assistant technology, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, helping you manage your schedule and your workspace with minimal intervention on your part. Speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Home Max and Sonos Beam are all highly rated by industry experts and are worth considering for home-based professionals.
Let’s say your business requires you to have clients over to your home. Or maybe your eBay store is thriving and you need to store inventory in your garage. When the lines get blurred between your workplace and your home space, you’ll want to make sure you have the right insurance.
Most homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t cover property you use to conduct business. That means any inventory or business equipment (from computers to retail products to office furniture) likely won’t be covered if they get damaged.
More importantly, if a client or business associate is injured on your property, you may be on the hook for medical bills, pain and suffering costs, and more. Check with your homeowners insurance provider to determine what’s covered and, more importantly, what isn’t. If necessary, invest in a business insurance policy. It’ll be worth it if someone slips on your icy sidewalk or sprains their ankle on your staircase.
Working remotely allows you to get your job done on your terms. It may have presented communication and productivity challenges in the past, but modern technology is helping remedy that. With the right tools, a remote team can feel just as connected and productive as if they were working together in an office.