Working from home used to be a nice perk a company would offer from time to time and one you had to earn. In the past several years, though, working remotely has become so widespread that it’s the new normal.
There was a whopping 159% increase in remote work between 2005 and 2017, according to an analysis done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics. The same analysis reports that 4.7 million U.S. workers are now working remotely, which accounts for 3.4% of the total U.S. population.
Many surveys show remote workers are more satisfied with their jobs and possibly more productive. In another recent FlexJobs survey, remote workers said they felt more productive because of less stress from no commute, minimal office politics, and being able to work in a personalized and quieter environment. Having a productive and distraction-free home office layout is key.
But working from home does have its challenges. Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote report revealed remote workers most often struggle with unplugging after work, loneliness, collaborating with co-workers, and distractions.
Luckily, there are a plethora of online apps that help remote workers meet these challenges. Many of these innovative apps are free and the paid ones often come with a free version. We’ve identified the top six apps that can keep you productive and help deal with other common remote work challenges.
Slack is a messaging platform designed for teams that has been around since 2013. The app now has 10 million users and it’s the ideal communication tool for remote workers.
Slack has a variety of features that are great for remote workers, such as instant messaging, file sharing, voice and video calls, and screen sharing. Slack’s main benefit for those working from home is that they can communicate with team members from other locations, which cuts down on unnecessary emails.
You can use Slack for free and create a single workspace for small teams. Usually, the company you work for will pay for the premium version of Slack to provide everyone with a fully collaborative workspace.
While Slack provides video and voice calls, the go-to app for video business meetings today is Zoom. The Zoom app offers a full suite of video conferencing and business communication tools, which makes it a must-have for remote workers.
Zoom is the world’s top-rated video conferencing app, which explains why it grew from 30,000 users in 2014 to an astounding 700,000 users in 2017. Group meetings are simple on Zoom, and many businesses and remote workers use them for a variety of things like daily meetings, check-ins with team members, and even webinars.
Remote workers can use a free version of Zoom, which should suffice for small teams. Businesses usually pay a monthly fee to Zoom so they can host team meetings with up to 100 participants.
There are several time-tracking apps you can choose from, but many remote workers today go with Toggl. The Toggl app allows you to track the time you spend on daily tasks and then provides you with insights and reports on how to boost your productivity.
Toggl is used by more than 800,000 businesses worldwide and it’s been the fastest-growing time management business app in the past four years. The app doesn’t just track the time you spend on work tasks. It also has powerful reporting capabilities like detailed weekly reports and time audits.
Like the other two apps we mentioned, Toggl has a free version that’s great for solo remote workers and small teams. The best part is many of Toggl’s best features are available in the free version.
So far, we’ve covered apps like Zoom, Slack, and Toggl that help remote workers boost productivity, manage their time, and communicate with team members. Another frequent challenge remote workers’ face is tracking business expenses and, you guessed it, there’s an app for that.
There are tons of expense management/tracker apps out there to choose from, but the one that’s often voted as the best is Expensify. The Expensify app enables remote workers to easily scan and store receipts and submit reimbursement requests to their companies.
Expensify has many benefits for remote workers and employers, but perhaps the biggest benefit is the amount of time and money it saves on expense management and tracking. The app greatly reduces the burdensome tasks and time spent on receipt storing and sorting, data entry, expense report generation, and expense report approval.
If you’re a freelancer, Expensify offers a free individual plan. An Expensify plan for a team is $5 per month per active user and corporate plans cost $9 per month per active user.