When I first started my editing and writing business, it was so that I could travel while working remotely. Yes, I was (and still am) one of those digital nomads. The ones you see sitting in cafés with a laptop and a cup of coffee – earphones optional! It’s so easy to do nowadays that more and more are turning to remote working and digital nomadism. And it’s not just freelancers anymore, but employees who can work remotely as well. This summer, I was able to travel home to Europe to see my family. I went back to my digital nomad roots and it got me thinking: What tools do you need to get things done efficiently when you are working remotely?
How our working lives have changed
Covid-19 may have temporarily scuppered the travel plans, but the remote working trend is not going away anytime soon – even if you don’t work for yourself. The UK’s Office of National Statistics reports a 10% rise in homeworking to 37% in 2020. While this has dropped slightly following the easing of restrictions, 24% of businesses intend to continue offering homeworking. And this doesn’t include those who were already running their own businesses or who started one during the pandemic.
My top tools for remote working
I’m going to assume that a laptop and Wi-Fi are a given and that you are set up with both. Even if you are not in a home environment, cafés, libraries and co-working spaces have excellent Wi-Fi. Alternatively, a local SIM card and data plan allowing you to hotspot is a fairly inexpensive solution.
With your laptop ready and your internet connection strong, here are the top tools for remote working that have helped me get things done efficiently and stay sane – either at home or on the road.
Collaboration platforms are not only useful if you work with a team. You can also use them to liaise with your clients. Apps such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Microsoft 365 allow you to share data and keep in touch more easily.
I found this to be one of the most helpful tools to keep me sane during the pandemic. I set up an accountability group to combat procrastination and loneliness a year ago, and our group uses Slack to keep in touch as frequently as we need or want. It has turned out to be a remote team, almost like being in an office environment, but without the commute or rogue colleague reheating fish in the microwave!
This comes in two main forms – as paid storage space and as software that allows you to get things done while storing your work on the cloud.
Personally, I have opted for the latter and use Microsoft 365 for my work. All my work is safely encrypted and backed up daily, and I can access it anytime, anywhere. Even when my laptop was in for repairs, I was able to pick up where I left off using a borrowed laptop without missing a beat. In fact, I don’t think anyone noticed!
VPN – virtual private network
A virtual private network (VPN) works by creating a digitally encrypted tunnel between you and the rest of the internet. It also creates a separate IP address for you, disguising your location and making it much harder for hackers to access your data. It also means that you can set it to show you are in one country when you are actually thousands of miles away.
Using a VPN offers peace of mind, especially when working on sensitive jobs or trying to do your banking online. The bonus? You can stream content from your home country during your downtime from the other side of the world.
You may be easily distracted, like me, when working from home. You may find that working in a café or co-working space is impossible if there is even the slightest bit of noise. (Or you may actually prefer some background noise and find home a little too quiet.)
I recently tried using the Pomodoro technique: 25-minute stints of work, followed by 5-minute breaks. It helps me concentrate, knowing that I can deal with any incoming emails or admin tasks during my breaks.
And while I’m okay with some background noise and don’t mind working in a café, I can’t work to music. This is where apps that stream background noise that you would find in a café or co-working space can help. One of my accountability group buddies tells me that A Soft Murmur is a good one to try.
If social media is your nemesis, there are software-blocking apps that will restrict your ability to access selected apps and websites. Set them to your chosen working time and focus on what you need to do. I admit I haven’t needed to use any myself yet, but I hear good things about Freedom.
It may sound obvious, but we don’t all do it unless something has gone wrong and we’ve lost work or data – or worse, been hacked. Security tools can be as simple as antivirus software or as sophisticated as two-factor authentication and additional encryption layers. My go-to for years has been AVG.
A basic antivirus programme is a must. It is increasingly a requirement if you have professional indemnity or cybersecurity insurance. If you work on sensitive or confidential projects, then additional security layers will give you and your clients greater peace of mind. It may even be the difference between winning that contract or securing that new client and losing out because your systems are not considered secure enough.
As an editor, this one has been a surprising timesaver, not to mention sanity-retainer. Text expander apps help you reduce the number of times you write the same thing. With just a couple of keystrokes, I can have entire sentences written into a document or email. Extra useful if you are lacking the ergonomic tools that make repetitive tasks less onerous. I started with the free trial for TextExpander and haven’t looked back.
And there you have it. The remote working tools that can help you get your work done efficiently and comfortably, wherever your office may be. None of these need to break the bank and all will definitely save you time and money in the long run. They have certainly untied my hands and given me peace of mind. I know my files are secure and I can roam the globe while working (pre-Covid, of course). Nowadays, they help me be part of a community from my little home office, staying as efficient and motivated as ever.
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Christina Petrides is a writer and editor who works with small businesses, academics and court reporters, helping develop and create copy and content and editing and proofreading documents. She works across most industries, and has a particular love for the environmental and travel sectors. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and Full Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES). Connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for the Last Glance monthly newsletter.