The Best 16 Tools for Working Remotely and Traveling
The idea of working remotely while traveling can be daunting. What about all those things you keep on your desk? What about having a stack of post-it notes, a printer, a desk phone and a supply closet? As it turns out, with technology available today, your remote work supply closet exists online, in your phone and in cloud storage.
Tools for remote work
I joined Slack as a first-time user when I joined Remote Year. Slack is a professional chat application for organizations, and you could say that it ‘makes chatting fun again.’ Slack has given teams, whether remote or now, ways to collaborate and removes the need for email within organizations. With a plethora of emojis to use to express yourself, you can join or create channels, send direct messages and save posts for later. Another feature is that Slack integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, Giphy, Google Calendar, Zoom and a whole list of other apps that assist with productivity.
Skype for Business
Skype for Business is naturally a bit more traditional. I use it for my job to chat with colleagues across the world within my remote desktop. I also have the Skype for Business app on my phone, which is how I call into meetings when my remote desktop is functioning too slowly!
Around the world, WhatsApp is the default way people talk to each other and it’s incredible. While I don’t use WhatsApp much for work purposes, it’s definitely the method by which I’m keeping in touch with everyone at home. Among other Remotes (Remote Year participants), we form groups in WhatsApp to communicate about upcoming events or to share photos.
Google Hangouts is a Google platform on which you can message contacts, hold a video chat (with up to 10 users), send SMS and create voice calls over the Internet. For me, Google Hangouts have been a great way to communicate with clients by either audio or video, about projects. Hangouts is available in Gmail and also through a mobile app on both Android and iOS.
Zoom is a video conference platform that also comes in both a desktop and mobile app. I mostly use it on my phone. You can create a meeting URL to send to someone before the date of a meeting, and when the meeting time comes, you can both click the link and have a video meeting through the Zoom app.
When I write blog posts for any website to which I’m contributing, I write my drafts in Google Docs and then share the doc with a peer who will take a look before it goes live. With the ‘suggested edit’ function, you can leave edits for the author of the document in tracked changes, which is the most helpful.
Before 2017, I only had my photography business photos backed up to a hard drive (a hard drive that you carry around). I have a Dropbox annual account which I pay for yearly, and it gets me 1 TB of storage. Now I’ll never lose my client photos! I also have Dropbox linked to my laptop (in Windows), so when I create a new folder and put photo files in, it syncs.
For everything that’s not a photo, I store most documents in Google Drive. What I store in Google Drive is anything from flight confirmations to copies of work-related items. I also love making spreadsheets and lists, and I keep these in Google Drive. I can access them from my phone on the Google Sheets or Google Drive apps.
Lightroom is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom is an Adobe application for both desktop and mobile. While Photoshop is for fine-tuning edits for one specific photo at a time, Lightroom allows you to catalog and edit RAW files. can also create and add presets, apply the same set of edits to several different photos and create collections. My photography changed tons for the better after I learned to edit in Lightroom.
A remote desktop
If you’re a remote employee of a company, you may log into a remote desktop that connects to a company server or a physical computer somewhere. For me, I log in daily to a remote desktop and its functionality depends a lot on the speed of my internet connection. I’ve come to measure how fast a WiFi network is based on how well my remote desktop loads and allows me to use Outlook and Skype!
As Jessica said, “If it’s not in Google Calendar, it basically doesn’t exist,” and that’s how I feel about Google Calendar. I like staying busy, and I like seeing a full calendar that’s organized. I use calendars for myself and also shared calendars for professional collaborations. I like creating events and invitations and insisting that invitees RSVP so that headcounts are accurate!
Trello is an organized and useful way to organize project-planning, team-based tasks or simply, a to-do list. You can organize tasks by ‘cards,’ which are like topics, and there are a variety of labels to add, in order to color-code. Trello also allows communication between members of a team; you can tag members within the same Trello ‘board’ to ask for updates and to tag collaborative tasks.
My favorite apps for travel
Swarm is an offshoot of Foursquare, a platform for giving ratings and reviews to locations. The main idea of Swarm is to ‘check in’ to wherever you are, whether it’s a zoo, shoe store, park or airport. Swarm is rather straightforward, and within it, you can track your location check-ins so that you can see where you’ve gone and access that data later. Half the time, I use it to see what my Swarm friends are up to, and the other half of the time, I use it to figure out what I did a few days ago. For example, I wanted to recall the name of a taco place in Medellin at which I had eaten in February 2017, so I accessed my past Swarm check-ins and found it! I was then able to recommend it to friends the night we landed in Medellin the following year. If you sign into your Swarm account on desktop, you’ll see that the links for your check-ins conveniently lead to Foursquare.
While Google Maps seems like a given, I’ve recently (and maybe I’m late to the game) learned some tips and tricks within the app. I use the star/’want to go’/favorites function for saving locations, and I now also share these locations by getting a short URL to send to a friend via text, email or WhatsApp. Similar to using Swarm, I can zoom into a city and look back at my favorite places I’ve starred, or add a star places (such as photo spots that I’ve researched) before I arrive somewhere new. Lastly, Google Maps allows for downloading maps offline, which saves on data usage when abroad.
It seems like a no-brainer, but the Airbnb app on my phone was very useful during my Euro trip this summer, as some hosts preferred to chat through the app about arrival time, questions and key hand-offs, rather than giving out their phone numbers. That was understandable! The app also gave a run-down of all the details of properties in my itinerary, such as check-in time, check-out time, address, directions, specific requests and price receipts.
With the Hostelworld app, I’ve sometimes booked hostels same-day if for some reason I get overbooked somewhere (speaking from experience) or have a change in travel plans (could happen to anyone). One of my favorites is La Serrana in Salento, Colombia.