Seven Online Tools For Telecommuting

Use these tools to make working remotely for you.

Aliza Sherman,
June 18, 2009
Episode #058


Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

The new way of work is working remotely. More and more professionals are opting to work from home, successful companies are being run from home offices, and the need to have a formal office space feels like an unnecessary expense. What are some online tools you can utilize to work better when you're no longer chained to one place?

I've tried to summarize seven must-have types of solutions that can help a telecommuter, and then I give a few examples of free or fee-based applications that fit each category. This is by no means any kind of definitive list; just a place to start when you're looking for useful applications for working remotely.

Your Telecommuting Toolkit

1. An Intra-Company Social Network

Unless you're a company of one, chances are staying in touch and up-to-date with your co-workers can be a challenge when you're not all at the same location. There are many different tools out there for connecting remote workers, many of them take their cues from social networks and even Twitter. Socialcast is like an enhanced Twitter application that can be used by virtual team members to make notations and status updates in a Twitter-like fashion. A more robust internal social network for companies is Socialtext, but it's really geared toward the larger enterprise. Even using a white-label social networking service such as Ning can help you create more connectivity between distributed workers.

2. An Online Presentation Tool

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention WebEx because they helped pioneer the online presentation application that allows you to share a computer screen view with others while chatting on a conference call; but one of our wonderful advertisers GoToMeeting has given WebEx a real run for its money at a more affordable price. Then there are the upstarts like Yugma and Mikogo that offer similar screen sharing functionality for free and bundle in a voice conferencing system.

3. Reminder or Task Application

When you are working remotely, things can fall through the cracks, particularly if you work from different places and at different times each day. Having a good digital To Do list application that triggers reminders can save the day. Some popular To Do lists include ToodleDo, ToDoist, Remember the Milk, and, of course, the new tasks feature on Google Calendar. I use my Google Calendar by setting up text messages to be sent to my iPhone as additional reminders for all of my activities during any given day.

4. Video Chat

I really think these days that video chat is truly the next best thing to being there. When you're working remotely on your own or traveling to a hub office, or if seeing fellow workers is out of the question, just dial them up on Skype for free and pop on the video. For video chat with up to eight members, you can try Oovoo or for up to five video chatters, the new TinyChat works in a pinch.

5. Document and File Sharing

If you're working remotely, collaborating or sharing a document or other kinds of files can be a challenge, and email is not the best solution. GoogleDocs is my favorite document sharing tool. Even though some of its collaboration functions are limited, I have yet to find a better application. For file sharing, you might try Box.net or Dropbox or even drop.io or is that pronounced dropio? Each one has a free level or you can upgrade to something more robust.

6. A Project Management Tool

I've tried many project management tools in the past to review them on blogs and then later for my company. I used Basecamp for the first year then upgraded to 5pm. Other options include Wrike, Joint Contact, and Deskaway and so many others. Definitely try a few out for free or use their free trials to see which one has the features and interface that works best for you.

7. Your Watercooler

You can't work remotely without a gathering place online. I personally use Twitter as part watercooler, part resource community. Some people prefer Facebook, whereas still others have vibrant blogs with blog communities that provide the conversation and interaction that we all used to get at an actual office watercooler.

Bottom Line: Being remote doesn't mean you have to be disconnected from your co-workers, clients, vendors or colleagues. Nor does it mean you must use inferior tools to be productive because you’re not on a company network. Online applications combine the various functionality and features you need to stay connected and work well.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

You can also book me, your humble podcaster, for your next event as a keynote speaker or lecturer on topics related to digital marketing and social media. Visit Macmillanspeakers.com/alizasherman for more information.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

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Working Remotely Cartoon image courtesy of Shutterstock


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