The Remote Worker’s Guide to the Best Tools

by Team Serious

We’ve tried a ton of tools in the name of productivity and have, over the years, come up with an ever-updating suite of software we use on the regular.

Before Covid-19 forced a work-from-home arrangement for countless companies across the globe, the last time anything was consequential enough to disrupt the workplace was when the internet was invented. Today, with unprecedented preventive measures that have forced us to stay away from our usual workspaces, the internet is not only a way to get things done faster but the only way to get things done, period. A team’s efficiency has never before been so closely tied to its ability to use the internet, and we all know from experience that the right set of applications can make all the difference.

1. The One Space for All Documents, Updates, and Ideas: Notion

Notion calls itself an all-in-one workspace, priding itself on its ability and flexibility to be virtually any kind of document you might need for any kind of task. Users start with a blank canvas that they can quickly fill up with calendars, checklists, tables, notes, and even Kanban boards. We use ours to keep track of our numerous projects, house important (and also fun) notes, and work on all sorts of projects and tasks together. It’s so customizable, it has the power to work for every kind of team but never in exactly the same way.

The most helpful thing about Notion, in this time of working from home, is that it is collaborative by nature, keeping your content synced across team members so anyone in the team can easily access any document they might need from anywhere they are. It works on web browsers, as a desktop app, and even as a mobile app. Notion, we’d say, is the perfect tool for working together on projects while we’re all stuck at home.

Being the big Notion fans we are, we took the chance to interview Notion’s marketing head for the first volume of The Serious Review. Download or order a printed copy here to read more about what makes Notion the workspace of choice.

2. See the Messages that Matter Most: Slack

What makes Slack so popular as a messaging app is its channel feature, a way of categorizing messages that make sure notifications are only sent to people who need to see them and lessening distractions for those who don’t.

Widely used amongst millennial workspaces—but very reminiscent of mIRC (shout out to 30-40 year olds)—Slack also provides integration with our many other tools of choice such as Notion, Google Calendar, and even Giphy.

In a time such as now, clear and constant communication is more important than ever to keep a team running smoothly. While we make sure that everyone has an idea about what’s going on in the studio (we are a small team of 16 after all), knowing everything about everything is unproductive and, for the most part, exhausting. Slack helps us keep on top of things with our sanity in check.

3. Keep Computers Light as a Cloud: Dropbox

Dropbox is best known as a cloud storage service, but we’ve discovered that it is also the best way to send big files to both our clients and within our team. Airdrop requires physical proximity. USBs and CDs are just way too easy to misplace. And our files are often way bigger than Gmail’s 25mb limit. With Dropbox, it’s all just a simple link.

Now and even pre-lockdown, we’ve been using Dropbox to store all our files and materials, leaving us one problem less when we decided on a temporary WFH arrangement as we didn’t have to think about the logistics of who takes which hard drive home or worry about accidentally leaving one behind. “It’s all on Dropbox” is one of our studio’s oft said sentences, and we were very relieved to hear it said once again when we were preparing to temporarily vacate the office.

Another helpful feature is the ability to sync Dropbox with your computer so it feels almost like a local folder instead of one on the cloud. This takes away the need to open your web browser and download a file every time you need it. Instead, you can open it directly as you would any other folder on your computer.

4. Track Time Productively: Toggl

Toggl works much like your standard task timer. But instead of just having you take note of what task you’ve completed, Toggle takes it a step further by allowing you to label what projects and functions these tasks fall under, giving you additional insights on how your time as a team is spent. Using a tool like Toggl is also extra helpful for industries where cost and effectivity are quantified by the number of hours put in.

As a studio, our uses for it range from timing in and out when we physically can’t do so, to helping us stay focused and productive by keeping tabs on how long each task takes. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re busy, even more now that most of us are working in environments we’re not used to working in.

5. Clear Up Your Schedule: Google Calendar

We’re big advocates of work-life balance, but this balance can be hard to achieve when your schedule involves one project after another. More than just reminding us of important dates, having all our meetings and deadlines on a shared GCal helps us manage individual schedules and workload, making sure no one is overloaded or overworked. Our calendar also includes special studio days (such as activities and parties) to remind us to take a breather, as well as birthdays and work anniversaries so we can give team members extra servings of TLC.

6. Share a Mood(board): Pinterest

Typically used as a digital moodboard, Pinterest also houses a ton of design inspiration amidst its many crafty DIYs and aesthetic recipes.

Sometimes, we start projects with everything figured out. Most of the time, we start with a few photos that we justify with the words “feel,” “mood,” and “vibe.” Aside from being a catalog of nice photos for whenever you find the need for them, Pinterest’s power is in its ability to recommend you a treasure trove of related photos from just one photo, allowing you to both expand and eventually narrow down your idea to what feels right. And while it’s easy to get overwhelmed with 50 Pinterest tabs open at once (and yes, this happens a lot), it culminates in a completely fleshed out moodboard that just works. Being able to share these boards with a simple link is extremely useful when working on moodboards together, especially now that we’re working in separate locations.

7. A Second Look for Your Writing: Grammarly

Grammarly is an app that checks your grammar like your editor would, because there is only so much spellcheck can do.

Since we started The Serious Review, we’ve been writing more than ever before and came out with some pretty amazing things we’re proud to call our own. But more than just good ideas, The Serious Review is also home to good writing—and good writing means no bad grammar and typos allowed.

To avoid less-than-perfect sentences, which can easily happen after numerous rounds of revising and rewriting, we use Grammarly to help give our written work another look. Of course, there’s nothing better than fresh eyes from your team members afterwards.

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