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10 essential tools and apps for work from home employees

home office including desk with two monitors, shelves and other items
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Given the acceleration of the requirement for millions around the world to work remotely, useful apps for work from home employees now number in the hundreds.

Designed to help with everything from video conferencing and project management to sharing worksheets, finding the best email providers and keeping files secure, these 10 essential tools and apps are guaranteed to improve your remote working effectiveness.

1. Google Workspace

a screenshot of a Gmail inbox complete with Workspace menu

Google Workspace includes Gmail  (Image credit: Google)

Formerly known as G Suite, Google Workspace is a collection of tools that are ideal for employees working from home. The collaborative nature of Google Workspace makes it especially useful if remote workers are required to liaise with colleagues on a regular basis. 

Applications include video conferencing tool Google Meet, group messaging utility Google Chat, and Calendar - which can be integrated with the diaries of others you work with. For collaborative efforts, Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides allow several people to work on documents concurrently. Then there is Gmail, Google’s email client used by over 1.5 billion people worldwide. 

With a Workspace subscription, you’ll enjoy an ad-free version that also allows you to customize your email address, and this is one of many reasons why we rank it among our best Microsoft Office alternatives.

2. Zoom

Zoom's homepage

Zoom was the world’s most popular video conferencing app in 2020 (Image credit: Zoom)

Launched in 2012, Zoom saw a spike in users following the COVID-19 pandemic that led many to the platform in order to keep in touch with friends and families. Thanks to its ease of use, the software became the most popular video conferencing app of 2020.

For those working from home, Zoom has become a vital means of communicating face to face with colleagues and clients. Its free plan allows for unlimited chats between two people, with a limit of 40 minutes imposed on meetings of more than two users. 

Those with a business account have no time restrictions and can host up to 300 participants as standard, with up to 1,000 permitted through the Large Meeting add-on. Other useful features include recording functionality and company branding options.

3. Trello

a mockup of Trello's dashboard service

Share your boards and lists with collaborators and colleagues  (Image credit: Trello)

Trello is a web-based organizational tool that allows users to create Kanban-inspired boards and lists, with an emphasis on teamwork. Over one million teams worldwide are using the service to organize meetings, monitor workflow, and track projects through key stages of development. 

Simply set up a board, begin adding cards, and invite others whom you would like to use the board. Cards can incorporate checklists, due dates, and reminders, while the drag-and-drop functionality allows you to move cards between columns. The Butler feature allows for the automation of tasks, and is intended to reduce manual processes.

4. Slack

a mockup of a Slack window including chats and channels

Over 750,000 companies use Slack’s messaging service (Image credit: Slack)

“Where work happens” is the slogan that accompanies Slack’s platform, and the company’s tremendous growth in popularity in the last few years ranks it among the world’s most widely used messaging tools.

Over 750,000 companies use the software, which offers the benefit of being able to set up a range of channels that can be organized by subject or group, with direct messaging also available. Files can be shared within conversations, while video calls via Slack can feature up to 15 people.

5. Dropbox

Dropbox's homepage linking to price comparisions

Dropbox offers both a desktop and mobile app for auto-syncing (Image credit: Dropbox)

Founded in 2007, Dropbox is something of a veteran compared to others on this list, but its array of features and ability to sync with a range of devices has ensured that it remains among the most popular file-hosting services around. 

Although users can access the service by logging in via a web browser, Dropbox offers both a desktop and mobile app, which ensures a more efficient and slicker process to back up, share, and sync your files.  

Storage starts at 2TB for the personal plans, with business options ranging from 3TB for the professional to 5TB for the standard plan. There is also an advanced option for those requiring more storage, depending on your exact needs.

6. Freedom

Freedom's webpage discussing the service's multiplatform capabilities

Freedom helps home workers with their productivity (Image credit: Freedom)

Working from home can bring its fair share of distractions, so for those who struggle with their focus, Freedom is designed to improve their productivity. It does this by eliminating distractions and bad habits, prompting users to set blocks for websites, apps, or even the entire internet depending on their requirements. 

Blocks can be scheduled for certain times of the day, preventing access to common distractions like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube during work hours. Freedom also offers browser extensions to complement the app, allowing you to install website pauses and limits, along with insights into your online behavior. 

7. Evernote

Evernote's webpage discussing the service

Evernote is used by over 200 million people worldwide (Image credit: Evernote)

Whether to record minutes for an important meeting, or ensure their best ideas are documented even when they’re on the go, over 200 million people worldwide use Evernote.

Evernote syncs across all of your devices and allows you to invite others to share and input notes. The business subscription includes offline note access, the ability to search text inside PDFs, and single sign-on (SSO) login functionality.

8. Basecamp

Basecamp's homepage

The message board is intended to reduce email clutter  (Image credit: Basecamp)

Ideal for home workers who work regularly as part of a wider team, Basecamp is a project management tool designed to assist with communication and workflow. Instead of email chains, Basecamp provides a messageboard for those with access to post updates to and gather feedback from, giving full oversight of an entire project all the way back to day one.

The To-Do section lists actions required and aligns them to specific users, with key dates listed in the project schedule. Meanwhile, Docs & Files stores all assets associated with the project. Automatic Check-in allows workers to log their tasks and achievements, giving the wider team clarity on each other’s role.

9. Dashlane

Dashlane's homepage

Dashlane stores and protects your passwords  (Image credit: Dashlane)

Working from home has increased the need for sophisticated security measures, particularly when storing, accessing, and sharing files intended for several workers. Having the same password for a variety of logins is discouraged as a security risk, though remembering a litany of passwords can prove tricky, especially when the best passwords should be anything but memorable.

With that in mind, those working from home should consider the use of a password manager, and Dashlane is regularly ranked among the best password managers on the market. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) protects your key information, which includes contact details, delivery addresses, and payment information alongside passwords. The premium service includes priority support.

10. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN's homepage

ExpressVPN supports five devices per user (Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Offices and workplaces often come with the benefit of an on-site IT technician. Without such expertise on hand, employees working from home may be more at risk of security breaches. An effective way to stay safe online is to use a recommended VPN service, which works to secure your home connection.

With over 3,000 servers located in over 160 countries, ExpressVPN is regularly among the top recommended VPNs, supporting up to five devices per user with lightning speeds and a high level of customer support.

Summary

When it comes to working from home, the above tools and apps should help to improve your efficiency, reduce distractions, and boost communication levels with your clients, colleagues, and collaborators - here are some more top tips for remaining secure and compliant as you work from home.

Alexis James

Alexis is a freelance writer and journalist from the north east of England. His love for creative technology stems from the day he was gifted his first ever digital voice recorder (a beloved Olympus WS 110), which brought with it the wonderful realisation that he'd never again have to rely on his iffy shorthand…