Note: New for this article, you can listen to it if you’re on the go. Find the audio version at the end.
I’m a huge fan of remote working. It lets me live where I want, work where I want, and travel where I want. With Lindsay and Bryan’s articles last week, we’ve had a great conversation going within our community on how you can work remotely with your customer support job.
Over the weekend, I got several emails from people wondering what tools they needed to start working remotely. While there’s no secret, you-must-have-this kind tool, there are a few that work really well for me.
Here’s a few tools I use every day to work wherever I want.
1) MacBook Pro – 13in with Retina Display
I grew up a Windows person. But as soon as I started with 37signals, I switched to a MacBook and never went back. My MacBook Pro is the most important tool I use every day. It’s easy to carry, powerful, and extremely fast. Since I’m on it 8 − 10 hours a day, I sprung for the Retina Display, which has made a world of difference. Without it, none of the other tools below matter.
Every project I work on lives inside Basecamp. It keeps my notes organized and my to-dos easily accessible. I use it for projects at 37signals, organizing dates and to-dos for Support Ops, and even for keeping track of things around the house and farm. It’s simple to use, easy to work with, and makes sure that I never forget anything.
Campfire is how I chat with the rest of the support team. We’ve got different chat rooms set up depending on the need for each one. There’s an “All Talk” one that everyone at 37signals is in. We have a support team room where we talk… well, mostly share photos and play Campfire sounds a lot. We also have an on-call room where we talk with programmers about different problems our customers are reporting. There’s lots of group chat tools out there but Campfire is by far my favorite (especially since we created it).
4) Messages App
You never want to rely on just one app for your communication. What if something happens and it goes down? It’ll cut of your team from one another. So I use Apple’s Messages app as a backup. It’s also handy for one-on-one conversations with others on the team. Plus, it ties in with my iPhone so I can chat with other family, friends, etc.
5) MiFi Hotspot
I have a MiFi Hotspot from AT&T that goes with me everywhere I go. It’s a great backup in case my primary Internet network goes down, which has happened before. I’ve actually had the power go out during an online class but was able to keep going because of my MiFi and MacBook. The MiFi also lets me work from any place I travel to. That means no time spent on trying to figure out if the hotel has decent Internet access.
6) Bonus – Headphones
If you’re out in public at a coffee shop or such, a pair of headphones is great to drown out the noise from people around you. And for the times that you have to go into the office, wearing headphones lets others on your team know you’re focused on you work. As for the specific kind, it’s up to you. I’ve got an old pair of Sony ZX series but I’ve got my eye on some new ones. Lots of people I know love anything from Sennheiser.
For you remote workers out there, what tools are you using? Let me know in the comments!
Hi Chase! Great article. I have to say I agree totally with all of the above, which I use daily. I even have the MacBook Pro Retina, other lower resolution screens just don’t cut it anymore. 🙂
I will add that the recent addition to my remote working family is a laptop stand and external wireless mouse and keyboard. Laptops are not intended for extended use and are bad for your back, neck and posture, so I recommend investing in a stand, keyboard and mouse to anyone working long term from a laptop at home! Get that laptop at a relaxed eye height and thank me later. 😉
Chase Clemons says
Great point! Which stand are you using with your MBP?
Just a simple stand from Ikea ( http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60150176/ ). You can get some flash ones with built in cooling fans and that are adjustable, but as long as your computer screen is at comfortable eye height you could use anything – some old chunky books maybe?
Ruth Saunders says
I would definitely second that! Whether I’m working on my role in customer support or PhD research, it’s much much healthier to raise the level of the laptop, and use a remote keyboard and mouse so I’m not cramping over the laptop.