A January 2012 Reuters poll reports that one out of five employees in the world telecommute regularly.  For those who are not yet familiar with telecommuting, it simply means working outside of an office setting either out of choice or out of necessity.
Though this may seem a challenge for people who find their homes a comfort zone at the end of the day, many are now compelled to transform their personal space into an environment fitted for work.
With a fully equipped kitchen and the TV’s remote control somewhere within walking distance, procrastination gets the best of us as if the internet is not enough distraction. And without a supervisor across the hallway to bug us, we need ways to self-regulate our productivity. Here are some tools created with home-based workers in mind.
Task management tools
As the adage goes, they wouldn’t call it deadline if we wouldn’t end up dead set to beat it. Task management tools are our tactical weapons. They help us emancipate ourselves from the lures of procrastination by making it easy for us to create to-do lists, set goals, design workflows and keep us always alert.
Look no further. With every Google account we have comes Google Tasks which allows us to create to-do lists, make notes and set a deadline through our Gmail account, Google Calendar or iGoogle. This can be done in collaboration with others, too, as we can simply add tasks to our list straight from an email we just received.
Another task management tool with collaborative features is Producteev. Each task is plotted on a calendar where you can also attach files and create notes. Remote collaboration is simplified for managers as they can create a task list for a project and delegate each task to employees together with their corresponding deadlines.
Social collaboration tool
Sometimes it is not enough that the internet allows us to remotely collaborate on a project. What if there is a way to simulate the office environment including the small chats at the pantry and the weekender team-building activities? The social network technology is the exact platform for that but with social collaboration tools, the community becomes more specialized.
Social collaboration tools like Jive create both internal and external networks for a company. Through this platform, it is easy to manage updates from people working on different projects from different locations in a single news feed just like Facebook or Twitter. Members of our business network are allowed to create profiles, upload files and photos, and share open updates about their experience working on a project.
An alternative to Jive is Basecamp which focuses more on collaborative messaging and file sharing, making it easy for project managers to track deadlines. One of its useful features is Campfire which allows real time chats among collaborators.
Time management tool
With task lists, deadlines, and helpful coworkers available through cloud computing, the only thing that could hamper our productivity is us and our battle against time. Armed with a time management software, we can keep ourselves focus on the job at hand instead of worrying about the deadline.
One of them is Launchy which is a tool used to launch folders, applications and files that we need together on a regular basis in just a single click. This minimizes the lag that we often attribute to technical failure.
Another tool that can help us manage our time better is Google Calendar. It works similar to an offline calendar except that it allows us to check our schedules anywhere through smartphones or other mobile devices.
As we set toward our goal to minimize the time spent on a particular task, we can use another web-based tool called RescueTime which analyzes how we spend time on the computer on a daily basis. Just turn the app on in the background the moment we boot our computer and it would automatically log the applications we use, our activity, and how long we spend on a single activity the whole day.
Web research tool
Whether we are running a business or writing a book, it is important to feed our minds with knowledge and industry updates. Most people do this during idle times which for a lot of us telecommuters are better spent on stress-free activities like movie marathon and full body massage.
Education and research should take a spot on our task list. We understand that it is not easy to start allotting time for reading and studying in the middle of a big project but to help us lessen the time we need to spend on such, we always have the internet and useful research tools to boot.
iCyte is a browser extension for Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 and 8 which helps us select and save certain parts of a website we need to read for later. An archive of the websites saved is stored in an iCyte account. We can even create folders and organize research materials for easy reference.
Similar to iCyte is Memonic which also allows us to select part of a website and turn them into our own collection of web information. An additional feature lets users directly annotate the clippings, no need to copy and paste to a word processor or to print the excerpt.
Finance and accounting tool
One of the tasks that we procrastinate on the most is accounting and financial planning especially if our work only tackles money when it is being given and received. But the money we receive and spend are hard-earned and it is high time to manage it well.
If we don’t have the time, ability and patience to dig into those shoeboxes filled with unpaid bills and pay slips, web-based applications such as GoBootstrap.com helps us account our cashflow, fill out forms, analyze tax deductions, create graphs based on our financial status, and alert us when it is time to pay.
If we are managing a small and medium business at home, we don’t need to actually hire a clerk to write checks, invoices and books for us. Peachtree.com, also a web-based application is like a traditional accounting software, only more user-friendly and simple.
With all of these applications available on the internet for free and for a small investment, freelancers, managers and business owners alike should not think twice about telecommuting or hiring home-based workers. But these are not an end-all solution. They are tools. Due diligence and self-control is what really maximizes our productivity.