Top Tools to Optimize Remote Work

Top Tools to Optimize Remote Work

Let’s face it: even post-Covid pandemic, remote work is going to be the reality for many if not most of us. In their article, “Reimagining the office and work life after COVID-19”, McKinsey found that early this April, 62 percent of employed Americans worked at home during the crisis, compared with about 25 percent a couple of years ago. While there’s no replacing in-person engagement, today’s technology tools and platforms have transformed our ability to be productive in highly dispersed teams.

We at illume hire have pulled together our list of top tools you should be familiar with to maximize your productivity as a remote worker. We broke the list out by category.

Online Meetings

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way: Zoom. While Zoom recently suffered an embarrassing outage, they remain the 800-lb gorilla in online meeting platforms, but Microsoft Teams is nipping at Zoom’s heals (maybe more like full-on biting), and Google is trying to keep pace with its Google Meet offering. Zoom offers a free version that’s limited to 40-minute meetings with a max of 100 attendees. Microsoft Teams and Google Meet also include free and paid versions rolled into Microsoft 365 and G Suite respectively.

Calendar and Scheduling

Look beyond the basics of Google Calendar or Outlook to get your time and meeting management game in tip-top shape. For those of us who struggle with the cat-herding exercise that is finding meeting times across team members, customers, and timezones, enter Doodle. Doodle excels at reducing time and endless email threads when trying to find a time that works for a meeting across multiple calendars. Using polls, Doodle enables you to offer slots and quickly zero in on the best option for your meeting invitees. Doodle has both free and paid versions and is a major time saver.

Another great app is Calendly, which flips the script on meeting scheduling, and allows your invites to find the best time based on timeslots that you designate. Calendly’s secret sauce lies in its rules that help you set up one-on-one, round-robin, and collective availability meetings.

Team Collaboration and Communication

If you aren’t familiar with Slack by now, it’s time to get acquainted with this top team collaboration platform. You’ll see Slack widely used on publicly accessible sites and within internal teams alike. Its simple concept is the ability to set up “Channels” which can focus on an entire project, or you can set up multiple channels for collaboration on different aspects of a more complex project. Slack has extensive points of integration with pretty much every tool out there, and using their bots enables you to automate everything from auto-responses for customer inquiries to triggering meetings based on a simple slack message.

Another great tool is Trello, from productivity powerhouse, Atlassian. Trello follows the kanban methodology, using the simple concept of cards, lists, and boards to empower individuals and teams to manage everything from the simple to more complex projects. It has a great mobile app, a desktop client, and a web interface. 

Password Management

While managing passwords may not be top-of-mind when you think about productivity in a remote work environment, it should be. With all the different tools you’re using, and with an increased need to have highly secure passwords (which typically means longer, less predictable passwords), having a great password manager can save you a lot of time and headache when you can’t remember your login for a specific tool or service. 

Our favorite password manager is LastPass. Like most services, it offers a free and paid version. The free version gives you a great, basic password management tool, and the paid version at just $3 per month allows you to manage more complex multi-factor authentication scenarios.

Note Taking

While we each have our own approach to note-taking, from sticky notes to napkins to Word documents, there’s one tool that rises to the top for us: Evernote. Evernote is the elder statesman of note-taking apps, but don’t let that long history fool you: this is a power-packed app. Beyond what you’d expect in terms of creating notebooks, adding tags for easy filtering, and syncing across all your devices, Evernote has excellent integration with a variety of tools like Gmail, browsers for web clipping, and both Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Even if you don’t run out (virtually of course) and sign up for any of these offerings, we recommend you check them out to make sure you’re familiar with them and ready to talk about how they could fit in remote teams’ lives during your next interview. Most of the services we mentioned above have thorough tutorials on their sites and we always recommend you check out YouTube where there is well-produced, free content to help you get started with each service.

Top 10 Online Resources to Up Your Skills

Top 10 Online Resources to Up Your Skills

Whether you’re looking for a new job, looking for that next promotion, or getting ready to launch your own business, success in the digital age requires a learning-for-life mindset and a willingness to embrace new ways of doing things. Enter upskilling.

Upskilling is all about refreshing your existing skills, learning new competencies, and proving to your current or future employers that you are engaged and ready to learn and apply new ways of doing things. 

To help you explore opportunities to begin your upskilling journey, here is a list of top online resources:


When Transamerica asked: “Have you taken any steps to ensure that you’ll be able to continue working past 65 or in retirement, if needed?” only 37% of boomers said they’ve been keeping their job skills up to date. And that was down from 40% when Transamerica surveyed boomers in 2019. Those percentages were flipped for Gen Xers, who’ve been taking a little more initiative lately. 



ALISON has a wide range of free, comprehensive classes on topics ranging from technology, languages, science, financial literacy, personal and soft skills, and entrepreneurship. It targets all kinds of learners, from professionals and managers to teachers and freelancers.


2. Udemy

Udemy has plenty to offer for the learner on a budget, from completely free courses taught by experts, professors, entrepreneurs, and professionals, to frequent discounts and class specials. In addition to classes in tech, business, and marketing, you can also explore options in productivity, health, hobbies, and lifestyle.


3. LinkedIn Learning

Formerly known as, LinkedIn Learning gives you access to thousands of courses in business, design, art, education, and tech. It also offers a free one-month trial so you can try before you buy.


4. Coursera

If you want to receive a college education without the high cost of tuition, Coursera is the best stop. This website offers amazing courses in all kinds of fields, from professional development to psychology, history, and literature—all created and taught by professors at top institutions nationally and across the globe. Their universities include Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and plenty more.


5. Udacity

Udacity focuses on software development, offering free courses in programming, data science, and web development. The website also offers a nanodegree program for individuals who want to master a skill set or pursue a full-time career in tech.

When Transamerica asked: “Have you taken any steps to ensure that you’ll be able to continue working past 65 or in retirement if needed?” only 37% of boomers said they’ve been keeping their job skills up to date. And that was down from 40% when Transamerica surveyed boomers in 2019. Those percentages were flipped for Gen Xers, who’ve been taking a little more initiative lately.

6. edX

Just like Coursera, edX offers anyone, anywhere the chance to take university classes in various departments—and get certified. Some of their brand-name partners include Harvard, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Georgetown, and the University of Chicago (and that’s not all!).


7. General Assembly

General Assembly offers both online and in-person classes, as well as full-time and part-time options. It focuses mainly on digital skills, covering subjects such as digital marketing, iOS and Android development, data analytics, and JavaScript.


8. Skillshare

Skillshare provides “bite-sized” classes to learners who only have 15 minutes a day. It has more than 500 free classes and several thousand premium classes to choose from in topics such as film, writing, tech, lifestyle, and more.


9. LearnSmart

LearnSmart’s orientated toward career development, which is why it’s a great place to learn about IT and security, project management, HR, and business.


10. Pluralsight

After subscribing to Pluralsight (or using its free trial!), you’ll be able to explore classes in software, 3D development, VFX, design, game design, web design, and CAD software.


There are many more online resources out there. Dizzied by the choices? You should check out Try Class Central—it’s a matching engine for online classes and can provide suggestions based on your personal interests.

Be sure to highlight any activities or certifications in your discussions with potential employers. It will send the right signal that you’re a life-learner, curious, and focused on personal growth.