How We Work Remotely - Our Best Gear and Productivity Hacks

Feb 12, 2014 by Tricia Harris in remote work, tips & techniques (5 minute read)

Most of our blog posts center around how to best work together as a team. We thought we’d change gears a little and talk about how we work remotely and what boosts our productivity as individuals.

Occasionally we meet in the same place, but for the most part, our team works from everywhere, literally. One of our team members spent last summer working from the south of France. And why not? We make meeting software that supports this, so working remotely we’re able to test out how it works every day.

Even though we are a virtual work team, we get a lot done. Sometimes it's even a bit crazy how far and fast we move - inspiring our friend Chris to put together this sketch based on what it's like to work on our team using Lucid. And yes, Tony is a real guy who really is on a plane.

Items we *all* can’t live without

First, let’s look at the tools we all use collectively. Besides Google Apps for email and Dropbox for file sharing, the number one apps that we all use are Slack and Skype.

productivity_hacks

Here’s why:

Our team is small, but dispersed, and Slack and Skype are both always on, keeping us connected.

In addition, Slack has some great integrations, letting us know when important things have happened in our business like when a new customer signs up.

Skype is especially useful for us because we don't have to worry about international audio charges (one of us works from the islands, lucky dog), the audio quality is usually quite good, and we can get a lot out of it without paying anything.

When we want to share screens, we’ll spin up a quick Lucid “Meet Now” and use Glance. Glance is an awesome point to point screen sharing tool - it’s full-featured and easy to use.

Which leads us to our next most used tool, Lucid Meetings. Sure, this is a given considering the source, but we really do depend on our own tools every day to be successful, both with clients and internally.

We use Lucid when more than one or two people need to engage and get something accomplished - it’s helped us manage tons of projects, develop software, make sales, and keep everything documented. When we are all participating as presenters and notetakers it feels more like we're sitting around a table together.

If one of us is out and about (or on a plane with Wi-Fi), we can easily join a meeting via our phone or tablet, and the meeting scheduler is a necessity when you want to coordinate 5 people across 3 time zones!

When using Lucid, most of us prefer to join using VoIP and a headset, leading to the next most common app, Blink. We almost always use SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) VoIP in our team meetings - this way we save on phone costs and the quality is incredible. There are several other SIP clients, but we like Blink (or Blink Lite) for HD audio quality and ease of connection. To boot, it’s highly standards compliant and it works with Mac, Windows or Linux.

If there’s one accessory we all need to do our jobs, it's great headphones. I use my iPhone earbuds, but my colleagues have spent the time to find these replacements:

Elise uses the Logitech Wireless Headset h800 for PC, Tablets and Smartphones. "I'm not a hard-core gamer, so I have no idea if this one is the best or even that great, but it works well for me. It's comfortable on my ears and people say the mic sounds good when I join meetings using my computer audio. I love that I can stand up and walk around a bit during meetings - getting to use my hands when I talk is especially helpful for keeping the energy up in webinars.”

John uses the Sennheiser U320 Headset. "A good headset is critically important if you're going to talk to people remotely and especially so if using VoIP or in-browser audio. My headset is a gamer's headset that's comfortable enough to wear for long stretches. Also it has the "sidetone" feature, which provides just a bit of your microphone audio input fed back to your own ears, making the audio feel more like natural audio.”

How we each work - team member favorites

Even though we use a lot of the same tools, each of us has our own list of gear, apps, and sometimes silly favorite things to fuel us every day while working virtually:

John

In the Cloud Four environment (another awesome company founded by John), we use IM for point-to-point chat (the Adium client provides unified access to multiple IM).

Also, Slack, which is a relatively new service that provides a chatroom-like capability and allows you to include feeds from external sources such as Github.

Elise

I've been working long enough to know that there's always more work to do, and that you can't simply wait until you're done working to get up and move. I also get easily swept up in what I'm doing, so my favorite accessories all help me regularly step away from the keyboard:

f.lux: This dims the light coming from my screen as night time comes, helping my body learn that it's time to chill.

Time Out: This one reminds me to look away from the screen and refocus my eyes regularly, helping prevent eye strain. It also prompts me to take regular short breaks to stretch, get some water, and otherwise make sure my legs still work.

Tony

Nespresso machine is a necessity, along with the knowledge of where to find the best flat white in every city. In addition, Tony’s must haves are backup earbuds, a backup network, and of course, beach Wi-Fi. Did I mention he works from the islands? You can too, with all of these great remote work finds!

Amy

I split my time between working in the office and working at home. Other than my laptop computer, the piece of equipment that most helps me get my work done is a 24-inch monitor (model: Dell UltraSharp U2412M). The model I use has a 16:10 display ratio, a little taller than most widescreen monitors for the same width. It's ideal for having a full page of text (usually code in my case) side-by-side with a web browser.

As an added bonus, I have the same setup at both of my desks (work and home), so I don't have to play window tetris when I plug my laptop in.

Tricia

I love sticky notes of any kind. Any idea, to-do, list, reminder, etc. can be written on a sticky note and not be forgotten. Eventually, I will transfer them to Evernote, which works like my second brain, or Things, which is a fantastic to-do list organizer.

More items I can’t live without include an extra monitor, rechargeable batteries, a bluetooth keyboard, and my Apple wireless trackpad. Just the trackpad alone has relieved a great deal of pain in my back from using a regular mouse. For the ladies, Jayes organizers are a pretty addition to your desk that also helps you organize.

Last but not l least, since Mac mail doesn’t work well with Gmail accounts, I have resorted to using a cool little Chrome plugin called Checker Plus for Gmail - and it rocks.

That’s a wrap for our most beloved gear, apps, and items to keep us productive at work. Tweet us @lucidmeetings if you share our thoughts or have even better solutions we should know about.

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