5 Excellent Productivity Tools for Remote Workers

Here are five Web tools that will make working from home easier and more productive.
August 06, 2012

Whether a startup entrepreneur or a seasoned corporate employee, people all over the world choose to work from home. But sidestepping the traditional workplace can take its toll on even the most diligent workers.

To help you devise a system that works for you, we’ve collected five accommodating apps and tools for better remote productivity. From time management reminders to company-wide reward systems, these products will improve your workflow, organization and communication.

1. RescueTime. RescueTime is a web-based productivity tool that helps workers analyze and maximize their efficiency. The app sits in your Mac or PC's status bar, measuring the windows and programs you actively use on your computer during a given time period, for example, Photoshop and Twitter.

If you really need to dig into serious work without distraction, set the app to Focus Mode for a specified timeframe. During that period, potentially distracting messages and sites will be blocked from your access. For example, say a co-worker IMs you a link to a funny tweet. RescueTime blocks sites you've pre-determined as distracting with a warning screen, reminding you to stay focused.

After you've used RescueTime for a while, access its Web interface for a dashboard of graphs and timesheets that analyzes how you spend your time at work.

Price: Lite version, free; Pro version, $6 per month.

2. Coffee Break. Coffee Break is a Mac and iOS app that reminds you to periodically take scheduled (and healthy) rests from your work.On Mac, the app sits in your status bar. From a drop-down menu, set when you want to take a break and how long you want that break to last. Set preferences, such as sound alerts and screen dimmers, that further encourage you to step away from the computer.

Price: $2.99

3. Work+. When working from home, your apartment walls may start closing in on you. To remedy cabin fever, take your tasks elsewhere. Powered by Foursquare, Work+ searches for ideal work spaces, based on your specific criteria, like Wi-Fi, coffee, peace and quiet, etc. The app will suggest nearby locations to suit your productivity needs. Once you've arrived, log your work time and any notes so you can revisit later.

Note: Work+ is currently only available in New York City.

Price: Free

4. Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the '80s, the Pomodoro Technique maintains that productivity is best achieved in 25-minute intervals. (Fun fact: Pomodoro is the Italian word for "tomato;" Cirillo's theory explains why you often see kitchen timers in the shape of tomatoes.)

Use your own version of the tomato timer with free Android and iOS apps, which help you segment your work projects into manageable and efficient timeframes.

Price: Free

5. iDoneThis. When working remotely, it can be difficult to keep in touch with fellow colleagues, not to mention reward them for the tasks they accomplish.

iDoneThis service sends an e-mail to each employee at the end of every day. Simply reply to that e-mail, detailing the projects you've tackled that day so that fellow co-workers can comment on and high-five your progress. It's a positive way to encourage you to stay on task.

Price: $3 per person, per month

 Stephanie Buck is Mashable's associate features editor. Prior to joining Mashable, Stephanie earned an M.A. in magazine journalism from NYU.