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  • April 7, 2020

8 Apps for a Quick & Dirty (but effective) Home Office Setup

When you're forced to set up home offices for you and your team from one day to the next, you don't have time to find the best solutions. We've been working remotely for the last several years and have tested a number of the tools out there.

Here's a list of the best apps (in our opinion) for a low-cost / no-cost home office setup for you and your team:

  1. Skype for video and calls
  2. Slack for team communication
  3. Trello for task management
  4. Google Drive for files
  5. Toggl for tracking hours
  6. QuickBooks for accounting
  7. Office 365 (O365) for (almost) everything
  8. Zoho One as an alternative to Quick Books & O365

With these tools you can be up and running in no time and don't need to try a bunch of different tools to get the job done. Keep reading to see how we use each of these tools in our day to day work.

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Skype for Video & Calls with Your Team and Clients

How we use Skype

We use Skype for daily calls and for quickly adding people outside of our team. Most people already have Skype / and or a Microsoft account and can easily be added to Skype and Skype Groups. We've found that other tools that we use, such as Slack, aren't as user friendly for adding people quickly and without a hassle.

The great thing with Skype is that you can share screens, start video chats, make calls, download logs of your conversations and create any number of groups in no time.

Don't confuse Skype with Skype for Business. We've found Skype for Business to be a horrible solution and quickly moved away from it again.

Downsides to Skype

We've found that it can be a little bit buggy sometimes. It's very rare, but it's happened enough times that we're using Slack as our main internal communication tool.

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Slack for Team Communication

How we use Slack

Slack has been our number one app for communicating within our team. It's an awesome tool that is very reliable (I don't recall a single outage in the last few years) and you can quickly and easily share all sorts of data with your team. We've set up project based groups and also have individual channels for each member. Sharing files with your colleagues is quick and easy and the mobile app available for Slack is also great and easy to use.

Downsides of Slack

The only problem we've had with Slack is that it's not as intuitive/easy to add people outside of your team. Setting it up might take a little more effort (but well worth it). The free version does have a limit on the number of messages, but this amount is so high, it's unlikely you'll reach the limit. And even if you do, they'll be really old conversations.

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Trello for Task Management

How we use Trello

Trello is another great cloud-based tool with which you can create, manage and monitor tasks. For those of you familiar with Kanban boards will see the similarity. How you set it up is up to you, but we've found that setting a list for each team member makes it easy to manage and monitor. You can always see which team member has which tasks that are still open. We've also added a "Done" list where completed tasks are moved to.

It's a breeze to assign/move tasks from one team member to the next - simply drag and drop the tasks. We also use the Slack integration and calendars.

Downsides to Trello

Some of the features are paid, but we've managed to get by with the free version.

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Google Drive for Files

How we use Google Drive

We've been using Google Drive for absolutely everything related to file storage. It's so easy to share files, edit directly online and even add Google Drive to your Windows Explorer. Giving external people access to a file or folder is easy and can be revoked anytime.

It's easy to set up a folder for clients to drop their files. This way you don't need to send huge files through email anymore. You just send them a link where they can download (or upload) their files.

Right off the start you get 15gb which is enough for most people. We've needed more, so we upgraded to 200gb for a few $$ per month.

Downsides of Google Drive

In the years that we've been using Google Drive we haven't really noticed an issue. The only "downside" is the few bucks it might end up costing if you need more than 15gb.

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Toggl for Tracking Worked Hours

How we use Toggl

Yes, it really is written without the "e" at the end. We use Toggl to manage the hours we spend on specific projects or tasks. It's also great for keeping track of how much your employees actually work. There's a timer they can start (app is available) when they start a specific task.

It's great for your employees that are on an hourly rate or if you just want to track how much time you are spending on a project.

Reports that can be pulled out are easy and intuitive.

Downsides to Toggl

The setup can be a bit of a hassle and you need to get used to working with it, i.e. remember to turn the timer on and off. But after a while it's as natural as "punching in".

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Quick Books for Accounting

How we use Quick Books

Stating the obvious, but we use Quick Books for all our accounting purposes. The online version is quite easy to understand and considering that a lot of accountants use it, it should be easy to integrate it with your accountant (or find one that uses Quick Books). Our accountant accesses our data, enters whatever information is needed and sends it back to us for approval. All online, easy and secure.

Another nice thing about Quick Books is that it's set up for Canada (and I'm sure for the US and other countries as well). A great alternative is Zoho Books (or Zoho One) mentioned below.

Downsides of Quick Books

The only caveat with Quick Books is dealing with multiple currencies. CAD / USD isn't that big of an issue, but working globally can be a bit of a hassle to get setup.

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Office 365 for (Almost) Everything

How we use O365

Microsoft O365 is an awesome set of tools that we use everyday. I'm sure everybody is familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook. It's great how all the programs integrate with each other. With the business solution, you even get 1TB of OneDrive storage which is mainly used for storing files that aren't shared (see downside).

The entire suite is available on a mobile phone as well and you can easily view and edit Word, Excel or PowerPoint files on your phone.

Downsides to O365

Apart from the cost associated with it (comparatively low for what you get), our biggest issue has been with OneDrive and sharing files. It's not as intuitive or easy as Google Drive.

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Zoho One as an Alternative to Quick Books & O365

How we use Zoho One

Zoho One is a suite of tools much like O365 + Quick Books + Customer Relationship Management + more. It's a massive suite for something like $40/month. We use Zoho Books for accounting for our Swiss partner company, Zoho CRM for managing clients and Zoho Flow for Workflow automation (automatically triggering actions based on certain inputs). The other apps from Zoho One have a bit of a learning curve / take some getting used to, but for $40/month you get a lot of tools.

Consider it an alternative to O365 as well as Quick Books and most other tools mentioned here. But we don't like to put all our eggs in one basket.

Downsides of Zoho One

There is a cost associated with it and it has a bit of a learning curve. Some things are more targeted at European and Indian businesses, but it generally isn't an issue.

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The Quick & Dirty (but effective) Home Office Setup

We've given you a list of tools that we use on a daily basis. No, we didn't go into great detail (that wouldn't be quick and dirty or pragmatic). We wanted to provide you with a simple list and a quick run-down of how we use each of these tools to manage our business.

Should You Download ALL the Tools?

No, by all means only download the tools that you actually need. You may not need O365 because you already have an older version of the MS Office or you're using OpenOffice.

Our goal is to provide you with a list of tools that we use and that we think you will also find useful.

Oh and one last thing: none of the links here are affiliate links.

Which tools did you decide to use?
Choose a channel and let us know!