9 Tools to Use While Working from Home

From health concerns to long commutes, there is an increasing number of reasons for employers to enable their staff to work from home.  Working from home can be exciting. However, working from home can also be a little intimidating if you don’t have the right tools and processes to help create a successful and productive environment. If you are part of a team, you’ll most likely need more than just email to stay connected and on the same page with projects and deadlines. However, flying solo at home does take an adjustment. Social media and household chores can certainly be tempting distractions. By putting some boundaries around your day, you will easily be productive and efficient – without the commute!

At TeamSlide, we’ve had staff working remotely for five years. We understand the challenges you’re going to face but we also have a toolkit to share. There are many productivity solutions out there, so we have identified our favorite 9 to help you do your best work remotely.

9 Tools for Working From Home


Concentration

Staying focused while you’re surrounded by things that need to be done around the house, your pets, and even kids can create a distracting environment. Find a place in your home that you can dedicate to getting your work done in. This could be a guest room, the kitchen table, or almost any desk you may have in your house. Clear it of possible distractions, like clutter, and get to work. Here are some tools you can utilize to help you stay concentrated:

Music
Freedom
  • Freedom is an all-in-one distraction blocker. If you know that you may be more tempted to get distracted while working at home, whether it’s by social media, the news, or online games, you’ll want to have a tool in place to help you stay focused. Freedom allows you to block websites, apps or even the whole internet and you can sync these settings across all of your devices. Why Use Freedom?
  • Details: Freedom offers a FREE trial that includes 7 distraction-free blocking sessions. Their Premium plan is offered monthly for $7, yearly for $2.42/month (paid at once), or forever for a one-time rate of $64.50.

Bonus: If you sign up for Freedom Premium, get 3 months FREE Todoist Premium and many other perks too! 

Time Management

Since you’re now working in a completely different environment, one that’s typically centered around household needs and personal time, it’s important to have some time management solutions on hand so that you can stay focused. Luckily, there are numerous great time management and productivity tools available. We’ve narrowed down some of the best ones for you to take advantage of:

Toggl
  • Toggl is a subscription-based time tracking software. With just a click of a button, you can easily start timing a task or project. The Toggl Desktop App reminds you when you’re not tracking, or it detects idle time, keeping you accountable. They have over 100 app integrations that put the Toggl button inside your favorite online apps in order to help you keep track of your time or you can opt to manually enter your time at the end of the day or week.
  • Details: They offer a free 30-day trial with full access to all of the features. They offer a starter plan for $9/month per user and a premium plan for $18/month per user, all billed yearly. Bonus: Toggl integrates with Todoist (read about this in the next section)
Todoist
  • If you’re in need of the ultimate task manager that can organize it all, you’re in the right spot. This task list manager is especially helpful for creatives, developers, students, small businesses, and freelancers. Todoist creates tasks with due dates (even recurring due dates), organizes tasks into projects, delegates tasks, syncs to devices, and furthermore provides productivity visualizations. It even connects to Google calendar, Dropbox, and more.
  • Details: Todoist isn’t expensive, with packages ranging from $0/month up to $5/month per user.
Boomerang
  • Have you ever been overwhelmed by the emails bombarding your inbox? So you really only have time to respond to the urgent ones? Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to send at the perfect time, set up snooze messages, add a smart calendar assistant to schedule meetings, and get read receipts. Boomerang is available for Gmail, Outlook, and Mobile.
  • Details: They offer a free 14-day trial of Boomerang Professional. They do have a FREE basic plan with limited access to features as well as a few other plans ranging from $5/month to $15/month.
Communication

If your whole team is working from home, you’ll undoubtedly need a communication or knowledge sharing tool. Communication solutions today have a vast array of helpful features such as messaging, video calling, file sharing and much more to help you stay connected. Here are some of the most helpful communication platforms:

Basecamp
  • This platform offers one organized place for projects, teams, and communication. Basecamp eliminates messy email chains that let attachments consequently fall through the cracks. It allows you to create “Projects” and within each project. You have a lot of features to get work done productively: Message boards, to-dos, schedules, documents, files, group chat, and auto check-in questions. A pretty neat feature is the ability to minimize interruptions by adjusting notification settings to only receive notifications during specific times of the day. That’s a great work-life balance feature! Basecamp also has dozens of app integrations, such as Toggl.
  • Details: You can try Basecamp for FREE with a 30-day trial. They offer 2 plans – Basecamp Personal and Business. The Personal plan is free but only allows for up to 3 projects to be created. The Business plan is $99 per month and includes unlimited users, projects and clients. Learn more
Asana
  • Asana helps you build projects, coordinate tasks, and hit deadlines with your team. It features a Gantt chart timeline, portfolios, workload, forms and automation. Asana helps you visualize your work using boards that are organized into stages, lists, timelines, and calendars. Even more, you are able to assign tasks and even group tasks into sections to match workflows. Asana also provides powerful reports to help you to understand what’s happening in your business. Many well known, large businesses take advantage of Asana.
  • Details: You can try Asana for free and then decide if you want to commit to the Basic (Free with limited functionality), Premium ($11/mo), Business ($25/mo) or Enterprise version. Learn More
Krisp
  • One component of remote work that you may not have considered is background noise. Krisp removes the background noise going from you to other call participants and coming from the call participants to you, allowing everyone to have a productive call. Krisp uses the best innovative noise cancellation technology that adds an additional layer between your physical microphone and conferencing apps.
  • Details: Krisp offers four different plans. The FREE plan is great for professionals who occasionally work remotely. You can purchase the Pro plan for $5/month and Teams plan for $5/user/month. Krisp’s Enterprise plan is great for call centers and enterprises.
Microsoft Teams
  • Microsoft Teams allows you to chat, have meetings, call and collaborate with your team. It’s a great solution for remote work that you can have on all of your devices. Even more, it’s an effective way to host a demo for your potential client as you can easily share your screen over a web conference.
  • Details: Teams has a FREE plan (limited functionality) and is $5/user/month with Office 365 Business Essentials, $12.50/user/month with Office 365 Business Premium, and $20/user/month with Office 365 E3.

Working remotely can propel you into increased productivity and efficiency but it can also hinder you if you aren’t prepared to be in a completely new environment. Using tools for time management, concentration, and communication are essential to your success remotely or at home. We hope you can take advantage of some these fantastic tools to boost your productivity when working remotely.

PowerPoint Reuse Slides: How to Use, Pros and Cons

If you create presentation slides or even manage presentations for your company, you’ve likely wanted to find a slide or graphic in an old presentation that you or a colleague has created. Reusing slides versus creating new ones helps drive productivity, promotes knowledge sharing, and aligns communication across your team. 

However, scanning through dozens of files in a variety of locations (e.g Box, email attachments, SharePoint) to finally find the slide you want to use only to copy-and-paste it into your new PowerPoint presentation is extremely frustrating. Depending on the number of presentations you have and how sharp your memory is (like you could remember the exact location of the Gantt chart you created 3 years ago), this process could waste a significant amount of time.

Thankfully, it’s no longer necessary to copy-and-paste slides from a previous presentation into the new one you’re working on. PowerPoint offers a “Reuse Slides” feature to appease this issue. 

In this article, we will evaluate the pros and cons of PowerPoint’s Reuse Slides tool, show you how to use it, and highlight a few other Microsoft features. 

PowerPoint Presentation Template

Benefits of Reusing Slides in General

It’s no secret that it’s a waste of time and energy to duplicate efforts. There are a few benefits of reusing the PowerPoint slides that you’ve already created.

Don’t Waste Your Time – Work Smarter not Harder

Reusing slides that you already took the time to create is a no-brainer. Don’t duplicate efforts. 

Align Communication Across Your Team

By using SharePoint and OneDrive you can make sure your whole team is able to access presentation slides and PowerPoint templates easily in one place. Sharing slides helps ensure your team is using a consistent voice when communicating internally and externally.

How to Use PowerPoint’s Reuse Slides Feature

  1. In PowerPoint, open the presentation you want to work on. 

2. Whatever slide you want to insert will be inserted after the slide that is selected. Click on the appropriate slide.

PowerPoint Slide selected
Since the 1st slide is selected in this example, the new slide inserted will be placed after the first slide.

3. Under the ‘Home’ tab, click the ‘New Slide’ dropdown menu

4. At the very bottom of the menu, click ‘Reuse Slides’. A new pane will open on the right-hand side

Reuse Slides button in PowerPoint

5. PowerPoint offers a basic version of Reuse Slides and an enterprise version. The basic version will only allow you to choose a file. The enterprise version will allow you to actually search for the slide you are looking for.

For the basic version,

Click ‘Browse’ and choose if you want to ‘Browse Slide Library’ or a file. If you use SharePoint and have a slide library set up, then this may be the best option to select. If you don’t use SharePoint, then you can browse the PowerPoint presentation files on your computer 

Select the PowerPoint presentation file that you want to search and click ‘Open’

Browse using Reuse Slides in PowerPoint

For the enterprise version,

Resuse Slides - Enterprise search

Search for any slide on your PC, OneDrive, or SharePoint. The Reuse Slides pane will show you a preview of the first slide in the presentation that has slides that match your search. Select the title slide for the file you want to explore further.

Note: Reuse doesn’t surface the exact slides that match your search. It only provides the first slide in the file/presentation. You have to follow the steps below to manually find the slide

6. The file that you selected will be opened within the Reuse Slides pane and will be displayed as slide previews. Click on the slide you want to insert.

Note: If you want to keep the source formatting of the slide you are inserting, check the box at the bottom that says ‘Keep Source Formatting’. Otherwise, the inserted slide will take on the formatting of your current presentation. 

7. Right-click on a slide to see more options

Ta-da! You have now utilized PowerPoint’s Reuse Slides feature and have saved a bit of time. Now Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of Reuse Slides. Was it really worth your time?


What are the Pros of PowerPoint Reuse Slides?

There are certainly some obvious pros of using Reuse Slides but let’s spell them out:

Search & Save Time
The enterprise version of Reuse Slides allows you to search for slides and presentations, which is much more helpful than the basic version where you have to manually browse and open a presentation.

Slide Search Connections
Reuse Slides can connect to SharePoint & One Drive so you don’t necessarily have to have the file on your computer. 

What are the Cons of PowerPoint Reuse Slides?

Not a Slide-level Search Tool
When you search for a term, let’s say “sales”, Reuse Slides will show you the title slide of the presentation file that matches the search term NOT the actual slide in the Reuse Slides pane. So you have to actually click into that file to see the slide previews and determine if it contains the “sales” slide that you were looking for. 

No Filters
You are very limited in your search by only being able to search for a term. There are no filters for date, SharePoint columns, or other metadata (e.g. author). 

It Doesn’t Always Work
Sometimes the “Browse” option on Reuse Slides will completely go away, most commonly after updates. A common search on Google is “PowerPoint reuse slides not working” – red flag alert! Microsoft moderators state that the reason people can’t select files or browse files is that you have to have Office 365 for the enterprise version of Office. A workaround “solution” is to run PowerPoint in Safe Mode.

It Only Connects to Microsoft solutions
The enterprise version of Reuse Slides only connects to solutions created by Microsoft – so that leaves you with SharePoint and OneDrive. If you don’t use either of those solutions and use Box, Egnyte, Dropbox, etc. you are out of luck if you want to use PowerPoint’s Reuse Slides.

Access Rights
On the enterprise level, Reuse Slides does not take into consideration who has access to different files which can cause difficulties in finding the slides you’re looking for.

Images
You are unable to search for images in Reuse Slides, only PowerPoint presentation slides. 


Changes to Microsoft Products

No More Slide Libraries

In 2013, Microsoft discontinued slide libraries in SharePoint due to a “Design limitation in SharePoint Server”. As a workaround to this inconvenience, Windows suggests that PowerPoint users insert slides from PowerPoint files using their Reuse Slides feature. 

Microsoft Tap feature

In 2016, Microsoft rolled out a new feature for Microsoft Word and Outlook called Tap. Tap lets users quickly select documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that are frequently used by you or your coworkers so you don’t have to leave Word or Outlook to find them. This feature is not yet available to use in PowerPoint. 


The bottom line is this: If you don’t have a ton of PowerPoint presentations on your computer or in a drive, reuse slides could be a helpful solution if you have the enterprise version. The basic version is not really a helpful tool. But in the case of large marketing and sales teams that have thousands of presentation slides, this feature may be more of a pain than it’s worth. Especially since there are other, better slide management solutions out there.