Tools for remote workers in Central America

Central America is quickly becoming a hotspot for digital nomads and remote workers to enjoy life in tropical bliss while learning how to earn a living. But what are the best tools for remote workers to stay productive?

Are you still on the remote work bandwagon? The pandemic may be over and offices may be open again, but that doesn’t mean people are still going back. After closing workspaces and sending everyone home for two years, many companies are now finding it not so easy to bring them back.

Despite back-to-work mandates, many people have grown accustomed to not going to a cubicle and are finding they are more productive at home. There is a certain sense of conflict between many employers and employees, where the tides come and go in one direction or another.

In 2021 and much of this year, according to Forbes, employees had the upper hand as the reopening of the economy found companies in need of talent and happy to acquiesce to remote work demands. Now, thanks to the deteriorating economy, that’s reversed and businesses are finding it easier to tell people to come into the office.

Yet many businesses have completely abandoned their offices during the pandemic and gone entirely remote.

Despite fewer remote workers than a year ago, the toothpaste is, to coin a cliché, out of the tube and it never quite comes back. Remote work is here to stay.

And making the decision to perform said remote work from a tropical location that isn’t your local Starbucks is also here to stay.

Which is great news for Costa Rica and Panama, both of which launched visa programs for remote workers following the changing tide during the pandemic. Both countries’ programs allow remote workers more time as long as they can meet minimum income requirements ($3,000 in each country).

But you don’t need a digital nomad visa to work remotely in a cool place. Indeed, there is a school of thought that they are unnecessary and too cumbersome for many people. Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua do not. and it’s possible to hang around in any of them for a year or three and do your thing.

As long as you have the best tools for remote workers, that is.

Whether you are in Southern Central America on a remote work visa or as a tourist, to be productive as a remote worker, you need certain things.

Of course, there is the obvious. You will need a decent internet connection. That goes without saying. Central America does not have the fastest Internet in the world and some countries are much better than others. But overall, everywhere, things are better than two or three years ago. Check out our semi-regular guide to internet speeds in Central America to stay up to date.

And then you will need the hardware. You know, laptop, laptop, etc. Be sure to take them with you, as buying electronics in this part of the world is very expensive. Think at least double the price. If you’re considering working here, don’t immediately put yourself at a disadvantage by spending a fortune on your gear.

One of the benefits of going the remote worker visa route, at least in the case of Costa Rica, is that you will be exempt from paying duties on any equipment you need to work. But if you’re traveling with just a laptop and a phone as a tourist, you won’t have to pay any duty anyway. Unless they find twenty laptops in your luggage, of course.

So we’ll assume you have all your gear and are set up somewhere with a great internet connection. What else will you need to make your remote work experience in Central America productive?

We take a look at some of the most popular online resources and tools for remote workers below.

Our favorite tools for remote workers in Central America:

Trello

Whether you’re working for yourself as a freelancer, running your own startup, or working for the man from the cold north, trading corporate life for something more tropical while keeping the same duties, you will need a decent tool to help you out. manage your projects and keep your left hand by knowing what your right hand is doing.

Trello is great for that, especially if you’re more of a “visual” person. With its card system that you move from section to section depending on the process of the task at hand, it’s a super simple project management tool for anyone.

Jira

Jira is another project management tool cut from the same cloth as Trello. It’s more suited to large teams than Trello, so it’s something your guys in the office will give you to use if you’re a remote worker rather than a digital nomad (the loose assumption here being that a remote worker distance works for someone else and a digital nomad is a freelancer). I have used Jira a lot this year and find it very useful.

Soft

Another tool I use all the time. Slack is a communication tool with chat and voice options. This is ideal for larger companies as you can divide departments into “channels”, e.g. marketing has one channel, finance has one channel, etc. Think of it like WhatsApp groups. For a company whose employees are working remotely, scattered anywhere, Slack is useful for keeping everyone together. HR departments will love it as it reminds them of everyone’s birthdays etc.

Zoom

The pandemic favourite. This video conferencing tool was unknown before March 2020. Then, in April 2020, your grandmother was using it. Zoom has saved businesses and families during various lockdowns around the world. The perfect way to hold business meetings with a shirt on top and nothing but briefs underneath.

Google Workplace

This one is pretty obvious but needs a mention. Get the whole Google and caboodle kit for your email (gmail), content creation (Google docs suite), calendar, chat, works. You already have this.

Evernote

As a writer, I love Evernote. If you are a writer, I hope you like it too. I’m writing this on Evernote right now. I write everything on Evernote, from articles to reminders to recipes and whatever. It works for me as a place to keep all my drafts together before polishing them for publication somewhere. In fact, I make and keep everything on Evernote. Invaluable.

Every time zone

Each time zone is a handy tool if you work with people all over the world. You know what time to arrange a meeting with your man in Malaysia with this tool at a glance.

drop box

Dropbox is a file hosting service if you are looking for something different from Google Drive. Granted, Google Drive is fine with what I do, but Dropbox gives you a ton of storage space for everything from documents to pictures. Essentially, they are two cloud storage systems with their own pros and cons which you can review here.

If the security of your files is more important than ease of access and ability to share (although Dropbox and Google Drive are secure), a virtual data room might be the answer. Ask Firmex about virtual data rooms and whether their storage mode is best suited to your needs or not.

Head space

You might not think a meditation app counts as a tool for remote workers, but let me tell you something. When working on a tropical beach in shorts and a tank top, the chances of procrastination increase dramatically. At least for me they do.

Working outside of an office, whether in Central America or on your couch, can be tough. It can be hard to get into the moment, to focus. This is why so many employees are still unsure about the whole concept of remote work.

It’s crucial to find a way to get your head going, to focus on what you need to do. For me, that way is to practice mindfulness and Headspace helps me do that. For you, it could be something else. But if you’re switching to remote work, you’ll need to make it as productive as possible, so do what you have to.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past two and a half years, few of the above tools will surprise you.

Chances are you’ll be using most of them during your work from home and forced lockdowns. But it’s still worth collecting a few of these things, especially for beginners who may not have worked remotely or even online before. This article is for those people.

If you’re here in Central America living the good life and staying productive at your job, let us know how you’re doing and what tools for remote workers are helping you. Living here while working remotely is definitely one of the best life hacks you can have in the 2020s, so you already have a head start and we welcome you.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

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