There are two kinds of office-based professionals: One prefers to work on-site despite the headaches of commuting, set hours, and wardrobe requirements, because working in-person with colleagues can’t be replicated. The other prefers to work at home, eschewing a commute, and preferring solitude or the company of nonhuman co-workers. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Report, despite having the choice to work anywhere they want, 84% of remote employees wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whichever type you are, it’s likely that these days you’re spending more time working at home than you expected. One oft-cited problem is the struggle to unplug after work. Productivity is key, as when projects take longer, they start invading your personal and family time. Communication and collaboration while working in different locations can mean people struggle to stay on top of fast-moving projects. Motivation can also take a hit when you remove the pressure of looking and being busy.
Thankfully, many can benefit from the assistance of a variety of mobile apps, designed to boost efficiency and productivity, enhance communications, foster concentration, promote a healthy lifestyle, and separate you from the job when the day is done. We’ve put together a slate of productivity tools to help you get more done, faster so you can enjoy life and work in the home lane. And if you’re looking for special items, see our list of the best apps for videoconferencing, note-taking, meditation, recipes, grocery deliveries, and teacher resources articles too.
Google Drive is one of the most popular platforms for cloud storage. Whether you want to upload spreadsheets or slideshows for an upcoming project, Google Drive will keep your files safe and secure in the cloud. The service comes free as long as you have a Google account (which you most likely will.) As part of the Google suite of programs, you can seamlessly share files with your Gmail contacts, upload directly from Docs or Sheets, and access the storage from your phone, tablet, or computer. The app also lets you download files for offline viewing if you run into internet problems. While the free version caps you at 15GB of data, you can pay up to $100 a month for 10TB.
One of the most frustrating things about moving from office to home is managing passwords. After all, you don’t really login that often if you only access your day-to-day programs and websites at work. To relieve some of the stress, LastPass stores all your passwords and even auto-fills for you when a registered login is prompted. The service utilizes AES 256-bit encryption — the same security banks use — which is a great value especially if you stick with the free version. You’ll also get access to the browser extension and a password generator if the plugin deems your current one as too simple. For $3 a month, the premium version will give you an even bigger vault to store passwords, priority customer service, and more.
Slack is great for any kind of team, large or small. It helps consolidate communication and collaboration in one handy, easy-to-use interface so can stay on top of team activities minute to minute. Its flexibility lets you communicate and organize work with co-workers, message or call anyone or group, share and edit documents and collaborate with the right people on a project. Slack also lets you integrate third-party apps such as Google Drive, Salesforce, Dropbox, Asana, Twitter, and Zendesk.
Dropbox has long been the go-to app when you need to upload, transfer, and share files via the cloud. To support your remote office projects, Dropbox lets you back up and store photos, videos, documents, and other files to the cloud, and access files synced with any computer or mobile device — from anywhere. Sharing features make it easy to privately send files of any size to co-workers, and you can access any file in your account, even offline. Files are shared via a link rather than as email attachments. You can also use the app to scan documents with your camera, and transform receipts, documents, whiteboards, and notes into PDFs. Dropbox comes in a free version and a Plus version with more automated features and more storage space.
Asana’s mobile project management app gives you the inside track on all your work projects from anywhere. Wherever you are, Asana quickly updates you on your and co-worker tasks. Use it to add a task for to-dos, reminders, ideas, and requests, create projects to organize your tasks in lists or boards complete with due dates, assignees, followers, details, and files, and comment on tasks to clarify instructions or ask questions. Changes made in Asana’s mobile app will immediately appear in the web app. You can even use the app while offline, as updates will sync when you’re back online.
When working at home, it’s easy to lose track of time. But Toggl is there to help you stay on track. This app tracks your hours and manages your workflow. Such tracking lets you see how you spend your time and use that data to break down your hours by projects, clients, and tasks. You can start tracking your hours in a browser, then stop it on your phone with all data synced between your phone, desktop, and web. The app features analytical time management reports, integrated calendars, suggestions on how to track activities, notifications that keep your tracking straight, and the ability to customize and organize your clients and projects.
Even when you’re working at home, there’s no need to be a chair potato, and the 7-Minute Workout makes sure you get up off your chair to stay fit. It includes some of the best exercises for non-athletes — even those who find exercise boring — and allows you to do a quick 7-minute workout anytime, anywhere. The app can help you lose weight, tone your muscles, and flatten and strengthen your abs. Videos show you the proper technique to perform each exercise, and the app supports Google Fit tracking. The app is based on HICT (high-intensity circuit training), which is designed to improve muscular and aerobic fitness. The 7-minute workout consists of 12 exercises, done for 30 seconds a time, with 10-second breaks between each exercise. All you need is a chair and a wall. Repeat circuits depending on how much time you have, and you can customize it so that it acts as your own personal trainer.
Almost anyone who uses email for work gets tons of unsolicited messages which are not immediately critical. Taking control of email means effectively prioritizing which messages demand action now, and which can be saved for later. Spark, an email cleaner, helps you focus on important emails by sending certain messages to the top of your mailbox. You can pin and reply to important messages, and batch archive the rest. A home screen widget lets you see the number of unread emails, search, or compose a new email.
Spark mail only notifies you about emails from people you know, drastically reducing distractions caused by a full inbox. You can add multiple email accounts to Spark — Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, and more. Teams can discuss email privately to keep everyone in the loop. The app also allows you to make templates of frequently-sent emails and add placeholders for names or numbers. Keep it on all the time, or only during working hours.
Keep your events and schedule completely synchronized with Calendar. This app links up data from all of your built-in calendar apps to form one mega calendar that serves as a one-stop-shop for all of your planning. You won’t need to bounce from calendar to calendar to ensure that you’re at the right meeting at the right time. Connect your Google, Apple, and Outlook calendars, create new events and sync them across your apps, or get an overview of any events you have planned. Your busy schedule has finally met its calendar-planning match.
The Todoist is another hub-focused app; it serves as a control center for task reminders across your smart device. Enter your to-do list tasks in this single app, organize the assignments, prioritize them, set deadlines and reminders, delegate projects to coworkers, record your progress, and more. Pair your other task-tracking apps, like Gmail, Google Calendar, Slack, and Amazon Alexa, to link up your to-do lists and receive alerts where you’re most likely to see them.
Working from home can sometimes feel pretty isolating; you’re not catching up with friends and colleagues at the office. Stay in touch and stay connected through Marco Polo. This app functions almost like a video walkie-talkie. Send texts, video chats, and more to your friends or family. Meet in a face-to-face meeting in real-time, or send follow up video messages to your team. Currently, there isn’t a storage limit for this app, so videos will be saved and stored in the cloud until you’re ready to delete them. Integrate your phone’s address book and connect with other coworkers and friends on the app as well. Marco Polo is unlike other social media apps— it doesn’t sell your data to advertisers, and there is no “like” incentive to keep people interacting on the app. You can download a free version or check out the premium version features for about $5 per month when billed annually.
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