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Best work from home apps, gadgets, and tools
I’ve been working online for the past 10+ years, and have developed a steady workflow thanks to a number of powerful apps and hardware. Suddenly, this is something that everyone finds themselves needing to do in a world disrupted by the coronavirus.
Whether you are self-employed and struggling to adapt to the challenges imposed by social distancing, or whether you are moving your desk job back home, you’ll find that the experience can be jarring. Using the best work from home apps and gadgets can help you to better stay in touch with your colleagues, while also avoiding the myriad distractions you now find yourself surrounded by!
So without any further ado, let’s take a look at some of the tools you can use to get more done, while you’re trapped in your own four walls.
Zoom is a video conferencing app that works like Skype. It is particularly well suited for meetings however, being extremely quick to install (meaning you can get people involved who aren’t familiar with it yet), and supporting features like multiple callers and recording. Zoom is free, but you’ll need to pay for the advanced features. And you thought you were safe from meetings at last!
And you thought you were safe from meetings at last!
Zoom can also be useful for professionals such as coaches, consultants, and counselors that want to continue seeing clients. For that crowd, this is definitely one of the best work from home apps.
Many offices already use Slack and for good reason. Slack is essentially “WhatsApp” for business. Sure, that can sometimes lead to off-topic chat and distraction, but it’s also nigh-essential for pestering colleagues with questions or instructions. Sending emails every time you would normally just turn to the person next to you is not viable!
Slack has a lot of useful features too, allowing you to see who is available, create groups and teams within your organization, and even track things like sick-leave and vacations thanks to plugins (such as Vacation Tracker).
If Slack is WhatsApp for businesses, then Workplace is Facebook. In fact, the social network actually comes from Facebook, and has many of the same features and design sensibilities. Only now there is an emphasis on the features and tools that are useful for getting stuff done.
Asana is a project management tool that allows multiple people to work on a single project. Projects get created and then assigned, while followers will be able to see any updates as they get posted. You can create sub-tasks, add attachments, and set due dates. Something like Asana is a necessity for teams, but it can also be useful for individual workflows. It’s available on every platform, and is widely supported.
Asana is the tool Android Authority uses to stay on top of articles, videos, and news.
Sharepoint is a tool from Microsoft that is useful for collaborating on documents thanks to seamless integration with Microsoft Office. In many ways, Sharepoint works like Google Drive/Docs, but it is aimed at a business audience and offers features like workflows and lists. It comes into its own when working on larger projects. For example, my last publisher used this tool to collaborate with me on my books.
Google Drive/Docs is a significantly more welcoming option for those with less specific needs. You’ll be able to upload articles and spreadsheets, and then see changes and comments shared by colleagues as they happen.
Productivity and workflow
Notion is an absolutely fantastic app that is gaining popularity thanks to productivity YouTubers like Thomas Frank and Ali Abdaal. This is a note-taking app that has a huge number of features that make it extremely powerful and versatile.
Like most note-taking apps, you can create pages that will then appear in a hierarchical view with categories and sub-categories on the left. The difference is that you can easily convert any of the text you enter into a link to another new page, a table, a list, an embedded image, or a plethora of other things. It almost feels like a full content management system, allowing you to build effectively your own Wiki or mini website in no time at all. You can even export your notes as webpages or PDFs! I use it to research articles, and manage books I’m writing.
Serendipitously, Notion also recently added specific features for remote work and collaboration to support teams!
Todoist is a to-do app. Without your manager breathing over your shoulder, keeping track of everything that needs to get done is tricky. Thankfully, there are plenty of great apps like Todoist that will let you keep track of all this.
Todoist is a standout for me, thanks to its ubiquitous presence (I even have it on my wrist, thanks to the Apple Watch) and its powerful natural language processing. The latter means I can type/say something like “send invoice to Bob every Monday” and it will know to create a recurring task each Monday. It also syncs nicely with digital assistants like Alexa.
Most of the crucial features are available through a free account, but you’ll need to pay a bit extra if you want things like reminders.
The runner-up is Things, which I hear great things about. But Todoist is my personal go to. My go-to-to-do app.
Google calendar is the calendar of choice for millions of people around the world. It has a host of useful features, it’s available on every platform, and it’s compatible with a huge range of tools and apps. If you haven’t taken the time to set up your calendar yet, now would be the time to do that.
One of the biggest challenges when it working from home is not being tempted away by Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other online distractions. Freedom is an app that will let you block distracting apps and websites so that you can stay focussed. It’s one of the best work from home apps if you struggle with procrastination!
You’ve been sent home to work on an important project and you really don’t have time for distractions. Unfortunately, your daughter – who has been sent home from the childminder – didn’t get the memo. Noise-cancelling headphones can offer you some calm, while also letting you immerse yourself in your favorite tunes.
Also read: Best noise cancelling headphones – SoundGuys
And the best noise-cancelling headphones according to our friends at SoundGuys are the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Listening to a spot of Spotify is a great way to shut yourself off from the outside world. But some people prefer something a little different. I could recommend RainyMood.com or Coffitivty.com, either of which would work as a great alternative to white noise. However, my current soundscape of choice goes to Endel, which is an app for Android and iOS that creates “personalized soundscapes” based on your heart rate, the weather, the time of day, and more. It’s a little expensive, but you can for it on a monthly basis and there’s a free trial.
Apple Watch Series 5
This is certainly not an essential purchase, but it’s one I made recently that I’ve found extremely useful. The Apple Watch is a great tool if you have an iOS device, that will push all your notifications to your wrist. This is pretty game-changing, as it means you don’t need to keep getting your phone out of your pocket to see what everyone wants – which everyone knows is a huge time-sink!
There are also a lot of apps for Apple Watch that can benefit your workflow. For instance, I’m a big fan of creating appointments and tasks by speaking to my wrist, and I have a complication that constantly displays my up-coming to-dos!
Of course, this is an Android site, and so if you can’t use the Apple Watch, we recommend checking out our list of best smartwatches that will play nicely with Android.
Also read: The best gear for Android developers
One of the biggest risks with so many people starting to work from home is the impact that can have on security. This is especially true if you’re required to work with client lists or other sensitive information that would usually have stayed on the local network in the office.
Related: Best VPN Service Providers of 2020
Using a VPN is one way to protect yourself and can protect you from things like WiFi sniffing. If nothing else, using a VPN is more important when you are online more! ExpressVPN is one of the best known and most reliable options.
Splashtop is a tool that lets you take remote control of another computer. This is primarily useful for tech support, allowing experts to take control of faulty hardware and make fixes remotely. You can also use it to view files accidentally left at work: as long as you have WAN WoL set up, and you’re able to leave your hardware connected and sleeping.
A portable hard drive
If your work involves using lots of large files, then a portable hard drive can save you a lot of time and hassle. This is something I’ve used for a long time personally, for sharing video clips between my desktop and my laptop while editing YouTube vlogs. If you’re a designer, or a video editor, using a hard drive to grab a bunch of files from your work machine may be useful.
I’m personally using a 1TB option from Seagate that has yet to let me down!
Dropbox is my personal favorite cloud storage solution and one of the best work from home apps. It’s not the best value, but it has a lot of features that I personally find useful: such as being able to share links with people who don’t have an account, or knowing that all my files are backed up should anything go wrong.
You can sync individual folders between computers, meaning that you can make changes to files on your laptop and they’ll all be ready to access from your desk when you finally get back to the office.
If you need to get a contract signed by you can’t visit the client in person, Docusign offers a great alternative. While I’ll never get used to signing for things by just typing my name, it is legally binding and used by a lot of big organizations.
PayPal is the industry-standard option for sending and receiving payments. It also has a lot of very useful features, such as the ability to create ecommerce buttons, or generate invoices. It takes a cut, but it’s practically unavoidable if you work online.
When I Work
For those of you that get paid by the hour, When I Work is a useful tool that can log your hours. This is also a useful way to keep track of your own productivity and time-management, even if your boss is relaxed about it!