In the last decade, the number of people working remotely in the US has increased dramatically, and so has their need for technology and software to supplement that remote work. Whether you work from home or a coworking office space, the requirement for highly compatible and helpful productivity apps is a must if you want to get things done successfully.
But working in a home office can be a struggle with all of life's distractions, whether it's news about the new coronavirus, stir-crazy kids, or something else. However, you can make it easier with a few iOS and Android apps that focus on communication, file management, time tracking, password protection, workflow, file management, note-taking, screen sharing, and more.
Email is still king, but Slack makes it easier and faster to communicate and collaborate with your team in regards to projects, deadlines, tasks, and more. At its most basic, you can message or call the people you work with, as well as share files and documents with them, but Slack is much more potent than that. You can use keyboard shortcuts to work faster, integrate existing tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Asana, and customize keyword notifications so that you only focus on what's important and nothing else.
If you work from home, there's a chance you may have heard about Zoom, which allows you to connect with coworkers, employers, and bosses via phone calls, video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. You can meet with up to 25 people at once on mobile (49 on desktop), share files, use a filter to touch up your appearance, and more. Best of all, you can record these sessions to view them later, as well as automatically transcribe audio from a meeting.
There's a high probability you have a Gmail account, which makes Google Hangouts easy to use to communicate with others across various ventures like work, school, and personal use. All you need to do is sign in with your existing Google Account, set up a meeting, and share that link with who you want to talk to. Whether you need to have an audio or video conference, Hangouts makes it easy to connect via your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or conference room.
Spark is an email client for Outlook, Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Exchange, or IMAP — but on steroids. Your emails are intelligently prioritized so that you see what's most important first; notifications are kept to a minimum so that you're not distracted by nonessential emails; and you can even collaborate on emails with private team comments and shared drafts for better feedback and replies.
Many employers prefer Outlook to Gmail, and there are many valid reasons why. You get offline access to email, rich contact information (person's job title, department, and location), integration with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, the ability to schedule meeting rooms, informative email tips, an easy process for managing multiple calendars, and a simple way to ignore conversations.
Toggl is a time-tracking app that helps you track your day and sees where you spend the most time, whether it's on a particular project or specific client. You can start the timer on your tablet or smartphone and end it on your desktop or laptop — Toggl is available across all of your devices. Once your numbers are in, Toggle will create a visual report (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.) that keeps an eye on what's important, like your billable hours and measured productivity.
Google Calendar is great, but it could be better. Enter Calendar, the aptly titled and more advanced alternative to Google's offering. Calendar works with all of your existing calendars (Google, Outlook, etc.) and puts them all in one place, so that no matter where you add an event, it'll always be synced up in Calendar. It also makes your life work easier, with the ability to easily schedule team meetings, provide analytics reports, and deliver automatic transcripts of your important meetings.
Managing your tasks requires simplicity, and ToDoist offers that in the form of an intelligent to-do list app. All you really need to do is create a task, such as "Call Micaj tomorrow at 10 a.m. #meetings," and ToDoist will schedule a reminder for that day automatically, and it will file the task into your meetings section. Your tasks can easily be organized, prioritized, and delegated to the right people so that they always get done in a timely fashion.
If you're inundated with dozens or even hundreds of notifications, it can be challenging to focus on your work. Daywise, for Android only, allows you to turn off most notifications and keep them on only for the most essential apps and contacts. It also works in the background; Daywise monitors your daily habits and will suggest you snooze notifications for apps that you use too much. Apple has Do Not Disturb, but it doesn't offer the customization that Daywise does.
- App links: Android
Francesco Cirillo created the Pomodoro Technique back in the 1980s, a time-management method that used a timer to break down your work into intervals: 25 minutes of work at a time, with a short break of three to five minutes in between. The Focus Keeper app does it for you: simply start it when you begin work, and you'll be notified when to take a short break. According to many, it helps you relax and maintain your energy while you work. There are many similar apps on the web and in app stores, and we've included some of the most popular ones below in the Workflow Apps section.
There's no way only to use one or two apps to navigate your entire workload, as you may need email, word processing, instant messaging, video conferencing, and more. While you probably can't avoid them, you can use Zapier to connect them all in one place and automate your workflows. For example, you can automatically copy attachments from a Gmail into your Dropbox and be alerted in Slack every time you receive an email. The triggers and actions are limitless — it's all up to you to create the workflows. Zapier works with thousands of apps, including Google Sheets, Facebook, WordPress, SalesForce, and so on.
Note that Zapier isn't available as a dedicated app on iOS or Android yet, but it still works with the apps you use on your smartphone.
- App links: Web
Another top-rated workflow automation software is IFTTT, which focuses on simplicity and is much easier to learn than Zapier. You can connect your most-used apps and create "recipes" to do things such as automatically add a call log from your Android to a Google Spreadsheet, send emails to your coworkers when you wake up, or use Alexa or another voice assistant to perform more complex tasks. Unlike Zapier, IFTTT is available on Android and iOS as a dedicated app.
Trello, the popular work management app, has over 50 million users because it makes organizing, collaborating, and completing your projects much easier. Your workflows are visualized with boards, lists, and cards that focus on specific tasks, such as sending an email newsletter or meeting with a client. Integration with other apps (Google Drive, Slack, etc.), built-in workflow automation, and offline access all make it easier to keep your work life organized from one place.
While Trello is a card-based task/project management tool, Asana focuses on projects that have much more complex processes. With Asana, you get everything you would want from a workflow tool, along with an intuitive user interface, extensive project management features, third-party integration (Slack, Google Drive, etc.), time-tracking tools, and dedicated smartphone apps. If you're working on smaller projects and other simple tasks, go with Trello, but when you have more substantial and complex work, it's better to use Asana.
If you're looking for project management alone, Basecamp is a great option. It doesn't have much in terms of communication and collaboration tools because it's focused on project organization, email integration, to-do lists, plug-ins, better visuals, and convenient shortcuts and tricks. While Trello and Asana are better options for bigger teams, Basecamp works excellent for individuals or smaller groups who want simplicity when it comes to managing projects and tasks.
Google Drive is one of the most popular file management apps, giving you 15 GB of free storage to store, edit, and share documents, PDFs, and photos and videos. Thanks to its popularity, Google Drive is also compatible with many productivity apps on this list, including Slack, Trello, and Asana. You can also collaborate on files, and depending on the permissions you set, others can view, comment, and edit your uploaded files.
Dropbox is another immensely popular file management app, with which you can store photos, videos, and files on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or anywhere else online. Although Dropbox lacks in free storage, it has features that other apps don't, such as block-syncing. With block-syncing, Dropbox can sync changes made to files quicker, because it only syncs the changes made instead of reuploading entire files.
Storing important files and documents is great, but sometimes you need to annotate or sign them, especially if you're dealing with client contracts, W9 forms, and other PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can add mark-up to documents, work on documents across all of your devices, capture a document and save it as a PDF with your device camera, and easily store your files Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive.
LastPass is a password manager and generator you can use to generate strong passwords and store them all in one place. Once you set up your LastPass, you can have your usernames and passwords auto-filled in your apps and web browser, making it both safer and easier to log in. If you're someone who often forgets passwords or uses really weak ones, LastPass is perfect for you — as long as you remember your LastPass master password.
1Password is another password locker app, with several unique features that set it apart from the others. For starters, 1Password stores your passwords locally and copies them to the cloud when syncing with other devices. Another cool feature is Watchtower, which looks out for websites that have been hacked. If you have an account with a hacked website, you'll be notified to change your password.
Use Evernote to take notes and access them from any one of your devices. You can add word docs, videos, photos, PDFs, and voice memos to your notes, use Google or Siri to keep your writing hands-free, and use your camera to capture and scan written notes or printed documents. Evernote also integrates with many other productivity apps, which gives it an edge over other note apps. You can also rest assured that Evernote's safe and secure cloud storage ensures that your information stays secure.
Microsoft's OneNote is another note-taking app that you may be interested in because it offers better free storage options and more easily allows you to save larger files and upload more data than Evernote. It also focuses on creating notes from scratch and better-organizing your words. It has integration with Office 365. So if you fall into any of those categories, OneNote might be the better option for you.
Not everyone can have a real personal assistant, which is why 24me offers a virtual personal assistant that helps improve your productivity by putting your calendar, to-do list, notes, and personal accounts all in one place. It can remind you to buy gifts for birthdays, alert you of an upcoming meeting, map you to your next location, and more. 24me is not quite a workflow app, nor is it merely for time tracking, but a combination of many productivity apps.
Using multiple mobile devices, laptops, and computers can make it tricky to find what you need when you need it. Chrome Remote Desktop makes it simple to securely access your computer from a smartphone, tablet, or even another computer. You can also give others remote access to your computer, so they can get their hands on your files, emails, documents, and anything else they need.
Mind-mapping is an easier way to take down meeting ideas, lecture notes, and more in a visual manner that helps you better structure, analyze, and understand different concepts. XMind is a mind-mapping app that enables you to structure your ideas in several different mind map diagrams, including Fishbone Chart, Matrix, Timeline, and Org Chart. Your mind maps can then be accessed across various platforms and can be exported to other productivity apps such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, and more.
Pocket, formerly known as Read It Later, lets you save stories, articles, videos, and more from any publisher or app so that you can read it later. You don't always have time to read articles on new SEO practices or check out timely news, so Pocket lets you check out your saved content from all of your devices. And if you're always on-the-go, there's a listen-to feature that turns your content into audio so that you can consume your articles eyes-free.
Being productive is also about branching out to others and networking with people in your field. It might be difficult doing this from home or an office, but Bumble offers a way to connect you to the right people remotely. No, it's not for a date. Using Bumble Bizz, you can add photos of you working and include your professional background in your bio to match with others in your field.