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5 types of apps every remote worker needs

SOURCE: Loic Venance / AFP
With remote work on the rise, some are thriving while some are finding it difficult to adapt.


By U2B Staff 

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Remote work is on the rise.  Companies that have adopted this style of working as a part of their long-term plans include Amazon, American Express, Capital One, Dropbox, Microsoft, Shopify, Slack, and even Spotify.

What most began to realise was that – remote work is the future of work, pandemic or not.  As several other multinationals jump on the bandwagon, organisations of all sizes are following in their footsteps.

According to Upwork, more than half of the US workforce, or 56.8%, were working remotely at least part-time in 2020. This year, managers believe that 26.7% of the workforce will continue to remain fully remote. 

How do employees feel about it? In 2019, FlexJobs conducted a study that found that 65% of respondents feel more productive in the home office than at traditional workplaces. Additionally, 85% of businesses confirmed that productivity increased in the companies thanks to greater flexibility. 

While some are thriving, some are still getting used to the transition. Remote work is not always easy, and too much flexibility can be tough to get used to. Achieving the benefits of an increase in productivity and a better work-life balance is a process.

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In 2019, Buffer found that 22% struggled to unplug after work, 19% felt lonely, 17% were struggling to collaborate, and 10% found it hard to curb distractions. 

Luckily, there are plenty of free remote work apps in the market that are ready and waiting to help work-from-home employees keep track of their tasks and make online work easier. Here are a few every remote employee should search on the App Store ASAP:

The distraction eliminator

Serene is a free app for Mac users looking to achieve maximum productivity during the workweek. Both key principles behind the app are backed by a series of scientific studies that show multitasking drastically reduces productivity, while others prove that ongoing distractions and/or multitasking can even damage your brain.

The second key role Serene plays is blocking access to distracting websites and apps during work sessions, while also silencing your phone.

Separate studies find it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after being distracted. This gives you an idea of how much time those email notifications can cost you throughout the day.

Other key features include a website blocker, an app blocker, a session timer, to-do lists, a day planner, and focus music. 

Cross-device accessibility

Chrome Remote Desktop allows remote workers to access their computers securely from their phone, tablet, or another computer. Essentially, this means users can access their devices from anywhere, at any time – without worrying about security risks. Access is granted by typing in a URL into a web browser or by downloading the mobile app for iOS or Android.

Email manager

Emails can sometimes be a productivity-killer. Luckily, there are ways to avoid interruptions while leaving room for urgent emails.

Spark is an intelligent email client that automatically collects and categorises emails across multiple accounts. It also allows users to prioritise emails that matter most and filter out the ones that don’t – or snooze them until later. Key features include a “smart inbox” which identifies important emails and snoozes ones that do not require immediate attention, email scheduling, and reminders.

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File storage and sharing

Google Drive is a free cloud alternative to Microsoft Office – known to be far more useful for remote workers.

Why? Currently, the file sharing and collaboration features work much better than they do in Microsoft Drive.

Furthermore, employees and employers who use apps such as Word or Excel often face disruption with regular crashing. These problems are not common with Google Drive. All you need is a steady internet connection. 

Accountability 

Focusmate links remote workers to “digital buddies” that help remote workers stay on track with their tasks. How does it work? Users begin by selecting the times they will need to boost productivity. When the time comes, they will be able to partake in 50-minute sessions – enjoying the benefits of human accountability. 

Similarly, Caveday also connects remote workers, but in groups of 20 people or so. In these sessions or “caves”, users will be able to balance periods of individual tasks with communal break activities – such as games and breathing or stretching exercises – led by a trained guide.