Though working from home comes with its bonuses — like couches, yoga pants, snacks, and flexibility — it can be challenging to create the structure you need to be an efficient employee from the comfort of your own living room. If you need a little push, downloading some must-have work from home apps can help you create a professional, productive, and focused environment.
If you've never done it before, there are lots of unexpected obstacles to working from home. You have to manage how much time you spend on social media, be diligent without an authority figure nearby, time out your breaks so you don't accidentally skip them, and resist distractions you wouldn't otherwise deal with at the office. And because it's probably unclear how long you'll be working from home, it's crucial to put some serious effort into a creating a sustainable and pleasant remote office environment sooner rather than later.
Thankfully, a handful of apps to help you stay on track are available to download. From internet-blocking programs that stop you from endlessly scrolling, to white noise soundtracks that block out distracting noise, here are 12 work-from-home apps that are worthy of your storage space right now:
If lists keep you organized, but you find that it's actually hard to keep track of said lists, you need Wunderlist. This app allows you to aggregate all of your lists in one place, organize them with tags and deadlines, and create interactive lists that can be shared with others. Use Wunderlist for professional-related tasks and share it with co-workers on your team, or for personal tasks, like grocery shopping, and share it with the appointed grocery shopper in your home for seamless communication and organization.
We all need our computers to work, but sometimes working on a computer with an internet connection and no supervision can lead to a lot of time spent on non-work-related sites. The Freedom app lets you create a custom list of sites that you can block yourself from visiting during the work day. That way, you don't have to rely on your own will to focus.
If you can't stop reaching for your phone during the work day, download Forest for some meaningful time away from it. The app encourages you to leave your phone untouched, by growing virtual trees and earning coins, the longer you abstain. While the virtual trees aren't real, the coins add up and are used to help plant IRL trees in Africa.
If you find yourself at the end of the workday, feeling unfinished and confused about where your time went, Toggl can help. This organizational app will keep track of where you are spending your time so that you can not only bill accurately, but also manage your schedule and efforts as well.
If listening to music is more distracting than it is helpful, add myNoise to your arsenal of productivity apps for a customized white noise soundtrack. Whether you're sharing your workspace with a spouse, family member or roommate, or have noisy neighbors, this app will drown out the sounds of others and keep your work atmosphere protected and peaceful.
6. Apple TV
Believe it or not, smart TV or streaming boxes like Apple TV, ChromeCast, or Roku let you mirror the screen of your computer onto your TV for free. If you have Apple TV, you can easily beam your laptop's display onto the TV screen by turning on Airplay. Just make sure the screen you want to connect to is turned on, click on the little screen-shaped icon on the upper right hand side of your laptop menu bar, and scroll down to the "Airplay to: Living Room" option. Just like that, what you see on your computer screen will be mirrored on your TV screen. To disconnect, click the same icon and de-select "Mirror Screen." Alternatively, if you don't have a smart service, try using an HDMI cord to physically connect your computer to your TV screen.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by tasks at home, especially with so many distractions around you. Setting a focus or task timer can help you to power through challenging moments and sustain your attention longer than you otherwise might. With apps like Timer+, you can have multiple timers going all at once. If you're feeling really stumped with a task, set a timer for six minutes and give it your all for the whole time. Or, if you need to take a break to stretch, set a timer for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Simply being aware of how much time passes might inspire you to use that time more wisely.
Just because you're not in the office doesn't mean you can't still have a team meeting. Slack makes it possible to stay in touch with your co-workers in live chatroom-esque windows. In addition to sending files, attachments, and live links, you can create custom Slack chat channels for different groups. The app also makes it simple to navigate back to past conversations, in case you forgot what was said.
Rely on Trello, an organizational app, for interactive and shared task keeping while you and your coworkers are working from home. It aids with personal and professional project management and will aggregate apps that you and your team already use (like Dropbox, Jira, Slack, Google Drive, InVision, Evernote, and more). The app creates little reminder cards for you, and if one of your tasks is "update draft of Google Doc," you can open the document right there without having to leave Trello and open up Google Docs separately.
Zoom is a high def video conference app that allows you to not only get face time with your employees, but also present documents and charts in real time. You can have up to 50 different people in one chat. Though it sounds like it might be hard to pay attention to that many people at once, Zoom offers multiple ways of viewing the people you're talking to, from a tiled Brady Bunch type screen, to only seeing the person who is currently talking to make it feel more like a natural conversation. You can also customize your Zoom background image, in case your home office setup isn't as professional as you'd like.
11. Time Out
The Time Out app helps you to schedule thoughtful breaks. The theory is that if you know you will have breaks to check your social media or stretch your legs, you'll be more likely to focus on your work in between. Without the structure of an office and other employees around, plus the inability to leave the house, it's easy to lose track of time and forget to step away every now and then. The app has two break options built-in: a "normal" break is 10 minutes every hour, so you can get up, close your eyes, or check your phone; a "micro" break is a very brief pause of 15 seconds every 15 minutes to relax your posture, take some deep breaths, and shake it out. But you can customize, disable, or skip breaks if you want to, plus add in longer breaks for lunch or coffee.