Working from home has become the new normal for many of us during the lockdown caused by Covid-19. By now we’re all familiar with showing off our dogs in Zoom calls and frantically shushing our children while we talk the MD through last month’s sales graph. But the technology on offer to remote workers is as varied as it is ingenious. Here’s 15 of our favourite home-working apps.
Zoom is a video conference and online chat platform that has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity during the coronavirus lockdown. Noted for being simple to use, numbers of participants and the duration limit of your call increase the more you are prepared to pay.
Skype is the granddaddy of video chat platforms. You use it for one-on-one or group conversations. Owned by Microsoft, it works via mobile, PC, Xbox and Alexa and does all the things you would expect, such as screen sharing. It’s free to use for video calls with up to 50 people.
Designed to replace email as a company’s default communication method, Slack is basically a big chat room. Like any email system, communications can be stored under headings for group discussions. Slack also allows colleagues to send private messages or share information, files and ideas all in one place.
An increasing number of organisations are using WhatsApp Business. The free to download app allows people to create a catalogue of their products and services and connect with customers easily. It’s also great for mass-market communications, enabling you to update hundreds of people at a time.
Toggl is a time tracking app. It monitors time spent on work, creates reports based on time entries, and helps to see how long specific processes, tasks or projects last. Simple to use and free in its basic form, Toggl can be used to count up your billable hours or simply provide insights into your productivity and results.
The best description of Trello is as a digitised version of that whiteboard in your office that’s covered in Post-it notes. It is a collaboration tool whereby tasks are divided into virtual cards and kept on a selection of overarching project boards. In one glance it tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and how far along the process is.
Spark is basically a design app, the free Adobe Spark web app syncs with Spark Page, Spark Post and Spark Video iOS mobile apps. Users can create graphics and then share their visual story from any device. Perhaps its most significant benefit is that Spark allows non-designers to produce impressive professional-quality graphics, videos and web stories.
Having a Buffer account is like having your own social media assistant. You simply fill a queue with content and Buffer sends your posts out according to the schedule you have specified, right down to the minute. Tweets, LinkedIn updates or Facebook posts – you just get them ready, and Buffer takes care of the rest.
Zapier is an ingenious time-saving tool that allows one of your apps to talk to another one of your apps. For example, it will put Google calendar events into Trello cards for you or drop every picture you receive in your Gmail account into Dropbox. Zapier automates repetitive tasks with just a few clicks and is exceptionally user-friendly.
One thing that doesn’t stop just because you’re working from home is the constant stream of phone notifications. Beeps and vibrations can ruin your concentration and hamper your productivity. Daywise solves this by allowing you to choose which notifications you get. You stipulate the contacts that come through immediately, Daywise batches the rest up for later.
As you’d expect, Microsoft has all sorts of solutions to the issues of home working. Microsoft Teams allows groups to collaborate on projects simultaneously from anywhere on the planet with an internet connection. OneDrive stores files safely in the cloud, accessible from anywhere. And its Office suite of collaborative tools such as PowerPoint and Excel mean files can be worked on at the same time by multiple users in different time zones.
Loom captures your face, screen or voice and instantly shares your video. It’s great for short training films or quick explainers and is extremely useful when you can’t be bothered to write an email. It’s quick and easy to use and is free for light users.
There’s lots of e-signature apps out there, but DocuSign is the acknowledged brand leader. Recipients of a document click a link to open the documents on a phone or laptop, and DocuSign guides you through the electronic signing process. As a way of getting contracts, invoices or letters moving, DocuSign is a real time saver.
Serene bills itself as ‘the app for laser focus’ and it’s a fair claim. You start each morning by defining a goal and then Serene blocks your access to entire-day-swallowing websites like YouTube and Facebook so you can get on with it. It can also silence your phone and even dim your lights to keep you in the zone.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network – a VPN connects your phone or computer to a remote server and allows you to browse the internet using that computer’s internet connection. If that server is in a different country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country. They’re popular with home workers because they are very secure, helping to keep your confidential work safe and private.
Allteks are an IT consultancy, IT service and IT support company based in Maidstone, Kent.
Our head office has been in Kent since 2001. We work with businesses across the UK to support their business with IT Infrastructure; IT help desk, Cloud service, business telephony. Microsoft 365, disaster recovery, and cybersecurity.