Even before the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working was an increasing trend for businesses all over the globe. One survey in 2019 found that up to 30% of the Americans surveyed worked remotely full-time, with 62% working from home on a regular basis.
Of course, this is a cultural shift that has been accelerated by the pandemic, which—at its height—required workers in many countries to work from home if they could. With that in mind, we've put together a list of the best WFH apps of 2021, which should improve the working conditions, efficiency, and productivity of any remote worker.
Whether aiming to stay in touch with the office via video conferencing, ensuring your data connection is secure, or staying organized with a project management tool, you'll find everything you need below.
- We've also highlighted all the gear you'll need to work from home successfully
Few will be surprised to find Zoom on any list of WFH must-haves, following a stellar 2020 for the platform. As workers flocked from offices to home, Zoom became the go-to conferencing app, to such a degree that the brand name has begun to be used as a verb. Its success is undoubtedly aligned to the generously-packaged free version, which allows users unlimited one-to-one video calls, while up to 100 participants can join meetings for up to 40 minutes.
For longer meetings, businesses will require the Pro package, which also comes with 1GB of cloud recording, meaning video calls can be recorded and uploaded to Zoom's cloud storage. The Business-level subscription includes additional branding and transcription features and permits up to 300 participants.
- Read the full review: Zoom
Without the peering eyes of colleagues or management, the millions of potential distractions provided by the world wide web can become trickier to avoid for those working from home. Many remote workers possess the required willpower to avoid the magnetic draw of Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook, but for the rest of us, there's Freedom.
Ideal for workers whose focus can wane when left to their own devices, Freedom encourages its users to set time-limited blocks on websites that are likely to steal your concentration. Most importantly, the app can be synced to work across several devices, which is especially helpful for anyone tempted to glance away from their screen towards their smartphone. Used by over 1 million people all around the world, Freedom works on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and as a browser add-on for Chrome.
It's not always immediately obvious, but those of us who spend our days working at a desktop computer will repeat the same manual tasks dozens, if not hundreds, of times a day. Zapier is an app that aims to automate these repetitive tasks without requiring any coding knowledge, in turn streamlining your time and improving productivity levels.
Zapier works seamlessly with thousands of leading apps and platforms, including Gmail, Slack, Google Drive, Outlook, and Dropbox. Pre-designed workflow templates, which are called Zaps, include automatically sharing content across numerous social media platforms, sending leads personal messages, and saving files and media to the cloud. Users can also create their own bespoke Zaps simply by connecting the relevant apps and automating triggers and actions.
Keeping teams on track and organized is arguably the most difficult workplace aspect to replicate away from the office, but with Trello at their disposal, project managers need not be too disheartened.
This attractive Kanban-board-style app allows teams to create boards for each project, with board templates filtered by category (including business, design, education, and engineering). These boards are made up of lists, which are in turn composed of cards. Cards can be added, edited, and shared or passed between lists, allowing all team members to easily track progress. Other useful features include checklists, due dates, labels, and attachments.
Trello's Butler is also a useful feature that gives users the ability to implement automations.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is no longer the preserve of IT firms, as businesses from all industries become increasingly aware of the importance of robust network security. With more staff working from home than ever, the in-house IT team is no longer the all-encompassing safety net it once was, as remote workers look to access company data and files from their own home.
Ensuring these workers have a secure connection is therefore paramount, making the argument for a VPN service like ExpressVPN ever more persuasive. Supporting up to five devices per user and with an app that can be synced across several devices, Express VPN is regularly ranked among the top VPN picks, with high-speed servers in over 94 countries accounting for its reliability.
- Read the full review: ExpressVPN
- Also check out our roundup of the best time management apps