According to the latest statistics, five percent of workers now work from home for at least part of their working week. Thanks to ever-faster broadband internet speeds, flexible job roles, and a changing economy, the work-from-home trend shows no signs of losing momentum.
But while avoiding the daily commute and spending more time with your family are positives, working from home isn’t as easy as it seems. Digital distractions such as the warm glow of your smartphone loom large and can kill your productivity if you aren’t careful. To help you, we’ve selected the best free tech for staying focused while working from home.
#1. Pomodoro Tracker
You don’t need us to tell you that sitting on the couch and cyber-loafing is a big no-no. But did you know that working too long or too hard can be just as bad?
Surprisingly, many workers fall into this trap when they work from home. They try to overcompensate due to a sense of guilt over not being at the office.
You need to remember that working from home should be just like working from anywhere else; you need to take breaks! In fact, not taking breaks is counterproductive.
Listen to your body
You’ve probably heard of your circadian rhythm, which is basically your body’s 24-hour internal clock.
But fewer people are aware of the ultradian rhythm, which works in 90-minute cycles.
As you can tell from the above graph, failing to take regular breaks can be a recipe for burnout. That’s why the free online tool Pomodoro Tracker can help. This simple tool reminds you to take regular five minutes breaks every 25 minutes, or according to your own parameters if you want to divide your time differently.
For example, if you want to work to your ultradian rhythm, you could set up Pomodoro to remind you to rest for 20 minutes after every 90-minute work session. A short break helps you recharge and then come back to work harder than before.
If you’re wondering how to fill those breaks and stay productive, Headspace is worth a look. This useful app is basically a personal mediation guide that can take you through some beginner-friendly meditation exercises. According to Headspace, meditation can help you focus for longer and ignore distractions. Exactly what you need when working from home!
You can sign up online for Headspace and learn the basics for free, but if you want access to the entire Headspace library you’ll need the full paid versions. These cost between $8 to $13 per month for Android, iOS, and the web.
When you aren’t fighting the urge to raid the fridge or binge-watch Netflix, the temptation to take a break (or two) can quickly lead to a stagnant working routine. In most cases, taking short breaks using the Podomoro Tracker will keep you focused, but if find yourself wondering where your time goes, we recommend Toggl.
Toggl is the best free time-tracking app out there for Android, iOS, and the web. It seamlessly syncs across multiple devices and generates helpful reports that analyze your schedule. It takes just a few minutes to set up and makes tracking your time a breeze.
If you feel as though time is slipping through your fingers, Toggi will help you find out what takes up your time. Most features are free but advanced features such as automated reminders and reports require a premium subscription costing $7 to $20 per month. Try the free version and see what you think!
With no boss lurking over your shoulder, one of the most difficult aspects of working from home can be getting ‘in the zone’ and focusing on your tasks. Listening to some form of music, background noises or white-noise can be one of the best ways to stay productive.
While venturing onto YouTube can prove too tempting for some, there are many excellent channels that play constant loops of peaceful, relaxing, meditation music. With thousands of channels to choose from, you’re all but guaranteed to find something that works for you.
If you lack the self-control to visit YouTube without getting distracted, we recommend Noisli, a free web app that costs $2 for the Android or iOS version. Noisli can help you relax or stay productive by playing one, or a combination, of different sounds.
Each sound can be played on its own or in combination with other sounds. For example, you can select a combination such as light rainfall with the sound of leaves blowing. It’s worth tinkering with until you find the perfect combination. Try it for free on the web and see if you find it useful.
#5. Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts
Listening to a podcast is a great way to rest your eyes while giving you something else to think about. Google Podcasts is free for Android and Apple Podcasts is free for iOS so you’ve no excuse for not checking out the latest free and trending podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to fill a five or 10-minute break and can help you maintain your productivity when you get back to your home office.
One of the biggest productivity killers can be your smartphone, and deciding the check Twitter “for five minutes” can quickly turn into a wasted hour if you aren’t careful. If this sounds like you, the free app Forest may be able to help. Forest aims to keep you off your smartphone and has a clever trick up its sleeve to help you accomplish this: It grows a digital forest while you stay off your phone.
Forest rewards you with virtual coins that can be used to support the planting of real trees. So you spend less time on your phone and help save the planet at the same time. Pretty sweet, right? Forest is free with in-app purchases for Android and costs $2 for the iOS version.
One of the main reasons why your productivity declines when you work from home is that you lack a connection with your colleagues and co-workers. The highly-rated chat app Slack aims to get people off email and interacting with each other in real-time.
Slack lets you switch seamlessly between open chat rooms and private direct messaging, and integrates perfectly with other services such as Trello and Google Docs, making it perfect for audio calls. Slack offers a free version and both a Standard plan costing $8 per user per month and a Plus plan costing $15 per user per month and is available for Android, iOS, the web, Windows, and macOS.
If you want to know how to stay productive at home, we’ve covered it all from managing digital distractions to improving your mindset and staying in contact with others. All of the options on our list have free versions, so you have no excuse not to check them out and find what works best for you.
What do you think of our list? Which free tech did we miss? Let us know by leaving a comment below!