Today’s flexible office, with its share of both on-site and remote employees, has popularized the project-based workday—as opposed to an hours-based understanding of the workweek.
When it comes to flexible and remote work options, who among us would shun the ability to move to Mexico and work from afar, if given the option?
Let’s take a closer look at exactly how certain apps encourage collaboration, productivity, and closer connectedness to colleagues and teams.
It’s difficult to overstate how much tools like Slack have transformed the nature of interoffice communications: Venture Beat currently estimates that Slack has 6 million daily users, compared to 500,000 in February of 2015. It’s amazing what a difference three years can make!
In addition to providing a low-pressure platform for discussing team projects, Slack provides a forum for sharing non-work-related humor via differently designated channels that employees can choose to join at will.
This communication hub also benefits remote employees by providing a central location for work and non-related communication alike, mimicking the feeling of being physically present in the office while not actually requiring it—a necessity for today’s flexible work-life schedules.
At my place of work, there seem to be almost as many employees who opt to work from home as those who come into the office every day.
Some employees do both, wanting the flexibility of staying home or adjusting their schedule if they have a doctor’s appointment, while staying connected to office culture.
If it weren’t for my office Slack channels, my day would be filled with considerably less joy. Slack emojis seem to have entered our language lexicon with as much gusto as acronyms and emoticons have invaded our text messages.
Although some might argue that the over-digitalization of workplace communication is further eroding our ability to have a face-to-face conversation, I would argue that for the more introverted among us, Slack is a godsend to helping us start those in-person interactions in the break room or during a traditional team meeting.
My content editing team utilizes Asana for all its product management organization, utilizing tasks and subtasks and organizing them by week into a calendar-based planning system.
The app-based nature of this platform also facilitates easy access to progress on project goals for external-facing clients who value having access to our accomplishments at a glance.
It’s simple to download a mobile app in addition to the desktop app, making team collaboration and real-time updates on SEO-optimization projects easily accessible from anywhere—rather than merely the office. Those mobile reminders make it especially convenient to learn the status of a given project, regardless of where we are, at the moment—whether at the office or standing in line at the grocery store.
Though some may view the ever-on presence of Asana as intrusive, it’s always possible to turn off mobile push notifications, if preferred.
Additionally, the optional presence of whimsical creatures that fly across the screen upon completion of a task can practically gamify the virtual workspace.
Who doesn’t want to mimic the feeling of leveling up, à la after-school, childhood video game sessions?
3. Google Docs
It’s fascinating that Google Docs was labeled a telecommuting tool in 2014, because nowadays, it’s simply part of many companies’ work flows—regardless of whether employees are communicating from home or the office.
Maybe it’s simply a reflection of our obsession with digital interoffice communication platforms, but in any case, cloud-based document sharing is no longer considered “high tech,” but, rather, the norm. The ubiquitous nature of Gmail makes it simple to work with Google Docs via desktop or mobile devices, as well.
In any case, I utilize Google Docs on a daily basis for document sharing, writing and editing collaboration, and storage of important work-related PDFs and contracts.
G Suite provides a number of tools that improve staff communication, including Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. These document-sharing applications have become integral to collaborative teamwork across various operating systems and locations.
It’s also simple to adjust individual documents for limited editing access or privacy so that documents are only available to certain readers, when sharing top-secret information.
And Google Docs is compatible with a variety of operating systems, allowing recipients to utilize Open Office documents, in the event their particular device does not have Microsoft Word or other programs installed.
There are numerous other productivity apps useful for traditional office program and project managers—as well as entrepreneurs and contract workers like web designers and freelance writers.
Some of these apps—like f.lux, which cuts down on excess blue light when dark out—have more to do with quality of life and sleep than work flow. However, the ability to sleep is arguably just as important as daytime productivity, since precious little work is accomplished on no sleep.
Others, like Focus Keeper and Pomodoro Keeper, utilize the Pomodoro technique to encourage short periodic breaks—which, in theory, make the most of the time that you do spend on work, rather than allowing us to lose our concentration through inefficiency or burnout.
Believe it or not, working smarter is better than working harder: it is indeed possible to incorporate breaks into a busy work day and still get everything done; in fact, research has suggested that our brains are more efficient when we take brief diversions, rather than trying to power through when we’re fatigued.
Personally speaking, f.lux saves my eyes from overexposure to blue light due to my early morning work hours and inevitable late-night news binging—since it works for both smartphones and desktops.
And apps like Focus Keeper are the perfect solution to long Fridays when work tends to get away from me unless I can refresh myself periodically with a quick trip to the break room for water or a fast jaunt outside with a coworker.
Our lives have been forever changed by mobile apps and anywhere-access to work documents and communication platforms. However, given the increased flexibility this technology allows us, would we really want to have it any other way?
What apps do you consider essential to your daily workflow? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.