In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, life as we know it has changed. As of March 28, 229 million people in at least 26 states, 66 counties, 14 cities and one territory have informal or official “shelter in place” orders, reports The New York Times. People can typically leave home for essential purposes, like shopping for groceries, pharmacy items or for necessary health care, but they are urged to stay home for all other purposes. In some places like New York, Washington state and California, all non-essential businesses have been closed. That means millions of people are working from home and caring for their children, because most states have closed schools at least temporarily.
For those not used to working remotely, it can be a big change to go from regular face-to-face interaction to working solo. However, it is still possible to be productive and stay connected to your work and your co-workers. To help you navigate the work-from-home world, we’ve put together a list of 15 fabulous subscription apps that can help you stay on task and make working at home a little less stressful. We also include three bonus apps to help you care for yourself during this challenging time.
File Sharing Apps
Some companies allow remote workers to access their shared drives by logging onto the company network from home. For those that don’t have that capability, file sharing tools are invaluable. Some of these apps are free, and others use a freemium model where a basic version is free, but additional features are only available with a paid subscription.
Dropbox: This file sharing tool is available for individuals and teams. It uses the freemium model where users get basic features and 2 GB file storage for free. Under the standard Dropbox Business plan, for $15* per month per user, starting at three users, subscribers get 5 TB of storage and collaboration tools. For $25* per month per user, starting at three users, subscribers get unlimited storage space and sophisticated control and security features, along with a variety of collaboration tools. [*Prices shown are if the subscription is billed monthly. Discounts apply to those who pay annually.]
Enterprise users can also subscribe, but they need to contact Dropbox to get a customized plan to suit their needs. All plans come with a free 30-day trial. Dropbox also offers Dropbox Plus and Dropbox Professional plans. Dropbox is available online as well as on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms.
OneDrive: Microsoft’s OneDrive is another popular cloud-based file sharing app for home and business use. It, too, uses a freemium model. Individual users can get 5 GB of storage for free. Paid subscription storage options include:
- 100 GB for $1.99 a month
- Office 365 Personal, including OneDrive, for $69.99 a year
- Office 365 Home, including OneDrive, for $99.99 a year for up to six users
Business plans start at $5 per user per month and go up to $12.50 per user per month depending on storage, user and SaaS needs.
Collaboration tools are an excellent way to connect with your team, whether you work in offices across the country or are practicing social distancing and working from home. They make it possible to share files, hold virtual meetings (audio and video), chat and more. There are many SaaS tools on the market to assist with collaboration, including Dropbox noted above. Here are two other popular options we’ve tried and love.
Microsoft Teams: This cloud-based collaboration tool is available for free as a standalone tool, or as part of the Office 365 suite, ranging in price from $5 per month per user to $20 per month per user with an annual commitment. Teams allows work groups to chat, collaborate and hold virtual meetings (audio, video and web conferences), calls and hold live events. Teams can also integrate with many other business applications including Lucidchart Diagrams for Teams, Zoom.ai Meeting Assistant, Constant Contact, Talentsoft and Remind, among others.
Slack: Slack is a messaging and collaboration tool that helps you organize conversations by channel, send private or group messages in real time, share files and screens, do video calls, and integrate with existing applications (e.g., Dropbox, Asana, Salesforce, etc.) It essentially replaces email. Emails are messages that are organized into channels sorted by topic, projects, programs, departments or teams that the user selects. Slack offers a free plan and several paid subscription plans.
- Standard plan: $8 per person per month, billed monthly
- Plus plan: $15 per person per month, billed monthly
- Enterprise plan: priced for a team’s specific needs
Social Media Management Apps
Social media management encompasses a lot of different activities in addition to planning content. It includes workflow, approvals, scheduling, replying to messages (mentions, DMs, etc.), measuring social sentiment and analyzing data, among other tasks. Workers who only manage one social account may not need a social media management tool. For those managing social media platforms and profiles remotely, a social media management tool is a must. Such tools can help users manage their workload, create strategic content plans and measure results while also providing their managers with a snapshot of accounts and results.
Buffer: If you are looking for social media scheduling, Buffer is a great tool to help you plan, collaborate and publish to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Integrating with over 60 third-party tools, Buffer offers a freemium plan, allowing one user to schedule up to 10 posts on three social accounts. For more robust options and for managing workflow and approvals through a team, users will want a paid subscription:
- Pro: $15 a month billed monthly for 1 user, 8 social accounts and up to 100 scheduled posts
- Premium: $65 a month billed monthly for 2 users, 8 social accounts and up to 2,000 scheduled posts
- Business: $99 a month billed monthly for 6 users, 25 social accounts and up to 2,000 scheduled posts.
Additional options such as replying and analyzing social media engagement are available for an extra cost.
HootSuite: HootSuite is a more robust option that allows you to schedule social media in advance as well as monitor and manage multiple social media accounts. HootSuite also measures social sentiment, which is a great feature to try to help brands identify how they are perceived by prospective customers. It can be used by individuals or by teams and online or within the HootSuite app. HootSuite offers a freemium version (1 user, 3 social profiles, 30 scheduled messages) and four paid subscription tiers:
- Professional: 1 user, unlimited scheduling, 10 social profiles for $29 a month*
- Team: 3 users, unlimited scheduling, 20 social profiles for $129 a month*
- Business: 5 to 10 users, unlimited scheduling, 35 social profiles for $599 a month*
- Enterprise: contact for pricing
*Pricing is based on annual payments. The Professional and Team plans offer a free 30-day free trial. The Business and Enterprise plans offer a demo.
Sprout Social: Sprout Social is ideal for team-based social media management. This app offers content publishing and conversation management while providing users with tools to measure their efforts. Sprout Social can be used to plan, organize and deliver social content and campaigns, including cross-network scheduling. Sprout Social can also help track campaign performance, and identify, personalize and respond to incoming messages quickly, so customers know you are listening. Sprout Social offers a tiered, paid subscription plan, each with a 30-day free trial.
- Standard: $99 per user per month, 5 social profiles, all-in-one social inbox
- Professional: $149 per user per month, 10 social profiles + additional features and reports
- Advanced: $249 per user per month, 10 social profiles + additional features and reports
Time tracking tools are helpful for in-office and at-home workers alike. They help users manage their time by seeing where they are spending the most time (or too much time), while keeping track of billable hours for their firms and projects. There are a wide variety of options available.
Timely: Using a calendar view of time spent on tasks, Timely combines scheduling and time tracking into a single app. You can run a timer or log manual entries, if you prefer. You can also schedule how much time you want to spend on a particular task or activity. Need to reorganize your day or week? Timely lets you drag and drop blocks of time. The app integrates with most calendars. Timely does not offer a free plan, but its tiered plans are very affordable:
- Moonlight plan: $7 per month, billed monthly
- Freelancer plan: $14 per month, billed monthly
- Professional plan: $23 per month, billed monthly
*Discounts apply when paid annually.
Toggl: Toggl is a great freemium option that lets you track time by projects, clients and team member. Available with many integration options, Toggl is easy to set up and use with a one-click timer on your desktop or in the Toggle app for Android and iOS. Toggl reports show at a glance where users are spending the bulk of their time. Beyond the basic version, Toggl offers additional features, reporting and time analysis with a paid subscription:
- Starter: $10 per user per month, billed monthly
- Premium: $20 per user per month, billed monthly
- Enterprise: custom pricing
You don’t have to have a project management certification to manage projects, particularly if you use an app to help you organize tasks, plan resources, motivate a team, management time, provide cost estimates, monitor progress, etc. The right project management app can make remote collaboration much easier, even fun.
Asana: Asana is an all-in-one project management tool that allows users to build project plans, coordinate tasks, provide status updates and meet deadlines, as well as integrate with other applications. In a visual interface, users can choose various layouts (e.g., lists, board, calendar, timeline), and teams can work together. Asana is available for the desktop and in apps for Android and iOS. Like many of the other tools, Asana offers a Basic free version for teams of up to 15 people, as well as tiered subscription plans.
- Premium: $10.99 per user, per month, billed annually, or $13.49 when billed monthly (5 user minimum)
- Business: Ideal for teams and companies, $24.99 per user, per month, billed annually or $30.49 when billed monthly)
- Enterprise: contact Asana for pricing
Zoho Projects: Zoho helps teams plan project activities, assign work, manage resources and collaborate together from work or home and everywhere in between. It helps users automate tasks to save time, create Gantt charts to track progress and task dependencies, and it logs time. Like Asana, it integrates with other tools including Slack, Google, Zapier, Github, Dropbox and more. Zoho offers 10-day free trials, a limited-feature free plan and a tiered subscription plan.
- Standard: 10 projects and 10 client users. This plan is priced by the user, starting at $150 per year for 6 users.
- Express: Unlimited projects, 15 client users, $5 per 5 client users per month. This plan is priced by the user, starting at $480 per year for 15 users.
- Premium: Unlimited projects, 20 client users, $5 per 5 client users per month. This plan is priced by the user, starting at $1,020 per year for 20 users.
- Enterprise: Unlimited projects, 25 client users, $5 per 5 client users per month. This plan is priced by the user, starting at $1,500 per year for 25 users.
Prices shown are annual prices. Monthly payment plans are slightly higher.
There is an endless list of apps and app categories we could share here, but we have focused on developing creative and note taking. Here are four easy-to-use apps that can make those specific functions easy to complete.
Canva: If you need to produce quality creative quickly, Canva is an amazing tool. It offers templates to create posters, flyers, social media posts, infographics and more. It is also a great way to add special effects and text to images. Available online and via Android and iOS apps, users can choose from images and backgrounds provided by Canva, or they can upload their own images and logos. Canva, too, offers a freemium version with basic options. For a beginner, the basic version is ideal. Advanced users will want Canva Pro, a paid subscription which comes with more than 2 million free photos and illustrations, 100 GB storage, 500 premium fonts, the ability to create animations and gifs, and thousands of professional templates.
- Canva Pro: $12.95 a month if paid monthly
- Canva Pro: $9.95 a month if paid yearly
PicMonkey: Similar to Canva, PicMonkey helps users create amazing images for putting their brand’s best foot forward. It has an easy-to-use photo editor to touch up, crop and improve photos, so they fit specific needs. Users can also make their own graphics using templates or by creating custom templates. Available for Android, iOS and the web, PicMonkey has a free version, and a paid subscription option.
- Basic: $7.99 per month if billed monthly, or $71.88 if paid annually
- Pro: $120 billed annually for unlimited storage, brand fonts and more
- Team: $8.33 per seat per month, includes the features of Pro but for teams
Evernote: Evernote is essentially a note taking app that helps users capture ideas in text, voice and images. It can also be used by individuals and teams to store notes, lists and reminders. Popular features include searching across notes, document scanning, notebooks and tags, web clipping and syncing across devices. Available online and via Android and iOS apps, Evernote offers a free version and two paid subscription plans. The paid plans have additional features including integration with other apps and the Business plan includes team collaboration tools.
- Evernote Premium: $7.99 a month
- Evernote Business: $14.99 a month per user with a minimum of two users
OneNote: This feature-packed note taking app requires an Office 365 subscription. Microsoft describes it as a digital notebook that users can use to visually divide information and notes into notebooks, sections and pages. With the ability to sync across devices, OneNote captures ideas and inspiration. The app includes features such as organization, tagging, drawing with a stylus or finger, ability to add audio notes and online videos, web clipper and sharing. Office 365 pricing for individuals, students and families is as follows:
- Office 365 home: $99.99 a year paid annually, or $9.99 per month (for up to 6 users on PC or Mac)
- Office 365 personal: $69.99 per year paid annually, or $6.99 per month (1 user across all devices)
- Office home and student 2019: $149.99 (one-time purchase for 1 person on PC or Mac)
Bonus: Relaxation and Meditation Apps
This is an unprecedented, challenging time. None of us know what to expect or when things will return to what we remember as normal, so it is particularly important to stay connected with friends, family and co-workers. Stay connected through video chats, social media and online viewing parties. Also, make time for self-care. Here are a few apps to help you check in with yourself and step away from the stress we are all feeling right now. We even threw one in to help your kids manage their own stress.
Calm: Calm is a subscription-based meditation, sleep and relaxation app. Two of its most popular features are “The Daily Calm,” a 10-minute meditation with a different theme each day, and Sleep Stories, 100+ bedtime stories that will help quiet your mind at the end of a stressful day. An annual subscription is $69.99 following a seven-day free trial. Calm also offers a “Calm for Life” lifetime subscription for $399.99.
Headspace: This subscription-based relaxation app focuses on mindfulness and meditation. It also includes sleep exercises, bedtime sounds, and encouragement to move to improve the fitness of body and mind. If paid annually, Headspace is $69.99 per year, or $5.83 per month, following a two-week free trial. If paid monthly, Headspace is $12.99 a month after a one-week free trial.
Stop, Breathe & Think: Yes, that’s the actual name of an app. SBT is an emotional wellness platform designed for users under 25, including kids, teens and young adults. Available via subscription, SBT is priced based on age group, starting at $4.91 per month. This is a good option for parents with kids who are trying to work from home. Kids might tell us they are fine, but they feed off of and feel our energy. SBT can help them stop, breathe and think through their stress in a healthy way.