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4 free apps that make working from home way better

Stay focused, have more professional meetings, take care of yourself, and more, with these essential free apps.

4 free apps that make working from home way better
[Source photos: Daisy-Daisy/iStock; Johann Siemens/Unsplash; Patrick Assalé/Unsplash]

Fun fact about me: I love, love, love working from home. It is, quite simply, the best.

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That’s one man’s opinion, though. You might also love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, if you find yourself working from home on a regular basis, you absolutely, positively must add these four free apps to your remote-work setup.

Block background noise with Krisp

You’re on a Zoom call with your boss. The dog is barking. The baby is crying. Your anxiety level is nearing a fever pitch. In the words of every late-night infomercial ever produced: There’s got to be a better way!

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Enter Krisp, a truly wonderful miracle of modern technology.

It’s an app that essentially acts as a bridge between your microphone and your communications apps—it works with more than 800 of them—and uses artificial intelligence to isolate your voice while blocking out pets, people, keyboard clacks, and more.

While some apps, like Zoom, have built-in background noise suppression, often the higher you crank it up, the more muddled your actual voice sounds. Not so with Krisp, which somehow manages to block everything out while keeping you sounding like you.

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The free version grants you 240 minutes of clean audio per week, which should be plenty for many folks. Unlimited plans start at $12 per month for those of you with way too many important meetings on your calendars.

Stay on task with Forest

Sometimes it’s challenging to stay focused while working from home—and the combination of having your phone within arm’s reach at all times and no prying eyes to catch you slacking off can make for a precarious productivity predicament.

And while there’s no shortage of forced-focus apps out there, Forest offers a unique spin on the category.

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Fire up the free app and tap the “Plant Tree” button to start growing a little virtual tree. As long as you stay off your phone for the duration of the in-app timer—the default is 25 minutes—the tree will grow. If you exit the app to mess around on your phone, the tree dies. You don’t want to kill the tree, do you?!!

Get several focus sessions per day under your belt, and you’ll have yourself an adorable little forest full of productivity trees.

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Better yet: Unlock the pro version of the app for $2 (one-time purchase!), and as you amass virtual trees, you earn in-app coins that you can use to plant real-life trees via the app’s partnership with the Trees for the Future organization. Win-win all around.

Take periodic breaks with Stretchly

When working from home, it’s tempting to plop yourself down in your chair and power through the workday until there’s no work left to be done. No hour-long lunch. No chitchat with colleagues. No trips to the break room for coffee.

I’m a big-time offender when it comes to this, so one of my absolute favorite free apps is Stretchly, which forces me to take 20-second breaks every 15 minutes and 3-minute breaks every hour —by surfacing a big, unmovable window over the top of everything I’m working on.

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I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a huge difference. The short breaks will entail things like refocusing your eyes on something far away, doing some neck swirls, repositioning the back support on your chair, and things like that. The longer breaks will direct you to do something like tidying up your workspace, stepping away from your desk for a bit, or even squeezing in a quick mini-workout.

You can set the time intervals to your liking, and even tell the app to not let you skip breaks. It’s for your own good!

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Dial up some audio ambience with myNoise

I know, I know: yet another background noise generator thingy. But this one—myNoise—is free, it’s got more than 200 sound generators to choose from, and they’re categorized by need, such as “I need to focus,” “I need to calm down,” “It’s too quiet,” “I need inspiration so I can write,” and a whole bunch of other helpful options.

You can play everything right from within your browser, and there are both iPhone and Android versions available. Each generated sound features 10 tweakable audio sliders that you can finesse in order to create the perfect mix. Several of the generated noises are even available as stream-able albums via Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon Music.

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