From meetings to mental health: the apps to make quarantine a breeze

Yoga: various apps are available to support fitness and well-being (Getty Images)
Yoga: various apps are available to support fitness and well-being (Getty Images)

WFH is easier with the right tools.

Technology has come to the rescue during the coronavirus crisis and, for many, has eased the process of transitioning to life working from home. If you still need a helping hand, these apps might be the answer. Except where mentioned, all are available for iOS and Android, and can be found on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Work life

Starting with the basics, video-conferencing tools have become essential for many of us. If you're still new to it all, the most popular platforms are Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Cisco’s Webex, Zoom and Skype. 

Working at home can be distracting, especially with children around, so setting some work targets using time-tracking apps such as Toggl and RescueTime can keep you in the zone.

Staying positive

Having to stay at home round the clock can take a toll on mental health. There are a multitude of mental-health-related apps out there, so here’s a collection to get you started.

Mindscape is a free voice app created in 2018 by creative agency Cult, in collaboration with mental-health charity Mind, to combat anxiety and isolation, and can be used via Amazon's Alexa and Google Home.

Cat Turner, co-founder and chief creative officer at Cult, said: "We wanted to create a platform that targeted anxiety and depression. In these worrying and disorientating times, we should all leverage every support tool available to stay positive." 

Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app and has 62 million users worldwide. It has created a free special collection to aid people during the coronavirus shutdown, called "Weathering the storm". Content covers navigating change, reframing anxiety and advice for difficult times.

Thrive is a free NHS recommended app that screens for mental health conditions and tracks your mood to help manage stress, anxiety and mental wellness. It uses methods to control emotions such as relaxation techniques like meditation and deep-breathing.

Health Unlocked (iOS only) is a social network of communities that enables support and discussion around different elements of health. Charities and patient organisations monitor its communities to ensure people are sharing the right information.

Moodrise is a new wellness app that uses positive content to boost emotional resilience, with a focus on six popular mood states, including confidence and happiness. In such a chaotic time, the idea of using these "digital pills" can help alleviate worry and bring attention back to work or family.

Film producer Alex Cooper said: "Even if it’s for a few minutes, this has been a game-changing practice for me. It brings me a huge amount of calm and teaches me to continually drop thoughts and fears, and come back to the breath. A phenomenal practice in times like this."

Cooper recommended meditation practice techniques by the London Buddhist Centre.

Take a break

Being stuck at home can cause work and relaxation boundaries to overlap, and getting away from the desk can also be challenging for some.

Activities such as listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts and language-learning can be a useful excuse for a break. Find audiobooks using Audible, Google Play Books and Kobo. Free podcast apps to try out include Castbox, Spotify, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic and TuneIn. Language apps include Duolingo and Babbel.

Vicki Lovegrove, graphic design director at Seventy Three Design, said: "Having some background noise is a great way to help you feel less isolated. I have the radio on all day. Not just in my office, but in the kitchen too, so even if I turn it off in my office there is a gentle hum in the distance that I find quite comforting."

Agencies such as Wunderman Thompson are holding virtual fitness sessions through apps, including yoga, pilates and running groups, to provide social opportunities for teams and encourage a healthy work/wellness balance. 

Strava is recommended for running and cycling groups, while Fitbod (currently iOS only, but Android version coming soon) provides personalised workouts, and Bkool can take you on various virtual cycling routes. 

Sport England has also just launched a national campaign to help people to stay active through free fitness workouts and apps by specialists including Les Mills and Nike Training Club.

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