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By Red Herring

COVID-19 has created a global work-from-home experiment

As services shutter and borders close, the Coronavirus pandemic is changing our way of life. Led by Silicon Valley, America’s companies are increasingly telling employees to work from home to prevent spreading the virus further.

This might not be as disastrous as some pundits predict. Studies have shown time and again, that remote employees are happier and—despite taking longer breaks—work on average 1.4 days per month more than their office-based counterparts. Firms may even make vital savings on rent space.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 29% of Americans may work from home. As Donald Trump’s White House finally acknowledges—kind of—the health emergency unfolding on its shores, this army of rear-window reservists will surely be put to work. But besides good coffee and some ambient tunes, what are the best techy tools to ensure stay-at-home staff get the best from their day?

Zoom

At the top of many work-from-home lists is San Fransisco’s Zoom, a video conferencing company whose share price recently shot up 12% on the prediction that Coronavirus isolation will see its use skyrocket. Despite experts’ warnings that video meetings fail to offer the same connection as a face-to-face chat, expert more employers to mandate the use of Zoom as a vital business tool.

Slack

The group-messaging service has already become a byword for work chatter in recent years. But the 2009-founded platform isn’t enjoying the same heyday as Zoom: despite posting Q4 2019 revenues that were 49% up on the previous year, and claiming it ended the year with 110,000 paid customers, it posted losses of $89m—$53m more than 2018—and its share price is down over 20%.

That isn’t down to uptake. Coronavirus has made Slack an even more valuable asset for its users. The real challenge appears to be Microsoft, whose Teams solution continues to close the gap with Slack. Chief executive and co-founder Stuart Butterfield has hailed his firm’s “significant momentum.” But under a thousand of Slack’s users spend over $100,000 per year. The startup may be a valuable tool in these uncertain times. Yet its own future is less than clear.

Google Nest Hub

If you’re working from home, chances are you’ll want instant access to information, the ability to time projects (hello, Pomodoro Technique) and something to play your favorite concentration-binding tunes in a heartbeat. Amazon’s Alexa is one. Google’s much-heralded Nest Hub is another.

In addition to the above features, the latest Nest Hub allows users to synchronize home security, keep up-to-date with news on the COVID-19 outbreak, stream videos and even assist with spelling and grammar. You might not be within asking distance of the office spelling bee geek any more. The Nest Hub means there’s simply no need to be so.

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