These apps give lonely homeworkers a virtual colleague

“So how was the weekend?” Not a colleague to be found at your coffee machine at home for that occasional chat. For those who are thoroughly tired of solitary teleworking, there are virtual solutions available.

Anyone who needs an external push to refocus on work on Monday can look to New York’s Focusmate. That app puts you in touch with another random teleworker somewhere on this globe. You can have a video conversation of 50 minutes, during which you have a short chat of a few minutes and then continue working in a concentrated manner – under the watchful eye of the new, international ‘colleague’. You can choose to be assigned a random teleworker worldwide, or contact a previous conversation partner again by sending a link yourself.

“He / she chats too much”

The New York app is not only aimed at the social aspect of the office chat, but especially at increasing productivity. Because without colleagues or a boss keeping an eye on you, procrastination is easier around the corner. By working in silence for 50 minutes ‘next to’ someone else, you will be slightly less inclined to quickly fill a washing machine in between. As with the Pomodoro technique, you can therefore work concentrated in blocks. After one video session you can search for another colleague if you wish. You get three sessions a week for free, for an unlimited number of international colleagues you pay 5 dollars a month.

After a conversation you can assess the temporary colleague. The latter serves to prevent abuse by, for example, rude or intimidating users, but just as well because your work needs are different. Someone who talks too much, for example, so that productivity is still compromised.

By working in silence for 50 minutes ‘next to’ someone else, you will be less inclined to quickly fill a washing machine in between. Photo: Focusmate

Group lessons in the sports club

Focusmate was developed in 2017 by Taylor Jacobson, a freelance writer who himself sought moral support for his procrastination in lonely working from home. In 2020, Focusmate saw its number of users increase fivefold, according to the BBC. On average, 108,000 people used the application every month.

Focusmate isn’t the only app that uses virtual social control to increase productivity at home. Caveday, also New York, focuses on people who want to work in larger groups, the so-called ‘caves’. In a video chat with several participants, working moments alternate with joint breaks, such as some stretching exercises or a virtual game. Caveday is more focused on the group feeling, although it also helps to keep productivity high. Founder Jake Kahana compares it to group lessons in a sports club. Caveday also saw the light of day in 2017 and had no fewer than nine times as many users last year, compared to other years. The British RemoteWorkMates is a similar (free) initiative that uses the chat app Slack and encourages you to perform certain challenges or activities.

Now that working from home will probably remain and we are also in demand for this, the popularity of these types of apps will only increase. Google previously provided tips for a successful teleworking policy, and these home working tips will also help you on your way.


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