10+ Online Tools to Help You Practice Social Distancing, Be Productive and Stay Happy

Maggie Patel | Business & Data Analytics Librarian in the Reference, Teaching and Services Department

work stations
A sample of UC Libraries remote work spaces.

In March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us found ourselves working remotely suddenly. It can be a struggle to work without access to many of the in-person tools we have at our offices or in the library. Luckily, the university, Libraries and some vendors are making their resources freely accessible or extending trial periods. While we all practice social and work distancing, use the following tools to perform research, collaborate with your team and even keep up your mental well-being.

Collaboration Tools
Collaboration platforms allow you to work as a team remotely.  They allow your team to share files, meet through video conferencing and share messages in one place.

  • At the University of Cincinnati, we use the Microsoft 365 suite, which includes collaboration tools such as OneDrive for the sharing and editing of documents and Teams, where established groups can chat, meet virtually and share documents. At UC Libraries, we also set up a social channel were we host virtual lunches and happy hours, share recipes and post about our experiences working remotely.
  • Slack is a communication and collaboration platform. It is designed to reduce e-mail as a communication method and replace it with chat rooms. Its workplaces organize communications by channels for group discussions and provides a space to share information, files, and more in one place. Small-sized teams can try Slack for free for an unlimited period of time.
  • WebEx is a video conferencing platform useful for meeting with people outside an established team where Microsoft Teams won’t suffice.

Learning & Research
The university and UC Libraries provide numerous remote/online research tools. Here are some good webpages and resources if you don’t know where to start.

  • Online Library is a portal created by UC Libraries to direct people to essential library resources and services to enable online research and scholarly work, as well as information on changes in services and access due to current facilities closures.
  • UC Libraries resources organized especially for:
  • Linkedin Learning online tutorials and courses. This resource is provided free for UC users.

Productivity
While working remotely, it can be challenging to keep yourself productive throughout the day. There are several tools that can help you track your time and tasks, as well as keep you accountable for getting things done.

  • Focusmate is a service that helps increase productivity by connecting you to other professionals who have committed to being accountable for finishing their most important work. You choose a time to work, and Focusmate pairs you with an accountability partner for a live, virtual co-working session that will keep you on task.
  • StayFocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that helps you stay focused on work by restricting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Once your allotted time has been used up, the sites you have blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.  You can also configure it to work on other browsers. 

Wellness
There are several reasons why this challenging time can take a toll on our mental well-being. Take a mental break and care for yourself with these tools. 

  • Headspace is an online meditation and mindfulness platform. They are currently offering free support through their “Weathering the Storm” site. 
  • Calm is an app that teaches mediation, sleep improvement, mindful movement and even provides relaxing music to listen to while working. It has a free, seven-day trial.

Edited from an article that first printed in the CBA Report, May/June 2020.