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5 Surprising Alexa Features for Amazon Echo That Make Working From Home Easier


Chris Monroe / CNET

It’s been almost a year COVID-19 reordered life on a global scale, and many of us are still muddling working from home and the unusual stresses that accompany it. Although we can hope for one rapid roll-out of vaccines, many of us still face an uncertain near future, in which we can work remotely or semi-remotely for much of 2021


Fortunately, a lot of technology has been released in the last year – not to mention a few older technology finds new life in these new times – helps WFH setups to be better, more workable. I use Amazon’s Echo speakers and is displayed daily, and I’ve found a few new and old features to be extremely helpful every day.

Here are five of the best Alexa features to make working from home easier this year.

Let Alexa remind you to drink water, walk around the house, or do something else

Chris Monroe / CNET

Losing track of time is easy during the lockdown life. With many of our external time markers removed (from traveling for the holidays to seeing a movie on the weekend), things seem to be moving at strange, fluid speeds. Even during the day, the boundaries between work and private life are prone to blurring, and I found myself working after lunch, missing meetings, and more while working from home.

It sounds simple, but asking Alexa to remind you to drink water, stretch your legs, log into that rescheduled Zoom call, or any number of other things can really make a difference when you’re trying to keep track of time . Routines are helpful, and Alexa does a pretty good job of helping you keep them. Here are more tips for making your home a healthier place to work this year.

Use Alexa as an intercom to avoid disturbing the rest of the family

Chris Monroe / CNET

While I work remotely, my three and four-year-old sons homeschooled with their mother in the living room. Whenever I have to ask my wife a question or run outside to grab a snack or glass of water, my kids take the opportunity to jump off their desk and grab my legs.

I love that I’m more close to family during the lockdown life (even if my wife and I haven’t gotten relief from parenting for nearly a year now), but these little afternoon moments can be seriously distracting are for easily distracted children.

So using the Echo’s Drop In feature from my living room office Echo Show helps avoid this glitch, allowing me to ask quick questions or see if it’s a good time to come out, or if I should wait until the children have completed a final worksheet or book before appearing. Here’s how to use your Echo as an intercom.

Keep your pets busy with Alexa

Chris Monroe / CNET

Many of us work at home without friends or family, but with pets. The pandemic has affected domestic animals in unexpected ways, making many of them more affectionate, moody and often more difficult to care for.

While it won’t fix the bigger problem, Alexa can help keep your pets busy during the day, giving them a little more independence. Skills such as Meow! and Woof! for example are designed to interact with cats and dogs. Others like the Comfort My Dog skill of playing music to help your pet sleep better. Here are even more pet-friendly tips for your smart home.

Play music during the day

Chris Monroe / CNET

If you don’t share space with your family or annoying pets, Alexa is also great for playing music all day long. Whether you use Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, or most other streaming services, Alexa has you covered.

You can play soothing music to help you unwind from the workday, happy music to make sure you meet the noon deadline, and some favorites to celebrate the end of a long day. I also often use music as a timer for myself: a long song like Sufjan Stevens’ Impossible Soul gives me just enough time to take a big push in an article that needs to be written. Then I stretch, move around, distract myself for a few minutes talking to colleagues on Slack, and finally get back to writing with a short album, like Earl Sweatshirt’s (aptly-titled-for-pandemic-life ) I Don’t Like S —, I’m not going out. Here’s CNET’s review of the best sounding smart speaker for the price, the 2020 Amazon Echo.

Use Alexa to keep yourself healthy

Chris Monroe / CNET

If it’s easy to lose track of time during shutdown, it’s even easier to lose track of (or simply ignore) our health. I personally found that I had gained nearly 10 pounds in the early months of covid simply because I was living a more sedentary everyday life (not to mention easy, all-day access to chips). The stressful reality of the past year, even aside from COVID-19, certainly hasn’t made promoting a healthy lifestyle any easier.

But by using Alexa (along with a few other strategies), I caught my slippage early and actually lost weight overall during the pandemic. I used the 7-minute training skill, or just did my own workouts with Alexa’s timers and music skills. Either way, squeezing a little physical activity into your afternoon routine is just that little bit easier with a tool like Alexa. Here are 50 Alexa skills worth using.

Have you found other Alexa features that make working from home easier for you? Share them in the comments below.

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