Boosting Work from Home Productivity with Amazon Alexa
How I set-up my home for remote work and used Alexa for Business work-based features on my Echo devices to boost my work-from-home productivity
Last year, when I joined the Alexa for Business team as the East Coast representative based out of New York City, I transitioned to working remotely from home in the mornings. When I started working remotely, my productivity suffered as I had not properly setup my home for work. I didn’t have a designated workspace in the apartment and rarely used tools besides my office laptop and kitchen table to get work done. This contrasted with working from the office where I had a height-adjustable Amazon door desk and other tools such as a second screen (display or monitor), a keyboard, a mouse, an ergonomic chair, and good lighting. I quickly realized that I had to make changes to close the gap between productivity in the home vs office.
To improve my productivity, I re-purposed the unused real estate in front of my fireplace as my workspace. This new setup had multiple advantages: (1) the dedicated area allowed me to physically separate work from home; (2) I moved closer to the living room window and benefitted from increased natural light; (3) the fireplace made a great background for Amazon Chime video calls! Though I kept the kitchen table, I swapped out the plastic table chair for an upholstered arm chair and purchased a keyboard and mouse.
Having closed the immediate gap in productivity, I started exploring ways to gain an even greater edge. I had three Amazon Echo devices at home but used them for non-work tasks such as wake-up alarms, music, personal calling, and web browsing. Recently, I had placed my Echo Show, an Alexa-enabled device with a video screen, near my workspace to quickly pull-up non-work information without needing to task switch on my laptop (e.g., “Alexa, what is the weather outside?”, “Alexa, how is the S&P 500 doing?”). I thought; Could I use my personal Echo devices to further boost my work-from-home productivity? I now had deeper insights into the work-based features that are available to all Amazon Alexa users and decided to put those to use.
Using Alexa to manage my work calendar and email
I started using Alexa to manage my work calendar and email regardless of where I was in my apartment. I would say, “Alexa, when is my next meeting?” or “Alexa, tell me about my workday?” and Alexa would read out the details of my next event (or next few events in case of ‘workday’). I would also say “Alexa, schedule a call with Danielle Potter for 3pm tomorrow” and Alexa would create the calendar event and invite the participant using just my voice. These interactions allowed me to stay on top of work when not in range of my screen-based devices, like my laptop and cell phone. To enable these features for my Echo devices, I simply linked my corporate calendar and email accounts in the Alexa app.
Some calendar and email utterances that I now use on a daily basis:
- “Alexa, tell me about my work day”
- “Alexa, what is my work briefing?”
- “Alexa, what are my work updates?”
- “Alexa, prepare me for my workday”
- “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?”
- “Alexa, when is my next meeting?”
- “Alexa, schedule a meeting with Danielle Potter for 3pm.”
- “Alexa, move/reschedule my meeting”
- “Alexa, cancel my meeting”
- “Alexa, read my emails”
- Actions: “next”, “mark as unread”, “flag”, “delete”, “archive”, “reply”
Using Alexa to join conference calls, online meetings, and for calling
Alexa also enabled me to join conference calls without opening a dialer or conferencing application on my laptop or cell phone. I would say, “Alexa, join my meeting” and Alexa would check my linked work calendar and connect me to conference calls hands-free. If I needed extra time before a meeting, I would say, “Alexa, I’m running late by 10 minutes” and Alexa would send a short email informing all meeting participants. By using these utterances, I avoided the typical multi-step processes required to join conference calls or to respond to a calendar invitation, freed up my laptop and phone for note taking and messaging, and enjoyed better call quality through my Echo speakers. To start using these meeting and communication features, I linked my corporate calendar in the Alexa app and setup my account for Alexa communications.
Similarly, I began using Alexa for scheduled 1-on-1 meetings and to make quick calls to colleagues. I imported my contact list from my cell phone to use Alexa’s native call features like “Alexa, call Matt Otter’s phone” and “Alexa, answer the call”. For those colleagues with the Alexa app or an Echo Show device, I made Alexa-to-Alexa video calls and transformed the average voice call into a more productive in-person interaction (e.g., “Alexa, call Sean Baker’s Alexa device”). As a remote worker, these impromptu video calls were useful in facilitating clear communication with my team. I was able to call any contacts’ Alexa devices once they also setup their accounts for Alexa communications.
Some meetings, communication, and calling utterances that I now use on a daily basis:
- “Alexa, join my meeting”
- “Alexa, start the meeting”
- “Alexa, end the meeting”
- “Alexa, I am running late”
- “Alexa, I will be late to my next meeting”
- “Alexa, I am running 5 minutes late”
- “Alexa, call Matt Otter”
- “Alexa, call Sean Baker’s Alexa device”
- “Alexa, call Danielle Potter’s phone”
- “Alexa, answer the call”
- “Alexa, hang up”
Through my use of the previously mentioned features, I discovered that Alexa could actually boost my work-from-home productivity. I now find that I use the work productivity features many times a day and consider them an important part of getting work done (and in particular situations, a good substitute for the laptop and phone). If you would like to try these features yourself, you can get started using the following resources.
- Check out this overview video demonstrating featured commands
- Follow these instructions to connect Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Outlook, Google G Suite or Gmail, or Apple iCloud calendar and email accounts with Alexa and setup your account for Alexa communications.
- Follow these instructions to implement Alexa Routines, a feature to link multiple actions, like work briefing and reading email, with a single command (e.g., “Alexa, good morning”).
These work-based features are powered by Alexa for Business. In addition to features available through the consumer Amazon Alexa experience, Alexa for Business enables your organization to enhance employee productivity in office shared spaces such as meeting rooms (i.e., “Alexa, join my meeting”, “Alexa, find me an available room”, “Alexa, contact the IT help desk”). To learn more about powering your meeting room experiences with Alexa for Business, you can check out this overview video or visit the Alexa for Business blog. You can also reach out directly to the Alexa for Business team with the contactus form.