Mobile app stores are full of potential time wasters and productivity killers. But developers also offer many options that can change wasted time into productivity boosters and hours of learning. That ninety-nine cents you're thinking about spending on a game could be put towards your Elevate subscription, instead. Here are some of the best apps available to use the powers of your phone for good and not evil.

Elevate

How trustworthy is a game that claims to improve your focus, writing, reading, speaking and memory? It turns out, Elevate's greatest feature is tricking you into thinking you're playing games while it quietly sharpens your mind. An intro quiz tells Elevate a bit about your proficiency in its five skill types and assigns you a starting Elevate Proficiency Quotient (EPQ), the app's scoring system. Then it starts a lesson—er, game—and suddenly you're exercising your brain.


The app allows three games per day for free, or unlimited access for a subscription fee. Its animations are shiny and crisp and its games are just challenging enough. Learn to write concisely, read more quickly and retain more of what you hear simply by playing its games for a few minutes each day. How much easier can learning be?

Download Elevate on iOS and Google Play.

Duolingo

Duolingo is the king of language-learning apps on mobile. It has come a long way since its introduction in 2011, adding languages, features, conversation bots and, recently, ads. Despite its in-app purchases, the app remains fully functional for free, with in-app purchases unlocking offline lessons, refilling "health" and removing ads.

Learn Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Vietnamese—even Esperanto. There are twenty-three languages available for English speakers and the app also offers language learning to natives speakers of twenty-two other languages. Through brief, colorful and fun lessons, Duolingo teaches a language in small steps and rewards completion with streaks, points and challenges. Download its iOS companion app, Tinycards, for an equally simple and colorful flashcards app. Or, for a more powerful flashcards app and study assistant, try StudyBlue.

Download Duolingo on iOS, Google Play and Windows Phone.


Coursera/iTunes U

Coursera collects online college classes from real universities and allows you to take them on your mobile device. Instead of browsing Facebook on your phone in a classroom, you're taking a class on your phone. Try a finance class from Columbia University or history class from Universitat de Barcelona. Many of the courses offer a certificate of completion. These are often about $50/month but some allow you to audit or take the course without receiving a certificate.

Another massive resource for iOS devices is Apple's own iTunes U. Free collections from Stanford, Ohio State, Oxford, Harvard, Yale and others make this a nearly unrivaled learning resource. Coursera wins for its classroom-like experience, but iTunes U exceeds it in content.

Download Coursera on iOS and Google Play.


Py (or Swift Playgrounds)

Coding is quickly becoming one of the most practical and important skills to learn. It is also one of the more daunting, equal to learning a language and understanding its real-world applications simultaneously. Py, free on iOS and Google Play, aims to teach coding to people with no prior experience through simple, focused lessons. Learn Swift, Python, JavaScript, C++ and various other coding languages. Py offers about half of each beginner lesson for free before requiring a $10/month subscription to unlock the rest.

That free introduction might be just enough to remove the fear of a beginner and send them on their way to more advanced coding lessons.

Download Py on iOS and Google Play.


Audible

Amazon's audiobook library is another learning resource that hides in plain sight. Its top sellers might be dominated by Stephen King and George R. R. Martin, but Audible is full of important nonfiction (and don't underestimate how much you can learn from fiction). Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh and Marcus Aurelius's Meditations all find spots on Audible's nonfiction bestsellers list. Hear from the Dalai Lama and follow him with Ta-Nehisi Coates on your way back from the grocery store.

Audible means reading on the commute isn't only for rides of public transport. And twenty minutes on the treadmill can also be twenty minutes with David Grann's new book. Audible also features "Channels" geared toward specific topics and subjects. From The Great Courses lectures to the latest TED Talks, Audible makes learning as easy as wearing headphones.

Download Audible on iOS, Google Play and Windows Phone.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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