Smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa, the Apple HomePod, and Google Home have always been more confined to home environments where they let you control various things such as temperature via your smart thermostats, smart lights, control music, and even help in the kitchen. However, Alexa can be used in a variety of environments and here we will show you 9 ways you could use Alexa in the office.
In fact, given the growth of recent spike in virtual assistants such as Alexa, I could bet you that these companies want their devices to be everywhere –omnipresent even. Shortly, you can expect to see Alexa in smart glasses, watches, cars, and Windows PCs among other devices.
One place we haven’t heard smart speakers being mentioned a lot is in our offices, and these are actually the areas where one could really use an ‘Assistant.’ Below are some reasons why you should grab an Amazon Echo on Amazon and put it into work in the office.
However, before you rush to use Alexa in the office…
One of the chief concerns with smart speaker usage, even in our homes, is privacy and if care is not taken, you could end up opening personal details about your life such as schedules, Amazon shopping carts, content consumed and other details to any person nearby.
If you plan to use your Amazon Echo in the Office, be sure to enable a security pin and disable features such as voice shopping. Another cool idea to avoid people from interfering with your smart speaker is to set up a voice profile such that Alexa only recognizes your voice….
Despite all these measures, anyone within earshot will most likely hear you talking to Alexa so always operate on the assumption that your private information is in public. With that in mind, let’s get down to the 9 great ways you can use Alexa in the office.
1. Creating a shopping list.
While we have recommended that your turn off vice shopping when using your Alexa smart speaker if you have privacy concerns, you can still create and manage lists for items, you’ll buy later at your local store. By default, Alexa has an inbuilt to-do list and a shopping list. However, you can add more lists by opening and the Alexa App and navigate to Lists, or head over to alexa.amazon.com.
After creating the list, you can add shopping items to the list by using a command such as, “Alexa, add milk to my grocery list” or “Alexa, I need to buy some deodorant.” In fact, Alexa is so smart that she can fill in the blanks and add items to the correct list. For instance, commands about getting milk, eggs, bread, and cereal will be added to the grocery shopping list, while a command such as “Alexa, I need to make an appointment with my lawyer” will be added to a to-do list — which takes us to the next point…
2. Creating a to-do list.
You can use Alexa to manage your to-do list at work and easily track important stuff and tasks such as meetings and appointments. In fact, one can use the inbuilt task list manager in Alexa or sync with third-party services such as Anylist, Todoist, Cozi Lists and Any.do.
To connect one of these third-party list managers with Alexa, open the Alexa App or go to alexa.amazon.com on your browser and navigate to Settings > List. Select Get Skill on the right side of your chosen task list manager and select Enable. Login to your task-list manager and authorize the connection to Alexa.
The commands you use to manage to-do lists are pretty much the same as those used for your shopping list and calendar. For example, you could say, “Alexa, add ’go to the pharmacy’ to my to-do list,” or “Alexa, remind me what’s on my to-do list today.
3. Add events, meetings, and appointments to your calendar.
This is perhaps the most relevant use of Alexa in the office since it helps you manage work tasks such as meetings, deadlines, and appointments. You can add a calendar to Alexa using the App or go to alexa.amazon.com then navigate to Settings>Calendar. The next step is to select your calendar provider such as Office 365, Outlook, iCloud, G-Suite or Google Calendar.
After selecting your calendar of choice, you will be prompted to sign in and authorize the connection. After your calendar has been added successfully, you can issue commands such as, “Alexa, add a meeting to my calendar at 10 am tomorrow.
If you need to request Alexa for the calendar entries for a particular day, you can say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” Or you can say, “Alexa, do I have a meeting or appointment today?”, or “Alexa, what’s on my calendar on Friday at noon?”
4. Ordering office supplies.
If you prefer to shop directly instead of making lists, you can add items directly to your Amazon cart. However, for this task, you must enable the voice shopping feature. You can then issue commands such as, “Alexa, add three reams of printing paper to my cart.” Alexa will then walk you through some of the top search results for the item you have requested while mentioning prices and then ask the particular brand/type/choice of printing paper you wish to add.
To complete the order purchase after adding items to your Amazon cart with Alexa, just proceed to Amazon.com or use the Amazon App on your phone, confirm your shopping cart is okay and checkout as you normally would. However, if you want to purchase a single item quickly, you can skip the ‘cart business’ and say, “Alexa, please reorder printing paper.”
Again, as a precaution, with voice shopping enabled, anyone around your smart speaker can order stuff. Additionally, even if you have secured voice shopping with a PIN code, anyone around who hears you speak the PIN can access your Amazon account via Alexa. With that in mind, the safest bet is to set up a voice profile and train Alexa to recognize your voice, and after you say the secure PIN once, Alexa will no longer require a PIN when a command is issued with the recognized voice. Even then, the safest bet in an office environment is just to add items to your cart and check out using the Amazon App or website.
5. Playing audiobooks and podcasts…
If you like listening to inspirational and informational content on audiobooks and podcasts as you work, then you’re going to love Alexa as your office buddy. For audiobooks, Alexa uses Amazon’s native audiobook streaming service, Audible. Since the Audible account is linked to your Amazon account by default, you can listen to as many audiobooks as you own. Alexa can also read some compatible Kindle e-books that you own. Just say, “Alexa, read [insert book name],” or “Alexa, read an audiobook.”
For podcasts, Alexa supports Spotify and TuneIn out of the box, and you can use these to stream your favorite podcasts. Additionally, you can also enable Stitcher and AnyPod skills to increase your podcasts variety.
6. Listen to ambient focus music or relaxing noises.
Sometimes one needs to listen to ambient focus music and noises such as waterfalls, birds chirping, and Enya albums to give you a calm and relaxing work environment. For this, Alexa supports a variety of music streaming services such as its own Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and others. Alexa smart speakers also act as Bluetooth speakers, meaning you can stream music from virtually any Bluetooth enabled source such as your smartphone or computer.
Ambient noise such as thunderstorm sounds and waterfalls can be streamed via services such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and a variety of other third-party music skills.
7. Set reminders, timers, and alarms.
Just like shopping and to-do lists, you can also set timers, alarms, and reminders using Alexa to remind you of close deadlines, break times, etc. Just say, “Alexa, set the alarm for 1 pm”, or, “Alexa, remind me to call Mike’s school at 11 am”, or “Alexa, set a timer for 1 hour”. These timing features help you stay focused in the office and take much-needed breaks just in case you forget it’s lunch.
8. Ordering an Uber or Lyft cab ride.
If you do not drive and use on-demand cab services such as Uber and Lyft, you can use Alexa to order your ride. To use the Uber Skill on Alexa, simply start by setting the location of your Amazon Echo smart speaker in the “Settings” section of the Alexa App. The next step is to navigate to the Skills section in the app, enable the Uber skill, then proceed to login and authorize Alexa to connect to your Uber account. If it is your first time using Uber, then you can apply the promo code 15Alexa to get $15 off your first Alexa-ordered Uber ride [The offer applies only to first-time Uber users]. You can then use commands like, “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride,” or “Alexa, ask Uber to request an Uber X,” or “Alexa, ask Uber where’s my ride.”
The same linking process applies for Lyft where you navigate to the Skills section on the Alexa App, select the Lyft skill and login to authorize your Lyft Account. Lyft uses the default Home and Work addresses specified in the Lyft App. Therefore, you have to set these locations correctly since the Lyft skill for Alexa will always send the Lyft car to your Lyft ‘Home’ or ’Work’ address depending on where the Echo device you’re using is located. Once you have linked Lyft with Alexa, you can use commands such as, “Alexa, ask Lyft where my ride is,” or “Alexa, tell Lyft to rate my driver 5 stars”, or “Alexa, ask Lyft how long getting a line to work will take.”
9. Controlling Your Connected Office Vacuum Robot.
If you have a small office where you run things yourself such that you do not need to hire office cleaners, then you can get yourself an Alexa-compatible smart navigating robot vacuum such as the Neato Robotics Botvac D5. These connected robots offered by Neato, iRobot, ECOVACS, and Samsung allow you to deploy the vacuum bots via the Amazon Echo. This is especially useful if you work till the odd hours since you can simply instruct the vacuum robot to start cleaning after you walk out or at a certain time before you come in.