I've long been a fan of voice assistants. Pre-pandemic, I set up my Amazon Alexa for simple tasks such as turning on the lights, waking me up in the morning, and reminding me to feed my dog. Now that I'm primarily working from home, my voice assistant has become critical for helping me stay productive during the workday. And I'm not the only one. According to Amazon, about 25 percent of U.S. households had at least one Alexa device as of 2020. 

Mostly I use mine for meeting reminders, but you can also use it to help manage your workload or put yourself on a schedule. Personally, as mentioned, I have an Alexa, but these commands and settings also work on other voice assistants, such as Google Home and Siri. If you're looking to level up your own WFH routines, here are a few tips:

Set meeting reminders.

Every morning when I check my calendar, I set reminders for meetings in advance. It's easy to lose track of time when you're working remotely, and you, like me, probably have additional distractions. I set mine to remind me 10 minutes before each meeting to give me time to catch up on what I may need to know before hopping on Zoom. 

If you want your voice assistant to serve up your calendar details automatically, then head into the Alexa app and go to "Settings" then "Calendar." There, you'll see the option to add calendar information from Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Once you're linked up, you can ask Alexa what's on the calendar, what appointments you have, or what's happening on a specific date.

Control your news feed.

If you're like me, you want to listen to the news while in the shower or making coffee. You can set your preferred news channels by asking your voice assistant "What's the news." For instance, when you say "Alexa, what's new?" or "Alexa, play my flash briefing," you'll be given a catch-up of information based on news and weather. You can also go into your settings and choose your favorite news networks to play automatically.

Make to-do lists.

When I have things that need to get done, to-do lists are a great way to keep track of projects. Instead of writing down notes, ask your voice assistant to add items to your virtual to-do list by simply saying "Alexa put newsletter write-up on my to-do list," for example. You can check back at any time by saying "Alexa what's on my to-do list." Once those tasks are completed, you can simply ask your assistant to take them off your list.

Read and send emails.

Once your voice assistant is connected to your email, which you can set up in "Settings," you can ask, "Alexa, do I have emails from Halie?" and your device will read any emails from people with that name. There are a couple caveats, though: Your device might not read emails that have been opened or are in your spam folder. You can also send emails by saying "Alexa respond to the email from Halie." But be warned, voice assistants may not translate your response accurately, so proceed with caution.

Set routines. 

Routines are the best feature voice assistants offer, in my humble opinion. You can assign a series of actions to a location or time so that you can ensure you do everything you need. My morning routine involves waking me up, reminding me to feed my dog, listening to the news, and then a countdown to my morning meeting every five minutes for 15 minutes before it starts. At night, my Alexa turns the lights off, sets the temperature in my apartment, and reminds me to turn off screens before bed. You can set reminders by opening your voice assistant app and selecting "Routines." There, you can add actions one after another.