The best podcasts to listen to in lockdown

From the skill expanding to the escapist, here’s our pick of the podcasts to get you through the pandemic

We don’t know about you but we’re at the stage of working from home where we’re beginning to miss the hubbub of the office. Sure the peace and quiet was nice to start with – and you’re certainly getting more done now Keith from IT isn’t popping over for a chat every 10 minutes – but the silence of your flat is also starting to feel a little oppressive. Step in your new favourite podcast.

If your previous podcast listening habits extended only as far as bit of This American Life or Desert Island Discs on your commute, it’s time to expand your horizons – because there are shows catering to just about every interest and industry. They’re also a great way to stay informed if you can’t face falling down yet another BBC News rabbit hole. So, whether you’re looking to keep your business skills sharp, work on your new lockdown hobby or just stay up-to-date without being overwhelmed, here is our pick of the podcasts to listen to during lockdown.

Best for news: Today In Focus

This daily current affairs podcast from the Guardian is designed to deliver the most important news of the day, while also providing expert analysis and personal storytelling to offer a deeper insight into the headlines. Presented by Anushka Asthana, each Today in Focus episode runs for around 25 minutes so put it on while you’re getting ready in the morning to step into your day well informed. Recent episodes have included investigations into the effects of Covid-19 on mental health and a deep dive into the committee guiding the UK’s coronavirus response.

Start with: The most recent episode – this is news after all

Best for getting a world view: The Daily

A similar format to Today in Focus, but this time coming courtesy of The New York Times, The Daily is one of the most widely listened to news podcasts in the world – reaching over 2 million people every day. The focus is, of course, largely on America but presenter Michael Barbaro is careful to put each story into a wider global context making it an interesting listen regardless of where you live. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily has also begun releasing non-pandemic related weekend episodes offering audio versions of some the newspaper’s most popular (and usually paywalled) articles.

Start with: Again, it’s a news podcast so the latest one will always be a good bet. For a non-coronavirus classic episode, however, we recommend The Woman Defending Harvey Weinstein – an explosive interview between Weinstein’s lawyer Donna Rotunno and Megan Twohey, one of the journalists who sparked the #MeToo movement.

Best for navigating working from home: Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat

Hosted by former Twitter Vice President Bruce Daisley, this popular business podcast dives deep into all the seemingly insignificant aspects that can make or break a work place. Focusing, in its own words, on ‘science and experts, over gurus and opinions’, each episode of Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat examines new ideas, methods of working and work place research to see if they really could improve our lives. Can you be more productive in a four-day week? Can psychology help you get along with your irritating colleagues? And, most importantly now, what can we learn from the coronavirus pandemic to make work better in the future?

Start with: Why Should Anyone Listen To You? An insightful interview with communications expert Stephen Martin on the complexities of making yourself heard in the workplace and the small things you can do to influence decision-making and gain credibility.

Best for business insights: Business Wars

There are fascinating stories behind some of the world’s biggest businesses and, while all founders might want you to think their success came through sheer hard work and talent, sometimes the real driving force is beating a competitor. Business Wars takes a look at some of history’s biggest corporate rivalries – and how they shaped what we buy and how we live now.

Start with: Coke vs Pepsi. Told across seven episodes, this compelling series charts every twist and turn that made two soft drinks pioneers into dominant forces – and bitter enemies.

Best for business inspiration: Gentleman's Journal Podcast

Looking for an interview series you can actually learn something from? We’re more than happy to oblige. Released fortnightly, the Gentleman’s Journal Podcast features some of the biggest names in international business, delving into their successes, failures and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Spanning a huge range of industries, past guests have included designer Paul Smith, Dragons Den’s Tej Lalvani and GoPro founder Nick Woodman.

Start with: How to Reinvent Yourself. Featuring an interview with No. 1 Rosemary Water founder David Spencer-Percival, his story – which includes a life changing encounter in a car park and selling all his worldly possessions – is true inspiration for any aspiring entrepreneur.

Best for escapism: Phoebe Reads a Mystery

What could be more soothing after a long day of work (read: panicking about a global health disaster) than having the gentle tones of host Phoebe Judge read you a classic mystery novel? Very little, that’s what. The podcast equivalent of a long, hot bath, Judge has so far offered up Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and Wilkie Collins The Moonstone with a new chapter arriving in your feed each day. Sit back and let yourself get wrapped up in these literary classics.

Start with: Whichever novel you haven’t already read – they’re all brilliant.

Best for finding your next TV obsession: What To Watch on Netflix

Pretty much does what it says on the tin. This podcast is produced by Netflix itself but offers up far more than overheated praise for the streaming service’s overflowing bounty of original content. Expect interviews with actors, directors and producers from whatever’s gone viral this month – Ricky Gervais, Julian Fellowes and Alexa Chung have all appeared – plus a guide to the best new content and some hidden gems you’d probably never have discovered by yourself.

Start with: Sir David Attenborough Speaks! Always considered the ‘behind-the-scenes’ segment at the end of every nature documentary to be the best bit? This is 40 minutes of that.

Best for light relief: The Fake Heiress

Part radio drama, part documentary, this series from the BBC tells the story of Anna Delvey, the Russian con-artist who scammed friends, hotels and even banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars while posing as a German heiress. Her story came to light via a viral Vanity Fair article written by one of her victims, sparking a media frenzy that lasted right up until her perfectly coiffed, personally styled trial last year. Fake Heiress is an utterly compelling look into the life of someone who really does not know when to stop.

Start with: Episode one. Trust us, you won’t want to miss a minute of this story.

Best for a sporting fix: Beyond The Grid

If, like most sports fans, you’re sorely missing your regular dose of live action, you’ll be pleased to know there are podcasts catering to almost every sporting pursuit you can imagine. If your poison is Formula One, then you can’t go far wrong with F1’s official podcast Beyond The Grid. Delivered weekly, each episode offers personal insights from some of F1’s most legendary figures, both current and retired. Notable recent guests have included Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, commentator Murray Walker and David Coulthard.

Start with: Bernie Ecclestone – because where better to begin than right at the top?

Best for expanding your culinary horizons: The Sporkful

Been sharpening your basic kitchen skills while in lockdown? Then it’s time to put your new found talents to the test. The Sporkful proclaims ‘it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters’ and, as such, no culinary horizon is out of bounds. Recent episodes have seen host Dan Pashman look into everything from the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie recipes to the risks of eating in public as a politician and what the recipes of Georgia O’Keefe say about the great female artist. If you have even the slightest interest in food, you’ll find much to enjoy here.

Start with: The Great Data-Driven Restaurant Makeover. An experiment into whether a purely numbers-driven layout can help a restaurant make more money might not sound like great radio but we guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Looking for something more specific? Here are the best culture podcasts to download now…

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