As the UK enters its third week of ‘lockdown’ – many of us are slowly becoming more accustomed to the idea of remote working being our new normal. However, for some, this radical change to our daily routines and office set-up has played havoc with our efficiency.

As an IT firm, we’re naturally huge advocates of the way technology and software can improve and streamline processes and productivity – so, if you’re still struggling to know the difference between your Zoom call and Google Hangout, we’ve got you covered.

Here are some of the best (free) tools available right now, which could play a little role in making your transition to the home office a bit less stressful.

Best video conferencing tools when working from home

With the kibosh firmly on face-to-face meetings, video calling now means much more than a Sunday afternoon FaceTime with your family dog. These virtual gatherings can host plenty of people and offer a great way to keep in touch with colleagues and clients. With plenty to choose from, here are some of the key players:

Zoom has seen a huge upsurge in users as a result of COVID-19, and the free option allows up to 100 people to join a meeting – which is more than enough for most business conversations. However, meetings of three people or more are limited to 40 minutes – so you need to cut the waffle.

Microsoft Teams is our own ‘go-to’ here at Q2Q, and we’ve been using this platform since its release. It comes as part of Office 365, but there is a trial version which is free for the first six months (as a reaction to COVID-19). Up to 250 participants can join a single meeting – but you can only see four people at once, with the stream switching based on who’s talking.

Skype is probably the most recognised video conferencing tool – and doubles up as a great internal chatroom too. While it’s previously been associated with long-distance calls to friends and family, its ability to support up to 50 people on any one call means it’s great for company use too.

Google Hangouts comes as part of your Google account, and is one that is often overlooked in favour of the aforementioned ‘big three’. However, as most people have a Gmail account – or Google business set-up – it’s worth considering. It integrates well with other Google products such as Calendar and Docs – plus, there’s the option to record and save meetings to Google Drive.

Top remote working tools for keeping in touch

Connecting to a video chatroom for eight hours per day would undoubtedly sap your broadband limits dry. But there are other ways to stay connected and chat as you would in the office – without cluttering up your inbox.

Work collaboration tools and instant messaging software is a great way to ensure you don’t lose touch – and enable you to quickly see where projects ate up to. Slack, Discord, Workplace by Facebook, Asana and Basecamp each offer basic, free packages to get you started.

Slack is by far one of the most popular work collaboration tools around today. It’s been helping co-workers across different locations to keep in touch for years, thanks to its functionality which offers private chats with colleagues, as well as separate ‘channels’ for specific project – or ‘water cooler’ – conversations.

Asana meanwhile, is a great way of keeping teams updated with the status of work and projects. Similar to Trello and Google Keep, these digital tools allow you to keep tack of your ‘to-do’ list, while providing visibility to others involved in its delivery. A visual interface, kitsch pop-ups when a task is progressed, and a handy drag-and-drop functionality bolsters productivity, clarity and project management.

One Note forms part of the 365 subscription and is great as a general notebook for ideas – which can also be shared with the teams or third parties when required. It supports a history and, as most of it is plain text, it has a simple and responsive offline mode with changes getting pushed as additional internet bandwidth becomes available – such as when Netflix or Spotify is paused by the children!

How to be productive when remote working

When it comes to actual work, a home office can provide a plethora of excuses to procrastinate. From feeding the cat to struggling with server access – these hurdles will often need to be overcome well in advance of the working day.

Cue: Google everything. We don’t mean, physically ‘Google it’ we mean Google Sheets, Docs, and Drive. This cloud-based suite of tools lets you work on whatever you need to – worksheets, documents and even presentations – directly from your browser.

Google Drive is the glue which links all of these applications together, and it also lets you upload, store and share large image and video files too. In fact, Google will give you the first 15GB of cloud storage, per account, for free – with add-ons available for those needing a little more space.

As always, if you want to find out more about how we can support your remote working set-up, or you just fancy a chat, get in touch with the team via [email protected] or Tweet us!

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