Over the last few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to change the way we live and work, with working from home becoming the norm for many of us. If you find yourself in uncharted territory, don’t worry. There are plenty of tools out there that can support you in your new home office, helping you to communicate, collaborate and boost your performance and well-being.
Video conferencing tools
With face-to-face contact no longer being an option, video conferencing tools allow you to carry on having meetings, conducting interviews and doing presentations. Popular ones include:
1. Zoom. It’s reasonably priced, easy to use and includes group collaboration tools such as whiteboarding and screen-shares. The basic version (which is free) puts a 40 minute limit on video calls with more than 3 people to encourage productivity.
2. Skype. Some of the most attractive features include conference recording, live subtitles and file sharing that’s as easy as drag-and-drop.
3. Google Meet. It’s similar to Google’s free video chat service Hangouts, but comes with added capabilities such as real-time captions and Google Calendar integration, making it easier to keep track of calls.
Team chat tools (live instant messaging)
Not every query or remark warrants a video call, which is where instant messaging tools come in. There are plenty of tools out there, including Microsoft Teams (available as part of Microsoft Office) and Workplace by Facebook, but perhaps the most popular one is Slack. The tool is best known for its incredible integration capabilities that enable one-to-one as well as group chats, team audio calls and video conferencing. What’s great is that you can create channels for various topics and then assign members to them to keep track of a certain task or project.
Time management & productivity tools
Managing your time effectively can be even more of a challenge when you’re working remotely. Thankfully there are plenty of tools to help, such as Trello. Fantastic for team collaboration, it allows you to organise tasks and track progress by creating so-called ‘cards’ for tasks which you can move across a virtual board (broken down into columns such as To Do, In Progress, Completed). Another helpful tool is Toggl, which helps you keep track of how much time you’re actually spending on tasks so you can manage your time more effectively. Lastly, try using 1Password to cut down on the time you spend retrieving passwords. It keeps them all encrypted on one database so you only have one password to remember.
Cloud storage & collaboration tools
It’s incredibly important that you have full access to all the files you need and you’re able to easily share files with others. Google Drive, OneDrive and iCloud are the most intuitive and user-friendly options for additional storage alongside Dropbox. Rather than downloading yet another piece of software or app though, see what options you have that are already integrated with the operating system (e.g. Microsoft or Apple) you use.
While productivity is a major concern when working from home, it’s just as important to ensure that your mental and physical health aren’t being neglected. Make sure you regularly exercise: free fitness apps such as FITON are perfect to tailor-make workouts according to the duration and intensity you prefer. Also ensure you get a good night’s sleep! Short breathing exercises or meditation apps like Calm or Breethe work wonders on your nervous system and ensure you’re even more productive the following day.
Ask yourself what you need to be as productive, happy and healthy as possible when working from home and make sure you seek out the support you need. The tools mentioned above offer a great starting point, but there are many more out there to help you with what you need and they’re often only a quick Google search away from being found!