With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise the world over, authorities across India have announced various ‘social distancing’ measures to keep the vast majority of the public safe. Malls, movie theatres, gyms, and more such public places have been ordered shut by various state governments across the country. Although private offices have not been given similar orders, many employers are taking similar steps to protect employees by asking their staff to work from home.
If you’re a corporate employee working in a typical office function, there’s a good chance that you can adjust to working from home during this critical time — with the right tools, of course.
You obviously need a good laptop/computer and reliable Internet connection to get started; once you have that, there are a few good tools and software that can keep you in contact with your team and keep your work flow going. Read on to find out how to keep your productivity high while working from home.
There are a number of work collaboration communication tools available for free, including Slack, Discord, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, and Basecamp. All of these are also available with paid plans, but offer basic free packages with some limitations that might not be a problem for most users.
Our top picks – Slack and Hangouts: Our personal favourite and the software we at Gadgets 360 use for communications ourselves, Slack is among the most popular work collaboration tools around today. While it typically helps co-workers across different locations collaborate effectively, it will come in particularly handy with every individual member of the team is in a separate location.
Slack lets you have individual chats with co-workers, create groups for particular sections or topics within your team, and also maintain message history. The free version has limitations in terms of searchable message history and the number of apps you can link to your Slack team. Despite this, it’s a functional, feature-filled option to ensure that you stay online and connected even away from the office.
Google Hangouts, on the other hand, is an underrated tool that has seen something of a comeback in recent months. While originally an instant messaging tool, Hangouts can now be used for not just text messages but also for group video calls. Users can effectively switch between participants, quickly turn off and on audio and video for ease of communication, and have largely seamless conversations remotely.
Google also has a business solution based on Hangouts called Google Meet, which integrates with your work calendar to automatically show your meetings, and allows you to easily share your screen in case you want to show a colleague detailed steps to do something.
Alternatives: While Slack is our favourite work collaboration tool, other options such as Discord, Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, and Basecamp are also widely used for collaboration and workplace communications. All of these have free tiers that have functional limitations; at this time, they might serve well enough to enable companies and teams to transition to working from home.
For work lists and projects
Nothing helps in keeping track of your tasks like a to-do list. There are a number of tools that let you keep lists or work logs, which can be shared with team members so everyone has visibility of the tasks at hand.
Our top picks – Trello and Google Keep: Both of these tools are also used by us extensively at Gadgets 360. Trello allows us to manage particular projects, keep track of them through the processes, and add comments or collaborators on these where necessary. Trello’s visual interface, and drag-and-drop functionality helps make project management easier.
Google Keep, on the other hand, lets us create specific lists, take notes with pictures and audio clips, and share them with co-workers when needed. Although Google Keep is best used individually, the ability to share lists and clips makes this a versatile tool for ease of communication.
Alternatives: Apps and tools such as Zoho, Paymo, and Asana also let small teams manage projects effectively. By using these, co-workers can stay in touch with progress on specific projects without necessarily sending out alerts every time there is a status update; thereby helping productivity.
Now, let’s get to the actual work. If you’re in a corporate role, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to work with documents, worksheets, and presentations. While traditionally these functions have been covered by software packages, a new breed of tools rely on the cloud and work even through browsers, all for free.
Our top picks – Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Drive: Whatever you need to do, Google has a tool for it. Google’s suite lets you work on worksheets, written documents, presentations, and more directly using a browser. These files can be saved to offline versions if needed, but are ordinarily saved on the cloud, and linked to your Google account. You can then share them with specific users, or create shareable links that can be accessed by anyone.
Google Drive links all of these other Google apps, but also lets you share large files such as videos or image albums. These are stored on the cloud, and Google gives a modest 15GB of cloud storage per account for free. Other tools such as Google Photos might typically be used for personal use, but is a similarly effective way of sharing images and videos with others.
Alternatives: Similar to Google’s productivity suite, Microsoft also has its Office Online suite, which is considered by many to be superior. The familiarity of Microsoft’s suite to traditional desktop apps such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint make this an excellent alternative. Zoho Docs also offers a similar level of quality.
While our recommendations above are mainstream and designed for workflow, a lot of users have been exploring options that aren’t exactly conventional. We’ve heard of many people using games such as Minecraft and World of Warcraft to communicate, since these games are known to be able to handle communications from a large number of users simultaneously.
And finally, maybe you can just pick up the phone. Telecom service providers in India offer free calls across networks in India, and perhaps this this strange time of remoteness will remind us what our phones were always meant to do.