For many self-employed workers and freelancers, working from home is part of the job so having to self-isolate because of coronavirus will barely have an impact on their working lives. For others though, working from home is a completely new and maybe even daunting prospect.
How do you stay focused with so many distractions in the house? How do you get into a ‘work’ mind-set when you’re surrounded by your home comforts? How do you keep in touch with your team and colleagues while you’re trapped at home?
Working away from an office can present a lot of challenges, but thankfully there are a growing number of apps and tools to help lessen the disruption and keep you productive while you work from home.
From video conference software to productivity apps, we’ve listed the best work from home apps and tools below:
The below lists include some of the most popular apps and services, but there are many others available. Further to this, please ensure you take the correct security measures when using any of the below apps and services.
The best video conferencing apps
Perhaps the biggest difference you’ll notice when you start working from home is the lack of social interaction and collaboration with your colleagues. The convenience of just shouting across the office when you need something becomes very apparent when you have to email or call someone instead.
As more workers move into freelancing and remote working, video conferencing is becoming the go-to method to connect teams – making sure they not only collaborate more effectively while working remotely, but also get that all-important social interaction.
Zoom offers both video and audio conferencing as well as webinar and chat features that can be used on mobiles, laptops, desktops and room systems.
The Zoom Meetings feature is ideal for team members to ‘get together’ while working from home, and it can support up to 1,000 people at any one time – making it great for webcasts for larger companies.
Your video meetings can be saved either locally or to the cloud, and can include transcripts that have searchable text. Team collaboration is also built-in as team members can share their screens and work directly on projects together during the video conference.
There’s also a team chat feature that allows for ongoing discussion and file sharing.
The free tier of Zoom’s packages is feature-rich and allows for up to 100 participants on a call, although there is a 40 minute limit on meetings on a free account.
All in all, Zoom is a great option for teams that are looking for a quick and easy video conferencing option that has all the basic features you need to catch-up and collaborate while working from home.
Find out more: https://zoom.us/
Google Hangouts Meet
Google’s video conferencing system, Hangouts Meet, is a reliable and easy-to-use option with a host of features to help your video meet-up go smoothly.
If you use any of Google’s other G-Suite solutions for business, such as Google Docs or Google Calendar, then you will find smooth integration of these into the Hangouts experience.
With the increased number of people working remotely due to the coronavirus outbreak, Google has made the premium ‘Meet’ version of Hangouts completely free until 1st July 2020 – which should make it a very attractive option for most businesses looking to try out different video conferencing platforms.
Find out more: https://gsuite.google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/products/meet/
This is the standalone video conferencing service provided by LogMeIn, and provides the usual audio and video conferencing capabilities as well as screensharing.
The main feature that sets GoToMeetings apart is the mobile usability – which includes setting up and starting a conference using just your smartphone – something a lot of others struggle with.
GoToMeetings also has one-tap invites to join meetings and chats, as well as settings to help you maximise the call and image quality.
It is available on both iOS and Android, and both apps have encouragingly high numbers of positive reviews.
Find out more: https://www.gotomeeting.com/en-gb
For businesses that already use Office 365, Microsoft Teams is a convenient and powerful solution that combines chat, video meetings, audio calls and Office apps such as Word and Excel into a single hub for teamwork and collaboration.
If you have Office 365 then you will already have access to Teams, but if not there is also a free version available. Last month Microsoft lifted the user limit restrictions on the free version, and also announced a six-month trial of Office 365 E1 for businesses that are not already licensed.
The best communications and messaging apps
When you’re working from home, you can miss the little interactions you have with a team or client. Those seemingly minor communications are actually essential to our working life, and hard to replace when you’re alone at home.
Although you might not be able to meet in person, there are several instant messaging apps you can all use to stay in touch.
Slack has become the ‘go to’ workplace communication tool, and has become a popular service for messaging, tools and file-sharing.
It was designed to replace emails, and it certainly helps to reduce the amount of emails sent back and forth between collaborators. You can communicate in three separate ways using Slack: channels (group chats), direct messages between individuals and video calls.
There is also an extensive, and ever-growing, library of apps that can connect with Slack, such as cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox etc.), video conferencing (Zoom, MS Teams, Google+ Hangouts etc.) project management (Trello, Todoist etc.) and much more.
Find out more: https://slack.com/intl/en-gb/
Telegram is often used as a simpler alternative to Slack, and provides instant messaging and VoIP (voice over IP) features.
It can be used via mobile or desktop apps, and is known for its privacy and speed. It is a great solution for more informal communications, rather than the heavy business use of Slack, so is particularly useful as a ‘work’ alternative to WhatsApp if you want to keep your business and personal messaging separate.
Find out more: https://telegram.org/
The video conferencing side of Skype has now largely been taken within Microsoft Teams, but the service remains a popular choice for messaging.
Skype has a lot of features, such as DM’s, channels, voice, and video calls, and has been a popular tool for many people that work from home in the past.
Find out more: https://www.skype.com/en/
Productivity and task management
Staying productive and ‘on task’ can be a challenge for those working from home. These tools and apps could be just what you need to help organise your day…
Monday.com is a powerful project management tool that helps you to delegate tasks and track the progress of your team.
It can be used as a simple to-do list and tracker for an individual freelancer, or to manage complex projects with multiple team members.
Monday has become a popular choice due to its flexibility, highly visual user interface (UI) and intuitive, user friendly dashboards.
Find out more: http://monday.com/
Another popular project management tool, Trello is a great choice for those who are new to organising their work and projects on an app. It doesn’t have such a visually appealing UI as Monday, but its drag-and-drop functionality is very easy to use.
Find out more: https://trello.com/
If all you need is a simple task management app that helps you manage your work quickly and effectively, then Todoist is a good choice.
It works very much like the to-do lists you might write in your notepad, with simple headings and notes for each task – rather than complex lists of subtasks and progress reports.
There are some limited collaboration features as well, so if you are a small team that just needs a place to share your list of outstanding tasks this could be all you need.
Find out more: https://todoist.com/
Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.
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