Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll be very aware of the current COVID-19 situation, but maybe not so aware of what it means for you and your job or business. Many of us will find ourselves working from home in the coming weeks, which may bring even more challenges to our lifestyle. Working as a team can be particularly difficult from a remote location, so here’s our list of 6 free tools that could really benefit you and your work from home. Whilst most tools here have paid tiers that may be much more beneficial to you, they all offer a free tier that may be equally useful depending on your needs.
Google Hangouts, formerly a part of Google+, became a standalone service in 2013 falling under the G Suite package. Its primary function is video conferencing, allowing you to video call with colleagues and clients in groups of up to 25 people (10 with free tier). It enables you to share screens in the call which can make it easy to present and discuss work. Another beneficial feature is that it allows users to call into the meeting via any phone (via Google Meet – an alternative variation of Hangouts) meaning it can be accessed from basically anywhere. Very useful for anyone looking for a free, simple way to keep in touch remotely.
Being able to share and edit documents is often a key process for any business, which can be made very awkward when physical presence isn’t an option. Google Drive, another member of the G Suite package, helps you do just that, no matter where in the world you are. It offers an easy to use storage solution by allowing you to store up to 30TB for personal use and unlimited storage for businesses (free tiers allow 15GB personal use or 30GB for business use). The beauty of Google Drive, especially when used within a business, is that multiple people can access everything they need from anywhere, enabling your team to collaborate and access any important resources, making working remotely a breeze.
Google Docs, Sheets & Slides
Another feature of G Suite – these tools work hand in hand with Google Drive and offer a free remote alternative to the popular Microsoft Office programs; Word, Excel & PowerPoint. These programs are often taken for granted in the workplace however are commonly relied on for even simple tasks. When working from home many people may not have access to Microsoft Office without buying a new license, potentially costing them or their company a significant amount of money, especially unnecessary given the current situation. Google’s alternative means people can use very similar programs without the cost (and with many added benefits), ideal for sporadic users. Because these are web based they require no download and can be used anywhere at any time (provided you have a Google account). The biggest benefit, especially while working remotely, is that multiple people can edit documents and work in real time and add comments, making it super easy to collaborate whilst you’re away from any colleagues.
Asana is a tool dedicated to managing jobs and almost acts as a virtual ‘to-do’ list, where you can add jobs and mark tasks complete once you’ve done so. It’s useful for working remotely because teams can assign each other jobs and monitor when people have completed certain tasks. Asana is particularly useful because of its organisation, giving the user the ability to filter things like specific clients, due dates, or even identify tasks that are essential to enable another task to be completed. Users can also add a lot of detailed information to a task such as how much time was spent on it or add any additional notes. Higher tier price plans also offer the ability to view a breakdown of people’s workloads as well as offering integration into external tools like Adobe Creative Cloud or Microsoft’s PowerBI.
Slack is designed to replace internal emails by offering a messaging tool for businesses. It operates almost like an internal social media platform whereby you can create groups dedicated to certain topics; for example, teams working on different jobs, or different departments in a business. Within each group members can post messages and files, respond to others and even make group calls to talk face to face. This tool can also integrate with things like Google Drive (mentioned previously) to make sharing files more streamlined, and also offers its own storage space which is, however, very limited on the free tier (5GB). Paid tiers offer much more storage as well as more integration possibilities and even allow interaction with other organisations and individuals.
Another handy conferencing tool worth noting is Zoom, dedicated to hosting high definition online webinars and conference calls of up to 1000 people with the right price plan. It works by creating meeting rooms only reachable via a link that the host will send out to attendees. Zoom brings many useful features such as sharing screens, breakout rooms, collaborative ‘whiteboarding’ and even lets users record MP4 video and that’s just on the free tier. It is worth noting that calls in the free version have a maximum time limit of 40 minutes however there is no limit to how many can be made. The higher tiers feature a lot of integration, storage and email features for anyone looking for a more complete service. Also handily only the host needs to pay to unlock the 40 minute time limit!