With more news each day of the COVID-19 pandemic (more commonly known as the coronavirus) continuing to spread throughout the world many companies and organizations have turned to online events, briefings and meetings rather than risk travel and large in-person gatherings. As the problem continues businesses are taking further steps and looking for ways to allow their employees and teams to work from home to avoid the coronavirus and collaborate remotely to protect their health. This has led to a huge increase in demand for affordable video conferencing solutions and other collaboration tools.
In this blog post, we’ll share some tools you can use to bring your team together while apart! Many of these companies have free options or are offering extended free use to help companies through the current epidemic.
Remote Meetings and Screen Sharing:
There are a variety of solutions to provide remote meetings and screen sharing however Microsoft Teams and Zoom are two we highly recommend and both have free options if you want to try them out or have limited needs.
Microsoft Teams is a great solution to keep your team connected and collaborating while apart. This easy to use solution provides features like chat, file sharing, and video calling all in one interface. They have a free option with some limitations but if your office already uses Office 365 you can use the more full-featured versions. You can even run online audio and video meetings and share your computer screen so everyone is on the same page.
For more information visit https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/group-chat-software
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing meeting solutions and is used in a conference, huddle, and training rooms as well as executive offices and classrooms. They also offer a free plan that allows you to host unlimited 1-to-1 meetings and have up to 100 participants in group meetings but it limits those group meetings to 40 mins. They have various levels of paid plans depending on the number of participants you would like to host and the features you are looking for. Much like having meetings through Teams you can share your screen and have everyone connected via audio and video.
For more information visit https://zoom.us/
Online File Sharing:
Other than meeting with coworkers another important element of working remotely is having access to important company documents and finding a way to collaborate on those documents together. OneDrive and Dropbox are two excellent options that allow you a simple way to store, sync and share files of any type. Not only can you access them from your PC or laptop but also any phone or tablet.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s storage service for hosting files in the “cloud”. It’s another tool you already have if you or your company have an Office365 subscription. There is a free version available as well to anyone with a Microsoft Account with a generous 5 GB of space. Office 365 users get a lot more space.
For more information visit https://products.office.com/en-us/onedrive/online-cloud-storage
Very similar to OneDrive, Dropbox is an excellent solution to store, share and sync files across just about any type of device. Their basic individual plan is free and provides 2 GB of space. For companies, Dropbox Business is the way to go.
For more information visit https://www.dropbox.com/
Collaborate with Office 365
Now that you can meet together and you have your files online you can work together on documents with coworkers. O365 Collaboration has some great features that allow you and your team to edit and comment on documents together in real-time. You can comment on files and see others as they are making changes to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. Microsoft has a great page with tips and videos to help you get started that you can find here https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Collaborate-with-Office-365-ac05a41e-0b49-4420-9ebc-190ee4e744f4
A big question for companies that are asking their employees to work from home is how to handle phone calls. While most people have cellphones, that doesn’t answer the questions of how to handle calls into the main business phone number, how to transfer calls, and how to prevent clients and customers from getting your cellphone number being that most business phone numbers have Caller ID.
With a cloud-based PBX VoIP phone system (like the one we provide at Highbridge Communications) your phone system is a powerful and flexible business communication tool that can weather any storm or business interruption. If employees need to work from home they have many options. They can simply bring their desk phone home, plug it into any internet connection and the phone will work just like it does in the office. This includes 3-digit dialing of extensions, ringing as part of a ring group for incoming calls, and calling out shows the office Caller ID. This allows an entire company to work from home but to seamlessly be connected as though they were in one office.
If you don’t want to bring your office phone home you can also make and receive calls using a desktop app on a laptop or computer or use the smartphone app. All act just like your desk phone and make your cellphone or computer just another extension of your office phone system.
While we all hope the coronavirus won’t continue to spread and it can be contained it appears it is becoming a major health event. Smart businesses are making sure they have a contingency plan in place to help their business and teams work form home, stay productive and avoid a serious disruption of their operations.
Luckily most companies have already started to embrace the practice of working outside the office and have many of these digital tools in place to support web conferencing, remote collaboration, and handling phone calls regardless of location.
If you would like more information on how to get set up with a flexible cloud-based VoIP system, how to get started with Office 365, or how to use the remote collaboration tools we mentioned above visit us at www.garamgroup.com or give us a call at 315-473-9600. The Garam Group is our sister company and we can help you with all your technology needs and get you and your team set up to work from home!