Social Distancing: WFH Edition

The New Normal

By now, most of us have found a new normal in the midst of this global pandemic. One word that can describe it best is likely, weird. Weird in a good way, weird in a bad way, weird in a way that we just have never experienced before. The weirdest part is, we’ve all found that work can happen almost anywhere. Technology has brought us to a place where social distancing is more achievable than we ever imagined it could be. We’ve all seen the meme, or a version of it, that pokes at meetings that could have been emails, or calls for that matter. It’s true, so much time is wasted in travel, getting to your destination or someone coming to you, bathroom trips, water fill ups, coffee brewing. What if we told you that meetings could be scheduled and not interrupt your, or others', day? Hopping on your computer at the exact time of the meeting, and jumping back into work as soon as it is done. Not wasting time before and after with all the small details that aren’t necessary. Can that be real? Well, the last few weeks/month has proven that it can be. Our office has been social distancing for a couple of weeks now and we’ve learned a lot during this time about what works for us and what isn’t our favorite (or what isn’t our wallet’s favorite). So, we’ve decided to share what has been working for us, and we hope it can help you too.

Keeping it Personal

We’re all human. Regardless of whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, or maybe even a little bit of both, human interaction keeps us going. There are things we all miss during isolation/quarantine/social distancing, there are things we don’t miss at all. Maybe you don’t get to see your family, but you get to miss out on that grumpy coworker (if you’re thinking, ‘hm, we don’t have one of those’, it’s probably you). You don’t get that fun night out with your friends, or perhaps you were planning on canceling anyways? We don’t judge you either way, but we understand that you still need to see, talk to, and hear other people to survive. While you might not be ‘in the flesh’, so to speak, there are some really awesome options out there to stay in touch. Put your eyes on those you’re really worried about, look someone in the eye during a meeting, read facial expressions, all of the things that make human interaction exactly what it is. There is something about being able to see someone that just makes it, well, real.

With the idea of that personal touch, video conferencing quickly became more of a thing than it was before. Here are some platforms out there available for use.

Zoom

If you haven't heard of it yet, sorry, we don’t know what to tell you. Our grandparents are using it to keep in touch with us. Our parents are using it to see their grandkids and make sure that we’re showering and eating regularly (or maybe not so regularly, we see you quarantine dessert warriors, no shame in that game). And more than likely, our bosses are using it to make sure that we are getting things done. There is something about a video call that holds you more accountable and makes you feel some sense of normalcy. Check it out for free, today!

  • Video conferencing with a messaging feature
  • Ability to share computer screen
  • Free for 40 minutes, up to 100 people
  • $14.99/mo. per host to $19.99/mo. per host
  • Depending on package, can include from 100 up to 1,000 participants
  • Ability to save meetings and chats to cloud storage

Learn more about Zoom packages available.

Google Hangouts

If you’re a G Suite user, you’re likely already familiar with this platform as well. Especially since your calendar ALWAYS scheduled a Hangouts meeting if you don’t remove it from your invite. While this one is a bit more limited, it still has several of the same features and does the job when needed. Referring to limited, Hangouts Meet is usually an additional charge. Hangouts Meet is what gives you a bit more in the form of capabilities and use. Due to the current world events, Google has decided to offer Hangouts Meet for free to G Suite and G Suite for Education users until July 1, 2020. This will allow for larger meetings, saving to the Drive, and more free features that would otherwise come at a monthly cost.

  • Video conferencing with messaging feature
  • Ability to share computer screen
  • Chat limited to 10 people (without Hangouts Meet)
  • Hangouts Meet allows for up to 250 people
  • Integrated with G Suite, which allows for ease of use through calendar, email, etc.
  • No software installation or plugins required for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge; simply runs through your browser
  • $6/mo. per user to $25/mo. per user to sign up for G Suite
  • Ability to save meetings and chats to your Google Drive

Learn more about G Suite packages available.

GoToMeeting

While Zoom and Hangouts seem to be fan favorites during this time, GoToMeeting has been one of those that has stood out for some time, way before the Stay at Home order went into effect. The thing about this one is, while there are some really great features and the reviews are pretty stellar, there is not a free option. This one is definitely business focused and doesn’t include all that would be looking to utilize a video chat option. While that may hinder them, there is a lot that sets them apart. One of the biggest things is their mobile friendliness. With each of these having a mobile option, GoToMeeting seems to be the most mobile friendly.

  • Video and dial-in conferencing
  • Ability to share screen
  • Unlimited meetings with no time limit
  • Recording with unlimited cloud storage
  • Integration with several different workflows
  • $12/mo. per organizer to $16/mo. per organizer with 150-250 participants, depending on package
  • Enterprise level pricing comes with a custom rate and up to 3,000 participants
  • Android and iOS apps highly rated
  • Ability to setup and start a conference from your smartphone

Learn more about GoToMeeting packages available.

While we would love to review all video options out there, we could be here all day. These are just a few that have stood out for us recently, as well as prior to now. If you’re interested in more options, here are a few others out there that are worth checking out!

When Video Isn’t Possible

While the bulk of this has really spoken to video conferencing options, sometimes video isn’t an option. We all know there are times where you may be trying to put out tiny fires at work or you’re talking to other team members or clients. Working from home, you may be feeding someone in your house lunch or could have the sink running. Maybe you just don’t have a spot in your living area that you want people to see through a video. Whatever the case may be, oftentimes messaging may be an easier option. Internally, we use Slack, and what a wonderful messaging system it is!

Slack gives you the ability to communicate in so many different ways. You are able to direct chat, set up channels for different conversations, set up group chats, share files, search chats, and even video chat! One of the best parts about Slack is that you can join shared channels with other networks. For those that may need to collaborate with another company on a project, Slack provides that ability within the shared channels. You’re also able to set up separate workspaces. Maybe you have a workspace for your side gig that needs to be removed from your full time job’s workspace; all you have to do is toggle on the far right to choose which workspace you want to be in. There are so many features that Slack offers, it’s surprising that not every business utilizes this platform. If your business is struggling to keep in touch or maybe you’re emailing or texting everything, Slack may be a good option for you. Good news, with working from home now, Slack does offer a free option for small businesses. This is the best time to test it out! Pricing ranges depending on team size, needs, etc. but the good news is that you can have 2 people or 500,000 users, making it a platform made for all.

So, we’ve covered video chats, screen sharing, conference calls, messaging systems, what’s missing? Project management. The first step here is to have something solid in place and a procedure behind how you and your team use it. If this isn’t established early on, it doesn’t matter what system you use, it will fail. You also have to ensure everyone is following that procedure. I know, I know, it sounds SO corporate, but it’s true. There are a million different project management tools out there and we would be here all day discussing every single one of them. Some are specific to industries, some are universal, but the one thing they have in common is that they are only successful for those using them in a way that will work for that specific business. We use Monday, and while we really liked their old name better, we are pretty pleased with this platform. It is scalable for what we need, provides the team a solid foundation for project statuses, notes, and files, and really holds us accountable. In this time, it really matters more HOW you use your project management tool than WHICH one you use. With your teams being home, more than likely, now is the time that these are used by procedure or your success will really start to fall, and no one can afford that currently

Keep Calm, Get it Done, and Stay Home

If you’ve made it through this, we hope that you have walked away with at least some information that you may not have been armed with before. Just remember, it is our job to keep some normalcy and keep these businesses running. Don’t panic if you’re not in office or can’t drive to meetings, these platforms make virtually (literally) everything possible. Choose what’s best for you, your employees, and your business, and find your success. This isn’t the easiest time for anyone, but we’re all in this together. If we keep working and embrace this new normal for the time being, we will get back to our old normal soon. What we’ve found in the few weeks that we have been doing this is that seeing someone’s face makes all the difference, having pride in your work is important and doesn’t just disappear when your workspace changes, and (mostly) everyone has patience and understanding that may not have been there before. We’re going to walk away from this learning so much about ourselves, our coworkers, the businesses we work for, our employees, and being flexible, all we have to do is try. So, let us know if you try any of these platforms out or which ones you already use. We would love to hear from you!