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Coronavirus and working from home: free tools to help maintain “business as usual”

More and more businesses are closing their physical premises either as part of a stress-test to prepare for a time when they’ll make the decision to ask staff to work from home, or because that decision has already been made as the number of coronavirus cases increases.

Working in isolation from colleagues who you are used to being able to “run something past” or “grab a quick meeting with” can be a challenge, but with the right tools, there are more ways than ever to stay in communication and close collaboration with your team, wherever they are.

We’ve outlined a number of tools that can get you talking, sharing and meeting straight away, for free.

 

For files storage and sharing   

 

Google Drive, Dropbox Basic, and Microsoft OneDrive all provide generous amounts of space on their servers for free, with Google offering up to 15GB.  

These tools are especially useful if team members are unable to access a central drive while working remotely, and can help avoid duplication and confusion around version control by ensuring everyone’s working from or on the same information.  

  

For collaboration  

 

Any software or channel that allows you to create and organise different conversations will help prevent important messages from getting lost in a stream of emails. 

The collaboration tool Slack allows you to do just this, with 5GB of free storage and integrates with file-sharing tools including Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.  

WhatsApp could a useful “quick fix” to keep all team members in the loop, and depending on the size and operation of your business, it may be enough without having to explore other software with which your team may not be familiar. It even has a desktop version that can sync with mobile devices.

You can also use WhatsApp to send encrypted texts to up to 250 people, which is a quick way to send important updates to staff if you’re concerned they may not be picking up texts or email.  

  

For conference calls  

 

Google is currently offering free access to advanced features of Hangouts Meet until 1st July in response to COVID-19. With video meetings for up to 250 participants and live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers, these enhanced features could serve both your internal and external communication strategies in newly altered circumstances. These can then be recorded and saved to Google Drive. 

Microsoft Teams’ free plan also allows for video conferencing with your team, while Zoom’s easy to use conferencing tool is so popular that it can sometimes put a strain on the software provider’s server. Zoom’s free tier allows meetings for 100 participants for up to 40 minutes.  

 

3 important considerations when using online tools 

 

  • WIFI – It’s worth checking your teams’ level of internet connectivity from where they are before relying solely on these tools, taking into consideration the increased number of localised internet usage as more people work from home.   
  • Clarity – It’s important to stipulate which tool is going to become your go-to for collaboration, conference calls, and file sharing, so updates or calls aren’t missed as conversations happen across a variety of channels.  
  • Data protection – Be sure to check privacy controls on any tool you use. Refer to your business’ privacy policy to ensure you’re not sharing personal or sensitive data as in doing so you could be in breach of data laws.

Further information on taking care of employees’ wellbeing, as well as FAQs around how COVID-19 impacts particular insurance policies can be found in our dedicated SME pack.

View and download the full pack below:

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