Covid-19 has forced many individuals to work from home and many are now taking advantage of the free and paid tools available to virtual offices
Caption: The internet gives numerous options to conduct meetings while working from home.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most offices worldwide are now allowing their employees to work from home. This shows that the organisations care about their employees – which helps build trust between a company and its staff. It also reflects an organisation's adaptability and acuity. Accessing the open technological resources and sparing some minutes to learn how to use the applications, you can swimmingly conduct your meetings, classes and other important activities online. You can do this by using the devices you already have on hand – laptop, desktop, mobile phone (Android and iOS).
The internet gives you numerous options to conduct these meetings. From all the applications to choose from, here are some of the most used and renowned applications and conferencing services used around the globe.
Because of Zoom's offerings and amazing features, it is no surprise this cloud-based video conferencing platform is in such a heavy demand during this coronavirus outbreak.
Since the primary target of Zoom is business users, it has a premium subscription feature for business people. However, up to 100 people can join a video meeting or webinar together on Zoom's free version as well. The platform allows you to hold a meeting for three or more people, for 40 minutes, plus allows you to record the entire meeting – which saves you the trouble of writing meeting minutes. The recording can be shared through Google Drive – which is highly useful for someone who missed the meeting and also can be used as a video cast. You can share your screen during the online meeting on Zoom which is a helpful feature for presentations and illustrations.
Video conferencing on Zoom is absolutely safe. With its 256-bit encryption policy, you can be assured about the privacy of your call and of documents that need to be shared. Joining Zoom meetings is simple, there are many ways to do it –
(i) You can download the Zoom Client to your computer or install the Android/iOS application and attend the meeting.
(ii) If you do not have it downloaded, or are on an important call, you can directly access a meeting through Zoom's website by signing up for an account.
(iii) If the host of the meeting has already provided you the link of the meeting, you can simply click on it to join without even having to sign up.
Yes, it is that easy to join a Zoom conference.
The idea of video conferencing had been around since the 1990s with the introduction of webcams. However, Skype first arrived on the market as a video chat and video call application in 2003. It is the most popular among the public because of its availability and accessibility.
The initial purpose of Skype is not business meetings, hence, it is mostly used to keep in touch with friends and family through social calls. However, that does not mean it is unsupportive of business calls as up to 50 callers can join a meeting or conference. Skype can be unequivocally used for business and education. Skype can be used for free, but you can also upgrade it to Skype for Business for a low price. This premium version allows 250 people to be on a call and provides stronger security.
Skype is remarkably user-friendly and quite easy to operate. You can download the Skype application on your computer. Without downloading it, you can still use it through Skype Online which can be accessed using a browser.
Google is the most-used search engine and Google mail (Gmail) is the most popular email service. That is what sets Google Hangouts apart from others.
Once you have a Google account, accessing the affiliated apps is user-friendly.
Among the video chatting services provided by Google, Hangouts is the longest-running one. Anyone with a Google account can access it with just a click. Hangouts is free – with a limit of 25 people joining a meeting. Google Hangouts offers filters and emojis which makes calls enjoyable and fun for their users.
Google Hangouts Meet
Besides Google Hangouts, Google also offers the more professional Google Hangouts Meet (Meet). It is Google's video-conferencing software, a paid app that is provided as a part of G Suite. Alongside the additional features like real-time captions and more, the best feature of Meet is that it allows for 250 participants and 100,000 livestream viewers. Due to coronavirus, Google Meet now allows everyone to redeem the paid version for free!
Google has its Hangouts apps, similarly, Microsoft has Microsoft Teams. First launched in 2016, Microsoft Teams is an online collaboration platform that comes with the Office 365 package. Though it is not free, its features are worth the price. It supports up to 250 participants in one meeting with a maximum capacity of displaying four screens simultaneously. The screen switches depending on the person talking.
As it is a fairly new app, it has been growing and Microsoft has been adding new features every now-and-then. It has live captions like Meet and broadcast functions like Facebook Live. Therefore, it is especially beneficial for remote learning. During the COVID-19 crisis, Microsoft Teams has committed to serving everyone from their side by extending their usual 1-month free trial to a 6-month free trial!
As the unprecedented, highly-contagious coronavirus epidemic becomes pandemic, everyone is being advised to maintain their social distance. People are under self-imposed quarantine, at home, protecting themselves by creating a real-life distance from their surroundings. Will our lifestyles completely change? Will our work be paused? Will there be a cessation of activities? No.
Whoever you are – a student, a teacher, an instructor, a business person, an employee, a worker, a leader – you can continue your work from home, routinely and peacefully using the apps mentioned here via the internet.
Bangladesh is a developing country whose government envisions the creation of a "Digital Bangladesh" – ICT-driven knowledge-based society – by 2021. This will only be successful if we can make the most out of the readily available information online by sufficiently using modern technology. This catastrophe is a crucial time during which to gain more digital knowledge and implement the knowledge using convenient technology.
In 2020, let us make Bangladesh digital – not just in our words, but also in our work.
Dr. Rafiuddin Ahmed is an E-Learning Expert and Associate Professor, Dept of Marketing, Universty of Dhaka and Bidita Zaman is a Freelance writer.