Tech to make sure you #stayconnected

Chanel Turner

As we find ourselves in the COVID-19 era and staying home indefinitely, it’s never been more important to find technology that can keep us connected with friends, family, colleagues, and our corporate responsibilities.

Thankfully, technology the world over has been innovating faster than we can comprehend; and in recent years making that technology intuitive, easy to use and predominantly free (in the web-conferencing world anyway) have remained key focusses. Another key focus globally has been ensuring internet connections are strong, Wi-Fi is fibre optic, and is quick to connect. Imagine self-isolating in a time where dial up internet was all we had, and MSN was our only messaging tool… thankfully that’s a thing of the past!

We felt in this time of isolation and uncertainty, we would take the time to highlight some technology that makes staying connected not just easy, but also entertaining. Besides, it’s just as important to smile as it is to be connected.

So, see some of our favourites below for both work and personal use, and stay safe out there!

#1 Work - Zoom

Zoom is an online web conferencing platform that has been used in overdrive in recent weeks by many businesses the world over. Pros include the ability to invite large groups of people to meetings, and the connection is always of strong quality (Wi-Fi dependent of course, but stronger than some of the competition!). We tested the capacity for our business and managed to have over 20 of our team on the meeting at once, with no technical difficulties. Bliss!

There is a free option for Zoom and a paid option - Main things to consider with the free option is that you will have a time restriction of less than an hour, and you can usually only have 3 people or less on the call. Whereas with Zoom Pro and the other paid options, you can host large group meetings, and talk for as long as you need.

Fun fact about Zoom – experiment with your background image, and it can make isolation calls feel all the more exotic!

#1 Social – Houseparty

A social platform getting huge attention over the past week for audiences both young and old - Houseparty. Houseparty is the latest answer to hanging out with friends, sipping coffee or wine, and staying up to date on all things good for the soul. Pros include the fact that it is totally free - there are some add-ons within the app you can pay for however - but to have up to 8 friends at your houseparty for an indefinite amount of time, FREE.

One of the first things the app will ask you for when you sign up, is your Facebook, Snapchat and other device contacts, so it’s a good option to connect through other social devices, but a key reason why it should be used for socialising and not corporate business. Personal profile pictures don’t tend to have a place amongst corporate meet-ups – but never say never!

#2 Work – Hangouts

Google Hangouts is our next recommended platform for web conferencing and staying connected. This free platform is easy to use, and don’t let the basic set up fool you, it does what it promises. The ability to ‘hang’ with as many people as you need, for as long as you need. As long as you have a Google account – Gmail, G-Suite, etc – you can add Hangouts conferencing to any calendar invite sent both internally and externally.

Another great pro for Hangouts, is it's optimised for both mobile and desktop use. So, you can use it during the day on your work laptop or PC conferencing with clients and team members, and use it into the evening on your phone when connecting with family and friends. One con for Hangouts, having now felt the benefits of Zoom, is the connection can sometimes be a bit dodgy with video connections being lost mid-conference. We would recommend using Hangouts for calls of 5 or less people, and for calls with 5 or more people to use something more streamlined for that – like Zoom.

#2 Social – Facetime

DISCLAIMER: If you don’t like looking at your own face for a long period of time, this isn’t the platform for you.

The answer is in the name with this one…

Facetime, while it’s a social platform many struggle with in the corporate realm, it’s a great option for socialising through this isolation period. Why? You can have up to 32 people on a call at one time, and it’s totally free for those with an Apple device. Definitely one more suited for personal use and not corporate use, but with some of the new ‘effects’ you can add to Facetime calls, and the fact that it’s now optimised for both mobile and desktop use, it is becoming more popular for Marketers, Advertising whizzes and other visual media trades.

#3 Work – Slack

Slack is a hugely dynamic and really valuable tool for the corporate space at this time, and has been a great way for businesses to stay connected even outside of this COVID-19 era. Slack gives you the ability to group chat, private chat, video call, call without video, send large files quickly and even send emojis and giphys… to name a few! If your team aren’t using this communication tool internally, then we would urge you to do so.

A key pro of Slack is you can create custom channels for teams, topics or projects, allowing you to file away internal communications and control the spamming qualities of a group email chain. You can also have social channels, you can have direct messaging and ultimately, it’s a great way to keep your internal comms under control, and also keep the team spirit high. Everyone loves a cat typing meme on a Friday afternoon!

#3 Social – WhatsApp

For those who like a one-stop-shop for social platforms, WhatsApp is a strong contender! As with Slack, WhatsApp allows you to file away chats and within those, the options are endless. You can call, group call, video call, phone call, message, send Gifs, send emojis, location share… the list goes on. And better yet, it's free!

WhatsApp is optimised for both mobile devices and desktop too (surprise!), so you can use it for direct messaging on your work PC, but it's best on your phone. The main reason we recommend it for personal and not professional use, is the distraction of personal messages when trying to focus on work topics can be a struggle. Especially when working from home, we recommend having platforms for work and separate platforms for social, as then you can keep the two worlds separate, and keep your mind set fresh each day.

If you have any other platforms you would recommend for staying connected, please let us know by leaving a comment on this Lab. We would love to share with our followers, and make sure no one feels the strain of home isolation and social distancing.

Thank you technology, thank you innovation, and thank you social desire for digital connection. It's set us up in good stead for these coming months, and we hope using some (or all) of the above helps pass the time, and pass the positive vibes.

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