Staying Connected During, Well, Weird Times

I tried to come up with a better title, but sometimes just calling it straight is the best solution.
We are in weird times. Really weird times. I think it’s okay (and healthy) to admit that.
COVID-19 has caused a major disruption in our day to day at home and work, and for many out there, the two locations have become one in the same for the foreseeable future. Despite companies investing in technology to allow employees to work from home, and working from home growing an estimated 115% since 2005, it can still feel like a daunting task for companies as entire staffs are being forced to work from home offices.
As I see the effect the coronavirus is having on my community, my workplace and the world in general, the only thing I could think about is “I want to help.” But, considering the times, I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that as I am clearly not a medical professional. I help people communicate. So, if you, your team or your business as a whole is struggling to stay connected while working from home, take a look at some of the tools below. Some you may have heard of, some you may be using, but hopefully you find some of the information useful.
I can’t stress enough the importance for a company/team to outline a plan when it comes to these technologies. A strong internal communications plan in terms of technology ensures that everyone is using the same channel, which can help streamline the implementation process and lessen the time installing/troubleshooting/etc.
Microsoft Teams
This is such a great tool that a lot of people have access to, you just may not know about it. Essentially, if your organization uses Office 365 (which is often part of the Microsoft Office product line), you have Microsoft Teams, you just may not be using it.
Microsoft Teams is basically Skype for Business on steroids. It has it all. Regular chat, video chat, the ability to easily upload and share files, this tool can really do it all. The one feature I like most is the ability to take contacts within an organization and turn them into separate teams. For example, if you are working on a specific project, you can create a separate team with only employees who are working on that project. If you’ve ever heard of Slack (I’ll get to that in a second), it’s very similar but has the benefit of being connected to your organization’s network.
Full disclosure on this, it may involve some IT help, but if your office is going to be remote only for an extended period of time, I can’t say enough how great this tool is.
I’m sure nearly all of you have heard of this one, but it really is a great tool. The best thing I can say about Slack is the chat/video feature helps move the conversation from out of the inbox and into the app, which in many cases helps to keep things organized (a very important detail given the current situation). Much like Microsoft Teams, users can create separate channels for specific projects/employees and can turn a group/individual chat into a video call with a couple clicks.
Slack is very easy to use and set up, so if your organization doesn’t have Microsoft Teams, you have a small team or your IT team understandably can’t get Microsoft Teams up and running right away, Slack has a variety of packages and is a great option.
Zoom is one of the fastest video conferencing platforms out there. This is pretty straightforward as it’s similar to other video conferencing platforms, but what separates Zoom is its easy-to-use interface and the packages they offer can’t be beat (in my opinion).

As I mentioned, Zoom has a wide variety of plans and options, but you can even sign up for free and use a personal account. There are some restrictions, but it may be worth it to get that extra face time with your team.
Those are my big three. Of course there are a lot of other apps out there, including b-hive from broadvoice, Google hangouts and Glip that all offer scalable options to help fit your business’s needs.
Before I end this, I do want to say I can’t stress enough the importance of video chat if you are working remotely. I know it may feel weird and you’d probably rather do a call, but there’s something about seeing people you’re used to seeing every day that lifts the spirits a bit. It’s okay to talk with people you normally talk with at work about things that are not work related via video chat. It’s healthy. It’s good for you. The goal for all of us during this time is to make things as normal as possible, so please, don’t isolate yourself more than you have to. I wish I had some analytical data to prove my point, but my hope is you’ll just trust me on this one.
Stay safe and wash your hands, everyone. Check in on each other; it’s important. Hopefully a few months from now, we will all have a bit of normalcy, but until then, I hope you can use the tools above to help you navigate the change. If you need help or have questions on anything I talked about, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
From the akhia communications Stow, Ohio, satellite office, Stainbrook out.