Working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic? If it’s new to you it may feel like quite a novelty to be “doing the day job from home”, however, the longer you find yourself at home the more isolating it can feel.
Working from home still means you need to get work done, but without being able to walk into a colleague’s office or department to ask questions or get advice and support, there needs to be quick and easy alternative to keeping in touch.
Thankfully, there are several solid video chatting and conferencing apps available that can help you stay connected with everyone you need to. Many of them are free, too!
Best for calling friends on Apple devices – Facetime
FaceTime is Apple’s proprietary video calling app. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, it operates seamlessly, letting you start a video chat with any of your contacts (so long as they are also Apple device users) the same way you would a phone call. While FaceTime’s primary purpose is video chatting, as its name suggests, you can also do audio-only calls if you’re in a place with a Wi-Fi or data connection allowing you to chat with up to 32 people at once.
Best for calling friends on mobile devices – WhatsApp
WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, which means that only you and the person you’re sending a message to; can read what you send. You can use it to send messages, photos, make video or audio calls. Its global popularity makes it a great option for keeping in touch with family and friends worldwide. Not only that, but it’s easy to use and works on both Android and iOS devices. The messaging app is also very quick, making it easy to set up group chats. You can name the group chat and add relevant people to each one, helping you and your team stay organised.
Best for group chats – Skype
Skype is available for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac, and offers video and audio calling, as well as a messaging feature.
It has an easy-to-use interface and supports up to 50 people on the same audio call. It also lets you record, save and share
your video calls. It also has live captions and subtitles, making it a hugely accessible tool.
Best for sending video messages – Marco Polo
If you want to video chat with someone but can’t do it in real time – (perhaps they have a busy work schedule or are in another time zone) — Marco Polo is the app for you. You can send video messages to individuals or group chats who can watch and respond to at their leisure. Unlike Snapchat, Marco Polo saves all your video messages so you can revisit conversations. It doesn’t limit your video time, either.
Best for Facebook fans – Facebook Messenger / what the masses have access to
Facebook’s Messenger app is primarily used for sending messages, but also includes a video chat option, making it a convenient choice for those who use Facebook (i.e most people). If the person you want to talk to is also a Facebook Messenger user, you can initiate a video or audio call with them through the app. Most people have immediate access to using this so instead of trying to agree what other apps/platforms you both use, Messenger makes it much easier for everyone!
Best for Business users – Zoom
Zoom offers video and audio conferencing, chat and webinar features across mobile devices, desktops, phones and room systems. It offers a free basic tier that allows you to host up to 100 participants and unlimited one-to-one meetings. It does place a 40-minute limit on group meetings, however. If your organization does not use any videoconferencing service and you’re looking for a professional option while you’re working from home, at least in the short term, Zoom could be a good one for you.
Best for Google and G-Suite Users – Hangouts Meet
Google’s Hangouts Meet is a videoconferencing tool integrated into the G Suite platform that allows people to hop on meetings via a web link through their laptop or mobile app, or a phone line. If your organization uses G Suite, you can create that link directly through a Google Calendar invite. It’s a solid free option for easy business chats if you already use G Suite.