The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has forced many organizations around the world to switch to remote work. For example, companies like Google, Facebook or Microsoft have rolled out work-from-home policies for thousands of employees around the world. A sudden increase in remote working has also prompted a surge in interest in work-from-home software. Stocks of Zoom, a video conferencing tool have increased by 20% in a month as global stock markets continue to decline rapidly.
Interest in “work from home” and “telecommuting” on Google has been growing since the end of February when countries started rolling out first measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
However, many companies have found themselves not fully prepared for going remote, not having the right remote working tools at their disposal. This is why numerous software providers are temporarily offering their services for free.
Without further ado, what are the best remote work tools currently provided free of charge that you can utilize in your work as an HR professional?
Users of G Suite and G Suite for Education can currently access several features that are normally available in the enterprise editions at no additional cost until July 1, 2020. These include:
- hosting larger meetings for up to 250 participants per call
- live streaming capabilities
- the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.
You can use these for team meetings and important announcements, but also to organize remote trainings for your colleagues in times when it is impossible to meet in an actual classroom.
Get started here.
2. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is giving away its paid features for free for six months to help facilitate remote work in the challenging times of the COVID-19 outbreak. The software keeps teams connected through chats, virtual meetings, or even larger brainstorm sessions. You can also record your meetings and get auto-generated transcripts to find information faster and make it available to everyone.
Teams make it easier to onboard employees remotely by organizing live, interactive trainings, helping your new hires connect with other employees as well as by making all training resources readily available.
Start using Teams here.
Pre-employment assessment software vendor Harver is offering parts of their suite for free during the crisis to assist with migrating from an office to a work from home reality. They offer:
- A computer diagnostics assessment that checks if an employee’s hardware setup is adequate to work from home.
- A validated work from home candidate assessment flow for WFH/Remote workforce companies dealing with a large influx of candidates. The assessment flow consists of the computer diagnostics assessment described above, a video interviewing module and a personality assessment.
- A virtual interviewing module for companies with large volumes of applicants, switching from face-to-face to remote interviewing.
You can request any of these offerings here.
4. Zoho Remotely
Zoho now offers its Remotely suite free of charge until July 1, 2020. It allows you to use multiple apps that help make remote work easier. For example, you can:
- stay in touch with your employees via video or audio calls
- design and conduct interactive online trainings
- collaborate on documents with your team members – all in one place.
With the Remotely tools, you can also make sure that all your employees can access the latest versions of your company documents, for example, the remote work policy or COVID-19 resources.
Start with Remotely by registering here.
5. Cisco Webex
This enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen share, and webinars added extra features to their free offer. These include:
- unlimited usage with no time restrictions
- supporting up to 100 participants
- toll dial-in.
As an HR professional, a powerful virtual meeting tool such as Cisco Webex is an essential part of your remote work arsenal. It will enable you to communicate with people across departments in an efficient way in the working from home reality but also onboard new employees in an engaging way in this challenging period.
Get Webex here.
6. LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn wants to help its users navigate the new reality of working from home. That’s why they’re now offering 16 LinkedIn courses focused on remote working for free. You can learn more about, for instance:
- building relationships when working remotely
- staying productive
- using virtual meeting tools
- finding a healthy balance between family and work.
This can be helpful for you especially if you’re not used to the full working from home setup and need to find your way around the new situation. Not to mention that you can share your learnings and best practices with your colleagues to help them keep working efficiently.
Find the free courses here.
If your internet connection isn’t that strong at home and you find yourself frustrated with your connection speed and security, Minim might have a solution for you. This AI-driven smart managed WiFi platform offers its solution for remote workers free of charge for 4 months. It ensures high quality and secure connectivity for distributed workforces.
And how does it work? Remote employees plug a Minim-enabled router to their home gateway. Then they connect their devices to a new network, co-managed by their employer. The platform also allows you to remotely test device signal strength and speed.
Get started with Minim here.
There’s a chance that you need to access various internal applications remotely during this working-from-home period. Cloudflare provides secure access to internal applications without using a VPN. Their Cloudflare for Teams plan is free for small businesses through September 1.
If you register for the free trial, you’ll see that the limits of their products have been removed. They have also removed the usage caps for current users.
Access Cloudflare here.
9. Ivy League online courses
Ivy League universities – Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania – now offer over 450 free online courses. These MOOCs (massive open online courses) are available on platforms like Coursera and edX. They cover a wide range of topics from computer and data science through business, humanities, and personal development courses.
HR professionals can also find multiple courses that are especially relevant to what they’re doing and keep learning when working from home. Here are a few examples:
- Improving Your Business Through a Culture of Health
- The Power of Team Culture
- Creating a Team Culture of Continuous Learning
- Global Human Capital Trends
- Optimizing Diversity on Teams
Find the list of free online courses here.
Have you always wanted to work on short videos for your company’s social media channels? Or more employer branding content for your careers page? Now might be the right time to get creative. Avid, a creative film and video-editing software offers temporary licenses at no charge through April 17, 2020. The license is valid for 90 days.
Find out how to obtain the free license here.
11. Bonus: Headspace
Many of us have been facing uncertainty, anxiety, and concern or even fear in times of the COVID-19 outbreak. Add the sudden changes in work setup and social isolation to it and you get a combination that doesn’t contribute to anyone’s mental wellbeing.
That’s why Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app is currently offering their ‘Weathering the storm” meditation and mindfulness content collection free of charge. Also, all employers and their employees can now access a collection of guided meditations and exercises. So if you want to ensure wellbeing of your staff as well as your own, you can have a look at free resources and start building healthy habits into the new remote working routine.
Check out Headspace for Work here.
A final word
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought severe disruptions to the world of work as we know it. Organizations are forced to look for ways to empower their employees to be their best remote selves through using technology, and, on the other hand, software providers are stepping up and offering their help where they can. Digital transformation is being fast-tracked even in many companies who have resisted it until now.
We don’t know for sure what permanent implications the current situation will have on work. However, it seems that it will, at the very least, push people to look for innovative solutions and become fully aware of the benefits and limitations of remote working.
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