Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: COVID-19 Resources

Resources and information for independent contractors working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, Now What??!

So, Now What??!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

I’d like to begin by stating that this is purely an opinion piece. I’ve no better access to information than most other people (the information I’ve reviewed comes from internet sources and my own discussions with contractors, consultants and clients) but, I think, that this may be the point. I don’t know what’s coming next, no one does. Many say they do… but they don’t. So in this COVID-obsessed and stressed out world, what is one to do?

There are very few people in this world who truly love and embrace change. (And no, I am not one of them!) Sure, many of us can appreciate the concept of change being needed for progress to occur, we may even agree that it could be a good thing. But it rarely “feels good” when we are in the middle of it. And, boy! Are we in the middle of it now!! Everybody has everything in their lives turned on its head right now. Sure, we’ve made accommodations and are in the process of defining our own “new normal”, but the truth is that the way things are today aren’t the way they are going to be in 6 months from now, nor will they ever be the same way they were before! It’s a scary thought for most people — the “future normal” is unknown.

Wait a minute… the future has never been known… how is this “new” in any way? What is different now, is the scope of the changes that we are facing. Too much of our lives have been changing too drastically too quickly and it will continue to do so for some time to come, for the foreseeable future, actually. I guess hyper-change IS the new normal. Or, to put it oxymoronically, un-normal is normal. And we would do well to get used to that idea.

So, back to the original question: what do we do now, today, to set ourselves up for success in this “oxymoronical” (not a real word) time. I don’t know (for sure). But here are a number of ideas that have shown to be useful when living in times of great change:

  • Accept that you cannot stop change. Your plans, whatever they were, may no longer be possible to accomplish — at least in the way or time frame which you’d intended. If your situation has created an insurmountable obstacle to your plans, stop trying to fight it. Your time and energy would be better spent focusing on something else, something that will lead to positive results for you.
  • Be flexible. Look for ways to adapt your plans so that your goals might still be met. Look for a “Plan B”. Expect that you might need to look for a Plan C, D, E…
  • Be engaged. As much as you might want to hunker down, withdraw and ride it out, these massive changes will continue. Unless you are retired, with everything paid off and have a sizeable, well-hedged nest egg, you are not going to be able to “sit this one out”. “Group Think” is real and it is a powerful tool for you to use to keep current. Working your network of family, friends, colleagues, etc. will help to keep you abreast of the changes as they happen and provide ideas for making the accommodations necessary to limit the downside and maximize the opportunities.
  • Limit the downside and maximize the opportunities. As we all know, change does not need to be a negative thing. Although it can be uncomfortable, there will be both opportunities to take advantage of and pitfalls which we’d like to avoid. Being “opportunistic” might not always have a good connotation; however, in times of great change, it is an approach one should embrace.
  • Give back. As bad as we might have it, others have it far worse. Helping others in need is a great way to do good while attaining perspective, lifting your spirit, and generally feeling better about yourself (and your own situation).
  • On the career side, if you find that you have unwanted-but-extra time on your hands, investing in your knowledge/skills through training, reading, networking, etc. often pays a good return. If you don’t have the time or wherewithal for a formalized course/certification, there are many free sources of information and training available. As well, there are user groups (albeit virtual these days) that you can join. Not only are these a great networking opportunity, they are also great places to learn!
  • Try something new. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I always wanted to… ??, but never had the time“. Or, “Someday, when the time is right, I’ll try to… ??“. Maybe now is the time. You may find a hidden talent or something new that you love to do and the rest of your life may be richer for it. Learn a new language! The direction of macro-changes suggests that globalization will continue unabated and being bilingual or multi-lingual can be a real advantage.
  • Do some soul-searching. Most of us have been “running hot” for a long time. We’ve had our heads down, and pushing forward with our careers/lives/relationships/etc. When evaluating your opportunities, it is a good practice to challenge your own goals, philosophies, and ideals. Is what was important to you 10 years ago still important to you today? If you take time to peel back that “onion”, you might be surprised to find that your priorities are due for a change. What Color Is Your Parachute? is an old, tried-and-true, self-help book meant to guide people through a career change; but it contains excellent exercises that helps one to identify what is most important to them and set goals and priorities and make new, better-fit life plans. Resources such as this book (and countless internet sites) are valuable as guides to your self-awareness journey.
  • Exercise and take care of your health. The benefits of this go without saying… so, I’ll only say this: Regardless of the amount of change facing you over the coming months and years, attending to your physical and mental health will never be a wasted effort.
  • Take time to read — news sources, industry articles, biographies, editorials, training literature and whitepapers. Listen to podcasts on subjects of interest to you. It doesn’t even have to be career-related; it can be of general interest to you or hobby-related. Try to choose things that engage you and stimulate your mind… and minimize your time watching mindless TV shows, the black hole that can be YouTube, etc. because, in these, you lose hours of your life and come out no better for it.

Here are some links to websites that share ideas on how to cope with change. They are good “reads” and can augment my own list here:

That’s my list for coping, Mid-COVID – August 2020. As I said at the beginning of this blog post: this is an Opinion Piece and I am the world’s leading authority on my own opinion. I’m sure you have your own advice to add to this list… and maybe even counter points to argue! I’d be pleased to see you share your own ideas with our readership by leaving a comment below! In the words of the great and wise Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for you. Were all in this together!”

Take care, stay well, be strong… and thrive!

Statistics Canada’s Most Recent Visual Insights of COVID-19 in Canada

The Federal Government has been carefully monitoring all effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of keeping a close eye on infection rates and the economy, Statistics Canada is researching people’s behaviour and how their coping, then sharing their findings in various formats. Here are a couple infographics that StatCan shared in early July that we found particularly interesting.

COVID-19 and the Labour Market in June 2020

StatCan has always released monthly job numbers to provide an understanding of the country’s economic health. Since the pandemic began, they’ve also been publishing more specific insights to help us understand the effects of COVID-19. The most recent infographic outlines June’s job numbers and compares them to February. It shows that slowly but surely, numbers are returning for normal, but some industries and demographics continue to suffer more than others.

Labour Market

 

Precautions that Canadians will take or continue to take as COVID-19 safety measures are relaxed

Last month, StatCan also conducted a survey to examine the attitudes and concerns of Canadians. As restrictions lift, who will continue taking measures to protect themselves, and to what extent. It’s worth noting that since the survey, many jurisdictions across Canada have made masks mandatory in public places, but overall, this infographic provides an interesting snapshot at the opinions of Canadians during these bizarre times.

COVID-19 Precautions Across Canada

Networking During a Pandemic

Networking During a Pandemic

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

A couple years ago, I shared a post here about the benefits of networking events and why it’s a good idea to attend them. Today, with physical distancing measures due to the pandemic, face-to-face networking events are non-existent, but nurturing relationships remains prevelant. Everything we do now in our networks has become more important than ever, including sending emails, making calls, texting, sending a social message, etc. How we make people feel during this is going to remain longer during these unstable times.

Remember, face to face networking may be on pause but our relationship building isn’t. The contacts you make have to be more personal so think of communications you can send out that YOU would be happy to receive. There are a number of simple gestures that give a personal touch and will do more to build and strengthen your relationships, rather than sending out impersonalized mass communications. For example:

  • Wishing someone a happy birthday
  • Reposting their LinkedIn share
  • Sending them a text just to say hello and to check in
  • Sending an article that may be of interest to them
  • Sharing helpful market information

There are also a number of virtual conferences happening that you can still take advantage of as they offer the opportunity to “virtually” network. For example, email speakers after the event to ask questions or offer feedback. Or, if there is a particular area you are interested in, ask them if they’d be willing to brainstorm or have a brief discussion with you about it. It may be different and uncomfortable for you, but do your best to bring value to the virtual conference in any creative way you can.

The main goal here is to take the risk and put yourself out there. Today, creating and maintaining virtual relationships is the key to your business success and building a strong network.

You Need to Have a Routine When You Work from Home

You Need to Have a Routine When You Work from Home

When the COVID-19 pandemic really became a reality for Canada in March, millions of Canadians were forced to work from home on a full-time basis, and many were setting up home offices for the first time. It was a big change, and understandably, productivity was expected to slip as we adjusted to a new way of doing this.

Eagle’s COVID-19 resources have had no shortage of work-from-home advice to help you get set-up and the Internet in general is overflowing with information to help you out. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock that three months later, clients and employers expect that you should now be working at full capacity. If you’re not there yet, then it’s time to build a routine to get yourself moving. And you need to do it now.

Routine will bring a sense of normality back to your day. It helps you build a regular schedule and to-do lists which are going to prevent procrastination and help you avoid bad habits overall. You’ll also begin to develop some great habits and your productivity will return to a level you can be proud of.

Having a routine in place is also critical to your own health. Indumathi Bendi, M.D., a physician at Piedmont Healthcare recently told Apartment Therapy “Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable. Preparedness is a key way to prevent stress.”

If you seek out expert advice on “the best morning routines” or “#1 work from home routines to make you a star” you’re going to be overwhelmed with different opinions and theories. The truth is, your routine is going to be different from anyone else’s. It will depend on your personal life (do you have kids hanging around the house?), your personal productive periods (everybody is more productive in different parts of the day), and hundreds of other variables unique to you.

Your best routine is going to mirror the regular work day you used to have — from waking up to commuting to working hours — as much as possible. Here are some elements to consider when creating your work-from-home routine:

  • Your Workspace: Your bed or the couch is not going to cut it. Even if you live in a small apartment without a private office, you still need a small area with a desk/table to keep organized.
  • Start/End Times: Setting specific “office hours” for yourself helps you build work/life balance and clients will know exactly when you’re available.
  • Breaks: Plan a regular lunch break and coffee breaks throughout your day, just as you’d have at the office.
  • Exercise: If you used to go to the gym in the morning or after work, continue to build those workouts into your routine at home. Don’t forget that walk you used to take from your car to the office. Even that void can be filled with a quick walk around the block.
  • Sleep: It’s easy to get into the habit of sleeping in a bit longer when you no longer have to worry about a commute or spending so much time getting ready. But that will creep up on you and, when the time comes, returning to regular office hours is going to be extremely difficult. Continue to wake up at the same time you used to and use that new-found time for yourself. Exercising, meditating or connecting with people are all amazing things we didn’t used to have time for but now the opportunity is there!

Your daily routine doesn’t need to be written down in stone and followed aggressively, but some sort of structure and predictability will do wonders for your productivity and mental health combined. What does your daily work-from-home routine look like?

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Spring is Sprung, the Grass is Riz… I Wonder Where the Magic Is? Coping with COVID-19 Accommodations

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

In Canada, winters are tough and as soon as we get past March, we begin looking forward to Spring… more light, warmer temperatures, a sense of waking optimism! That’s the magic of this season. Or, it has been in years past. This season feels a little (a lot??) different. Social distancing, doubt about careers, and worry for loved ones all contribute to a significant headwind against the optimism that Spring typically brings.

Some people take this all in stride — a grand adventure! “It’s not the situation, it is how you choose to react to it!” That’s fine and good for the folks who have the wherewithal to adopt this mental state and if you are one of these, consider yourself lucky. Mental Health has been given increasing levels of press these past years, thanks to the advent of Mental Health Week/Month and advancing education on this important subject. Eagle supports this by running a “Not Myself Today” campaign each year and, during these COVID-19 accommodations we are extending this. We’re working hard to ensure none of our staff are “left behind” struggling to cope with isolation, loneliness, anxiety, or stress. Sometimes the solution isn’t just adopting a tough mental attitude, people need more assistance.

As contractors, you are both “regular employees” and “business owners” With this, the stressors can be double. Uncertainty as a contractor isn’t a new thing, but this COVID-19 world that we live in elevates uncertainty to levels that can be hard to cope with. If you are struggling with this, you need to recognize that you are not alone in feeling this way. But with the necessary accommodations required to stem COVID-19, isolation is a bigger threat. Know that there is a lot of help out there for you. Any number of agencies, government or private, exist to give you the boost you might need to work through your challenges. You need not wait until you are overwhelmed by things to seek help; in fact, the earlier you begin the easier it will be to work yourself into the right mindset. Two terrific sources of support are MindBeacon and the Canadian Centre for Mental Health. MindBeacon is typically offered as a “for-fee” service, but during the pandemic, they have opened up their services free-of-charge to all Canadians that need their assistance and the CCMHS is always available for those Canadians requiring their services. And, certainly, there are other sources of help as well. A quick online search will find many such organizations.

If you don’t need immediate help, but the stress of these times are beginning to wear on you, I thought I’d share a YouTube video that I found to be helpful. It’s theme is pragmatism above pessimism (and even optimism!) I found that it helped to put things into perspective. These next months will be hard but we’ll make it through and it will be better on the other side. Spring magic may just have to wait this year.

I wish you all good health, safety and the perspective needed to persevere!

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tech Wins at Companies Across Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The news is full of depressing stories, political controversy and plenty of fear. Certainly, these are tough times and many people around the world are suffering in ways nobody would have predicted a mere few months ago. Still, there are good stories around the world, coming in all shapes and forms.

Companies are moving at a fast pace to keep up and adapt. Yes, there have been layoffs and the worst may still be ahead in some organizations, but when we look deeper, there are many encouraging, feel-good stories coming from this crisis.

Here at Eagle, we had a huge win within our back-office team. Most of the company has worked in a predominately electronic environment for many years with the ability to work virtually anywhere and an existing work-at-home program made the move from office to home seamless.  However, our Accounting Team still had a few processes that depended on paper, creating a reliance to work in a centralized location. This pandemic has been an opportunity to completely transition from paper. Impressively, the team built and implemented new processes in a matter of days! Not only does this result in a positive environmental impact, but the morale boost will be long-term. Even after offices open up, this team will now have the option to work-from-home, impacting their work/life balance in a positive way.

Eagle’s story is just one, minor example of using technology to make improvements in the wake of a crisis. Eagle’s founder, Kevin Dee, set out to find more examples and published a series of LinkedIn Posts highlighting tech wins across Canada. Here are examples from three very different Canadian organizations who all used technology to overcome unique, challenging situations:

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

It’s unusual to see the CRA in a good news story, but credit is certainly due given what these public servants pulled off for the country. When Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in mid-March, the news brought relief to millions of Canadians, but stress to the employees at CRA. There was no existing system to manage the volumes and speed at which this system needed to deliver.

Still, the CRA team was able to deliver a system in three weeks that not only processed the volume of applicants in a timely manner but also introduced direct deposit payments to banks, which the CRA had not done previously, other than as a pilot. In the end, this helped millions of Canadians and gave the government a high-profile story about a successful, fast implementation.

TD Bank

TD Bank also successfully used technology in two areas to lead the way through the COVID-19 crisis. The first comes from their Trader Group, which was housed on a massive floor of a high rise building, a situation screaming of health risks at the onset of the pandemic.

Trading was soaring as the markets responded to the pandemic so work had to continue. Most companies were sending their people home, or at least splitting teams into smaller groups, and TD Bank knew that they needed to act quickly and effectively in order to compete. They assessed all of the risks and obstacles of suddenly sending their teams home, including security, hardware options, process issues and communication issues. In the end, they managed to pull off the impossible and got 300 of 357 traders home, replicating a high-tech trading floor in hundreds of residential dining rooms and spare bedrooms.

The bank also pulled off a similar feat with its 15 call centres located across North America, employing 9000 people. They moved 95% of those people to a home office and kept the call center operations going.  The logistics involved were huge, but the bank was able to overcome all of them.

In both of these examples, TD Bank transformed the way they do business, which is rare in such a traditional industry. Similar to Eagle’s story, both their Trader Group and call centres have the option to work remotely long after this crisis is over, boosting employee morale and saving them real estate costs.

TC Energy

The final example comes from the Oil & Gas sector in Calgary and demonstrates how proper planning pays off. For the past couple years, TC Energy, which has approximately 8,000 employees – 50% of whom are in Calgary, has been working on a digital transformation project. The project embraced big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence while migrating systems to the cloud.

Because of this preparation and embracing the latest technologies, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, TC Energy was successful at moving to a work-from-home environment in just one weekend. Furthermore, their ability to hire and onboard staff has barely been affected, a major stumbling blocks for many large companies.

Adversity has potential to bring out the best in individuals and companies alike and these examples are a handful of the stories we can find all around us. As we work through tough times, continue looking for positive stories and recognizing those who are overcoming hurdles every day. It’s this attitude that will help you come out stronger on the other side.

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

You love your spouse. We know you do. But how many people have ever worked from home with their spouse more than they have in the past few weeks? Twitter has exploded with comical one-liners of people sharing their experiences and they’ve been fun to read. But there are real challenges that families are experiencing. Dealing with them up-front is what’s going to ensure you can remain productive for your client while maintaining a happy household. And, given you’re probably confined to the home for a little while, that happiness should be a high priority. Here are a few tips we compiled to help you out:

  1. Try and work in separate spaces. Not everybody’s home can accommodate this, but if you can work in a separate room from your spouse, it will help you focus, minimize distractions, and prevent you from stepping on each other’s toes. Just make sure it’s a productive office (Hint: bedrooms tend to be a bad idea)

  2. They are not your colleagues. As tempting as it is, refrain from using your spouse to brainstorm work-related ideas or rant about office politics. This is distracting to them and brings them into problems that they really do not need.

  3. Still respect them like your colleagues. If you work in an open-office, then you know how annoying it is when somebody takes phone calls too loudly, listens to music without headphones, or starts talking to you while you’re in the middle of working on something that requires focus. Don’t be that person at home.

  4. Accept and embrace the inevitable distractions. It’s alright to want to socialize with your significant other through the day, so set some ground rules. Decide on specific times when you will take a break together and have signals when distractions are or aren’t alright. For example, a closed door might mean you cannot be disturbed or working at the dining room table instead of the office could mean some chitchat is alright.

  5. Take a few minutes each morning to discuss. Evaluate the prior day and review today’s schedule. Did anything happen yesterday that prevented you from being productive? Do you have an extra busy day today or are things a bit more relaxed? Discuss these topics each morning before going on your separate ways.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to acknowledge the challenges that you might face with both of you working from home and solve them up-front. Build your routines and plans that work for you. How are you surviving working from home with others around?

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

8 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Secure

Millions of people around the world have found themselves working from a home office over the past month, and many of them were not prepared. You might have a home office set-up, complete with a comfortable workspace and the right equipment, but is your client’s information well-protected? You may need to step-up your security game.

We’ve shared tips before on how you can guarantee your individual device is secured, and there are more steps you can take to ensure your client’s assets remain safe. Here are a few steps you can take to move closer to that final goal.

  • Remember Basic Security: Let’s start with the standard practices you’re (hopefully) already doing. Install quality virus protection on your computer and work only on a secure Wi-Fi that’s backed-up by a safe password. Speaking of passwords, stop writing them down where anybody can find them. There are a number of affordable password managers available that will make your life easier and more secure.
  • Be Aware of Online Dangers: There are reports of more email attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, be extra diligent before downloading an attachment or responding to an email that seems the least bit suspicious. Even if it appears to be coming from a co-worker you trust, if it seems out-of-the-ordinary, double check with a phone call to the supposed sender.
  • Don’t Ignore Security Updates: When your computer or software says that there are updates available for security purposes, take the advice and run the updates. Of course, given the previous point, if any update is suspicious, do your research before clicking the “Install” button.
  • Be Careful When Using the Cloud: Saving files to a cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive is a helpful idea for sharing files with coworkers, and often securely. Before doing so, ensure that it is an approved service by your client’s security team and that your credentials to that service are also secured.
  • Be Aware When Making Calls: The weather is going to become nicer which means your windows are going to be open and you may be in a fortunate situation where you can work on the back deck. Keep your phone conversations quiet because you never know who is listening.
  • Lock Things Up: So far we’ve been talking about electronic security, but physical items such as documents should also be considered when securing your home office. Break-ins happen and kids can get nosey. Set-up locks on your office and invest in a cabinet that locks to help keep client documents safe.
  • Keep Organized: Forget kids and burglars, your own disorganization could be the reason you misplace important documents or passwords get into the wrong hands. Spend a few extra minutes each day to keep your workspace clean and organized.
  • Shred Paper: If you print any documents that have any sort of private information, you should have a paper shredder in your home office. Your client depends on you to dispose of waste responsibly.

There is a lot of change happening that’s causing all of our lives to be a little more out of order. While some things will justifiably be missed, when working from home, it’s imperative that your client’s security remains at the top of your priority list. Could you improve the security in your home office?

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

You and your family are at home, being responsible with physical distancing. Great! Thank you for helping to flatten the curve. Now, how can you ensure you stay healthy? We recently posted about the importance of your mental health and how to take care of that through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also important to take care of your physical health. Here are a few tips:

Keep Your House as Clean as Possible

Just because you’re locked in your house is no reason to believe you can no longer contract the Corona virus. Others in your house may already have it, food or other items that you bring home might contain the virus on its surface or you might pick it up while out and about grabbing some essentials.

First, monitor everyone in your house and be aware if they’re showing signs of COVID-19. The Government of Canada published this self-assessment tool to help you assess if somebody is sick. If somebody does show signs, do what you can to quarantine them within the house and pay extra attention to disinfecting any surfaces they may come into contact with. Use gloves around areas they touch, including when cleaning their laundry.

The CDC offers tips for cleaning and disinfecting your house here. They recommend you clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches and toilets. It’s worth noting that cleaning removes germs but doesn’t kill them, it just lowers their numbers. You need to disinfect with chemical to kill germs on surfaces, after you’ve cleaned them. To disinfect, diluted household bleach solutions or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are best. You can create your own solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

This post from ITWorld Canada also provides tips for cleaning cellphones and other devices, including your cell phone, keyboards and mice.

Exercising

It’s the little things that count. Even if you never had a regular workout routine, walking to the office and back from your car, going out for lunch, and taking a few sets of stairs are all forms of exercise we’re no longer getting. You must keep physically fit to stay healthy through these times, but it’s difficult when we barely leave the home and the couch is so tempting.

First, always remember that a walk outside is alright and encouraged by health professionals, as long as you maintain your distance from other people. If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, this CBC article is packed with free, no-equipment online fitness classes. It lists a variety of free apps and channels (ex. Nike Training Club or Fitness Blender), studios offering online workouts (ex. Fit Squad Training, Body Barre Fitness & Training Studio), and other opportunities to get some good family workouts at home. Those with kids can also check out some YouTube channels like Cosmic Kids Yoga and Barre Alley.

Food Safety

There are many questions regarding food, and how to ensure it’s safe, either when it comes home from the grocery store or a takeout restaurant. In a CTV News interview, infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch called the risk of contracting the virus that way “so extraordinary small”. He said the virus doesn’t appear to thrive on surfaces like food or paper, but it can survive for hours or days on others.

The same CTV News article provided a few suggestions for keeping safe with takeout. For example, use rubbing alcohol to wipe down the box (but not the food) and thoroughly wash your hands after exchanging packages or cash.

As far as groceries are concerned, experts say this comes down to good hygiene. That should come as no surprise to anybody today. Sanitize before and after entering the grocery store and sanitize your grocery cart before taking it. You can wear gloves during your shopping trip and remove them once you leave the store; however, don’t let them give you a false sense of security. Germs can still spread on surfaces of gloves.

For more details, here’s a video by Jeffrey VanWingen with some detailed tips on how to sanitize your groceries and takeout when you bring them home:

How are you ensuring you stay healthier (or get healthier) while social distancing? Please share your ideas and suggestions with our community in the comments below.

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!