What Video Calling Options to consider to Help Work From Home
I’ve been working from home for more than two decades, since then many things have changed; both in attitudes and technology. In this article I will share with you my opinions on some of the current options for keeping in touch with colleagues and clients whilst working from home using different video calling solutions.
When I first started to work from home, email was only just becoming something that was allowed to be used to communicate between businesses. Before that it was purely for internal use. So back then, video calling was a big deal. You would have to spend a lot of money, schedule time in special rooms with special equipment and if you wanted to reach the other side of the world, it would possible involve satellites!
Now days, it is not just easy, but cheap and quick to set up a video call with people in multiple timezones and continents.
Video Calling Recommendations and Options
Here are some options to consider for keeping in touch when working from home. These are based on my experience and satisfaction with each. My current favourite is Zoom, read why below.
With billions of users across all continents on all types of mobile phone, WhatsApp is probably the best choice for a spontaneous call with individuals who might be out and about and not expecting your call.
However, I have found that the video and audio quality can be quite variable, and the experience can be quite inconsistent with multiple people on the call.
Because it is primarily a mobile-first solution (meaning most people use it on their phones), it hasn’t proven to be a useful tool for more structured or official team calls/meetings which might be held using laptops or in meeting rooms.
Video showing how to do a group video call on WhatsApp:
As Apple’s own video calling tech, it is naturally limited to Apple devices so that can make it hard to use consistently with different colleagues or clients who may not be able to access an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
If the person or people you are trying to meet with are using Apple devices then it is, in my opinion, a better user experience than WhatsApp, and because of the desktop/laptop clients that can be used on Mac, or even on iPad, the experience is good enough for use in meetings.
Like WhatsApp, it is not possible to have people “call in” to a meeting. So again, FaceTime is really best suited for those ad-hoc “shall we get Jeff on the call to see what he thinks” kind of meetings.
Instructions on how to use this can be found here.
I’m not going to spend long on Skype. It used to be good, but I gave up on it a while ago because the video quality was often poor.
UPDATE: Skype recently launched a new no-sign up free meeting solution. Read my initial impression of the new no sign service here.
Microsoft Teams replaced Skype for Business and is actually pretty good. But it is quite expensive and in my experience I have always had difficulties including people who didn’t already use Microsoft Teams
The benefit of Google Hangouts is that it works on nearly all devices, most people have a Google account and for most, it is free. The drawback of this solution for me are, 1) that I find the video is not consistent and often the audio and video drift out of sync and 2) in the workplace, many people prefer not to give you their gmail account.
To date, this is by far the best option I have found. The free version is great for one to one calls, the video and audio quality are superb. The free version even allows you to have group conversations of up to 100 participants, but is limited to 40 minutes.
Related: How to Secure your Zoom CallsImportant Security NoteThe free version even has a bunch of collaboration features such as screen sharing (from your laptop and mobile phone/tablet – which is absolutely brilliant for giving demonstrations of mobile apps!) and whiteboard features.
With scheduling and international dial-in numbers, even as a free user you can set up calls with many people in any country without having to worry.
If you do need more, the first tier paid version works out as less than £150 for the year, and considering how much I save on train fares, this pays for itself after three meetings!
With the paid version you also can record and share meetings.