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Quick Start to a Virtual Work Environment Using Free Tools

Virtual work is here in a big way with no time to plan or prep. Here is a list of video conferencing tools to get you started. As a first step, we recommend starting with an online chat tool, like Slack.  For more tools for small businesses, check this Inc article.

Online Chat for Business

This is the number one tool in our organization. It doesn’t interrupt as a phone call does and you can switch to a phone call with a team member in click as well as pass document links without having to screen share them. If you don’t have this in your organization, get it now.
Slack – Your team can see who is online at a glance and call through the computer with a click. Lots of integrations. (Use them!)
Hangouts – It might make sense if you use G-Suite in your company. With the Meet version, it seems they are working on improving it. We left it for Slack about 1 year ago.
Teams – Definitely consider if you are on Office 365 or about to adopt it.
Do this unless you have Office 365 and prefer teams or G-Suite and prefer the advanced Hangouts. (We have G-Suite and use slack).

Video and Conference Calling for Business

I highly recommend using the video feature in video calls. Your team and customers need face-to-face communication now.

Platform Covid-19 Extras Limits on Free Services
Uberconference Extended Call Length and Up to 50 participants Check here
Zoom Free for Educational Entities 40 min calls for more than 3 people
Teams 6-Month Free Trial Check here
Hangouts Free Addons for G-Suite customers Up to 10 people
Webex Up to 100 participants No limit on call length. No recording.


By far, Uberconference is the easiest to sign up with for the most features. No call length limit and 50 users due to Covid-19. We stopped using it a while back as zoom quality seemed better but if you need something fast and simple, try it out.


The only problem is it is difficult to get new accounts due to the volume of demand. Otherwise the free version allows group calls (larger than 3 people) for up to 40 minutes. Here is the best guide I have seen on getting started. Can’t sign up? (And this goes for any of the tools) Maybe borrow and account from a friend who is not using it.

Microsoft Teams

It comes with Office 365, but you can sign up also with a Microsoft or Gmail account. I tested this with my personal outlook.com and it worked though it is important to start with the correct link to activate it.  (Personal use link…I don’t think they are being too strict about defining personal use right now but something to note if you are a business owner.) The difference between paid and free teams can be found here but due to Covid-19 paid teams has a free 6 month trial for now.  When I tried to start a conference, it hung so perhaps there is a load issue with so many people getting on.

Google Hangouts

Hangouts and Duo can work for calls with up to 10 people and are available if you have a Gmail account. However, I do not see a way to set up a dial number with the version linked to a free Gmail account. More advanced features are available (And now for no additional charge through July 31, 2020) if you have G-Suite (paid Corporate G-Mail).
(And now for no additional charge through July 31, 2020) if you have G-Suite (Paid G-Mail and Drive). More can be found here.

Ken FischerAbout Author: Ken Fischer is the CEO at Atigro and on the executive board of NABOE.org (National Association of Business Owners & Entrepreneurs).

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