With the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the UK and Ireland now, most of us have started working from home. But laggy internet connections and dodgy skype calls don’t entice anyone to start remote group work. With the platforms available now, and the necessity of human interaction during this difficult time, I am definitely an advocate of remote group work, and I’ll quickly tell you why.

So far, I have used two main platforms for group work – MS Teams and Zoom. They knock skype out of the park in terms of connection. Also, they have options to share the screen with the rest of the group, and even allow others to take control of your PC to show you how to do things.

This was especially useful when other QUADRAT DTP students and I worked through an R-Markdown tutorial while connected on MS Teams. When we had problems, we shared our screens and helped each other much more efficiently than through emails etc (below). Also, MS Teams lets you easily exchange large files with each other, which especially useful when working from home on big projects that you need feedback on.

Zoom has been great too – with even more stable connections. At the minute, zoom is the platform of choice for remote lab meetings – look how many faces you can see and hear at once (below)! The only thing is that when there are more than 2 participants, zoom times out after 40 minutes and then you need to start a new session. Although this is slightly incovenient, there are not many platforms that perform so well with so many participants (we had 9!). And there’s nothing to say it can’t be used for a happy hour in a long-stretching evening – in fact it definitely should be used for that also.

If you have a tutorial to do, or there’s something you’ve been meaning to learn – find friends/colleagues who need to do the same and make it a group activity! Not only is it more efficient, it gives us some much-needed human interaction. It’s really important that we don’t lose connection with each other during this time, and that we make an effort to check in with our friends and colleagues – especially international students and post-docs that may be feeling especially alone.

And if you don’t have a pet, choose to do remote group work with people who have dogs at home! Trust me…