Tech tips and tricks to help you survive self-isolation

  • During these unprecedented times, it can be more than easy to dwindle into a state of depression, anxiety and the fear of the unknown.

    It is best to stay away from both social and traditional media for extended amounts of time during the day, even though it can be addictive and all too accessible, particularly now that the majority of people in the UK and Ireland are self-isolating and working remotely.

    Fear not – Sync NI is here to bring you some positive media. We have compiled some of the great aids coming from the digital world that might ease your new lifestyle staying at home.


    One of the few businesses probably availing from the coronavirus crisis is Netflix; everyone is stuck at home with all but time on their hands to subscribe and binge on endless series of shows.

    However, it can get lonely watching TV by yourself and movie nights with friends are always fun.

    You‘ll therefore be pleased to know that Chrome has an extension called Netflix Party which allows you to simultaneously stream Netflix with friends, even if you’re miles apart.

    It even has a chat window and plays/pauses for everyone in the group so all can stay synced (warning – may be annoying for serial breakers that have to go to the toilet or make a cuppa every 10 minutes!)

    The Discord app which provides free voice and text chat for gamers can also be used for Netflix, so you can hear one another too and it allows up to 50 people to stream together at any one time!

    Online Books

    The website, World Book has made over 3,000 e-books and audiobooks free online for all ages as most children are now having to be taught at home due to school closures.

    If you or your child has a library card, you can also make use of Libby – an app that allows you free access to your local library’s thousands of e-books and audiobooks.

    Libby can also be used on a desktop and the library books can be sent to your Kindle if you have one and prefer reading on it.

    If you prefer the old-fashioned way of reading, click on this Twitter thread below that is highlighting independent book shops across the UK that are taking online orders and delivering books by post and locally to those self-isolating.


    Broaden your horizons and your mind while at home. Reading is one way of doing so, but if you want to gain some skills and official qualifications along the way, why not look up some online e-learning courses?

    Duolingo and Babbel are two free apps that can help you learn a new language of your choosing; a great motivation to learn the language of the country you plan to travel to once this pandemic is over!

    Belfast-based business consultancy firm Quadra is also offering free trials to learn from its portfolio of e-learning Health and Safety courses, which the firms says “are a cost-effective way of learning in a safe environment.”

    WebinarGeek is easy-to-use webinar software with marketing tools to organise quick interactive webinars.

    The platform already offers a 14-day free trial of its software, but the company is currently offering a special rate for schools affected by the coronavirus change.

    The company has also created resources and has hosted information sessions via webinars to help small businesses use it.

    RELATED: Our advice on working from home (possibly with kids) during self-isolation

    For people that are self-isolated at home one of the concerns is how they will make an income and continue communication with clients. A spokesperson for WebinarGeek said that with its “ability to host paid webinars you can share your knowledge and make some extra money at the same time.”

    It is also possible to set up a webinar with two co-hosts all while maintaining social distancing.

    Communicating while remote working

    Slack and Zoom appear to be two of the most popular pieces of software for those working from home in Northern Ireland right now.

    Slack is a proprietary instant messaging service which Slack Technologies defines as “an alternative to e-mail”. It is free to use for an unlimited number of users and you can organise your conversations into different channels for different topics, projects and teams within your organisation.

    RELATED: Tech Craic: Acronis' Candid Wueest - Cybersecurity and Coronavirus

    You can also integrate it with apps and services you already use such as Google Drive or Dropbox so that everyone can see or act on the information within Slack, and past messages and files can be easily searched for within the channels.

    Zoom is a video communications system that appears to be overtaking Skype for conference calls and even podcast recordings.

    It is free to download for all devices, and one of the best things about it is that to conduct a video or audio call with someone else, they don’t even have to download the software; as the host you just need to send them a link for them to quickly and easily join in.

    You can also easily record the video or audio call for future reference.

    The company recently announced that it has become the most downloaded app in communication within the USA’s iOS store.

    On 13 March 13th 2020, the company said that it would remove the time limits from complementary accounts for users in regions affected by the outbreak and any limitations for public schools in Japan, Italy, and the US, with more countries being added.

    Sync NI has already produced an article on how Microsoft Teams can help employees and employers communicate effectively while working from home, which you can read here. For more help with Microsoft software – no matter your age, occupation or capability – check out this NI-based Microsoft community website for tips and help how to navigate systems that you might not be previously familiar with.

    RELATED: Contributors wanted for NI-based Microsoft community website

    Sync NI will keep you updated with plenty more tech tips and tricks to help keep you going through the COVID-19 pandemic.

    If you have any of your own – or if you work for a business that is helping implement some – let us know by e-mailing!

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

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