Woman working on computer on a video call in her house.
From informal discussion "huddles" to scheduled-send messages, Slack is rolling out new features as a way to continue embracing the influx of hybrid and remote workers. — Getty Images/AleksandarNakic

Why it matters:

  • The pandemic drove a massive surge in remote work that has upped employee expectations for work-life balance and fueled the rise of the hybrid workplace.
  • Flexibility ranks second only to compensation in determining employee satisfaction, with 93% of workers saying they want a flexible schedule and 76% seeking the option to choose where they work.
  • Against that backdrop, small and medium-sized businesses are adopting Slack features that allow them to communicate in new ways with employees and external partners, as the platform adds tools for the hybrid workplace.

As workplaces around the world went remote with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the number of businesses using the messaging platform Slack grew by 42%.

Millions of new users logged into Slack during the first weeks after the pandemic was declared a national emergency.

Those workers, and their employers, discovered a new way of doing business, and Slack is betting that new way is here to stay. It is expanding its offerings to prepare for an increasingly hybrid future, where businesses both large and small will need to connect employees both in and out of the office.

“We’re doubling down on becoming your new digital headquarters,” Jen Mingo, Slack’s global head of success services, told CO—. “Instead of walking into a physical office, you can enter Slack and you can communicate and collaborate in a single environment,” Mingo said.

For small businesses, efficiency is the name of the game. Slack is set up specifically to support small businesses in helping them maximize the time they engage with their employees and their partners.

Jen Mingo, global head of success services, Slack

New tools aimed at a pandemic-transformed hybrid workplace

More workers today are demanding flexibility, not only in where they do their work, but how and when.

A study by the Future Forum, a workplace consortium launched by Slack, found that flexibility in schedules and work location ranks second only to compensation in determining job satisfaction. Nearly all employees surveyed (93%) want a flexible schedule and 76% want the option to work remotely.

Slack set out initially to create a way for remote teams to communicate that was easier and more efficient than endless email chains. Now, it wants to be the complete communications hub for all workplace interactions.

Features Slack has added recently include:

  • Huddles: This is a way for Slack users to initiate voice chats with other employees in a Slack channel and hold conversations with multiple people. Slack describes it as a digital-first way to create the informal discussions that used to happen after meetings or around the watercooler.
  • Audio/visual clips: Managers or team members can post video or audio messages that other employees can view when it’s convenient for them.
  • Scheduled send: Users can write a Slack message but schedule it to arrive at a later time, to avoid sending messages when a worker is off duty.
  • Slack Connect: This feature makes it easier for companies to invite vendors, clients or other collaborators to participate in Slack discussions, including outside companies that are not paid Slack users.

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 Employee group photo from Chatbooks.
Fully remote customer service team Chatbooks has found that Slack is not only effective at managing a remote team, but that it also fosters a sense of team connectedness. — Chatbooks

‘For small businesses, efficiency is the name of the game’

Slack users range from small businesses with only two or three employees to multinational corporations, Mingo said.

Small businesses in particular, she said, have found Slack helps them operate more efficiently.

The platform allows teams to work together in real time, without the delays and back-and-forth stops and starts of email, Mingo said.

“You have the ability to create communication with context around the specific outcome you’re trying to drive,” she said.

“For small businesses, efficiency is the name of the game,” Mingo said. “Slack is set up specifically to support small businesses in helping them maximize the time they engage with their employees and their partners.”

A Slack-commissioned study by Forrester Consulting of sales teams that use the platform found that over three years, it boosted their revenue by $2.6 million due to increased sales velocity, and saw a 13% rise in the number of deals closed.

Another Forrester study of service teams showed a 10.7% reduction in average customer service ticket time; a cost reduction of 15.1% per customer ticket; and improvement in employee satisfaction, coaching and culture.

One small business that has used Slack to build and improve its customer service team is Chatbooks, a Utah-based company that lets customers create photo books using the social media apps on their phones.

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Managing a remote workforce while increasing connectedness

Angel Brockbank, who supervises an all-remote team of about 75 customer service employees for Chatbooks, said one of the biggest advantages of Slack’s new tools is the ability to manage a remote workforce while fostering a sense of team connectedness.

By making remote work easy with Slack, “we’ve been able to find some really great talent that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get,” Brockbank told CO—.

The customer service team has always used Slack, but the other Chatbooks employees worked in the company’s headquarters before the pandemic. Now, Brockbank said, the company policy for everyone is “remote first.”

“We can meet in the office if we need to, but first priority is a remote style of working,” she said.

“Everybody is embracing this change,” said Slack’s Mingo. She herself works remotely for Slack while navigating her life as a mom with three kids.

“It’s the new way we work and live,” she said. “This is the new pivot.”

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