Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
Slack has been ubiquitous in professional circles since its founding in 2009; so much that the communication app has become a verb (Slack me later, if you don’t understand what I mean). The company created an application that combines the best of email, instant messaging, meeting planning, and note taking. Even better, they left out the time-zapping parts—no one starts a Slack message with “I hope this finds you well,” before getting into their real ask.
Over the years, Slack worked with other software companies to create integrations that streamline things like document reviews, room reservations, and performance reviews. At the same time, Slack created its own add-ons that make the platform fun, engaging, and the perfect setting to make new workplace connections.
In early October 2018, Slack hosted its Frontiers conference in New York City. The two-day event featured panels from CEOs, founders, and Slack’s own developers and experience teams. One session focused on the integrations companies use in their Slack channels that bring their teams together beyond project collaboration and communication. Some of these integrations focus on sharing music playlists that get workers through the day; others are for craft beer aficionados. However, one that piqued my interest was the Lunch Train app, which makes planning and coordinating meal-time outings easier while getting people away from their desks. In other words, it helps workers make friends over the optimal setting: a meal.
Slack was originally designed to make workplaces more productive by putting all the traditional applications they use in one place. But as the platform grows, the social component plays a starring role. Initially, I found it interesting that some may need a Slack app to make meaningful connections within their professional circle and, honestly, Lunch Train seemed a little sad on first glance. It conjures the image of a school cafeteria, where cliques form and there is someone sitting alone with their sandwich at the end of the table. But apps like this aren’t meant to weed out loners and bring them together. Instead, it’s a company-sanctioned application that acknowledges a problem so many offices suffer from: there’s too much work to do to warrant a proper lunch break. This head-down mentality limits social interactions within the workplace and, by design, leaves people out.
Socially-minded apps on Slack are abundant and, very likely, are the catalyst for users to create personal Slack groups and channels that bring together friends, family, former colleagues, industry circles, and more. Because Slack makes it easy to bring like-minded groups together—without the incessant buzz of a group text or poor threading of a mass email—people are using the software in the personal lives as much, if not more, than they do at work. In the office, Slack can be used to make friends, whereas at home Slack improves communication between existing relationships.
Partners and married couples find Slack to be a great application for syncing schedules, creating shopping lists, and coordinating childcare, according to Fast Company. Unlike text messages, Slack’s search applications are precise and organized. In a text thread with your partner, for example, travel plans and grocery store purchases are lumped in the same message; whereas in Slack, a channel can be created for individual topics or lists that need to live in separate spaces. In 2016, the Sweden-based company Labs, by Earth People, published an article written by an employee who uses Slack integrations, like Like My iPhone, to stay on-top of what his kids are up to and to coordinate their pick-up and drop-off schedules.
Friend groups are also using Slack (typically the free version, which stores up to 10,000 messages) to coordinate outings and share books, music, and movie recommendations. Specific channels make it easy to jump in and out at your leisure. If your schedule permits, maybe you’ll spend some time in your friends’ travel channel to plan an overseas trip or visit a book club channel for new recommendations. Rather than scrolling through past texts or sending out repeat asks, Slack channels keep everything organized in one, convenient place.
Perhaps it’s the live chat-like design of Slack that allows users to skip introductory niceties, personally or professionally, and immediately get to the reason they logged on in the first place. That saves everyone time. It’s one reason companies now invite clients and vendors onto their Slack accounts. Channels can be private and invitation only, and users can be invited to join a specific channel rather than the entire account. Businesses capitalize on this feature to create restricted accounts so their teams can easily connect—and ditch formalities—with external partners. Additionally, these client- or vendor-specific accounts keep everyone accountable to timelines and give everyone access to track progress through search applications. Restrictions are also useful, personally, for planning surprise parties or, in extreme cases, discussing how to confront a member of the group who may need support beyond their friends.
Slack is great for friends and those in need of some. While the company maintains it’s a professional application and such users are their main focus, it’s thrilled that people are finding a use for what is a professionally unavoidable software in their personal lives as well. In our always-connected culture, it’s still easy to get lost or lose touch. But Slack’s design is keyed into the unpredictability of daily life and makes it easy for users to catch up and stay involved, whether in the office, at the lunch table, or at home.
SpaceIQ and Slack
The integration of SpaceIQ and Slack gives companies the means to give back valuable time to employees—43 hours per person every year. Learn more about how Slack and SpaceIQ help eliminate time-wasting tasks and make workplaces more efficient and productive.