Teammates participate in a Slack Huddle from various remote locations

Working aloud: Why Dell, TIBCO and Cookpad are turning to lightweight audio chats in Slack

Slack Huddles, a new way to re-create the informal discussions of the office, is accelerating decision-making and advancing team culture

By the team at SlackJune 30th, 2021Illustration by Ryan Todd

Businesses across the globe are wrestling with a common question: Do they return to the office, lean fully into remote work or embrace a hybrid approach? What works best for each company, or even team, will vary—which is why many leading companies are embracing a digital-first approach. That’s to say, giving their teams the tools to do their best work, no matter when or where that work takes place.

The newest of those tools is Slack Huddles, a lightweight and audio-first way to communicate inside a Slack channel or direct message. Similar to the way you might drop by a colleague’s desk to solve a thorny problem or grab a few teammates on the way out of a meeting and debrief, huddles create a space to talk through work on the fly. Plus, everyone in that channel or DM is free to join or leave the conversation as they please.

The result, as Dell, Cookpad Inc. and TIBCO have found, is faster problem-solving, less video fatigue and a more connected workplace.

Debugging technical issues at Dell

Solving technical problems requires the one resource engineering teams often can’t afford: time. Even when your team uses a dedicated Slack channel to triage issues—a tried-and-true way of ensuring your team gets eyes on the most pressing needs—back-and-forth messages and screenshots are often necessary to find a solution. That can happen quickly over a screen-share, but finding time for a scheduled meeting takes, well, more time.

Dell Technologies has found a better and faster alternative: leaning on huddles to speed up the pace of those conversations. Today when the DevOps team needs to see what its colleagues are experiencing firsthand, it opens a huddle right inside the triage channel. The person who spotted the issue shares their screen, and the response team asks its questions in real time.

“Slack Huddles provide an extremely low-friction way to transition from typing to talking and back again, whether you are brainstorming, chasing a bug, or just catching up with colleagues.”

Karl OwenSenior Distinguished Engineer, Dell Technologies

“Engineers who are interested and available will join, we accomplish our goal and the postmortem is handled back in the channel,” says Karl Owen, senior distinguished engineer at Dell. “We’re able to go from multitasking to focused work and back to multitasking with minimal friction.”

Nurturing team culture at Cookpad

Impromptu catch-ups, often over coffee, have long been a staple of Cookpad’s in-office culture. When the pandemic forced its global workforce to go fully remote, those conversations first moved to scheduled video calls. In turn, an activity designed to build lasting relationships between coworkers felt a bit too formal and, according to the head of corporate engineering, Hokuto Hoshi, like just another meeting. Slack Huddles has helped recenter these vital conversations back to their original purpose.

“Huddles help us stay connected, even when we can’t turn our desk chairs around or run into a colleague at the coffee machine.”

Hokuto HoshiHead of Corporate Engineering, Cookpad Inc.

Cookpad regularly leans on huddles in both team and social channels, akin to an empty conference room that’s available to anyone, for any purpose, at a moment’s notice. Some teams are also using huddles in lieu of video during scheduled meetings, and Hoshi notes the density of discourse in those scenarios has actually increased.

Recreating office spontaneity at TIBCO

Grabbing five minutes with a teammate after a meeting. Swinging by your manager’s office to get immediate feedback. Pulling your chair alongside a coworker to troubleshoot. All of these scenarios are second nature in person… but require extra thought when re-created through messaging.

“Starting a huddle is like knocking on an office door. Anyone can come in and have a quick chat—without the pressure to turn on a camera. It’s a faster, easier and better way to connect live.”

Brad TopliffDirector of Innovation and Collaboration, TIBCO

To help every employee move their work forward faster, no matter their location, the global software company is re-creating each of these informal office discussions and more with huddles. This includes regular one-to-one meetings, where the lack of pressure to be on camera has led to more engaged discussions—TIBCO estimates that its video-conferencing usage has decreased nearly 30% since adopting huddles companywide.

Slack Huddles is currently rolling out to all paid Slack teams. Learn more about how your team might use them, and don’t miss these additional digital-first features built to better connect your teams, customers and partners in a work-from-anywhere world.

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