slack on slack

How our product development organization uses Slack’s new features

New Slack audio and video features are making it easier for us to move faster, stay aligned and get work done

Author: Tamar YehoshuaJune 30th, 2021Illustration by Francesco Ciccolella

When Slack first transitioned to become a 100% remote workforce, most of our early conversations focused on how we could go back: back to the office, back to the way things were, back to “normal.” But as we spent more than a year adapting, improving, and embracing the benefits a digital-first approach can create, the conversation changed. It was no longer about rewinding the clock to the way we worked in March 2020—it was about charting a new course that works better for all of us. 

There has been a fundamental shift in the way we work, and we’ve seen from our research that 93% of knowledge workers want flexibility in when and how they work. As we move toward a future where some of us will be returning to the office, some staying remote, and many choosing a hybrid combination of the two, we have all realized that we need to upgrade both our tools and our internal processes to work more effectively in a hybrid work environment. At Slack we’re working to provide a flexible, inclusive and connected work environment, experimenting with different approaches and tools to support these principles.

As I meet with customers and peers, I hear the same questions and concerns come up in every conversation, so I thought I would share some features we are launching and how we’ve been using them at Slack in the Product Development organization to improve how we work.

Audio-first communication (less video fatigue)

We’ve all experienced video fatigue, the burnout from too many video meetings. Our customers told us the same, and research confirmed that the feeling was widespread. So we started building a way to communicate by audio in Slack and make it easy to join conversations. Over the past several months, we’ve been refining this feature we called Slack Huddles—a lightweight, audio-first way to start live conversations in any channel or DM, including those you share with people outside your company. You can also share your screen in a huddle, for those moments when you want to work through a design, deck or proposal together.

Here are some of the ways we use huddles at Slack:

  • Quick syncs: Sometimes you just need to grab one or more people for a virtual “hallway chat.” We use Slack Huddles for when we want to debrief a conversation, get someone up to speed on a new development, or align on a fast-moving issue.
  • Real-time triage: When we need to bring together a group of people for a real-time response, huddles are always on, and can be joined by anyone involved in the triage. We’re using Slack channels and huddles together whenever there’s an issue that we need to respond to with urgency. Anyone involved can listen in on the conversation, or they can bounce in and out to get a sense of how things are progressing.
  • Workshops: We use huddles for ad hoc design workshops, to talk through different approaches and options with anyone who’s available. With huddles, a designer can share their screen and voice over their work with anyone in the channel who happens to be around at the time.
  • One-on-ones: For 1:1s, I’ve been using huddles exclusively for months. With audio-only 1:1s, I get a break from the screen and can take a walk. It’s been surprising what a difference this makes in my day, and it seems I’m not alone in feeling this.  

Slack Huddles will begin rolling out to paid teams tomorrow. 

Video, voice and screen recordings (more information sharing, fewer meetings)

Another challenge we wanted to tackle with hybrid and remote work is how to share information more transparently, without creating additional meetings. We’ve built out a new way of recording video, voice, and screen shares natively in Slack, with those recordings automatically captioned and transcribed. And each message is archived and searchable in Slack. 

Here are some examples of how we’re using video, voice and screen recorded messages in Slack channels to give one another flexibility in how and when we work and to ensure that information is shared and documented:

  • Stand-ups: Many teams have adopted this functionality to run their stand-up meetings. Participants can post when it’s convenient for them and can choose between posting a written message, an audio message or a video, with screen sharing. With this feature, you leave a record of the stand-up in the channel that anyone can find; it’s documented and searchable. 
  • Async meetings: Our “Voice of the Customer” program runs monthly meetings with each product area to help them better understand the needs of our customers. Now we run these meetings asynchronously using this feature in the #sales-product-gaps channel. Each presenter posts a video, and anyone can continue the conversation by adding their own recording or message. 
  • Celebrating milestones: Our Sales organization started using video messages to celebrate big wins with the Product Development organization and to thank us for helping move deals forward. It’s been nice to see the person behind the deal, and it helps us feel more connected to cross-functional teams.
  • Organizational alignment: As the leader of the Product organization, I have as one of my top priorities ensuring that our organization understands our product strategy and top priorities. To kick off our most recent quarter, we tried something new. Each Product area lead added a video in our announcement channel about their strategy and top focus areas for the quarter, increasing transparency and flexibility within our organization.

This functionality is in limited-availability release now and will be released to all of our customers over the coming months. 

Charting a new course

As with all change, it will be tempting to revert back to the old ways. But as a leader, I know how important it is to push forward, set an example, and make sure the tools and processes we use support our principles. With greater flexibility, inclusion and connection, we can empower our teams and shape a new future of work.

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