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The future is collaborative: How communication platforms are shaping the way we work

Data from a global survey of 1,200 IT decision makers and 3,000 users shows the impact and importance of collaboration platforms in the new workplace

Команда Slack6 апреля 2021 г.

We’re hosting a live discussion with a panel of workplace-collaboration experts about the survey results included in this blog post on Thursday, April 8, at 10 a.m. PT. Register for the LinkedIn Live event here.

For many people, the initial transition to remote work last year wasn’t smooth sailing. The sudden switch brought a difficult mix of stress, isolation and whiplash.

One of the key contributors to these feelings was our slow, siloed communication tools. We used to be able to overcome the limitations of traditional business communication tools when we all worked in an office. You could knock on a coworker’s door or catch up in the break room for answers, assistance and camaraderie.

But remote work doesn’t support our old tools. It requires technology that enables fast, seamless collaboration. Because hybrid, flexible work models are what employees want for the future, it’s time for more companies to adopt these collaboration platforms.

A survey by Wakefield Research confirms this idea. The company surveyed thousands of users and IT decision makers (ITDMs) who use collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams for work to get a retrospective view on the value of collaboration platforms over the past year and to look at the trends that will define the future of these platforms.

Key takeaways

The data shows a clear trend toward collaboration platforms as the new norm. These platforms are reducing the reliance on email and meetings and changing business communication into something that’s faster and more people-friendly.

  • Collaboration platforms are quickly replacing traditional communication. Even though nearly half of companies had not used a collaboration platform before the pandemic, 78% of ITDMs now say they’ll continue to use Slack and/or other solutions even when “normal” work routines resume.
  • Professionals prefer collaboration platforms to email and meetings. If forced to choose, more than one-third of business users would give up their work email rather than Slack or Teams or other collaboration solutions. And 95% of Slack users say they prefer Slack to video calls when connecting with their team.
  • Employees want a say in their company’s tech stack. Thirty-seven percent of users are frustrated that they’re not included in conversations about the company’s selection of software tools. This is especially important for the collaboration platforms that act as a company’s virtual office. Accordingly, ITDMs are giving employees more influence in software purchase decisions. More than 2 in 5 IT decision makers (41%) say employee support was part of their decision to select Slack.
  • One-hundred percent of Slack users want to keep using Slack even after the pandemic, citing its importance in collaborating at a time that works best for them, improving alignment across teams and increasing individual productivity.

Collaboration platforms are essential to the new way of working

The sudden shift to remote work in March 2020 took multiyear digital transformation projects and put them on a timeline of weeks and months. Although the change was unexpected, many employees want to keep working remotely.

A survey by Slack’s Future Forum, a new consortium designed to help companies make the transformations necessary to thrive in remote and hybrid economies, found that 72% of knowledge workers now want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward—one that would allow a mix of remote and co-located work.

Nearly half of organizations (47%) had not even used a collaboration platform prior to the pandemic. But now, with this shift to hybrid workplaces, it’s clear that collaboration platforms will play an increasingly important role in the future of business communication. We’re only just beginning to see the full potential of these tools, since many companies had to adopt their collaboration platform so quickly in early 2020.

Collaboration platforms are here to stay

But even with such a fast shift, users and ITDMs alike are seeing a lot of success with this new way of communicating—and the majority of employees and decision makers have no plans to go back to the old ways.

  • Seventy-nine percent of users say their collaboration platform is very important to their work.
  • Seventy-eight percent of ITDMs say they will continue to use Slack and/or Microsoft Teams or other solutions even when “normal” work routines resume following the pandemic.
  • One-hundred percent of Slack users want to keep using Slack even after the pandemic, citing its importance in collaborating at a time that works best for them, improving alignment across teams and increasing individual productivity.

Traditional communication platforms are becoming obsolete

As collaboration platforms rise in popularity, the trends show that traditional communication methods are losing popularity.

  • Email is losing its status as the default business communication tool. More than half of ITDMs believe email will be replaced as the primary communications tool by 2024. And if forced to choose, 36% of users would rather go without work email than without Slack, Teams or other collaboration solutions.
  • Meetings are being replaced with asynchronous communication. No more “meetings that should have been an email”—users think that an average of 40% of their meetings could be replaced by an asynchronous Slack thread. Ninety-five percent of Slack users say they would rather connect with their team via Slack than via a video call.

Remote work is here to stay, which means collaboration platforms are here to stay and will continue to shape how we think about communication at work.

Employees prefer Slack over email

Email has been around for nearly 50 years. It’s the default communication tool at work. It’s also a holdover from an outdated top-down business model.

Transparency, bottom-up decision-making, and collaboration are key to a successful hybrid business model. But the closed nature of email insulates workers from the information they need and isolates them from one another.

While Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has said, “there’s no advantage to supplanting email completely,” Slack does seem to have email beat when it comes to not only productivity but also promoting a healthy culture and preventing feelings of isolation.

Infographic about the future of work

Slack saves employees time

Studies show that email takes up more than 3 hours a day (in other words, about 37% of the typical knowledge worker’s week)—little wonder, since you have to monitor your inbox, sort through junk mail, scroll through long reply-all threads, and volley messages back and forth before reaching a decision.

Slack channels make it easy for individuals and cross-departmental groups alike to tackle projects and problems quickly without losing any context or visibility. This enhances productivity in a big way.

Our study found that users save an average of 90 minutes a day by using Slack instead of email. This adds up to 7.5 hours from Monday to Friday, which means Slack is giving users back almost an entire day every week.

Slack fosters human connection

But efficiency isn’t all it takes to have a productive hybrid office. To stay engaged, employees also need to stay connected. At Slack’s Future Forum, two of the top five challenges of remote work concerned connection:

  • Maintaining and building working relationships with colleagues
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation

Email is a fundamentally formal medium, which makes it difficult to build human connections with remote colleagues. The default to one-on-one conversations can also increase a sense of isolation, since it limits visibility and prevents employees from interacting with the broader company.

Slack connects people by providing not just a communication tool but a virtual work environment. On Slack, conversations don’t have to be formal. Eighty percent of Slack users said they would send a GIF on a Slack channel and wouldn’t on a group email.

This more relaxed environment makes it easier to feel like you’re interacting with other humans, not just usernames. Social Slack channels help encourage this people-centric culture. In fact, 95% of Slack users have team-building Slack channels with their peers.

Slack breaks down communication barriers

The formal nature of email is a big barrier to the casual conversations that build relationships. Even connecting with a direct manager can be difficult for employees whose interactions are limited to email and occasional meetings, let alone building any kind of relationship with higher-ups.

Slack makes it easier to communicate with decision makers and leaders, both inside the organization and out. This functionality is available today, fully in compliance with data ownership regulations and without heavy burdens for IT to set up and manage. Half of Slack users prefer the platform for communicating with clients or customers, and 96% of users said that Slack helps them forge better connections with their superiors (vs. email).

96% of users said that Slack helps them forge better connections with their superiors (vs. email)

As we enter the age of the hybrid work model, it’s time for companies to embrace collaboration tools. They both improve productivity and foster human connection, no matter where employees are located.

Employees play a growing part in software purchase decisions

It doesn’t matter how cutting-edge a new technology is—if your employees don’t like it and use it, it’s a waste of money. But IT decision makers and end users too often have very different ideas about what role technologies should have and what’s most important.

To create an engaging and valuable technology stack, you need to listen to the people who will actually be impacted by your decisions. Thirty-seven percent of users are already frustrated that they’re not included in conversations about the company’s selection of software tools.

Employees heavily influence a company’s choice in collaboration platform

The stakes get higher when it comes to communication tools. In a hybrid environment, your collaboration software is, in a very real sense, your new office building.

And just like you wouldn’t build a labyrinth in a business park, you don’t want a platform that’s nonintuitive and frustrating to users. No surprise, then, that ITDMs are giving more power to employees when choosing a collaboration platform like Slack.

In our survey, we found that:

  • Forty-one percent of IT decision makers say employee support was part of the decision to select Slack.
  • Seventy-three percent of IT decision makers who use Teams say employees have already requested Slack.
  • Forty-five percent of IT decision makers who use Teams would consider purchasing a Slack subscription if requested by employees.

To meet employees’ needs, use a best-of-breed strategy

To choose a collaboration platform that meets employees’ needs, take a best-of-breed approach: Opt for the best tool for the task at hand rather than adopting a suite of software from a single vendor and forcing a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, single-vendor solutions like Microsoft provide a technology stack for every function of your business. But if you go all-in on single-vendor software to run your business, you’re limiting the flexibility to meet your business’s unique needs—your IT budget is now tied up in that vendor’s ecosystem.

While single-vendor solutions are popular for their simplicity, they’re likely not the best choice for your every software need. Take the Teams application, for instance. When the pandemic hit, companies scrambled to adopt a collaboration platform, and Slack and Microsoft Teams were the two major contenders.

Forty-one percent of all organizations adopted their collaboration platform within five weeks, and organizations that adopted Teams as their primary business platform took an average of 6.2 weeks to get up and running.

Businesses that chose Slack at the beginning of the pandemic, on the other hand, were able to fully adopt the platform in an average of 3.5 weeks—roughly half the average time for Teams.

So though it may be tempting to choose Teams if you’re already using Office 365 and SharePoint, choosing a single-vendor ecosystem rather than a best-of-breed approach will limit your ability to use the best tool for the job at hand.

Slack takes a best-of-breed approach. As an open, flexible platform, Slack makes it possible for you to innovate custom solutions and integrate with thousands of other tools (including Office 365 and SharePoint). That way, you can work with your employees to build the technology stack that is best for your business. Think of it as the 2% of your software budget that increases the value of the other 98%.

Businesses fully adopted Slack in an average of 3.5 weeks—roughly half the average time for Teams

The future of work is collaborative

The rocketing rise of remote work has made us rethink the way we communicate at work. Nearly 80% of users now say that their collaboration platform is very important—even though 47% of organizations weren’t even using such a platform until March 2020.

The hybrid work environment may feel like a new frontier. But with tools like Slack, it’s possible for you to take a best-of-breed approach and build the collaboration platform that your company needs to thrive.

Methodology

This survey was commissioned by Slack and conducted by Wakefield Research between February 9 and 23, 2021, using an email invitation and online survey. It was distributed among 3,000 users, defined as employed professionals using Slack or Microsoft Teams for work, who work at companies of more than 100 employees and that pay for the use of Slack or Teams. The geographic distribution was 500 respondents in each of these areas: U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan, Australia. We also surveyed 1,200 IT decision makers, defined as employed professionals using Slack or Teams for work who are VPs or above at companies of more than 100 employees paying for Slack or Teams. For this group, the geographic breakdown was 200 respondents in each of the same areas as above.

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