The rise of virtual offices during the global pandemic forced companies to think of creative solutions in managing their teams. With it, the need for new modes of communication. Staff needed online spaces to talk, discuss ideas, and ask for updates on their well-being. Office communication platforms for staff were not just for work, but a way to connect during a time of isolation. Although the virtual office started as a temporary solution for a global event, it is here to stay.
However, a 2022 Cisco study on hybrid work found that not everyone may be prepared for a long-term online workplace. Reportedly, only one in four employees consider their organization as prepared for a hybrid working future. What they found was the lack of use and investment in technology that would ensure seamless progression into a hybrid or remote setup.
The first step is knowing how to continue and replicate the feeling of an office environment in a virtual space. With this comes knowing what works best for your team. We all work differently as individuals and as groups. It’s best to know which of the myriad of office communication platforms can help you, and not the other way around. The virtual office is all about adapting without sacrificing the quality of output. Let’s take a closer look into how exactly we can achieve that.
Platforms for Topic-Based Office and Team Chat
As far as platforms for office communication go, team chat apps are a convenient way to stay connected to your team. The pandemic forced teams to find a way to recreate the feeling of quick yet genuine, person-to-person communication between officemates.
Emails are somewhat disconnected and too professional. There is nothing like tapping your teammate on the shoulder and asking a quick question without having to draft an email. It’s quick and easy which is why tech companies sought to develop and improve on earlier team chat applications like Skype.
Slack: The Vibrant Office Platform
In 2013, Andrew Wilkinson – who worked with big names like Google and Vice, was approached by the creator of Flickr, Stewart Butterfield, about creating a unique team chat application. They collaborated to create Slack and, against popular and (according to him) dull competition, Wilkinson wanted Slack to look like a confetti cannon, vibrant and friendly; basically, fun.
However, what Slack does best is dividing channels of communication well with its UI. The application is both mobile and desktop friendly and allows the user to have individual servers for different departments. They can also have more channels for specific topics such as projects, announcements and general questions. This creates an organized avenue for internal communications between team members. They also offer integration of third-party applications such as MailChimp or SalesForce.
Twist: The Async Office Communication Platform
Twist began as a reaction from the Doist company (who made other project management. Most prefer the relaxed nature of emails over instant messaging (IM) applications. Being bombarded with notifications from IMs can get overwhelming, and an email is often quieter and can always contextualize conversations based on subjects. Yet most still want the casual atmosphere of IM applications over the professional boundary that exists in emails. Twist wants to remove relentless pings from productivity by finding a way to incorporate the two.
The Twist model is context-based conversations and productivity over presence. It uses what is commonly known now as a thread, where a temporary topic can exist in the same group chat. This removes the need for unnecessary channels without bogging down an existing chat box, allowing for context to serve as the basis for any conversation. They also use an async model where you can choose which threads you want to join and receive notifications from as you go.
Tools for Visualized Workflow and Open Feedback
Collaboration can be tricky for this new form of office. One of the most significant impacts of remote work for businesses is the consistency of communication and teamwork. Imagine a silo, straight and narrow but isolated from any other machinery and accomplishing only one objective. This is what a study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found out about teams during the pandemic. Remote work rendered free-flowing ideas and active collaboration static, siloed work. And so, remote work disadvantaged most companies since it made the exchange of information and collaboration difficult for their staff.
Other companies, however, chose to adapt and seek out ways to replicate the feeling of an office in the virtual space. It was fairly easy to do so for communication. Video conferencing platforms like Skype have been around for a long time connecting overseas businesses together. However, communication between teams and managing workflow is a different phenomenon; it’s hard to write a sticky note reminder when there is no one to read it. Finding a way to actively collaborate and provide feedback between teams who should be working in proximity to one another became crucial to any business. This is where applications like Asana and Trello come in.
Asana: The Versatile Management Platform
Collaboration is the first thing that comes to mind whenever users mention Asana. Its founders envisioned a way to streamline their own team’s coordination. What they disliked was the time and effort required to figure out what type of work to do and the stalling of meaningful productivity. It didn’t take much to realize that visualizing reminders and breaking them down into proper subtasks is key to productivity.
Asana is best for managing tasks and workflow, as well as assigning subtasks for different projects. What it lacks in other features like budgeting tracking, it makes up for its versatility. The application can adapt to projects from social media handling to software development. Which makes it best if you oversee different departments to create concrete pipelines for progress. Furthermore, there are different ways to visualize progress from simple to-do lists to sophisticated methods of project management like Waterfall. Asana can adapt to any way you want to work with your team.
Trello: The Simple Yet Effective Platform
If Asana is flexible and adaptable, there is still an argument for doing one thing and honing in on that. Trello focuses on the popular work management method, the Kanban system. Here, the workload is visualized through a board that shows tasks due, being done, backlogged, and are completed. Trello streamlines this through their platform that creates the board for you and your team to fill it up and mark tasks off as you go. Here you can upload photos, provide and answer feedback, and assign work visible to anybody in your team to better see updates on a project. Trello is a simpler tool, but the simplicity of a board allows any teammate to better keep up with projects.
Find a Communication Platform That Works Best for Your Team
It can be hard to find what works best for you and your team. There is an overwhelming number of new office communication platforms, but it’s easy to narrow them down by asking what your team thinks. It will all begin with finding out how you productively work together. Open collaboration begins with hearing input and knowing how your teammates work is vital in knowing which platform to use.