Slack’s New Updates Take Inspiration From Instagram

Slack has kept people connected as companies have largely moved their employees into remote working environments. The productivity company announced a slew of new features to its platform in October in connection with Slack Frontiers, a three-day customer event. The new features are intended to expand the utility of the group messaging tool to take on more communications features.

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One of the most interesting new features is “very much like Instagram stories, or Snapchat stories, but in Slack,” Slack’s CEO, Stewart Butterfield told The Verge. “There was a joke going around that soon all software will have it, and I thought that was funny at the time. But especially during the pandemic, and the difference in how we as a company are approaching work, means it’s an idea that’s time has come.”

Slack is calling it asynchronous video, which will allow users to send video messages over Slack on an asynchronous basis (not requiring real-time interaction) which will work similarly to video messaging or Instagram Stories.

Other features include open voice channels, which will allow for audio messages to be sent between people, effectively like a walkie-talkie. The new direct messaging on Slack Connect will make it possible for users to send direct messages to anyone on Slack at any organization, whether or not you are currently working with them on a project.

A new verification system will be used, similar to Twitter and Instagram, that will make it easier to control which companies can send unsolicited inbound communications and prevent other companies from doing so. Slack will also offer fee-based security reviews for any of the 2,000 apps in its application marketplace. The service would be a detailed security audit that they would receive by simply listing on the store.

The company also launched its new Remote Employee Experience Index, which measures how employees feel about working remotely. Slack surveyed 4,700 workers in the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Australia who primarily work remotely. The survey found that employees feel positive about most aspects of remote work, including work-life balance, satisfaction with their working arrangements, work-related stress and productivity, but felt more negative about a “sense of belonging.”

In an interview with Fortune, Chief Product Officer Tamar Yehoshua explained these findings. “We are finding that people have an increased feeling of loneliness and isolation,” underscoring the challenges companies face dealing with workers who may be struggling with mental health and grief in the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully offerings like Slack’s new features will help individuals to feel more connected with their colleagues and workplaces as remote work becomes the new normal.