In an increasingly remote working landscape, business communication has taken a much more digital form.
Without the watercooler work chat and incidental brainstorms in the corridors of the office, businesses must look for tools that can replicate workplace chat via more virtual means.
Business communication and collaboration has always been essential for business teams. Whether you’re a large enterprise adjusting to hybrid working, or you’re a small, agile team embracing WFH flexibility, being able to connect and collaborate with colleagues has never been more important.
In recent months, as many businesses have adopted online chat tools, many have found that workplace chat software can be as effective (if not more effective) than the fortuitous or scheduled in-person meetings of days gone by.
In essence, workplace chat apps have replaced the physical office for many. And with features that are built to streamline workflow processes and make collaboration much easier, it’s no wonder so many have embraced more digital alternatives to the workplace chat.
What Is Workplace Chat Software?
Organisations that previously shared a physical workspace have now had to adjust and inhabit a much less tangible one in the form of collaboration platforms and workplace chat software.
Workplace chat software, otherwise referred to as collaboration apps or business communication tools, offer businesses a digital workspace to conduct day-to-day tasks. Team chat apps enable colleagues to simply log in, stay in touch with colleagues and manage group work from wherever they are.
Connecting with colleagues on a daily basis is still an essential part of the working day for more workers. Being able to access the software they need is about efficiency and productivity.
With online chat tools, information workers can partake in real-time or asynchronous communications (depending on their cultural preference) and communicate effectively without needing to be in physical meeting spaces or offices.
Workers can also search for briefs, documents, and messages to make sure they have the relevant information to get work done.
Your requirements may vary depending on your organisation but here are a few key features you may want to look for in any online chat software:
- Instant messaging
- Live video calling
- Platforms available on iOS, Android, and web browser for easy access
- In-built task management
- 1-2-1 chat and group chats
- Open platform/ integrations with other key business tools
What Can I Use Instead of In-Person Workplace Chat: The Alternatives
Whether you’re looking to replicate daily meetings, brainstorming sessions, informal watercooler chats or your annual AGM, we’ve put together a list of some of the best online chat tools that could meet your unique requirements.
RingCentral’s all-in-one platform is built with easy team collaboration in mind. With one-to-one messaging as well as the ability to set up team chats, task management, video and voice calling, RingCentral offers a holistic virtual workspace, perfect for small teams and enterprise organisations alike.
What’s more, our open API platform enables you to customise and configure your digital workspace by integrating with all your favourite business tools and apps.
- Send messages via dedicated team chat threads or one-to-one messaging
- Video chat with collaboration tools such as screen sharing, file sharing and whiteboarding
- Built-in task management for assigning projects and updating colleagues on progress
- Integrations with all your favourite business tools
- Real-time virtual meeting rooms with Team Huddle for seamless team gatherings
- Profile status tags such as ‘do not disturb’ or ‘invisible’
- Call recording and webinar recording
- Intuitive search and bookmarking features to find messages and documents you need in an instant
Popular with businesses already using the Office 365 suite, Microsoft Teams has become another strong contender for those looking for a team chat app that integrates with their day-to-day essential tools. With video calling, real-time messaging tools and audio calls, Teams is a simple option for replicating workplace chat.
- Office 365 integrations
- Scheduled invite links
- Video calling and screen sharing
- Background blurring
- Call recording
Previously known as Google Hangouts Chat, Google Chat is Google’s chat service, forming part of the popular Google Workspace suite. That means it’s a great, and essentially free, tool for businesses already using the Gmail with a company email address.
- 1-2-1 messaging or threads for specific conversations similar to Slack channels.
- Ability to switch to chat directly from Gmail, or use as a standalone app
- Designed for collaboration with shared chat, files and tasks
- Integrated with G-suite tools to help you seamlessly switch between business communications
Slack has quickly become a very popular workplace chat app. A go-to messaging app for those wanting to mimic watercooler interactions with team threads and channels, Slack allows team members to collaborate in real-time, share files and set different channels to keep communications efficient and streamlined.
- Advanced search modifiers
- Message pinning and reference links to channels
- Document management and tracking
- Slack Connect for collaboration with external stakeholders
Originally built for gaming communities, Discord offers a virtual messenger environment for any online community including business users.
While there are few business-specific features, organisations using Discord can tailor their platform using bots to integrate with third-party tools and apps. Discord is a popular option for its always-on audio and screen sharing capabilities for those looking for more video call collaboration.
- Screen sharing
- Video, voice and text chat
- Integrations using bots
- Servers and channels for group conversations and one-to-one messaging
- File sharing
- Compatible with various mobile devices and operating systems
Mattermost offers a secure, open-source platform for conducting collaboration and workflow management.
Popular as a platform for software developers and engineers, the in-built workflow orchestration means it’s a great platform for any organisation following agile project management processes. Mattermost is self-hostable and offers online chat as well as file sharing, search and integrations.
- Integrations with a rich ecosystem of third-party developer tools
- Real-time and asynchronous messaging with voice and video
- File, image and link sharing
- Unlimited, searchable message history
- Boards for Kanban-style workflow management
- Playbooks for prescribed workflows and repeatable processes
Finding the Right Solution for You
It’s important to ensure you audit your needs and do your research before investing in a workplace chat solution.
Whether you’re a small business looking to scale up or an enterprise organisation implementing remote working for the long term, it’s crucial to make sure you implement a solution that has the right functionality and pricing to meet your needs.
It might be that your team is using a simple messenger tool to connect and bond online, sending emojis and gifs to keep the mood light and conducting video meetings via a separate platform. But you’ll need to consider the inefficiencies of switching between multiple platforms and using apps that don’t speak to each other.