Slack Introduces Huddles Social Audio Rooms
Slack has rolled out a social audio feature called Slack Huddles designed to encourage more casual conversations among coworkers. The audio-only rooms are supposed to be a way to have unscheduled meetings and chats by voice without having to set up a video call.
The new Huddles are a different kind of channel from the existing text groups or the group video calls that Slack currently offers business users. They’re much more like a Discord audio room, where people can jump in and out of the call without having to invite people specifically or arrange a meeting on a calendar with hard start and end times. The audio chat can begin in any channel or direct-message group and last a minute or two, or as long as the participants choose to have the audio interaction on. It allows people to do other things without looking into a camera, though they can share their screen if they decide to show something to the others in the chat. Slack likens the new feature to a conversation in the hallway or at a co-worker’s desk.
“Those casual conversations, which aren’t burdened by formality or timeboxed to 30-minute increments, not only build team camaraderie, but often evolve into an idea of something greater,” Slack wrote in a blog post explaining the new feature. “Everyone in that channel is free to come in and out as they please, as if to “walk by” your desk. Slack Huddles are particularly useful when you want to discuss a complex topic on the fly without having to negotiate busy calendars, and want a break from being on camera.”
Social Audio Slack
Slack has been experimenting with social audio since last year, including a pilot program back in March. The success of Clubhouse likely accelerated their efforts, as it did with so many other communications platforms. The casual conversations that Huddles is supposed to support don’t happen nearly as often in the remote or hybrid work environments operating in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Slack suggests Huddles can simulate the benefits of those conversations by adding flexibility to its platform. It’s one of a few forays Slack has made to accommodate the changes in how people work since early last year. The Slack Connect feature introduced a few months ago lets people send messages to Slack users outside their organization, while the asynchronous video post feature lets users share videos to a channel and gives them an expiration date like a Snapchat or Instagram story.
“Digital-first means encouraging people to work when and where is best for them. It doesn’t mean just taking the old ways of working—rigid 9-to-5 workdays packed with countless meetings—and re-creating them online,” Slack wrote. “It requires a virtual headquarters that supports all ways of working: synchronous and asynchronous, in-person and remote, structured and informal.”