If you're like me, you've been stuck at home during this pandemic. Many employees have started returning to the office, but plenty remain working from home, relying on telecommunication services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, among others. Android Central's Ara Wagoner listed Slack as one of the top 10 apps that rules her phone and her life, and that's definitely true for a lot of us. However, one of the downsides of working from home is that interactions can sometimes feel very impersonal, making it hard to really connect with co-workers. That's why I was cautiously optimistic when Slack Huddles was introduced, but that optimism turned into plain joy.
Slack Huddles was announced at the end of June as a way to bring back casual office chats in our current work-from-anywhere world. You know, the kind of thing that happens when you pass by a coworker and stop for a quick chat about some hot gossip or maybe a quick update on a project. Nothing too formal, and for the kinds of conversations that don't merit an entire meeting but could be better conveyed over voice than through chat.
Part of what makes Slack Huddles so good is the way it was designed. While Slack is hardly the first to get into audio-only chats — and one might be inclined to roll their eyes at yet another Clubhouse clone — I appreciate its Discord-like take on the feature. On desktop, the feature is pretty unobtrusive, sitting in the bottom left corner of the window. To join a chat, simply enter a channel or DM and click on the headset toggle. You'll hear a nice little "Bloop!" to indicate that a Huddle has started. It doesn't take up an entire screen, and everything sits in that little corner, which really highlights the point that it's not meant to replace whole meetings but rather circumvent them.
Huddles aren't scheduled, and anyone in that channel can hop in or out of the Huddle at will. So instead of scheduling or setting up an entire Google Meet session for something that might need a quick explainer, you can just start a Huddle for a fast chat and hop right out. It's perfect. And in case you do need a little more, there are options to share your screen or even turn on live transcriptions.
The experience is slightly different on iOS and the best Android phones, and not as feature-rich, so you can't share your screen or view live captions. But while it defaults to a full-screen view, you can easily swipe down to minimize the Huddle in a sort-of picture-in-picture mode to scroll through other Slack conversations, which is a nice touch.
I don't know about you, but as a millennial, I grew up during a time when text messages were the next big thing. They're easy, and you don't have to dedicate a lot of time to them. So for me, phone calls were hardly ever at the front of my mind, and even to this day, I get anxious whenever I have to get on a phone call. So naturally, I've largely ignored the calling feature on Slack and often forget that it's there. I dread that little phone icon because phone calls always seem to have so much weight on them, especially in a professional environment.
With Slack Huddles, I can have the best of both worlds. Terse, Clubhouse-like audio chats are kind of like long-form voice texts, somewhere between an audio message and a phone call. While this sort of thing is great for social media apps, it's perfect for business communications apps when many people still can't return to the office. It also brings a level of casualness that is often missing in these kinds of remote work environments. And the best part is that employers can't monitor Huddle conversations, nor can they be recorded, so the office gossip stays between those involved in the Huddle.
New Slack features aren't always a hit, but sometimes the company manages to get something right, like when it introduced a dedicated pronoun field. I know not everyone uses Slack, but if your team uses it as the main point of communication, you definitely shouldn't sleep on this feature.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.