Member Article

How our company went digital-first, and why you should too

Like most companies pre-pandemic, Slack used to be office-centric. But we discovered over the last two years that flexible work works — in fact, collectively, today we are more creative and productive than ever before. We continue to serve our customers and close deals at a record pace and our team has a greater work-life balance.

We’re now a digital-first company. Almost all employees have the option to work remotely and we’re advertising nearly all jobs as remote or office-based, with Slack as our Digital HQ.

This generational opportunity to alter the landscape of how we work, forever, requires a generational scale of changes. We need to break away from the status quo. We need to spend as much time investing in our digital headquarters as we used to spend on our physical headquarters. And we need to rethink how we hire to grasp the opportunity of a digital-first workforce. Getting this right will result in a more inclusive, rewarding, and impactful world of work for all.

Leaving the status quo behind

Today, everything, from organisational structure to how we problem solve and make key decisions, presents an opportunity to radically reconfigure how work gets done. But this opportunity doesn’t come without barriers, the biggest of which is the heavy gravitational pull of the status quo. Experimentation, particularly during times of upheaval, can feel very risky. Iteration and flexibility are essential when navigating these challenges.

Another learning from the move to hybrid and remote work is that employees are longing for deeper connections with each other. From the beginning, we built Slack to foster productivity, but also human connection. It makes it easier for quick, informal conversations that resemble how we would talk to each other in real-life — in the kitchens, elevators or desk areas of a physical office.

But this isn’t just about recreating the physical office in a digital space. The right digital HQ will strengthen the connective tissue of a business through social channels, employee resource groups and peer support in ways that weren’t possible when we relied solely on email and in-person meetings to connect.

Delivery Hero, the German food-delivery service is just one business we’ve seen embrace the potential of channel-based collaboration over the past two years, to drive stronger connections between teams despite physical distance. By using Slack, regardless of where teams are located or whether they’ve been on vacation for a few days, everyone can access the latest conversations or updates. This contrasts with the experience all of us will have had in the past, when you rely on closed-off tools like email or one-off in-person conversations to share information. In those situations, you might have been together physically, but the way you were working together is disconnected and unaligned.

**Building a flexible, digital-first office **

When it comes to Slack’s digital-first approach, our executives lead by example. We’ve decided to remove dedicated executive floors in any of our offices, and executives focus their office time on team events and customer interaction. Our guidance to leaders is to spend fewer than three days per week in the office.

We’ve redesigned our shared space to be more flexible, activity-based and customer-centric. Getting teams together in person should have a purpose, such as team-building or brainstorms that are planned in advance, pairing flexibility with predictability.

We also encourage our team to use asynchronous tools. Channel based messaging can be used for status updates and asynchronous work, and teams can use huddles for team chats, impromptu calls, and one-on-ones. Meetings especially should be distributed, digital and dial-in. Think audio-first, while being intentional about using video. We need to move away from a 9-to-5 schedule filled with unnecessary meetings.

Embracing this digital-first shift won’t happen overnight. But if we’re flexible while we learn, experiment and evolve, we’ll make work simpler, more pleasant and more productive.

The opportunities of remote onboarding in the face of the ‘Great Resignation’ At Slack, we’ve onboarded over 40% of our team since we went fully remote in March 2020. We’ve had to completely redesign our onboarding programs, but the effort has paid off.

We trained local leaders to support new hires in each region, especially with engagement and relationship building. We’ve made content that used to be delivered live available asynchronously and have automated workflows to make Q&As even more effective. And we regularly solicit feedback to improve.

Remote onboarding may be a new challenge, but by expanding our talent pool to more places not only can we access more talent (which is particularly crucial as we witness the ‘Great Resignation’ trend across the globe), we broaden economic opportunities. With asynchronous tools, people can work on their own time, so that child care, elder care, and other family obligations no longer have to be insurmountable obstacles. I also believe it gives more people — like introverts and others who may not be as comfortable speaking up in person — the chance to thrive.

The future of work

The future of work will be more flexible, inclusive, connected and productive. Businesses who will succeed over the next decade will be those who embrace this bold reinvention. The hard work of reimagining the employee experience for a digital-first world will be rewarded with more talented and engaged employees, a workforce that better reflects the customers it serves, and a company that can confidently affect positive societal change. This is no time for retreat to the comfort of well-worn habits, or meager attempts to accommodate a restive workforce. This is a time for business leaders to build a better workplace and world.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Slack .

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