Once considered a trend, remote work became a necessity in 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
•Updated: Apr 14, 2022
•Published: Apr 5, 2022
Only two years later, 16% of companies worldwide are operating business as usual without a single office space. Technology has been a boon to the success of newly remote teams. Project management, document storage, and goal-setting tools have enabled workers to reimagine processes while remaining productive, so much so that 77% of remote employees consider themselves to be more productive at home than in the office.
While the great migration revolutionized the way we work, remote employees reported that the greatest challenges they experienced during the transition were loneliness and a lack of communication.
Enter: messaging platforms.
To combat these challenges, many organizations implemented internal messaging systems to encourage collaborative work and allow employees to maintain meaningful connections outside of the office. And although there may be a clear monolith in the remote communication space, a one-size-fits-all approach might not be best for every business.
If you’re considering building a custom messaging platform for your organization, keep in mind that its success depends on the features you choose to include in addition to its user experience. Your internal messaging tool will foster productivity and personal connection by incorporating the ten features below.
1. Private & Public Chat Channels
Featuring both public and private chat channels within your messaging platform is essential to creating a space for remote employees to work and connect on a personal level. While you can dedicate public channels to building your company culture, meaningful connection in a remote environment typically happens through 1:1 exchanges.
Public chat channels contribute to thriving remote company culture by giving workers with like interests a place to chat about them. Whether the channel is for locals, new hires, foodies, or animal lovers, employees can take a break from their daily tasks to participate in a watercooler-esque activity.
Private messaging channels can help direct reports feel heard by their managers and give them the space to talk through any issues they aren’t comfortable raising in a group setting — this is not to say that private channels cannot support groups as well. You can choose to create them for leadership or other specific teams or reserve them for discussions involving need-to-know customer data. Group messages that are invite-only contribute to higher productivity levels because they limit discussions to a single forum where everyone involved can stay up to date and easily review any conversations they might have missed.
2. User Profiles
The ability to create an online representation of oneself is essential to any remote environment. It allows users to inject personality into their digital presence and silently communicate to other employees who they are, their location and time zone, and their role at the company. Enabling your chat users to add a photo, a status, and a bio to their messaging profiles gives exchanges a more human feel despite the distance. Adding a status to a profile can keep remote employees on the same page by allowing them to indicate when they are in a meeting, at lunch, or on vacation and won’t be able to respond to any messages.
3. Voice & Video Calls
Perhaps the most obvious feature, adding voice and video calls to your messaging platform allows text-based conversations to come to life and employees on opposite ends of the earth to speak face-to-face. Video conferencing allows users to put a face to the name and hearing someone's voice create a greater sense of trust and camaraderie between users. It also cuts down on the amount of time they spend crafting the perfect written message and whatever back and forth is to come after they send it.
4. Message Interactions
This feature perfectly encapsulates the purpose of internal communication boards for remote organizations. Likes and emoji reactions give users a quick and expressive way to acknowledge messages. They tell the sender that their message has been delivered and seen without requiring the receiver to reply. Users will also enjoy the ability to create custom emoji’s that they can design in the likeness of their colleagues to use whenever that person posts.
5. Message Search
Given the high volume of messages that each chat channel will house, users must be able to refer back to specific conversations within each of them. Including a search bar functionality will allow them to do just that, using key subject matter phrases or the names of other users to find the exact thread they are looking for. The message search feature will prevent employees from interrupting someone’s workflow to help them remember the details of a conversation or scrolling back through months of messages to find the answer to their question.
6. Integration Opportunities
Your internal messaging platform will serve as the hub of your business, so it must integrate with other solutions in your tech stack. Enabling your team to access the tools they regularly use without leaving your messaging interface will streamline collaboration and offer visibility into other teams’ objectives.
These integrations can be made possible via API connection or through back-end development with the help of a technical partner. By weaving integration opportunities into your messaging platform, you can mimic the elements of an in-person communal workspace by bringing teams and technology together within a virtual environment.
7. Mobile-Friendly Design
Remote work adds a degree of flexibility to employees' days. While some prefer to remain at their home offices, others might be online via smartphone while traveling or dropping off their children at school. This means that your messaging interface should be accessible and equally intuitive on a mobile device as on a desktop.
Mobile-compatible software can also prove advantageous when internet connections are interrupted. In these instances, teams can tap into their smartphone or tablet data to continue working until their internet is back online.
8. Security Features
Now that your team has a place to work and connect remotely, data protection and security are more important than ever. At the minimum, your internal messaging app should require a user name and password to log in.
Advanced solutions should offer multi-factor authentication (MFA) to verify the user to prevent password thefts and other forms of security breaches. MFA, or two-step verification, requires users to provide their credentials in addition to a PIN that is only accessible from another verified app or device.
Aside from user verification, actual message content should be protected as well. All chat channels should feature end-to-end encryption (E2EE) to safeguard sensitive company information and customer data.
9. Push Notifications
As users join more and more channels within your messaging platform, certain ones are bound to hold more importance to them than others. Setting push notifications for these business-critical channels will allow remote workers to stay on top of the latest happenings regardless of whether they are at their desks.
External notifications are triggered when there has been new activity in the corresponding channel — from newly-entered comments and status changes to requests for approval, and even reminders for upcoming deadlines or overdue tasks, allowing users to view them without logging into the platform.
Previewing messages can help keep remote workers on task, as they can see if something requires their attention or not without having to comb the platform themselves. Messaging platforms with this feature should give users control over their personal notification settings and the ability to select which alerts they would like to receive and those they wouldn’t.
10. File Storage
Your messaging platform should be able to hold more than just conversation; users need to share documents, contracts, and photos with their remote colleagues to stay productive and connected. Including a file storage feature will allow them to upload, download, and access files at any time without having to waste time searching various drives or remedying accessibility issues.
Boost the Connectivity & Productivity of Your Remote Team
Creating a custom messaging platform can be quite the undertaking but worth its weight in gold if your remote team has unique needs. Your employees deserve to enjoy the same level of collaboration and connection a brick-and-mortar office provides from the safety and comfort of their home offices. If you’d like to build a productive and social environment for your remote workers, you can leverage chat APIs and chat SDKs to assist in the development of all ten features above.