Instant communication apps for the workplace

The use of business messenger apps at the workplace can make it easier to integrate teams


Instant messenger apps provide a compelling alternative to email—chat, stay connected, share files and work across multiple devices.
Instant messenger apps provide a compelling alternative to email—chat, stay connected, share files and work across multiple devices.

Since the smartphone has become an indispensable device, a lot of our communication is now happening in the text format on instant messenger (IM) apps. And it is only practical for a lot of the communication at work to shift to text-based chats. Apart from the immediacy and personalized communication, IM apps provide a compelling alternative to email—chat, stay connected, share files and work across multiple devices, all without wading through cluttered email inboxes, sifting through never-ending threaded conversations or getting distracted by the constant stream of junk mail. Communication apps designed for the office environment are extremely handy—and are improving constantly.

Avaamo

Android, iOS, Apple Watch, Web

This business messaging application is ideally meant for teams and organizations that generally use a smartphone, rather than a PC, for work. One-on-one chats and group messages are encrypted. There is a Voice Memos feature that negates the need for typing out what can be explained better. Bosses will love the Granular Visibility feature, which gives details about who has read a particular message and tells you who has responded, and when. An off-the-record conversation mode will be handy if you are discussing sensitive information with the team; all the messages are subsequently erased from Avaamo’s servers. Integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, iCloud and OneDrive cloud-storage services enables one-click share of documents.

Google Apps for Work

Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web

This isn’t the standard Hangouts IM that you use to chat with friends. As part of the Apps for Work package (which also includes Gmail, Drive, a productivity suite and administrative controls), Hangouts for Business allows text and voice chats as well as videoconferencing. Chats also have a built-in screen-sharing feature, which is extremely useful if you are discussing a spreadsheet or a presentation with a colleague. It is integrated with the Google Calendar, which makes it easy to set up Hangouts meetings at work. The Google Apps for Work package costs Rs.150 per user per month, and is ideal for most workplaces, even small businesses.

Skype for Business

Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac, Xbox One

If your team already uses Microsoft’s Outlook email service and relies heavily on the Office suite for editing and managing documents, this makes communication easier. Skype for Business allows enterprises to add the chat functionality to the email client, and start conversations from within apps like Word and PowerPoint. This is perhaps the ideal solution if you prefer videoconference calls with colleagues in different locations. The Skype for Business subscription packages start at Rs.120 per month and go up to Rs.750 per month, depending on whether you also take subscription for the Office 365 suite of apps and cloud storage.

Flock

Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, Mac, Chrome

Flock allows one-on-one conversations between colleagues, as well as group messaging for teams. Within group conversations, you will be able to address specific participants in the same way that you use @ to mark tweets on Twitter, and the recipient will get a notification as well. The screen-sharing feature is neat if you wish to discuss projects and presentations with colleagues in other locations, while simple drag-and-drop file sharing is convenient.

HipChat

Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web

HipChat has the standard features that one expects from IM apps meant for office use—individual and group chats, file sharing, screen sharing, search, and sync across devices. What stands out with HipChat, however, is the Integrations feature, which allows better monitoring of work by plugging into a variety of other platforms, such as Google Drive and Facebook. For example, if you add the Wunderlist list manager to HipChat, that will make it easier to create and manage team tasks.

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