Why Audio is the Future of the Virtual Workspace

Collaborating Through Apps

Before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for companies to use collaborative tools such as Discord, Slack, and Skype to enhance employee’s performance and boost productivity. Now nearly two years into the pandemic, these kinds of tools have become an invaluable resource to help teams collaborate and stay on top of their projects as they’ve shifted to remote working setups. 

In fact, the global uptick in collaboration software usage throughout 2020 has been extraordinary. In February of this year, enterprise software company Aternity released their Global Remote Work Productivity Tracker which examined how productivity and collaboration software had changed since the shift to remote work in early 2020. Their study found that the usage of nearly all collaboration software had increased substantially throughout the last year. Microsoft Teams saw a growth rate of 3,891%, with Zoom following at a 1,788% growth, Slack at 1,073%, and finally Webex at 1,070%. 

In response to this incredible demand, developers have scrambled to enhance their team collaboration software with tons of new features for the pandemic-era remote workspace. Slack has introduced Huddles, Microsoft updated its collaborative and productivity suite of Office apps, and Discord introduced a noise suppression feature for those who have to work remotely in a noisy home. When looking back on many of the feature updates released throughout the last year and a half, a central theme becomes clear: full-featured and robust audio support is an absolute must for any team collaboration software to succeed in the virtual workspace of the future. 

It didn’t take long for other companies to catch on. Several businesses quickly followed suit by introducing their own collaborative social audio apps such as Clubhouse in March of 2020, Twitter Spaces in May of 2021, Facebook Live Audio Rooms in June of 2021, and even Spotify launching its own Greenroom app in June of 2021. Some of these programs were built with specific purposes or industries in mind, but their flexibility allows them to fit neatly into the toolboxes of most remote working teams.

What Makes Social Audio Apps so Useful for Work Collaboration?

The beauty of these audio-centric collaborative apps is their casual, on-the-fly nature that circumvents the need for booking meetings and navigating busy schedules. Plus, many people just want a break from being on camera after years of endless Zoom meetings. 

Audio-only is an interesting medium; without a camera the user doesn’t have to be conscious about maintaining eye contact, what they are wearing, or what the background looks like. And yet, through their intonation, emotion, and inflection they are still able to convey the subtle nuances of conversation that simple text chatting can not.

Kaleido Insights CEO, Corporate Innovations Analyst, and Angel Investor Jeremiah Owyang put it succinctly in his forecast of the social audio landscape: “I call [social audio] the ‘Goldilocks’ medium for the 2020s: Text is not enough, and video is too much; social audio is just right. It represents the opportunity for social connection and empathy without the downsides of video.”

The market is already saturated with apps and services that provide team and task management, handle scheduling and hosting of virtual meetings, or facilitate text or video chat. However, these new social audio apps provide another layer of interaction we’ve been missing out on since shifting to remote work: the casual chats that happen when you drop by a coworker’s desk or see them in the break room. The kinds of key interactions that facilitate problem solving, but aren’t necessarily important enough to block out time on everyone’s schedule for a meeting. It’s a small but extremely important niche that goes a long way towards staying productive and ensuring the business runs like a well-oiled machine.

Social Audio Apps Enable Team Bonding

The relaxed nature of the discussions these platforms provide, coupled with the lack of social interactions as employees work remotely, means these apps have the potential to go a long way towards providing meaningful opportunities for unstructured team bonding. When asked his thoughts on social audio apps such as Clubhouse for team bonding, COO and co-founder of Twiz Christian Velitchkov thinks they can be useful. “Clubhouse is a great way to spark conversations and encourage sharing of thoughts and opinions. [Social audio apps] will provide a platform for socializing among the employees and acquaint them with one another,” said Velitchkov.

The Most Popular New Social Audio Apps for Collaboration

Each app has its own unique features, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with their respective specialization before deciding which service will work best for your team. As all of these apps are currently in their relative infancy, one can only hope in the coming years the feature disparity between them will shrink as the competition ramps up. Until then, here’s a concise breakdown of the biggest differences between the most popular new social audio apps for collaboration:

  • Slack’s Huddles offer impromptu voice chat sessions via invite, and users can hop in and out at will. In the event you do need something a bit more substantial, you can enable screen share or even turn on live transcriptions. Probably the fastest, easiest, and most convenient option for short conversations or quick questions. 
  • Twitter Spaces was built from the infrastructure of their now-defunct Periscope video streaming service. Due to this, Spaces boasts superb audio quality in comparison to its competitors, as well as the ability for listeners to react spontaneously with emojis. If audio quality is king, this is your best option.
  • Facebook Live Audio rooms will allow up to 50 speakers at once with no limit to the number of listeners, as well as live captioning and chat reactions. Rooms can be scheduled in advance or created on-the-fly and there are a large number of privacy and security settings. Good all-around option.  
  • Spotify’s Greenroom app automatically captures and records everything throughout your conversation and makes it all available as a single, easy to download audio file when you’re finished. While Greenroom was originally designed with podcasts in mind, it’s great for work conversations too. During your discussions, did you and your colleagues come up with a solution to a problem that’s been nagging you at work for weeks? No need to take notes, just save the audio file for easy reference later.
  • Discord was designed and built as a real-time social interactive platform for gamers, but has recently enjoyed some success as a collaboration tool for businesses. Once you’ve created a server for your company, you can make individual rooms for each team or project as necessary. Discord provides text and voice chat, video calls, screen share, and even the ability to stream directly to co-workers in the event of a presentation.
Jonathan Baker Image

At Lithios we value outside opinions. This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Jonathan Baker, with feedback from the Lithios team.

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