How we use Workplace by Facebook
An inside look at team collaboration with the latest business productivity app from Facebook.
In March, our team at Message.io signed up for Workplace by Facebook: the online team collaboration tool for companies and organizations. To help you better evaluate the product, we’re sharing the benefits, channels, and takeaways from the last 6 months of “dog-fooding” the service. Enjoy!
Side Note: We actively use many chat products in order to serve our Message.io customers that build applications on their APIs. If you’re interested in learning more about enterprise chat platforms, check out this recent article:
What is Workplace by Facebook?
Announced last fall, Workplace is a collaboration product designed to be part social network, messaging app, and productivity tool. Separate from Facebook, Workplace capitalizes on familiar features such as the news feed, reactions, groups, streaming, trending topic, and realtime chat with teammates.
Distinct from Facebook accounts, Workplace is focused on adding business features such as analytical dashbaords, single sign on (SSO), and other must-have features for IT systems.
Here’s the run down of the core features and functionality that stand out as we use internally:
Team Based Interactions
Aside from the general feed, the groups feature allows conversations and teams to be on the same page.
Live from anywhere
Teams can share in-person meetings with the rest of the company through their streaming technology.
If you’ve ever had to interact with other companies, emails can be hard to track. Workplace offers multi-company groups to ease cross company communication to more efficiently discuss projects in one local area for the whole team to see and stay in the loop.
Much like their widely popular Messenger app, Facebook baked in a similar messaging platform as part of Workplace that allows for messaging, voice or video calling.
Overall it looks and feels like messenger, so employees will have a familiar experience to the FB apps they already use daily.
Native Content Integrations
Companies subscribed to a premium plan can expect Workplace integrations from services like OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Quip, Dropbox and more.
With these deep integrations, employees can share directly from their secure locations while providing previews and details of the materials being shared. For more specifics on integrations, read here: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/workplace/integrations/content-integrations
Facebook released information earlier this year showcasing their two pricing plans. Their premium pricing can range based on the amount of users per company but the general breakdown starts at $3/user/month and progressively goes down as the number of users increases.
Aside from their communication and productivity features, those looking for enterprise functionality will seek premium plans that offer IT tools, API’s for custom integrations, SSO, and compliance features.
You can find more details on Workplace’s pricing page.
Setting up our Workplace account
Shortly after getting access to the beta, we quickly realized that our shiny new team communication tool would only be effective if we invested time upfront. We realized we’d need to load-up a foundation of resources for the the rest of the team before adding members.
- Q&A’s for our internal knowledge base
- An org chart
- Setting up our groups (more on that below)
- Connecting integrations to services like Google Drive
Our two-person project team spent two weeks getting this set up before inviting additional team members.
We highly suggest you assign a small, dedicated on-boarding team working together to complete this process so it doesn’t become daunting for one person alone.
Six months later… here are our observations:
The groups feature was our favorite!
There are five general group types offered by Workplace when you set up groups for your organization:
- Teams & Projects
- Open Discussions
- Social & More
The most successful groups we set up were for….
✅ Employee on-boarding
One of the first groups to go live on our workplace account was our “New to Message.io” group that was set up with company information, welcome material, employee resources and more. We had a few new employees use this and it saved a ton of time to have everything ready to go for them.
✅ Company Announcements
We quickly found that longstanding office announcements that we put into our “Company Announcements” group worked much better within Workplace than they ever did as pins within Slack. Handbook-type info was also easier for our employees to find within Workplace. Even the smallest of teams can share hundreds of messages across Slack, which makes files and conversations harder to find.
A specific example where we put Workplace to good use was using their polling feature to gather numbers on those who wanted standing desks vs. regular desks when we were transitioning to a new office space. We found that longstanding questions worked better within Workplace than in Slack’s real-time messaging channels.
✅ Meeting Notes
Team meetings are common practice and we have our own fair share of daily stand-ups, brainstorming and collaborations sessions. Our “Meeting Notes” group became a great place to aggregate all of our meeting notes, presentations and learnings.
✅ Cross-Departmental Updates
Our “Department 360” group idea was simple: 3 minutes to write, 60 seconds to read. We used it as a place for teams to post weekly updates alongside goals for the coming weeks for the sake of posterity and keeping people in the loop.
✅ Secret groups
We used these to share our deepest darkest secrets… well not really, but they did serve a purpose! Secret groups acted more like private channels, where we kept tabs on active projects and status updates.
Groups that we set up but didn’t get used:
❌ Social Groups
The “Social” group was meant to be a place where we share things we all enjoyed outside of work, but it struggled to gain regular traction. Aside from holding a small March Madness tournament, it very rarely got used and showed some solid proof that a Workplace profile and a Facebook profile were kept separate (at least for our team, we preferred to use the “#random” channel is Slack still).
❌ Customer Feedback
By nature, this type of communication was too real-time oriented for us, so we never found a solid use-case for posting in our “Customer Feedback” group. It may also be because we use other services, such as Intercom, to tackle customer related inquiries.
A big takeaway was that:
“For our team, we like using Slack for real-time conversation, and Workplace as more of a bulletin-board style tool for communication that is longer-term.”
❌ Multi-Company Groups
Lastly, while we didn’t have a use case for a multi-company group, we see how this could cut down on email communication with an external vendor or agency, and allow for a private group to quickly respond to any pending projects.
Other features of Workplace that we used:
We found that the admin dashboard was really insightful for seeing reports on group and member activity, post interactions, group traffic and more. These are all insights that would probably be even more interesting to larger HR departments.
Product Announcements from Facebook
As with any new product, it was always greatly appreciated to see Facebook’s active product announcements pop up on our feed to keep us in the loop on improvements and updates to Workplace. This is actually a Multi-Company Group. Great use case!
Other features we didn’t use or didn’t take advantage of:
We only scratched the surface with integration implementation. This was primarily because we had some initial setup issues with G-Suite & Google Drive. But, the G-Suite integration was helpful when on-boarding new employees.
Given our habitual use of G-Suite independently, we never found ourselves needing to sync our schedules with Workplace by Facebook. Other companies who want to “live” in Workplace by Facebook may like this feature, though.
Work & Voice Chat (aka Messenger for Workplace)
Both Work and Voice chat features were some of the hardest parts to transition people to because of our heavy use of platforms like Slack and Cisco Spark. Old habits, eh?
If you’re a smaller company like us, actively looking to update, supplement, or replace an existing tool, then you should consider Workplace by Facebook to improve communication for:
- Company-wide announcements and general information (Team directory info, updates on policies, etc.)
- Employee on-boarding (Getting familiar with company equipment, what services are available, etc.)
- Sharing recurring meeting notes, especially when it involves cross-team work
If you’re a larger, remotely dispersed company, then you could likely leverage additional features like:
- Video and Chat: We’re heavy users of Slack but Workplace Chat seems like a viable tool for those looking to get into real-time communication without facing a learning curve of another tool.
- Workplace’s Security: Above all, Facebook prides itself on its industry-leading security controls to insure that sensitive company data stays safe. This is an important consideration.
Across the board, we found that Workplace’s Groups feature acted as an excellent bulletin board or intranet tool for our team to stay engaged and have a place that provided company info as needed. Ultimately, we believe it will be up to your individual team’s commitment level to decide how to best leverage all of the features that Workplace has to offer.
If you currently use Workplace by Facebook, let us know how you use it in the comments below! 👥