The Problem with Remote Work
Remote work has become a popular trend in recent years, with many companies shifting to a distributed workforce to save costs and increase flexibility. While there are certainly benefits to remote work, such as reduced commuting time and increased productivity, there is also a downside to this new way of working: the loss of informal status and persistent, easily seen places for communication.
In traditional office environments, employees have the opportunity to interact with each other in a variety of ways. For example, if you are in an office environment, you can easily see if two people are in an office talking and join in on the conversation, you can pop your head into someone’s office if no one else is in there, or if someone who you know is in there and you think you know the topic. Developers can sit in a room together not actively talking, just working independently, and then one of them can ask a question to the group. A senior manager can pop into that office and check in with the team and ask about any pending issues, how stuff is going, etc. Young developers can listen to two senior developers debate a point and learn from it.
However, with remote work, much of this informal communication is lost. While text channels and video conferencing tools can certainly help bridge the gap, they are not enough to fully replicate these informal interactions. As a result, new employees may have a harder time meeting people and learning how things work, and very senior managers may not have the opportunity to get informal feedback.
This loss of adhoc communication has also led to an increase in formalized meetings and scheduled interactions, which can be inefficient and time-consuming. But I believe this isn’t a fundamental problem, but rather an overcomable one with the technology we already have. And that’s where Bizcord comes in.
How Bizcord (Discord) Helps
Discord has already solved many of the issues that come with remote work by offering a unique feature called “voice channels”. These channels are persistent places like an office environment, where you can name your meeting room “The Clubhouse” or simply “Meeting Room #2” and the exact same structure exists in Discord. You can see who is in the channel visually, and you can enter and leave a channel whenever you want. If a person leaves one channel to go to another, you can see that they are no longer in the previous channel and are now in a different one. This creates a clear and transparent environment that is akin to being in a physical office.
For example, if I am in my office “Robert Melton’s Office” and I leave to go to “Henry’s Office”, you can see that I am not in my office and am now in Henry’s. If I am alone in my office, you can consider that an open door and come on in. If you don’t see me in my office, that means I am not available at the moment, as I might be in a private conversation (which you can have with no visibility on Discord as well, with an individual or group for privacy reasons).
Discord also has great accessibility support, text channels, and integrations, making it a great fit for business needs. Its unique voice channel feature allows for the same level of adhoc communication and co-existence in shared spaces as physical offices do. It also eliminates the need for formalized meetings and scheduled interactions, making it more efficient and time-saving for remote workers. With Bizcord, remote workers can have the best of both worlds: the flexibility of remote work and the benefits of being in a physical office.
The Problem with Using Discord for Business
While Discord has many great features that make it ideal for remote work, it is primarily branded as a platform for gamers. As a result, its user interface and branding are not optimized for business use. For example, the platform offers free servers with lots of appeals for additional payments that don’t fit into a business environment. A business user will not be donating “Nitro Credits” to their corporate server. Additionally, popups about gaming are completely unacceptable in a business setting.
Furthermore, users who already use Discord may prefer to have a separation of identities between their personal and professional lives. This separation can be important for maintaining professional boundaries and avoiding confusion.
To solve these issues, I am proposing a reskinning of Discord for business use that has a small per-user/per-month fee and focuses on adding business-focused integrations. While the majority of the bones of the product are already 100% done, Discord needs to adapt its branding and user interface to better cater to business users. The question now is whether Discord can take the space that is naturally theirs before Slack or Teams get wise to the advantage of persistent channels in a business setting.
The key to reconnecting remote teams is creating shared spaces with visibility, and Discord’s existing platform is well-equipped to fill that need. By adapting its platform to suit business needs, Discord could help restore some of the valuable interpersonal interactions that have been lost in the remote work environment. As someo ne with a son about to enter the industry, I believe it is crucial that we address these challenges and find ways to maintain strong team connections in the new world of work.