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How Workplace by Facebook is Taking on Slack? Comparing Chat, Call, Notification and Other Features

March 4, 2019
13 min read

Launched in 2013, Slack continues to grow at a heady pace, boasting 10 million daily active users and 85,000 paid customers.

Despite Slack’s blatant success, quite a few tools are breathing down its neck. Workplace by Facebook is surely one of them. That’s why we decided to explore it next in our team chat wars series.

As you probably know, our team loves trying out different communication tools. Learning about their pros and cons helps us in building Chanty team chat – an easy-to-use and agile Slack-alternative packed with goodies, such as unlimited message history and a built-in task manager. Give it a try!

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Now, let’s talk Workplace. Introduced in 2016, the tool has the core UI of the parent social media service. Within it, you’ll encounter News Feed, Live, Reactions and other well-known features. Overall, Workplace is rather different from other team chat tools, including Slack. Is this a pro or con? Let’s see.

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Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: overview

Both – Workplace and Slack – are solid communication apps with video calls, integrations, and many other features crucial for businesses.

But what’s the main distinction between the tools? I would say it’s that Workplace provides some spaces for asynchronous communication – Personal Pages, Groups, Events. Below, we’ll look at how this social media functionality might work for businesses.

But first, here’s a quick comparison of the team chat tools for those in a hurry.

Workplace by Facebook Slack
Plans Standard

$0 (video-calls for up to 50 people; no third-party integrations)

Premium

$3 per active user, per month

Free

$0 (up to 10k messages, 10 apps & integrations, 1-to-1 video calls)

Standard

$6.67 per active user, per month (billed annually)

Plus

$12.50 per active user, per month (billed annually)

Message history limit Not specified 10K messages in Free plan; unlimited in Standard and Plus plans
Audio/video calls Voice and video calls (desktop and mobile)

for up to 50 people

Unlimited 1:1 voice and video calls in Free plan;

conference calls for up to 15 participants in Paid plans

Integrations Integrations with third-party apps in Standard version

(60+ as of February 2019)

10 integrations limit in Free plan, 1500+ integrations in paid plans
File storage limit Unlimited file, photo and video storage Free plan: 5GB file storage for a team

Standard plan: 10GB per user

Plus plan: 20GB per user

Screen sharing Supported in both Free and Premium versions Unavailable in Freemium version, available in Standard and Plus versions
Options to customize the interface Not specified Custom sidebar themes
Conversation threads No threads in Workplace Chat; comment threads in Groups, Events etc. Yes

Now, let’s review the features in detail.

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: pricing

As mentioned, both tools have Freemium plans. When it comes to paid pricing models, Workplace is obviously more cost-effective. The tool charges $3 per user, per month for its Business Plan, while Slack’s Standard plan starts at $6.67 per user, per month. Plus Plan costs $12.50 per user, per month within annual subscription.

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: signing up

Signing up is simple within both tools. Workplace requires your business email, claiming that some features are only available for users with work email addresses. Slack, however, is OK with you using your personal email.

Slack sign up form

After confirming your email in either of tools, you’ll be able to create your workspace.

Since our team already had one in Workplace, all I needed was to create a personal profile to connect with my colleagues.

Signing up in Workplace by Facebook

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: onboarding

Until recently, Slack welcomed new users with boxes with pointers for introducing the key features. When I tested the tool in January 2019 I came across a very short product tour.

A box with pointers in Slack

However, when I signed up to Slack a month later I got no product tour at all!

In Workplace, the onboarding happens as you explore the tool – there are quite a few text snippets with prompts, like this one.

The text prompt in Workplace by Facebook

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: interface and design

As noted above, Workplace has the core UI and UX of Facebook social media. You’ll notice it straight after signing up.

Workplace interface

On one hand, we see quite a few menu items in Workplace, which might seem a lot to take in. On the other hand, if you are no stranger to Facebook social media, you won’t get lost in the interface.

Slack appears to be more compact in wrapping up its features hiding them behind the buttons.

Slack interface

Also, in Slack you can customize the left bar in any color you choose.

Options for customizing your workplace in Slack

In Workplace, I didn’t find any actual options for customization, except for changing cover photos in Groups, Events, etc.

Chanty featured image in a Workplace Group

Workplace by Facebook vs Slack: communication

In both tools – Workplace and Slack – you can have one-to-one and group conversations.

One-to-one conversations

Everything is clear when it comes to private chats. In Slack, they take place in Direct Messages, while in Workplace it’s Workplace Chat where most of communication happens.

One-to-one chat in Workplace by Facebook

You are able to react on and delete messages in both tools. However, you can’t edit a message in Workplace, while it’s possible in Slack.

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Group chats

In Slack, group chats take place in Channels and group conversations.

Channels can be either private or public. If you don’t want anyone to join or even view your channel other than by invite, go with the second option.

Creating a private channel in Slack

As an option, you can create a group conversation in Slack for up to 8 people. Later you can convert it to a private channel if necessary.

Group conversation settings in Slack

In Workplace, group conversations you create are private by default. Therefore, to set up a public one you need to invite each team member to it.

Inviting colleagues to a Group conversation in Workplace

However, creating a group conversation in Workplace is not that intuitive. It took a while to me to find a way to set it up. It turned out, you need to click on the speech bubble at the top and choose “New Group”. In Slack, it’s much simpler to create a Channel – all you need is to click the ‘+’ sign next to the ‘Channels’ menu.

However, group communication in Workplace is available not only by chatting in Workplace Chat, but also in spaces for asynchronous communication, such as Groups.

Groups

Groups in Workplace are chat and collaboration spaces. They can unite team members by location, projects, departments, etc. Group members can post to groups and share their feedback in comments.

General group in Workplace

Groups can be open, closed or secret. The latter ones can’t be viewed or seen by anyone, except for people invited to them.

Workplace by Facebook: some specific features

As Workplace has the core UX of Facebook social media, it provides the features most team chat tools don’t have. Let’s review some of them briefly.

Personal pages and posts

Every team member has their own profile so they can post any updates on their Timeline.

Slack has Post feature too, but it has a completely different function, being a way of collaborating on long-form content  In Slack, posts are actually files you can share with your colleagues.

Sharing a post in Slack

News Feed

Just like in Facebook social media, News Feed allows you to see updates from the colleagues and projects you care about in a scrolling stream of posts.

Live video

Live video allows you to create video coverage of, let’s say, your corporate event and broadcast it live for your team. Your colleagues give you some real-time feedback in the form of comments or reactions.

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: notifications

In a word, both tools provide multiple options for setting up notifications. But Slack might have gone an extra mile with this feature. Just a glance at, let’s say, Do Not Disturb menu, can prove it.

Slack                                       Workplace by Facebook

Comparing to Workplace, Slack has more options for setting up the DND mode

Within Slack you can keep your concentration under control with channel-specific settings, keyword alerts and many other features.

Notification preferences in Slack

Unlike Slack, Workplace provides no keywords alerts. However, you can adjust notifications for specific groups and conversations and set up some general notification settings.

Notification preferences in Workplace

Workplace by Facebook vs Slack: task management

To put it simply, Slack has a task management feature (Actions), while Workplace doesn’t.

You can create Plans (basically Events) in a specific conversation or Events your Calendar, but they are not actually Tasks.

Tasks in Workplace are available via third-party apps (available in the paid plan).

In Slack, the task management feature is also implemented via integrations. But since the tool introduced Actions, you can create and finish tasks without leaving the app. You choose the app – be it Trello, Jira, Asana – and connect it to the team chat.

Typing in a command to set a task in Slack

In Chanty, by the way, the tasks are built-in. You don’t have to talk to bots (like in Slack) or connect to third-party integrations (like in Workplace). Create and assign tasks within just a few clicks!

Creating a task in Chanty

Improve your team communication with Chanty

Give our simple AI-powered team chat a try

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: voice and video calls 1-0

In both messengers, calls are available within a click of a button. You can easily switch between voice and video.

In Workplace, you can choose either grid view or speaker view and connect with up to 50 people – in free and paid plans.

Making a video call in Workplace by Facebook

Slack, however, provides 1:1 voice and video calls in Free plan and conference calls for up to 15 participants in Paid plans. So if you have frequent video meetings in big teams, Workplace might be a reasonable choice.

Also, Slack video calls have a feature unavailable in Hangouts Meet. You can react with emojis to what your colleague said.

Chanty team is communicating in Slack

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: integrations

When it comes to integrations, Slack having 1500+ of them obviously wins. As of February 2019, Workplace connects with 60+ enterprise tools.

Moreover, while in the Freemium version of Slack you add up to 10 third-party tools, the only integrations Workplace claims to provide for free are those with ‘file storage providers’.

I assumed it means I’ll be able to connect to the third-party file hosting services like Onedrive, Google Drive, etc. But when I tried to launch these integrations via directory, I got the notification they are unavailable for Freemium plan users.

At the same time, when posting to a Workplace group, I can add files from Google Drive.

Workplace by Facebook vs Slack: search

In a word, Slack’s search seems more elaborate.

First, unlike Slack, Workplace Chat doesn’t allow you to search through all your conversations at once. If you remember, let’s say, someone’s important remark and want to find it, but can’t recall who messaged it, you’ll need to search the text snippet within each possible conversation.

Second, file search by names doesn’t seem to be available in Workplace. I found it out after sending our e-book “50 ways to improve team communication at work” to one of my colleagues.

I tried to find it in the conversation – no use.

When it comes to Slack’s search, its main drawback is 10K message visibility limit is Freemium plan. Apart from that, search feature is quite user-friendly. Not only you can search files and messages in Slack, but also the content within files your share is searchable. You can specify results with a particular person, channel or time period.

Search options in Slack

Workplace by Facebook vs. Slack: file sharing

As we know, Slack places limitations on your file storage in all plans. The restrictions are especially tight in Free plan.

Workplace, however, claims to provide ‘unlimited file, photo and video storage’ within all pricing models.

This seems like a significant advantage over Slack! However, there are two nuances.

First, Workplace seems to miss a single hub for all files you sent and received. You can find ‘shared files’ within each conversation, but there’s no unified space for every photo, video or doc. file.

Slack, however, has ‘All Files’ and ‘Your Files’ sections under three dots menu in the top right.

Second, you can share much larger files in Slack (1GB is the limit). In Workplace the maximum file size is 100MB. This excludes files shared via Workplace Chat, where the limit is 25MB.

Add to this the apparent inability to search files by names in Workplace and ‘unlimited file storage’ stops to seem so attractive. At the same time, you can always consider using file storage providers via integrations in either of tools.

Conclusions

If to briefly sum up everything I learned about Workplace vs Slack, here’s what you probably need to know.

Pricing. Both tools have Freemium plans. When it comes to paid tiers, Workplace (starting at $3) is more than twice cheaper than Slack (starting at $6,67).

Signing up. It’s preferable to use a business email in Workplace, while Slack declares no preferences of this kind.

Onboarding. Slack offered a very short product tour until February 2019, while Workplace provides some text prompts as you explore the tool.

Interface and design. You can adjust Slack’s left sidebar in any color. No appearance changes seem to be available in Workplace, except for customizing cover photos in Groups, Events, etc.

Communication. Direct and group messaging are available in both tools. Workplace, however, provides some spaces for asynchronous communication like Groups and Personal Pages.

Notifications. Notification settings are more detailed in Slack with some features like ‘keyword alerts’ unavailable in Workplace.

Task management. Workplace provides no built-in task management feature. Slack has Actions allowing to create and finish tasks via third-party tools without leaving the team chat.

Voice and video calls. Meetings are available for up to 50 team members in Workplace. Slack Freemium plan provides one-to-one calls only. Conference calls with up to 15 of your colleagues are available in paid versions.

Integrations. Slack has 1500+ integrations available (up to 10 in the Freemium plan). Workplace connects with 60+ third-party apps (as of February 2019). Only integrations with ‘file storage providers’ are available at no cost.

Search. Workplace allows message search through each single conversation only. Unlike in Slack, you can’t search a file by its name in the tool.

File sharing. Unlike Slack, Workplace claims to have unlimited file storage, however, the tool lacks a single hub for all your files. You can share much bigger files in Slack (up to 1 GB), compared to Workplace Chat (25 MB).

Hopefully, our review will help you in choosing the right team chat app. If you are still hesitating, why not to give Chanty a try?! It’s a smart and easy-to-use Slack alternative with unlimited message history. Join Chanty today for your team to become even more productive!

Improve your team communication with Chanty

Give our simple AI-powered team chat a try

Author:

Aleksey Chepalov

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