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Why your small business needs messaging software (+ 4 great solutions)

Communicating with and organizing hourly employees can be a logistical nightmare. Especially if your small business is growing or you have several locations to contend with.

You have to ensure their schedules and timesheets are synced and that any notes or updates are seen within good time. And don’t forget the stress of last-minute changes! That’s before you even think about creating a sense of community or keeping in touch with staff across shifts, meetings, or different work sites. 

The solution? A team messaging platform that offers instant chat software can bring communication, management, and all your business tools under one umbrella. 

But it can be a challenge to find the right software solution for your needs, especially when you’ve already got your hands full running your business as best as you can.

That’s why we’re here to explain: 

  • What business messaging software is
  • Why your business needs instant messaging software
  • What to look for when choosing your business messaging software solution
  • Four top options to consider, including Homebase, WhatsApp, Slack, and When I Work
  • Three reasons why Homebase is the best option for your small business

What is business messaging software?

Business messaging software is software designed to make messaging between professional teams much easier, friendly, and more organized. It lets coworkers send messages to each other and chat quickly, usually with a chat-style app that works on smart devices and computers. 

Business message software users can typically send reminders, updates, and scheduling details — and check their messages have been received — all within the same app. Homebase is a leading example of this kind of team communication software.

Why your small business needs instant messaging software

Your small business needs instant messaging software if you want to increase efficiency, improve communication, and build community and team morale. Here’s why:

More efficient

Using instant messaging software is more efficient than other forms of communication like email, phone, text, or bits of paper. That’s because it’s: 

  • More immediate. No more checking email accounts or noticeboards — team members receive notifications when there’s an update they need to see.
  • Easier to use. It’s much simpler to have the option to whip out a smartphone when you need to talk to a teammate if you don’t have immediate access to your laptop or other work device.
  • Available on the go. Instant messaging platforms make it easy to stay updated even away from the workplace.
  • Keeps all work communication in one place.  Forget about having to keep track of different apps and communication methods and worrying about messages getting lost, missed, altered, or forgotten.

More reliable 

Instant messaging software makes it much easier for managers to communicate changes and any last-minute updates to their team. You can also:

  • Check messages have been read. No more hoping that staff members check the noticeboard or worrying whether a team member saw a last-minute update in time for their shift or not.
  • Send automatically. Pre-schedule reminders and alerts with no risk of forgetting to send.
  • Send employee schedules. Publish schedules in the same app you use to talk to employees so no one has to spend time navigating between platforms.

Creates community

Instant messaging software makes your staff members feel like a real team, which results in them being happier and more productive at work. That’s because the software:

  • Keeps staff updated. No one misses any messages and everyone feels included.
  • Reduces worry or resentment about missed messages. No nasty shift surprises.
  • Allows for friendly chatting and team building. Staff can communicate easily and in a more relaxed way.
  • Encourages teamwork. Team members can easily coordinate amongst themselves and share details.
  • Fosters independence. Staff can trade shifts and manage situations that come up autonomously.

Facilitates HR and payroll management

Good small business software like Homebase combines a chat and instant messaging feature with other core tools like HR management and payroll.

  • Let staff know when they’ve been paid. Keep them in the loop about their wages and let them check their earnings in real time.
  • Allow employees to cash out part of their paycheck early at no cost to you. This can help a great deal with emergency expenses.
  • Keeps all HR information within the same app – No risk of confusion or loss of signed documents, certifications, or emergency contacts.

What to look for in small business messaging software 

To be truly useful and efficient, small business messaging software should include the following features. Look for these when you’re searching for your perfect platform:

  • Smartphone-friendly: There’s no point in using instant messaging software that doesn’t work on smart devices and computers.
  • Flexible. Chat with all your employees, smaller teams, individuals, or — for example — “everyone working today.”
  • Confidential. The ability to add team members to your app without needing to share emails or phone numbers.
  • Calendar connected. Plan events and send reminders according to your work schedule.
  • Handy automations. Pre-write and schedule important messages. Save time, ensure consistency, and prevent the risk of forgetting or being attached to your phone all day. 
  • Connects to a full team management platform. Keep all work messages in one easy place and take care of other important business tasks like HR, document signing, time tracking, and payroll.

4 top messaging solutions for small businesses

It makes sense to take a look at the best messaging software available when researching what to implement for your small business. 

Consider the following leading options:

1. Homebase

A view of the Homebase chatting instant messaging screen on a smartphone

Homebase makes it much easier for colleagues to chat to each other quickly
Source: JoinHomebase.com

Homebase is an all-in-one platform specially designed for small businesses that offers team communication as a core part of its system. Our easy-to-use app is suitable for all kinds of pay-by-the-hour industries like hospitality, retail, and beauty. All Homebase’s features are designed to make running a small business simpler, save time, improve organization, and build a happy, productive team.

Top features

  • Team communication chat: Instant messaging for fast and easy internal communication. 
  • On-the-go smartphone app: Easy to use even when your team has different shifts and works on Android and iOS Apple phones.
  • Private: No need to share staff email addresses or phone numbers.
  • Group capability: Manage and communicate with your entire team or smaller, custom groups.
  • Scheduling function: Send helpful reminders, sync communication with clock ins and clocks outs, and plan company events easily.
  • File sharing and signing: Share files and documents with staff within the Homebase app and check when they’ve seen or signed them for easy admin.
  • Time clocks and timesheets: Calculate hours, breaks, overtime, and wages with ease.

The beauty of Homebase is that it includes all of the team communication tools you need alongside a wider platform of small-business-specific tools, including payroll, HR, hiring and onboarding, and employee happiness tools. The result is a simple but highly functional software that has everything under one “roof.”

Pricing

  • Basic ($0): Unlimited employees, one location, messaging, timesheets, scheduling, and hiring.
  • Essentials ($20 per month per location): Everything in Basic, plus full team communication tools and performance tracking.
  • Plus ($48 per month per location): Everything in Essentials, plus labor cost tools, time off and vacation request functions, and compliance policy tools.
  • All-in-one ($80 per month per location): Everything in Plus, as well as new hire onboarding tools, employee documentation, and HR and compliance capabilities.

2. WhatsApp

A view of WhatsApp chats on a desktop and on a smartphone

WhatsApp is a popular chat app, but doesn’t include any dedicated employee tools
Source: WhatsApp.com

WhatsApp is one of the most popular general messaging apps worldwide. Founded in California in 2009, it’s now owned by Facebook (Meta) and has more than two billion users. It primarily works on smartphones, but also has a web version.

In 2018, the company released a business version of the app called WhatsApp Business. This tool helps companies offer customer service via WhatsApp.

Top features

  • On-the-go: Primarily smartphone-based, but also has a web app.
  • Flexible: Works with your internet connection, not your phone signal.
  • Secure: End-to-end encryption for high messaging security.
  • Discreet: Group creation available.
  • Wide media capability: Send texts, images, GIFs, emojis, documents, locations, polls, and voice notes.
  • Free: for most functions.

However, a downside of WhatsApp is that it makes people’s phone numbers visible. People also have to be in your phone contacts to be identified easily and the platform doesn’t connect with any other specific business features.

In addition, as WhatsApp is widely used in personal settings, there’s no separation between workplace chat and friends-and-family messages, so some staff or workplaces may find it too informal or intimate.

Pricing

  • WhatsApp’s regular version is free to use.
  • WhatsApp Business is free for your first 1000 conversations. After that, pricing is calculated via direct contact with the sales team.

3. Slack

A view of Slack’s chatting interface on desktop and mobile app

Slack is a communication app designed specifically for workplaces
Source: Slack.com

Slack is a platform that’s specifically designed to make teamwork easier, particularly within office-based workplaces. Used worldwide, it works with a system of “channels,” which act as different chat groups or spaces. This helps keep communication categorized and organized across teams and topics.

Top features

  • Channels: Create separate spaces by topic or team. Add different people within your organization or chat one-on-one. You can also add external people like clients or contractors.
  • Desktop version and smartphone app available.
  • Multimedia: Text, voice, video, files, and GIFs. 
  • Enables “huddles”: Instant Slack version of video calls, like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
  • Private: Doesn’t require individual email addresses or phone numbers.
  • Integrations: Connects with useful and common workspace video tools like Zoom, Outlook, Google Drive, Twitter, Dropbox, and Salesforce for easy syncing and team collaboration tools.

Slack is powerful, but it can get expensive the larger your business grows. It also doesn’t connect on the same platform with other workplace-specific tools like HR or scheduling.

Pricing

  • Free ($0): Slack’s free plan offers 90-day messaging history, video clip and video conferencing recording, and 1-to-1 messaging with external people.. It also allows for ten integrations with other tools.
  • Pro ($7.25 per month): Everything in free, plus unlimited messaging history, group huddles, video clips, group chatting with outside organizations, more integrations, and enhanced security 
  • Business+ ($12.50 per month): Everything in Pro, plus legally-compliant data and chat export capabilities and 24/7 support.
  • Enterprise Grid (on request): Everything in Business+, plus even greater security compliance, support for up to 500,000 users, centralized administration, designated support account manager, and faster, more tailored customer support.

4. When I Work

When I Work is designed for teams that use hourly scheduling, and makes communicating updates much easier
Source: WhenIWork.com

When I Work is a workplace communication app designed to make scheduling easier. It lets you build and send schedules quickly and share them with team members digitally. When I Work also has other workplace features like time tracking.

Top features

  • Employee scheduling: Save time by building schedules from templates and making scheduling and communicating shifts easier.
  • Team messaging: Set up group chats, message the whole company, or use individual direct messaging.
  • Time clock and timesheets: Let staff clock in and track hours with their phones.
  • Private: Doesn’t require the sharing of email or phone numbers.
  • Designed for hourly-paid workplaces: Enables tools like timesheets, vacation requests, and time off notices.
  • Automation and on-demand pay.

It’s worth noting that When I Work is primarily designed to handle schedules. Its other functions are secondary to this and it doesn’t include HR tools or advanced payroll features.

Pricing 

  • Standard ($4 per user per month): Includes all features like scheduling, time and attendance record-keeping, and on-demand pay. Also includes shift coverage, tracking who’s seen messages, group chats, and DMs. 
  • Advanced ($8 per user per month): Everything in Standard, but with more advanced features like automation and labor cost management with attendance tracking.

3 reasons why Homebase is the best messaging software

Of course, we’re a little biased. But we think our messaging software is one of the best options for small businesses out there. Here’s why:

1. Simplifies, facilities, and protects communication for everyone

Homebase’s chat facility offers the convenience of an instant messaging platform with the comprehensiveness of a tool specially designed for small, shift-based businesses. 

It lets everyone stay in the loop seamlessly, and makes coordination and organization easier, without needing to share personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers. 

It also sits within the same platform as scheduling, timesheets, and calendars. This means you can let colleagues know when they’ve been paid, or their time off request has been accepted, via the same app, for even greater communication and respect. 

You can also automate and pre-write messages, to save you time and keep employees’ work predictable and consistent. So they can show up prepared to be productive, and you can spend less time and stress on repetitive, mundane tasks.

2. Easy to use, especially for teams spread over different sites

Instant messaging via smartphone app is particularly simple to use. 

It’s much easier to take out your phone rather than remembering to check your email or needing a computer — especially for by-the-hour workers, who may not have regular desk hours or much time to check email. 

This: 

  • Eliminates management worries that staff haven’t seen a message
  • Gives employees peace of mind that they have everything they need to know before they start their shift.

Making communication easy also gives staff more autonomy, even if they’re dispersed across different sites or locations. They can:

  • Manage and switch shifts themselves
  • Chat with their colleagues to build community and share ideas
  • Use the same app to delegate tasks when necessary. 

This reduces repetitive questions, saving you time; and empowers workers for greater productivity and engagement.

3. Connects to other powerful team management tools

A major advantage of Homebase’s platform is that it connects to other dedicated tools, such as HR, payroll, scheduling, and timesheets. 

This is no standalone instant messaging tool that sits separate, with no connection to the rest of your business tools. Homebase is all-in-one and makes communication integral to the functioning of your company.

Homebase’s platform also prioritizes the importance of employee happiness and success.

It enables: 

  • Shout outs when someone’s done a great job
  • Alerts to highlight employee anniversaries and birthdays
  • Performance metric tracking to identify when people are doing well. 

Homebase also has tools designed for hiring and onboarding. You can use the same tool to: 

  • Post jobs
  • Track applicants 
  • And onboard new employees. 

Plus, this means that new team members are already on the system when they join. So you can add them easily to the existing team; and prioritize transparency, organization, and staff engagement from the start.

FAQs about messaging software

What is an example of messaging software?

A leading example of messaging software is Homebase’s workplace and team communication platform. It enables instant, chat-style communications within the same app as all our features, like timesheets and scheduling. Not all software solutions have the same tools or capabilities, so your choice will depend on what you need your messaging software to do.

What is the purpose of messaging software?

Messaging software is designed to make communicating easier, friendlier, and more organized. Business messaging software lets managers and teams send messages to each other and chat quickly. That means staff members always know when their shifts are and receive updates if anything changes last minute. Most business messaging software also has features designed for spread out or scattered teams and help build community and transparency.

What is the difference between messaging software and a chat app?

Messaging software, especially for small businesses, is designed to let multiple people and teams communicate with their colleagues. Great business messaging software, like Homebase, is flexible enough to enable chatting with smaller, custom groups, as well as the whole team. It also connects with other core workplace tools like timesheets, payroll, and HR. In contrast, a chat app only offers chat capability and no other business-specific features.

What are the benefits of using messaging software?

The benefits of messaging software include: 

  • It’s more efficient – No more checking email or noticeboards. Communication is digital and sends notifications on the go when there’s an update.
  • It’s more reliable – Communicates changes more easily, sends and pre-schedules updates, and you can check that messages have been read on time.
  • It creates community – Keeps everyone updated, makes workers feel like a real team, encourages teamwork, increases trust, and improves autonomy.

What is the best small business messaging software?

The best small business messaging software depends on what you need it for, but some of the leading options include Homebase (sign up for free!), When I Work, and 7Shifts. 

The best messaging services include functions like: 

  • Tailored group creation
  • Notification sending
  • Syncing with schedules and timesheets
  • Keeping contacts confidential
  • Checking that employees have read a message

The best software also works on mobile devices, for easy, on-the-go communication.