Is Slack Making Your Workers Less Productive?

Discover why overreliance on Slack is sometimes a bad idea — along with the pros and cons of using workplace productivity apps and employee communication tools.

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Is Slack Making Your Workers Less Productive?

Workplace communication tools like Slack, Trello, and Asana were supposed to revolutionize work. They promised to save us from countless emails and instant messages. But have these tools really saved time and increased employee productivity in the workplace?

During the pandemic, you couldn’t check in with most of your direct reports in person. Collaboration tools like Slack and video conferencing software such as Zoom helped bridge the remote work gap. These apps became so popular that they are now a permanent part of most organizations.

These apps and software programs let you keep in touch with your employees. Anyone can check messages from corporate headquarters to their home office. But there are also disadvantages and downsides to relying too heavily on these tools.

Learn about some of the pros and cons of using Slack, and whether these tools impact workplace productivity.

How productivity tools like Slack changed work

On the surface, Slack and other productivity tools are great inventions. They keep everyday work tasks organized, and also let you sync your calendars and share Google Docs with other team members. A collaborative culture encourages the sharing of information. This goes a long way toward enhancing productivity.

These productivity tools are crucial to coworker communication when communicating with remote and hybrid teams working away from the office. Among Slack users in the United States, 87% mention how they use the tool to help improve collaboration in the workplace.

However, the survey also reported that paid users stay connected with the app for over 9 hours per day. This also includes an average of 90 minutes of daily active use. That’s a lot of time spent commenting, uploading documents, and interacting with Slack integrations such as Giphy.

Further, according to Slack cofounder and CEO Stewart Butterfield, the name is also an acronym. Slack stands for “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge.” Some may interpret that as almost a type of corporate surveillance.

4 potential Slack problems

Overreliance on these employee productivity tools can actually make your workplace less productive. On the surface, these apps look like an efficient way to help remote teams better know and collaborate with their coworkers — and for many organizations, they are. But it’s also important to be aware of their impact on time and resources.

Apps can lead to decreased productivity

Slack apps such as Donut let employees schedule meetings to get to know each other better. However, too many virtual coffee dates and watercooler chats can eat up huge chunks of time spent away from daily tasks. According to a Workgeist Report, employees are wasting up to 59 minutes every day. The research notes that the wasted time includes the activity of looking through message channels.

Apps give you another inbox to check

Notifications that you have a new message in a Slack channel are a constant distraction. This notification overload leaves many employees feeling like they need to respond right away. It almost becomes a type of FOMO for workers (the fear of missing out).

Messaging tools can be distracting

Without boundaries in place, productivity tools can cause your team to lose focus on priority tasks. Slack sends users an audio ping anytime they have a new message. This can result in your team spending too much time checking messages. It can also mean they spend less time doing actual work.

The RescueTime blog reported that on average, knowledge workers check their collaboration tools, instant messages, and email every 6 minutes. And, over 35% of workers are checking messages every 3 minutes or less.

on average, knowledge workers check their collaboration tools, instant messages, and email every 6 minutes. And, over 35% of workers are checking messages every 3 minutes or less.

It can be hard to keep track of conversations

When multiple people are posting to the same channel, it can be hard to keep track of a particular conversation. Newer updates push down older posts. This makes it hard to scroll through endless messages to get back to the initial thread you were following. This can result in a time sink, with minutes of lost time hunting for a specific conversation.

The Workgeist Report mentioned that 54% of workers say apps often make it more difficult to locate the information they need. And, 48% of employees say they have trouble keeping track of all the information stored in different apps and online tools.

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Top 3 ways to boost productivity and find balance with Slack

How can you use these workplace productivity tools more effectively? Here are a few tips on using these tools while setting appropriate boundaries.

Set up online hours

Setting up the hours you work online is a way to make sure you only receive Slack notifications during your normally scheduled work hours. Each member of your team can block out time on their calendar to automatically set their status to unavailable or away when they’re in meetings or out of the office.

You’ll also want to make sure you set the correct time zone so all your coworkers know your local time. This is a great feature for globally diverse organizations to put into action. For example, if your headquarters are in London, your U.K. sales team will see that the U.S.-based marketing department is 5 hours behind when attempting to schedule a meeting in Slack.

Slack channels vs. DM

Put a limit on the number of direct messages you’re sending to team members. Instead, use Slack channels to message everyone working on a particular project. Use a dedicated channel to contact everyone working on a specific project. This eliminates the need to send the same or similar message to 4 or 5 different coworkers.

Show, don’t tell

Have your HR team offer a Slack 101 training session for all new hires. This lets you educate employees on the proper usage of collaboration tools as part of the onboarding process.

The goal is to show each member of your team how not to overuse or even abuse productivity apps. The training can be as simple as an on-demand webinar showing workers how to turn off Slack notifications before and after their normal working hours.

The future of workplace communication tools

Multi-tasking collaboration tools such as Slack will continue to dominate the workplace. As long as these apps don’t become a constant distraction, they can actually help improve employee productivity. Rather than continually accessing these tools throughout the day, show your team a better way to use them.

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