Collaboration tools within the workplace have become the central hub of productivity, and this movement will continue throughout 2018, as the chat-for-business hype shows no signs of fading.  Slack reported over 6 billion users in Q4 of 2017 and alternative team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, HipChat and more recently Workplace by Facebook are growing exponentially.  

There is great value in collaborating in the context of a team space reserved for a specific topic vs. trying to use email.  But, complementing and sometimes replacing email inboxes with a collaboration platform can be a substantial workflow shift and many people have been quick to point out the shortfalls of using Slack within the workplace.  Popular articles such as “Slack, I’m breaking up with you,” and  “My Company Tried Slack For Two Years. This Is Why We Quit.” have people questioning if Slack is right for their team.

It’s hard not to nod your head in agreement with some of the arguments made in these articles, but there are ways to address these common complaints, which we will discuss in this article.  

Complaint:  Too many different channels

Being a part of too many Slack channels can feel like you have ten other email inboxes to check on top of your actual email.

Solution:  Minimize and declutter    

Do a routine decluttering by leaving any channels that are not relevant to your job, or you’ve lost interest in, it’ll give you less to catch up on and fewer distractions.  Consider muting all notifications that don’t have you personally mentioned.  Direct message colleagues to avoid bringing the entire channel into a conversation only meant for specific people.

Complaint:  Repetitive questions

People are asking the same questions over and over, and nothing is being documented which is spamming up the channel.  Managers are spending time wasting time answering the same questions

Solution:  Use a knowledge management bot  

Use a tool like Kiite, an intelligent sales enablement bot that sits directly in your existing chat application.  A bot that has access to your company knowledge will give employees a resource to reach out to with any questions they have, without pinging the entire office.  It will dramatically reduce repetitive clutter within a channel and make managers dramatically more productive.  

Complaint:  Too much play, not enough work

Chat can end up being the tech version of the company water cooler, except you can leave the water cooler whereas Slack sits right on your computer and mobile device.  

Solution:  Limit the amount of non-work related channels  

By limiting the amount of non-work related channels, you remove the hard-to-resist chit chat that can be distracting.  Self-control and time-management are essential factors to consider when deciding how many channels to join.  Keep in mind, not all fun should be abolished from the workplace, casual chat can boost team collaboration, culture, and happiness.  

Complaint:  Conversations are too long

Having a 20-minute conversation via chat at work is not productive for anyone.  

Solution: Take it outside Slack

Don’t waste time clicking away at your desk all day, if a conversation is taking longer than 10 minutes, hop on Google Hangouts, a call or meet in person to save time.  Just because you started a discussion in chat doesn’t mean it needs to end there.   

Complaint:  I’m being pinged outside work hours

With email, it’s out of sight out of mind.  But with the Slack app located right on your mobile device, you may receive non-stop notifications which you may feel obligated to respond to.  

Solution:  Keep Slack at work and reduce notifications

Most responses can wait until the next workday.  If it’s an emergency, the person will find another reliable way to get ahold of you.  If Slack is affecting your work-life balance, you have the option to turn off notifications.  Don’t forget to set your status.  You can choose one of the default options such as “In a meeting” and “Working remotely,” or you can also customize your status to whatever works best for you.      

Complaint:  Everyone in the office uses Slack differently, and there is no consistency

Pinging at all hours, endless mentions and having no expectations for response time can be frustrating.  

Solution:  Define how Slack should be used

Slack is a tool that can create too much noise if you don’t understand how to use it.  It can also maintain transparency and fluid communication across teams if you do.  If your communication system is flawed, no tool is going to correct that.    

Considerations when defining Slack within the workplace:

  • When to email vs. use Slack
  • Expectations for responding
  • Best practices
  • Office policy for mentions
  • How to contact when Status is set to away
  • Limiting non-work related channels

Even if a written policy isn’t put in place, discussing best practices and defining boundaries with the team will benefit everyone in the long run.

Companies are quick to jump ship when a new tech trend emerges and forget to ask themselves how these tools will fit into their workflow.  Without proper use of Slack or other team collaboration platforms, the results can be frustration, becoming unproductive and then result in quitting or blaming the tools.  Slack is a tool that attracts and if not used well, distracts.  It’s up to the people and the organization to dictate how to best use the tool, and not let the tool use you.  

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