I began 2018 choosing to log out of Slack. More than a month later, I have yet to log back in.
The direct messages, “@here”s, “@channel”s, white unread channels, red dots, numbered-red dots were stealing my attention. Adjusting notifications, muting channels, leaving channels and pretending to be away helped in alleviating the distraction. However, returning to the app tended to be a time sink; what would be a minute-long exchange in person now took far longer. Despite the taming tactics, the organization (roughly 300 employees large) implicitly understands Slack to be grounds for unfettered access to each other; requiring only a few key strokes to summon peers.
Slack is a tool. How a tool is used determines its utility. Although Slack is positioned as a productivity tool, it becomes counterproductive when misused. Instant messaging applications enable communication that is online, synchronous and on-demand. This tends to be appropriate for interrupt-driven teams like those in customer service and sales. However, project-oriented teams tend to suffer from inundation. As a software developer in product development, I constantly seek and protect long-uninterrupted blocks of time. That is when I am able to create value of higher quality, faster. Surprising?
I was oblivious to how Slack was consuming me. Shutting it off at the start of January was an opportunity for me to understand its value. Here is what I have realized: Slack is useless for me (and perhaps many others). Without it, days are calm, purpose-driven and productive. I have encouraged those around me to consider thoughtful communication. If the matter is time-sensitive or is better served in real time, talk to me in person. If it can wait, send me an email or meeting invite; I will respond by the following business day. I am not discouraging communication, instead encouraging thoughtful, deliberate communication. We can spare ourselves of day-long virtual meetings and the whiplash from context switching.
Organizations that find enough value in using Slack should introduce rules of engagement. For one, it should not be used to facilitate feedback or decision making. It is not fair to expect the other person to be actively engaged in a Slack conversation.
My peers are slowly realizing that I am off Slack. Apart from accommodating my communication preferences, the organization seems unaffected by my absence. I am content with being offline and aim to keep it that way.