Is Slack a Productivity Enhancer or a Productivity Killer?

When we celebrate the death of email and the next big leap in workplace productivity, we must be wary of what we are getting ourselves into.

(Photo: Slack)
(Photo: Slack)

Chapter 1: The terror of the red dot.

Disclaimer: The team at Cubeit uses only Slack for communication.

The Red Dot follows me everywhere.

It’s there when I arrive at work in the morning, plastered all over channels ranging from #product to #random.

It’s there on my phone when I step out for coffee.

It’s there on my desktop when I wind down for the night.

It follows me in my dreams.

Several people are typing. @mithun look at this funny cat. @mithun your feedback on this document please. @mithun when are we going to get more signups from the landing page?”

I wake up in a cold sweat. I check my phone. The red dot stares ominously.

I know what you’re thinking: If this guy had half a brain he would just ignore the dot and move on with his life.

But you underestimate the problem my friend.

Maybe I could ignore it. Maybe I could let the conversation carry on without me.

Maybe I could just wait.

But, The Red Dot waits for no one.

Slack is real time, and conversation driven. People expect replies faster. Nobody can hide behind a long email thread pretending not to notice. Oh sorry, I didn’t see your email.

No sir. The Red Dot sees all.

Chat does not allow you to be anonymous.

The person you are talking to is not somewhere far away. He is in front of you, and he expects a response. (Now rather than later, thank you.) This lends a manic energy to chat. Not replying to a chat message instantly is almost like turning away from a person in the middle of a face to face conversation. How rude is that?

Chat gives you the comfort of not having to craft the perfect response (unlike email) and saying what comes to your mind.

Chat is more raw. More alive.

And so are its participants.

Breaking the shackles which email imposes, they come charging through to the chat room. The small input bar at the bottom of the screen tells them not to think too much and jump right in.

And that’s what everybody does.

Everything from cats to party parrots (h/t Product Hunt) to files from Google Drive to mockups of the website to bots (Yay Bots!) find their way into Slack.

It’s both beautiful and terrifying.

Chat is informal, and Slack embodies both the best and worst of it.

I now know all this.

But yet I can not let the Red Dot be.

(I have dreamt of a better future where the terror of the Red Dot does not follow me. A future where I tune myself out, where the Red Dot does not distract me from the task at hand.)

I’ve tried and I’ve failed.

And it’s my fault.

Enter FOMO.

I was constantly on edge about the conversation that was continuing in my absence. What would happen if I missed something important? What if I lost out on the opportunity to work on the next big feature because I wasn’t around? Who just sent me a message? Are they waiting for me to respond? Is someone sharing the latest meme to floor the internet. Is it an update on the design collateral?

Oh! The uncertainty!

FOMO eats me up. And I must have answers!

As individuals we are constantly afraid of being left out.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is both the beauty and the terror of Slack.

Slack fans, I know what you’re thinking.

Who does this idiot think he is? Dissing something we hold so dear, something that has helped us emerge from the mountains of email and be less busy. DOES HE EVEN KNOW?

Well, you can stop sharpening your knives right about now (please).

I’m one of you.

I love Slack. The team at Cubeit relies on it to hold conversation together in one neat package. It makes working from anywhere easier, and the integrations mean sharing stuff is super simple.

I only wrote this so that we are warned.

So that when we celebrate the death of email and the next big leap in workplace productivity, we must be wary of what we are getting ourselves into.

Slack is a step in the right direction, and we must, must, keep moving forward.

Mithun Madhusudan Growth at Is Slack a Productivity Enhancer or a Productivity Killer?