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Is Slack killing work productivity?

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“We want (our customers) to become masters of their own information and not slaves, overwhelmed by the neverending flow,” said co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield, in the memo he issued to the Slack team two weeks before the 2013 release of the very successful chat and collaboration app.

Email has become everybody’s favorite productivity punching bag. It’s the thing to blame for why we aren’t getting work done as well as we could. In business, email is the no. 1 means of communication. But with over 4.35 billion email accounts existing, and an estimated 2.58 billion email users sending 122 trillion emails every hour, it’s safe to say that we are caught up in an information glut. 

office-work-1149087_1280So when Slack came along, being touted as the end of email, a collective hurrah was heard across the Internet. The excitement is evident. Not three years after its beta launch, the number of Slack’s daily active users has passed the 3 million mark. The app boasts 930,000 paid seats.

Yet for some users the hype is already wearing off. Why? It seems that Slack’s strategy for freeing us from the tyranny of our email inboxes involves doing it with a constant stream of chatter.

People are complaining about Slack’s own “neverending flow” of information.

One of the most widely read put-downs is Slack, I’m Breaking Up With You. In his essay, Samuel Hulick says “With you in my life, I’ve received exponentially more messages than I ever have before… it has been absolutely brutal on my productivity.”

An article titled much more strongly – Slack, The Ultimate Workday Distractor – says, “With Slack, true heads-down focus and intention is a thing of the past. Slack will make sure you always have… an opportunity for procrastination.”

man-314424_1280Then there was the participant in this Reddit discussion, who is a Slack user but who slays the messaging app’s promise of an email-free future with a succinct: “Don’t give up email for Slack, it’s not worth it.”

It’s easy to see where the complaints stem from. On average, a worker checks his work email 3.2 hours every day. How long is a user plugged into Slack on a workday? An astonishing 10 hours.

That’s almost half a day of an always-on stream of information. Aside from communication about work, there is also a lot of what Samuel Hulick calls a “Diet-Coke-and-Mentos-like explosion of cat gifs, bot feeds, and emoji mashups.”

It takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after being distracted. We have to ask: If Slack provides us with possible distractions more hours than exists in a workday, when do we ever really get to work?


Laurent-Casual-croppedFrom 2006 to 2012, CEO Laurent Gasser headed Revevol, a consultancy in Paris that he co-founded and built to become one of the most important Google Apps resellers in the world. He moved on to head the startup Collabspot, a Gmail extensions. In 2015, he founded from teams from the two companies. 

Laurent GasserIs Slack killing work productivity?
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