How to lower the amount of disruptions and use Slack more efficiently

15 Feb 2022 - 3 min read

It was all fun and games (mostly gifs) when we started using Slack. The team was small and we all knew each other pretty well, even for a remote team.

As our growth accelerated and we brought more people onboard, we needed more clear processes to how we communicate - so, we’ve created more rooms but kept all our comms on Slack and email. More people, more problems. The amount of internal communication grew exponentially up to the point where people started to become less productive because of our Slack use.

“I hear that sound, it gives me the shivers,” he said.

Sounds familiar? Unfortunately this is the reality of so many companies. Let’s take a step back and see how we got here.

It all started in the mail room...

First let’s think about email and how this became the go-to channel for pretty much everything these days. It started back in the 90’s where email was a much cheaper alternative to building workflow management features in companies. Back then, you couldn’t upload a receipt and have the amount populate your accounting software, there were no links to slides or Figma boards and unless it was a mission-critical process, it was done over email. At this point email was actually replacing voice-messages and fax communications, which were asynchronous in the way that the information was captured but required a more immediate response. We’ll get to this later.

We’ve made a lot of progress since back then, with cloud solutions providing an easy way to create workflows and processes. Every time a bottleneck became too pressing, a new SaaS solution would pop up to address the problem. Great! So why do I still get so many emails? SaaS solutions had to grow at all cost, the Silicon Valley mantra which spread from Social Networks to basically every tool where the KPI is retention-based. So I need to always bring people back to our app and how do we do that - let’s send them an email! Products have been optimized to increase the amount of stress and fomo they can create with transactional mails, up to the point where you just gotta check and make sure everything is going smoothly.

It’s not the length of the message, it’s the habit of checking

Tell anyone that Instagram or Facebook are driving kids mad by using the notifications to create an unfaithful reward imbalance and no one bats an eye. Tell them they have the same problem, and they walk you through their mindfulness routine while checking mail, Slack, Linkedin, Trello, Hubspot.

The habit of checking, due to interruptions in your work, makes you waste more than 20 minutes on a task every time you’re interrupted. And you’re the one paying for these attention shifting costs. Doing Deep Work has become a skill you need to acquire to stay sane, because at the end of the day results matter.

“Let’s jump on a call real quick”

It’s hard to complain about Slack ruining your concentration when the new WFH paradigm gave “video killed the radio star” a new meaning. I bet your first reaction is “but it’s Zoom that really ruins my days” and you wouldn’t be alone.

Zoom fatigue started showing up a few months after everyone had to spend more than half of their day in video calls. The leaders FOMO when they don’t see people working IRL coupled with the sudden realization that they spent most of their week in meetings which were stripped away made any opportunity for a “sync call” a top priority. Employees on the other hand have never been more productive, proving that the so-called productivity crisis of having to work from home was unjustified, something that has shifted the work culture forever. 20% of all professional jobs are now remote, this is the new normal. It’s fascinating to witness this trend evolving and we are big supporters of smart remote work.

During the same forced digitalisation period other async video solutions became useful, such as Loom and every clone they have out there under the “Loom for X” monocle. And it makes sense, the extroverts from the office still needed their spotlight and the same way some people shine in a meeting meant that some people are doing great on video. Some people talk, some people listen. To be honest (maybe you can tell from the length of this article) I am one of the people who talk. I have to be conscious during calls to not do all the talking, in order to allow other ideas to shine. Measuring talk time is even a feature for some products

Not everyone shines on video, not everyone is as extroverted to take lead in a video call with 20 people to share their opinions. The silent thinker appreciated tools like Clubhouse because finally you were judged based on what you said and not how you looked while saying it.