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Cover image for 4 Problems with Slack that can ruin remote work‍

4 Problems with Slack that can ruin remote work‍

hrishikesh1990 profile image hrishikesh1990 Originally published at remote.tools ・2 min read

The numbers show that 750,000+ organisations are using Slack!

I've been using Slack for 3+ years myself and as our primary mode of communication (internal team) over the past one year and have had my fair share of qualms with it.

Our community had a lively discussion on this. Based on the things discussed, I penned down some of the problems and how to tackle them.

Problem 1. Constant interruptions - Slack doesn't let you focus on work

Any notification will disrupt your workflow. At the same time, you will not even know when you are interrupting someone else.

Solution

  1. Snooze your notifications when you're working. Clear pending messages periodically.
  2. Have a set expected response time.
  3. Message a teammate only if absolutely required.

Problem 2. Loss of context and the need to catch up when you miss messages

Not checking your messages often may result in you having a huge number of messages to catch up on and being left out.

Solution

  1. One person involved in any important conversation should summarize the key points and share them on Slack itself. Anyone who wasn't part of it should read through the summary and share comments.
  2. A gist of the entire conversation should be transferred to your team's permanent doc/ wiki.

Problem 3. Slack = Instant messaging and it promotes short-form, not-so-thoughtful conversations

This isn't a great way to discuss someting that critically impacts your team.

Solution

  1. Document important conversations in a more permanent place like your company wiki. This also provides spaces for adding more nuance to it.
  2. Everyone in the team should be aware of the right place to document information. We put together a simple framework to help you decide this. Additionally, your internal team guidelines should emphasise on long-form responses, even on chats.

Problem 4. It keeps you awake at night and it is the first thing you check in the morning

The need to be constantly connected leads to burnout or fatigue.

Solution

Your only respite in this case is self-control. I wrote just last week on how you can unplug from work and the simple hacks mentioned there should work well.
This should also be conveyed & discussed in your team meetings. Responding or having conversations at odd hours shouldn't be celebrated. In fact, it's great to address & discuss the situation to avoid that eventuality in future. The manager or the leader plays a crucial role in setting the right example.

What do you think about the above? Do comment and let me know. Also, I write about all the juicy updates related to remote work. Subscribe to my newsletter to stay in the know.

Discussion

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

We are using our own internal private Forem to complement Slack and have started hosting the product for some other orgs, and have gotten really good feedback on the approach.

Slack is a really slick, usable product, but helps dig deep silos alongside all the issues you mentioned. We're thinking of Forem for Work as somewhat experimental still, but it's been interesting to see how extremely excited some bigger teams are to reduce their Slack use.

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hrishikesh1990 Author

Oh that's really cool. So you must be using Forem for your project management + permanent documentation + wiki and Slack for instant messaging?

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Ben Halpern

We also use GitHub, which gets the more structured project management work. Forem is big for discussions, standups, meeting minutes, demos, feedback loops, etc.

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TelecomUnicorn

Great post! I agree wholly- however, especially now with remote working more common and necessary than ever, having a platform for continuous communication with the work headquarters is such a necessity. Whether it's Slack, G-Chat, Teamwork Chat, or any other type of chat function you're using, having the ability to stay in contact so quickly is so useful. The distractions are a definite downside, the constant feeling that has us "needing" to check it all them time is another not-so-great point, but the upsides are impossible to negate. I suppose, it's like a virtual watercooler. ;)

I guess it's like a necessary evil, you know?

Thanks for the insight!

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hrishikesh1990 Author

True, Slack's a great tool, just that you need to be aware about the downsides and have workarounds for them. I think the biggest +ve, as you also pointed out, is that you 'stay & feel connected' with Slack.

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Eljay-Adobe

@here ought to cause an electric shock.

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Austin S. Hemmelgarn

At least it’s better than @channel...

There are legitimate use-cases for @here though depending on how your company actually uses Slack. Where I work, most people take a batched-polling approach to checking Slack messages (that is, look every now and then, but don’t interrupt your work just for new messages) until they get either a DM or are tagged by a mention. Sometimes it’s still important to make sure everybody online sees a message now (for example, when announcing a code freeze in preparation for a release, or when documenting a known issue with your CI that means certain tests must be ignored temporarily), and @here is the only practical option for doing that...

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Eljay-Adobe

We have people that do @here I'm on the 10th floor, where is the copy machine? to the company wide #all channel of 22,000 people.