Workplace: The endless buzz of office chat apps
The war on office email is just beginning, said John Herrman in The New York Times. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all developed workplace chat apps to eradicate the “universally despised office culture of replies and forwards and mass CCs.” They’re all chasing Slack, the real-time chat-software company that went public last week, with 10 million daily users and a market value of $15.7 billion. Slack has reduced our reliance on the inbox and made it easier to stay connected while working remotely. But it has also engendered “mixed feelings, often related to privacy and productivity,” and further eroded workplace boundaries. “An instant message from your boss during the day might demand not just a quick response but an instant one.” And for younger employees raised online, “Slack looks and feels like a place to socialize” rather than strategize.
“I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by the madness of meaningless emails,” said Seth Fiegerman in CNN.com. But, somehow, Slack is even more consuming. “At any given moment, day or night, when I open the Slack app, I am almost guaranteed to see little red dots next to names of various channels and users telling me how many unread mentions and messages are waiting for me.” Now my colleagues are using Slack “to plan bachelor parties and weekend outings.” The app’s casual nature makes us “feel more connected under the guise of being more productive.”
Any alternative to email should be welcomed, said James Titcomb in The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). “Most professionals (apart from the most irritatingly productive) find their overflowing inboxes stress-inducing.” Those formats with subject lines and signatures also feel antiquated and overdressed for snappy conversations among colleagues. And with more people working remotely and handling business on mobile phones, it makes sense for companies to rely on chat apps, “which do a better job than email replicating the conversations and meetings we have in real life.”
Some CEOs are putting more thought into combatting communication overload, said Kelsey Gee in The Wall Street Journal. One software company, Basecamp, which makes, yes, collaboration tools, has been encouraging more face-to-face meetings and “uninterrupted stretches of time to think and converse.” If you’re sick of being interrupted, there’s another solution available at your fingertips—the mute button, said David Pierce, also in the Journal. It lets you tune things out without being rude. Muting Gmail, Slack, and group chats is a “particularly useful way to regain some sanity in my life.” Anytime you think “I don’t care” after receiving a message, consider doing that. “When my phone isn’t buzzing for every new DM or Slack emoji, the stuff that matters comes through more clearly.” ■