Are you familiar with Slack, the instant message app that is supposed to allow you to combine chats with emails into one? With most of the business world shifting to remote work during the pandemic, apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and Flock make staying connected to colleagues a breeze without seeing one another face-to-face. Even prior to the pandemic, it was simpler to send your team member an instant message to receive a quick response versus getting up from your desk or calling them on an office phone. However, research shows Slack is now cutting into our productivity at a worse rate than before.
According to neuroscientist Lucas Miller, instant message platforms like Slack are designed to make you feel good. Every time you see a notification and reply to a team member, your brain releases a shot of dopamine. You are essentially rewarding yourself for completing a task or coming to someone’s aid. It’s the same way Facebook Messenger is structured. Whenever you see a red notification, you get an overwhelming urge to click on it to check who has messaged you. Usually, one of your friends has something positive to say and that reward conditions your brain to release another shot of dopamine. Miller argues that this is dangerous simply because people are becoming addicted to Slack.
Whenever a team member messages you, you feel a sense of pride and relief in knowing that you helped your fellow colleague. Even when you don’t receive a direct message, users feel the constant urge to check every message from fear of missing out on something important. This constant checking is eating away at our productivity when we should be focusing on the tasks at hand. Compared to before, when you might walk up to a colleague with a question and spend a couple minutes chatting, users are keeping their chat open in the background all day long. Whenever they see a notification pop up, they have a nagging feeling that they need to be in the loop. According to Miller, instead of solving the problem Slack set out to do, it is encouraging users to become more distracted. Wired reports that 5 billion actions are performed on Slack every week. With more and more teams joining the platform every day, use of the platform is also increasing, effectively lowering our concentration while working from home, which many find to already be a problem itself.
So what’s the solution? In order to help with productivity, Slack implements snooze features and allows users to star channels that they find important. If this doesn’t work, the best thing you can do as a leader is encourage your team to only use Slack when absolutely necessary. Of course you can always cut messaging apps out entirely, however, you risk losing the convenience that these apps have in exchanging quick bits of information that phone calls and email just don’t allow.
How has Slack affected your productivity? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.