This week's blog post was written by our guest author, Ellen Salzler from Imagine Business Development.
Google search the app, Slack and you’ll find that there’s plenty of debate on how it affects work communication. The most frequent topic I’ve come across is the battle between Slack and email. “Is Slack killing email?” and, “Will email be nixed now that Slack is available?” As we’ve written before, email is a powerful tool. But adding instant communication tools like Slack to your workspace is far from a bad thing. Here are a few pros and cons of both.
We’ve always had access to instant communications (anyone remember AOL Instant Messenger?) There’s Gmail chat, texting, Facebook messages, Instagram inboxes, SnapChat messages… the list goes on.
But email is mostly a professional tool, used to send lengthy messages. Email allows you to keep messages consistently and gives you the ability to follow a thread of replies. According to Stewart Butterfield, Founder of Slack, “sometimes people will have Facebook messenger turned on, but 99 percent of the time, if you’re sending a message to a human you don’t know well, you’re using email.”
Where email allows you to follow multiple and dated conversations, Slack is one big thread with specific people. One of the advantages of Slack is that you can choose to see different people or track different subjects (what Slack calls channels), while email only allows you to see messages that are addressed to you.
Slack allows people to know what’s happening in conversations that they may not be actively involved in. This can be very helpful in supporting collaboration and keeping people informed. It allows for a greater degree of transparency, which is increasingly important with today’s working generation.
Slack allows for constant communication with fellow employees. This is great for remote work but can also improve communication in any office setting. It helps different parts of a company communicate in real time. Research from ExpandedRamblings shows that users, on average, spend 10 hours 'plugged into the app' each weekday on Slack. With channels, groups and a search function, different parts your business can set Slack up to aid their discussions. You can follow exchanges in real time or come back to conversations later. It lets people discover what might have been overlooked and see why or how something happened.
One downside with Slack (as with all real time communication tools) is that it can create a lot of noise and chaos, where you feel constantly pinged with notifications of new messages. Fortunately for those who can’t work with the constant pinging, there is a do not disturb mode and snooze hours available, so there is no disruption outside of work hours. For those who need to be in the loop, you’re able to keep the notifications on and can even have them sent to your phone.
Technology changes the way we talk to each other. Slack and email both help to keep communication consistent and regular, but there is a time and place for both (in my opinion). Communication tools like Slack help relaxed or remote work possible. Having a tool that instantly connects you with your co-workers will always be important to keep the workday moving, but email will not be going away anytime soon.