I think Slack is by far one of the most popular tools wrt remote working. I ran a quick query on our DB and saw that 56% of Remote Clan members are using Slack.
Slack is of course a great tool and we’ve been using it ourselves for 3+ years (and as the primary mode of communication in the last one year). However, I am curious to know what you think are not-so-great aspects of using Slack and the product itself.
Let me start with my experience -
Slack is inherently a team chat app and it infuses a culture of constant interruptions. Having your notifications always on is almost never possible. In our team, we have formed a set of rules around notifications and when to expect replies but that’s still a workaround.
We have to make peace with the fact that you will lose context when there’s a discussion that’s happened without you when you had snoozed notifications. It’s upto the person to read through previous messages and get up to speed. And honestly, the interface isn’t great to sift through the history of messages.
It promotes short-form conversations by design. Many times, I have found myself brainstorming & sharing ideas on Slack in the middle of an ongoing conversation when I should ideally have given it more thought and instead shared a long, thoughtful response. Additionally, before we finish the chat, one of us has to summarize the conversation, get the go-ahead from other people and then put it up in a permanent place (Slite in our case).
Boris, the founder of Remote More, shared that:
"In general, I love Slack.
But the thing that I don’t like the most is - I don’t know if I’m interrupting the other person when I write to them.
I try to not message people without a good reason, to not interrupt them. Which is not a great solution."
Jean, a Team Lead at Hubstaff, said that:
"I do agree with the points you made, especially the interruptions and promotion of short form answers, however, in my opinion it’s all about defining the tools and use cases. Slack is great for short messages, brainstorm, sharing quickly and catching up, however, it shouldn’t be your only form of communication, Zoom for face to face interactions and email for thoughtful conversations."
Brendan, a remote sales professional, added that:
"I’m not a heavy user, and for the exact reasons you cite. The interruption model isn’t productive, and I’ve no need for any additional sources of interruption. And I, too, find it difficult to have go back and reconstruct conversations .
Primarily, we use it to catalog updated files and documents. Hardly the standard use case, I bet."
Justin, the maker of Quidli, said that:
"We’re heavy users at my company - it’s an essential tool and has been so since Day 1.
I do think message fatigue is real, particularly when you invite a lot of people to your company Slack. However, I’ve found, at least for me personally, that we’ve been able to establish an understanding that most communication on Slack should be treated as asynchronous. And if a subject is really urgent you should reach out to all relevant parties directly, via phone, DM or email.
One thing we do to facilitate this is establish OKRs but on a shorter timeline, 1-2 months. If we all know what we’re respectively supposed to do, as well as the deadlines for these tasks, then the asynchronous communications can proceed a little bit smoother. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s something we make sure to make clear early on so no one gets super frustrated.
Also, we demand an all-hands video calls using Google Meet at the beginning of each week so everyone gets at least a little face-to-face that definitely isn’t possible via just Slack."
Raj, the maker of Loop Team, added that:
"We use Slack but most of us have notifications off and we have set rules around it
But the other thing we've done is office hours and use virtual office tools to allow more sync comms during that period - we've found this helpful in terms of having deeper convo flows, there are still some transparency issues but we are able to get a lot more things answered quickly vs sync/async Slack."
Kevin, the co-founder of Kitemaker, shared that:
"We found that too often product-related discussions were happening in Slack. People who should have been in the discussions happened to be away, decisions were taken but not properly communicated, people felt like they had to have notifications on all the time for FMO.
So when we built Kitemaker (https://kitemaker.co) we wanted to figure out how we could make sure those discussions were captured. For the first step, we decided that whenever a Kitemaker issue is referenced in Slack (e.g. "hey guys! I was just looking at ABC-123", we'll capture that Slack thread and link it in the issue in Kitemaker. That way if you're in the issue in Kitemaker, you can see if there have been discussions about it in Slack. No more FMO.
For future versions, we're planning to:
1. Allow assignees of issues to get notified in Kitemaker if people are disussing their issue in Slack
2. Automatically have a 2-way sync between Kitemaker comments and Slack threads so that the conversation can be joined regardless of what tool you happen to be sitting in
3. Expand our search to cover these Slack conversations b/c Slack's search tends to be hopeless"
Rick, a tech professional, shared that:
"There are a lot of issues with Slack, at its best it can be a great tool bringing a real sense of teamwork, but misuse of Slack is rampant and it does little to encourage 'good' use.
Some of the worst examples I can think of....
i) Large org 400+ people 'general' chat channels. No purpose, low level activity, but the occasional important, sometimes urgent message.
ii) Secret DM group chat overload, everything is communicated in secret adhoc groups that forget half the team and make the public channels a wasteland.
iii) DM: "hi!" .....
iv) General massive overuse of individual DMs, being chatted by 10 people simultaneously who all think you are just talking to them.
Slack I think almost works better for none work orgs, where nothing is super important and no-one is really waiting for an answer from any one individual.
It also seems to work okay for small orgs of less than 15 people.
The days before instant messaging when we did everything on a Forum feel like they were better."
Will, the co-founder of Tangle, shared that:
"We built Tangle to give remote workers back casual chat - which is what falls between the cracks of Zoom and Slack. In the office, conversations are fleeting rather than persistent. You can ask a stupid question and it'll die off, or heckle someone about their sports team when the mood is right. You also process ideas in sequence, and bring people in as needed. Probably the coolest part about Tangle is that you start and end conversations verbally (e.g. "Hey Karthik, you got a second?" ; "Talk to you later"), so you're using that natural barge-in, which is so much more comfortable for both parties than a notification or a 'ping'. Just to be clear, we're using speech/intent AI to channel conversations in real time, so that remote teams can operate like they're next to each other."