Slack Is the Right Tool for the Wrong Way to Work | The New Yorker
Though Slack improved the areas where e-mail was lacking in an age of high message volume, it simultaneously amplified the rate at which this interaction occurs. Data gathered by the software firm RescueTime estimate that employees who use Slack check communications tools more frequently than non-users, accessing them once every five minutes on average—an absurdly high rate of interruption. Neuroscientists and psychologists teach us that our attention is fundamentally single-tasked, and switching it from one target to another is detrimental to productivity. We’re simply not wired to monitor an ongoing stream of unpredictable communication at the same time that we’re trying to also finish actual work. E-mail introduced this problem of communication-driven distraction, but Slack pushed it to a new extreme. We both love and hate Slack because this company built the right tool for the wrong way to work.
I do not dislike Slack as much as people assume given that I wrote a book titled “Deep Work,” which advocates for the importance of long, undistracted stretches of work. The acceleration of interruption is a problem, but e-mail has its limitations, so it makes sense that companies committed to ad-hoc messaging as their central organizing principle would want to try Slack. If this tool represented the culmination of our attempts to figure out how to best work together in a digital age, I’d be more concerned, but Slack seems to be more transient. It’s a short-term optimization of our first hasty attempts to make sense of a high-tech professional world that will be followed by more substantial revolutions. The future of office work won’t be found in continuing to reduce the friction involved in messaging but, instead, in figuring out how to avoid the need to send so many messages in the first place.