Here’s a fact that will surprise no one: Apps have taken over the workplace. This influx of software within the enterprise is largely a boon for business, allowing teams to deliver products and services faster and better than ever before.
But these new tools have also come with an unwelcome side effect: Teams face more distraction as their attention gets fragmented across specialist software.
In fact, context switching is one of today’s biggest barriers to employee productivity, as we discovered in our recent State of Work report, which surveyed 17,000 knowledge workers around the world. Over half of survey respondents said that switching between apps makes it harder to get essential work done, and 68% said that they spend at least 30 minutes a day toggling between tools.
So it’s no wonder that there’s a growing appetite for a layer of technology that connects team communication with the necessary tools employees use every day. Gartner, a global research firm, sees this need as not only emerging, but inevitable. The firm has predicted that the market for workplace collaboration software is set to nearly double by 2023.
This forecast indicates that the app era is here to stay. We see it as our job to optimize for it. Here are three ways Slack is designed to increase team collaboration, integrate with a wide range of best-in-class tools and generally boost productivity.
Slack reduces context switching, saving workers precious time
Numerous work tasks and engagements compete for the attention of aligned workers, revealed by our State of Work research. Aligned workers are the most likely to have 10+ meetings a day and receive the highest number of app messages, emails and phone calls.
Therein lies the paradox—the alignment paradox. The more communication engaged, motivated employees receive, the more challenging it is for them to keep a handle on the various different tools and modes of communication used at work. Deliveroo, a London-based food delivery service, turned to Slack to connect the dots.
Deliveroo is 2,500 employees-strong, spread across a dozen countries. Not only is the company using Slack to keep remote and distributed workers in the know, it’s also integrated various other apps with its Slack workspace to help teams escape the cycle of chasing tasks across multiple platforms.
“The combination of Slack and Google Docs has proved very powerful,” says Will Sprunt, Deliveroo’s chief information officer. “That instantaneous communication goes back and forth, and you can see how both [platforms] work in tandem. It’s a great method of collaboration.”
Some of the tools and software that Deliveroo has integrated into Slack include the likes of:
“The thing that keeps us connected the most is Slack,” Sprunt says. “It’s a very immediate and straightforward method of communication, and really the only channel that people prefer and enjoy using.”
There are more than 2000 apps in the Slack App Directory that teams can download and integrate with their Slack workspaces. But perhaps what’s more impressive is the way that Slack customers are building custom applications for their internal systems and external software. As of last September, we saw more than 500,000 custom apps in action over the course of a typical week. As our developer ecosystem grows, it can only get better as more organizations contribute their innovations.
Slack eclipses email as the command center for workplace communication
Our State of Work research revealed that the most engaged employees are receiving about 51 to 100 or more emails per workday. While these hyper-connected employees said that they viewed frequent communication in the workplace as a positive thing, they were also more likely than moderate and minimal email users to report:
- Lack of alignment; many respondents said that teams at their companies were “not working toward a shared vision”
- Challenges communicating with coworkers in different teams, departments or offices. (This at a time when 70% of the global workforce works remotely at least once a week.)
It’s safe to assume that email inboxes fail to achieve what Professor Feng Li, chair of Information Management at Cass Business School in London, describes as “team to market,” The concept explores the relationship between workplace technologies and team alignment or connectedness (it also happens to be the name of the independent, funded research initiative that Slack commissioned).
Team to market isn’t a checklist; it’s a framework to help teams establish the right conditions to overcome daily challenges and deliver extraordinary results. Investing in the right technologies is a core pillar of that framework.
“If the emails are in the ‘wrong inbox,’ or if you are new to an organization, you will have no access to them,” Li writes. “Some emerging collaboration technologies using channel or thread-based communications are built to overcome such traditional constraints.”
Li goes on to say that collaboration technologies can ”significantly increase transparency and alignment, and make shared history and organizational knowledge equally accessible to everyone regardless of when they join a project.”
We’ve seen evidence of this ourselves, now that 12 million people actively use Slack to read and write messages, upload and comment on files, perform searches, interact with app integrations and build custom Slackbots.
Those 12 million active Slack users include Travis Topham, co-founder and head of product for Smartcare, an audiology software company. Smartcare is an avid user of Slack’s shared channels feature, which allows separate organizations to create, you guessed it, a channel that is shared between their two distinct Slack workspaces.
Since adopting shared channels, Smartcare has essentially nixed email and phone communication with its customers. Shared channels are Smartcare’s homebase for handling everything from product training to troubleshooting critical issues.
“Slack is so invaluable that we pay for our customers to be on it with us. It lets us efficiently take care of the administrative tasks, while we’re able to focus on groundbreaking work in our industry,” Topham says.
Smartcare and its customers are one constellation in a galaxy of Slack users collaborating with their partners in shared channels. As of last October, more than 26,000 companies had created over 70,000 shared channels, forging an ever-growing network of organizations turning to Slack to accomplish their best work.
Slack lets teammates manage their focus so they can do their best work
Slack channels open a window into an entire organization while providing controls to help employees focus on the work that’s most relevant to them. As a customizable workspace, teammates organize their channels by project and pick which channels to join. That way the necessary people are looped in and it prevents innocent bystanders from getting bogged down with extraneous missives.
Lyft Business, a wing of the ridesharing service, keeps its teams in sync across offices in Denver, New York and San Francisco with account-specific and region-specific channels. Each teammate, from account manager to senior leader, can follow conversations and chime in when necessary.
“Slack is business done right. When you have collaboration happening in one spot, leadership doesn’t need to be copied on an email. You can hop into a Slack channel, cruise along with the project and jump in where needed,” says Benjamin Sternsmith, Lyft Business area vice president of sales.
Slack was built with tools to help team members focus and establish a culture of uninterrupted deep work time too. Here at Slack, we frequently turn off notifications when we need heads-down time (for example, I switched Slack to DND mode while writing this article). We use the star feature to keep specific projects and discussions from getting lost in the shuffle.
Setting clear boundaries around how we use technology together in the workplace is an important part of this endeavor too. So says Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
“Technology itself gets blamed for the problem a lot. It’s not the technology itself, it’s the environment,” Eyal says. “In the wrong workplace culture, technology is an accelerant leading to distraction.”
Each day, 12 million users spend more than 90 minutes actively working in Slack. On average, 5 billion actions—such as sending messages, commenting on documents and building custom apps—are completed weekly, more than 1 billion of which happen on a mobile device. These numbers reveal an inspiring and robust network of teams finding unique ways to use Slack as a layer of technology connecting workplace communication with a variety of other tools.
Without a doubt, this is an exciting time to be in the workforce. We think so, at least. Adapting to the modern workplace is a collective effort, and the rise of customizable collaboration software indicates that we’re only just beginning to unlock an organization’s true potential.