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The productivity cost of team chat messaging

By Steven Hylands on June 01, 2020

We’ve decided to create a manifesto about why Lowdown needs to exist. Read on to learn why we believe there’s a big productivity cost to team chat messaging that isn’t going anyway with action.

The Lowdown Manifesto

Instant chat messaging has become our online communication method of choice. Why is that? Well it’s pretty simple. Beyond video it’s the closest thing we have to how we speak in real life.

Humans crave interaction. Messaging gives us a natural extension of speech. It’s perfect for things like socialising where you communicate off the cuff. But today that’s not all we use it for.

Work meets messaging

It was inevitable we’d adapt chat messaging for team communication. Teams need a way to interact online too, especially now we’re living in a remote work world. Chat is the most natural way to achieve this, but is it the best way?

In principle, workplace chat sounds useful. You get your entire team in one place where you can easily communicate with anyone by tapping a few keys. Have a thought? Just unload it out of your brain and wait for a reply like you would in real life.

The issue with workplace chat messaging

Unfortunately, speech and messaging share the same problem. They’re rapid, scattered forms of communication ill-suited to a workplace that craves productivity. Topics can change in an instant. Participants drop in and out. You need to stay engaged in the conversation so you can respond accordingly. Much of what is said in a conversation is filler and forgotten moments later. Even crucial points don’t stick in the forefront of your memory for long.

One “benefit” of writing things down is you don’t need to access a memory to recall information. In chat messaging, if you can find it, you can read it. But that’s easier said than done. All of the filler chat is still there too. As a result, finding information amongst the noise of chat isn’t easy.

The Slack “solution”

Tools like Slack are supposed to solve this problem. Slack’s name is all about finding information (Searchable Log of All Conversation and K nowledge).

Slack contains ALL of the conversation and ALL of the knowledge — and that is the problem.

Being able to search through every word of a teams communication history sounds great in principle. But unless your team only communicates in conclusions, the majority of the messages shared are still filler and not the information you’re looking for. And even if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll often struggle to find it unless you know its exact wording.

Relying on a chat room as a repository of all key information you need your team to read and remember is not a good idea. Your team will miss things they need to read as they get lost amongst the neverending wall of chat. Even if your information is read the disposable nature of chat means you can’t be confident it will be remembered. We simply don’t engage with chat in the same way as something like email.

Key company information needs to be highlighted outside chat. Your team must be able to find it quickly and use it upon demand to aid their work. If you’re relying on a chat tool for all comms your team’s productivity is going to suffer.

The alternative

Competitors of Slack and Microsoft Teams preach the benefits of asynchronous communication over real-time chat, and they’re not wrong.

Yet workplace chat is growing and growing fast. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. There will always be a place for it because it is the most natural form of written communication and we naturally gravitate towards it.

We will continue to send billions of workplace chat messages every week. As a result, we’ll keep missing key information amongst the noise. Productivity will continue to suffer as a result.

That is unless we find a solution to ensure key information shared in chat is seen and remembered.

Lowdown solves this. Starting with Slack.

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Author

Steven Hylands

Steven is a co-founder and CEO here at Lowdown. He's obsessed with finding the signal amongst the noise of real-time chat.

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