10 tips for preventing Slack burnout

Group chat apps such as Slack can help teams collaborate and be productive — but they can also get overwhelming, with too many messages demanding your attention. Here's how to tame the Slack beast.

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There’s no doubt that Slack is popular, with 9 million weekly active users in more than 100 countries, according to the company. But does using the productivity platform truly make you more productive? Or do Slack messages constantly interrupt your actual work, making it difficult to stay focused?

Both scenarios can be true, based on comments from Slack users responding to a Computerworld query. Avoiding Slack burnout, a by-product of too many messages, depends upon how you use — or don’t use — the software.

Consider the engineering team at Boomerang, developer of productivity software for Gmail, Outlook, iOS and Android. Boomerang engineers started using Slack in 2015. Despite the fact that the team has grown since then from two to 15 people, “it started to feel like the amount each developer could build was declining,” says Alex Moore, founder and CEO. At the same time, the number of Slack messages grew exponentially.

“We had a couple weeks where people sent over 500 direct messages in Slack a day,” Moore says. “On those days, engineers basically didn’t write any code, and the people they were chatting with didn’t get much done either.”

Boomerang’s solution — turning on Slack’s Do Not Disturb (DND) feature for everyone in the company during business hours — may seem counterintuitive. But it worked. Direct message traffic dropped by 40% while the amount of code written grew 34%, Moore says. “By adding a little bit of friction to Slack and making it a little harder for engineers to get interrupted, we saw a significant increase in both the volume and the quality of the engineering team’s output,” he adds.

If that sounds too extreme, we’ve got some other suggestions: Here are 10 tips and strategies for minimizing Slack disruptions and maximizing your productivity. While they’re geared toward Slack in particular, you can apply similar techniques to most team messaging platforms.

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