Are Instant Messaging Apps Like Slack an Instant Productivity Killer?

Bubbles is a business communication tool that could help remote workers feel less overwhelmed with always being available.
Conor Cawley

We've all heard it before: “Remote work is the new normal.” Virtual meetings have become common place across the business landscape and an increasing number of employees are opting for pajamas over business casual on a daily basis.

While the remote work boom has seen a wide range of benefits for businesses and employees alike in recent years, there have been some downfalls that need to be addressed. The security of remote work is one thing but being constantly available to your team could actually be having a negative impact on your productivity.

To get a better understanding of how instant messaging might be getting in the way of working on your own schedule, we talked with Noa Elan, the head of marketing for Bubbles — a business communication platform that employs videos and screenshots to encourage collaboration on a more manageable timeline — about the importance of working on your own schedule, the value of truly ‘async' business tools, and the current state of remote work. Read on to learn more about her insights on remote work and to get an inside look at the Bubbles platform.

The Current State of Remote Work

Remote work has been great for improving work life balance for millions of employees around the world. Still, there are notably some downfalls that need to be addressed via technology, namely the ability to collaborate with your co-workers in a way that doesn't significantly impede on your own time.

“There have been a lot of benefits of remote work, including equity, diversity, and generally allowing people to live their best life. In terms of collaboration, though, we've gone downhill.” – Noa Elan, Bubbles head of marketing

While tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other instant messaging platforms have made business communication easier, the reality is that employees feel it necessary to respond immediately to requests, rather than on their own time. While this may keep the cogs of business moving, the ability to get in a groove to accomplish meaningful work likely takes a hit when you're constantly available.

“You're continually stretched with tools that require you to react in real time. You're continuously being pulled between the conversation you're in, the Slack that you're getting, and the actual work that you need to get done, so you end up dreading working with people, because they drain that time even more.”

Considering 75% of workers have reported feeling burnt out over the last few years, it's safe to say instant message could be making employees feel like they are never off the clock. That's where a truly asynchronous platform like Bubbles can help.

An Async Future

Elan mentions on multiple occasions that Bubbles is a truly async platform, but what exactly is async?

“Async means that you're truly able to continue a thread of conversation even when people aren't doing so in real time, over the course of hours or even days.”

In so many words, async platforms are designed to give you the time to respond in a manner that works with your schedule. However, while tools like Slack and email are considered async by many, the reality is that the average user is not using them in that way.

“People think that async is anything that isn't a Zoom meeting or an in-person meeting. But the truth is that most tools today aren't async at all.”

While employees aren't necessarily required to respond to instant messages and emails in a timely manner, the pressure to do so is clearly present. In fact, a survey from Microsoft found that 50% of employees respond to business chats within five minutes, which hardly sounds like working on your own time. Subsequently, it can be pretty hard to get in a groove with work when you're constantly available to everyone you work with.

“The challenge with [non-async tools] today is that you're constantly multitasking, so you aren't getting any meaningful work done.”

If you've ever tried to get any work done while being pulled in a million different directions, you know that this kind of setup isn't tenable for productivity. Unfortunately, modern day business tools are geared towards this kind of “always available” workday and is likely contributing to poor productivity or worker burnout.

Getting Your Time Back

So how do we fix the problem? We have to fix our tools. Remote and hybrid work models are not going anywhere, as employees have found it substantially increases work life balance while providing flexibility for workers and businesses alike.

However, rethinking and retooling our pre-pandemic business tools to better accommodate those working from home could allow employees to regain some of their own time, allowing them to get work done on their schedule. Because with the right async tool, you can actually feel productive without the looming threat of an instant message.

“Async tools allow you to do real, meaningful work, because it lets you take a step back and have a conversation on your own time.”

As Elan points out, this is where Bubbles really shines. Combining tools like video chat and messaging with more async features found in document editing collaboration software allows users to take work in their own time, rather than feeling the rush of instant messaging bearing down on them.

In fact, Elan notes that while the company is based in the continental US, she works in Hawaii, and Bubbles allows her to feel like she's still part of the team without having to wake up at four in the morning to contribute. As Elan so eloquently put it:

“It gives you back that feeling of working on your own schedule.”

For a clearer look at Bubbles, Elan actually conducted this interview through the platform, giving me a good look at how the async tool actually works. She responded to my email questions with clear and concise videos that admittedly made the experience more engaging.

For more information about Bubbles, check out their website and think about how your current business tools could be impeding productivity, rather than encouraging it.

Screenshots taken from the Bubble platform

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Conor is the Senior Writer for Tech.co. For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.

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