What is Slack?
You'd be hard-pressed to find a remote company that doesn’t use Slack nowadays. It’s for good reason—Slack has made online communication easy and convenient. It’s become the place where most internal company conversations happen, making it a huge shaper of company culture. That’s the happy side of the story.
But like all good stories, this one also has a dark side.
And when it comes to Slack, the dark side is that Slack can easily become exhausting, overwhelming, and addictive. Although it’s often unexpected, Slack’s tendrils have grabbed such a tight hold on many remote workers’ lives that they are now dealing with Slack fatigue.
What is Slack fatigue?
Slack fatigue is the feeling of being constantly exhausted, drained, or overwhelmed by Slack notifications.
Slack fatigue often starts small, driven by an ever-increasing number of channels and DMs you’re participating in. When the race to stay on top of notifications becomes a regular part of your work day, you’re approaching the danger zone. And once you’ve become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication and are stressed out by each new notification—or you just give up altogether—you’ve officially become fatigued.
Slack fatigue is often made worse by some level of addiction. We all know that most apps are designed to be addicting, but work apps like Slack sometimes get overlooked.
You’re probably dealing with Slack addiction if you tend to open Slack on autopilot every time you use your phone. Another warning sign is if you find yourself reading Slack during meetings, during your lunch break, in the evenings, or on days off.
When you can’t disconnect from Slack, it’s like you can’t leave the office. No wonder you’re dealing with employee burnout.
Slack fatigue vs. Zoom fatigue
Slack and Zoom are two main tools that have become a standard part of the remote workplace, so it’s natural that they often get compared.
“Zoom fatigue” was first coined at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. As many companies were forced to go remote very quickly, employees found their calendars shifted from tons of in-person meetings to nonstop Zoom calls. This constant need to be on camera and engaged led to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue for many workers.
The effects of Zoom fatigue are comparable to Slack fatigue. Both are associated with a sense of exhaustion at the end of a work day. They’re closely linked in many ways. And unfortunately, when companies try to combat Zoom fatigue, one of the consequences is that employees often end up spending more time on Slack (or vice-versa).
The main difference between Slack and Zoom fatigue lies in the cause. For Zoom fatigue, part of the problem is the medium itself. Video calls are just close enough to face-to-face conversations that it’s easy to assume they require the same effort of employees, but that’s simply not true. Video calls require more of employees, leading to people feeling overwhelmed by non-verbal cues, staring at other people’s faces for unnaturally long periods, and becoming overly concerned with their own facial expressions.
Slack fatigue is different. Most of the causes for Slack fatigue stem from how people use Slack, rather than from an inherent problem with the chat medium itself.
How to avoid Slack fatigue
If you aren’t already working on burnout prevention, assessing your company’s Slack usage is a good place to start. That’s because Slack fatigue can often be a symptom of a much larger problem, like unhealthy working norms or unclear expectations. If Slack fatigue is occurring due to burnout, you’ll notice it manifesting in other ways, such as reduced productivity or lower overall engagement.
There’s good news though.
Since Slack fatigue is caused mainly by how you use Slack, some minor changes can have a significant impact.
Build psychological safety
A great way to start overcoming Slack fatigue is to make Slack an environment where your team is comfortable being vulnerable.
Building psychological safety makes it easier for people to speak up when conversations get too off track or overwhelming. It empowers your team to discuss any issues they have with Slack and suggest solutions for them.
Kona is the easiest way to build psychological safety on a remote team. It all happens through short, daily check-ins, right within Slack. By asking each team member to check in and share how they’re feeling every day, you’ll create an organizational habit of being vulnerable. You’ll also establish more meaningful relationships and create more empathy across your team.
Create dedicated channels
While some people find a high volume of channels overwhelming, creating dedicated channels for different types of conversations is still the best way to segment and organize what’s happening in Slack.|
You can create channel-specific rules, so your team is clear on what’s required of them. Be vocal about which channels are required and which are optional, and do your best to keep relevant conversations in the right channels.
You can also control who’s participating by inviting people to channels only when they’re needed there.
Lead by example
Your environment in Slack strongly influences your workplace culture. That’s why you should engage with Slack as an extension of your culture.
If you want deep, thoughtful conversations, don’t write quick jabs. Take time to think about what you want to say and properly craft your thoughts. When messages get long, formatting is your best friend. Use formatting features like bullet points and lists—the same way you would if you were writing elsewhere.
If you’re a leader who wants your people to cultivate a healthy relationship with Slack, don’t participate in an ASAP culture. Lead by example, and make sure you’re not checking Slack when you aren’t working or are in meetings. Reply when you have time and can engage properly.
Tailor Slack to your needs
The big rule of thumb for every type of software you use is this: make your tools work for you.
Slack has an endless number of features that you can use to tailor your team’s experience. Some of these happen at the workspace or channel level, while others are up to the individual. You can group channels, mute them, schedule messages, set reminders, star messages, automatically mark channels as read, and so on. You can also restrict your usage by disabling your notifications so you’re unreachable when you need to do some deep work.
Be ruthless about protecting your time and focus and your likelihood of suffering from Slack fatigue will significantly decrease.
Build a happier remote team on Slack
It’s possible to maximize the positive aspects of Slack while also reducing the risk of Slack fatigue. Using Slack in the ways that work best for you and your team will create a happier and healthier working environment.
Adding Kona to your workspace is a simple addition that will enable you to build better teams and cultivate employee engagement right within Slack. Get started for free today!