Today’s workplace culture is all about productivity and the practice of increasing it. Anywhere you look, countless new apps promising to slash distractions and increase your creative energy are just waiting to steal your attention away. We now have exercises that can be done to practice concentration and mindfulness. And more options are available for workplace communications, intended to streamline the work process and keep distractions to a minimum.
But is all of this actually working?
Think back to a simpler time. Before high-speed internet, before instant news delivered on Twitter, before emails took over our time. Sure, we still dealt with distractions — but there were less options, period.
Today, we contend with technology that’s intended to make our lives more convenient. But in many cases, all of these options seem to only make for more distractions and demand more of our precious attention span.
Take the example of popular workplace messaging system, Slack. In recent months, the chat app, which allows employees to create specific channels of communication, has come under some fire for seeming to reduce productivity and increase distraction. The messaging app was first created in order to solve a problem, but many seem to feel that it’s only added to that problem.
According to a Vox article exploring the effects of using apps such as Slack: “On average, employees at large companies are each sending more than 200 Slack messages per week, according to Time Is Ltd., a productivity-analytics company that taps into workplace programs — including Slack, calendar apps, and the Office Suite — in order to give companies recommendations on how to be more productive. Power users sending out more than 1,000 messages per day are “not an exception.”
Intense, right? Now let’s apply this to the business of public relations. Let’s say that a busy agency employs the use of Slack to keep its employees in constant contact with one another. The idea behind using Slack is that employees can get instantaneous assistance or answers if a problem arises, rather than chasing someone around the office (or trying to contact someone in a different location).
With the increase in dependence on communication through channels such as Slack, professionals may be more likely to get distracted or lost in non-work related chatter. In an industry such as PR, in which news that needs managing could break at any moment, there is a strong argument for an app such as Slack, which can encourage quick turnaround. However, it’s important to recognize the risks of over-dependence on the app.
These types of apps could also encourage second-guessing or rumination over an issue for too long. Let’s say that a client in the public relations space commits a social media faux pas that requires damage control. Instead of dealing with the issue right away, a PR rep could get bogged down in discussing the issue with colleagues via Slack, ruminating on the issue for too long and letting the problem get bigger and bigger. In an industry where immediate and quick-thinking action is often needed, sometimes apps like Slack can only serve to slow us down.
While these types of convenience apps are useful, they’re mostly useful in doses. Having a strong handle on workplace productivity and what affects it is important for a business that wants to reduce distractions while also encouraging free and fast communications.