What to Consider Before Getting Workplace Chat

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If you remember AOL Instant Messenger, you probably also remember all the finger-wagging about how it was a huge waste of time. It's not too different from the harrumphing about teens and their obsession with texting or Snapchatting. That might be why it's so strange to see businesses across the country falling so deeply in love with Slack.

Podcast fans will recognize the nearly ubiquitous advertiser: Slack boasts increased productivity for knowledge workers while cutting down emails to just the essentials. This is great in a lot of ways, especially since everyone thinks emails are a drag. But as any AIM-loving millennial could tell you, opening up the entire office to multiple all-day group chats has some predictable side effects.

Slack just took its stock public, to great fanfare and even greater profits. The New York Times took the opportunity to reflect on what Slack has really done for businesses. The picture is definitely mixed: Many of the objectives of in-office chat infrastructure are the same as those of the open office. Greater exposure to each other is supposed to induce greater collaboration, but often it simply creates more distraction and more erosion of work-life boundaries.

Like the open office model, Slack is also most exciting for managers, who not only can keep an eye on virtually any ongoing chats, but who may have access to your private messages, without your consent. Mostly, programs like Slack are a tool, and with close moderation and clearly defined guidelines can help workers do their jobs with less hassle. But it's worth considering all the angles before signing up. Email might not look so bad for some offices after all.