Slack and other workplace messaging services undermine their goal of increased productivity by becoming distractions, where users are constantly chatting (Rani Molla/Vox)


Several people are typing.

If you’ve spent any time with Slack, you’ve likely seen this message float below the text field of your company’s communications software.

It can mean a few things: A vibrant discussion is taking place in which you and your colleagues are excitedly collaborating around a central topic. Important news is breaking and everyone wants to know. Or, more often, a nonlinear argument is unfurling as everyone tries to get the last word in first, and chaos envelops the very system meant to keep you organized.

“Slack is where work happens,” reads the company’s website copy. “Imagine what you’ll accomplish together.”

But an increasing emphasis on new technology to moderate our workdays isn’t necessarily making our work better or making us more productive. If wielded poorly, it can even make it worse.

Slack is one of numerous types of workplace software that companies are using to facilitate collaboration and communication in an increasingly digital world. Teams comes as part of Microsoft’s pervasive Office offerings like Word and Excel. Google’s G Suite includes Gmail, Hangouts Chat and Meet, and Calendar as well as its cloud-based document-sharing programs. And Facebook has entered the game, too, with Workplace, an attempt